I know Walt Disney didn't direct all of these movies, but the movies listed here are all of the animated features he was involved in during his lifetime. The movies are also listed elsewhere under the individual directors of the movies, as are all the live-action Disney movies made during Walt's life. I think Walt Disney was a genius, and I love him.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) -- Co-directed with Dorothy Ann Blank, William Cottrell, Richard Creedon, Merrill de Maris, David Hand, Wilfred Jackson, Larry Morey, Perce Pearce, Dick Richard, Ben Sharpsteen, and Webb Smith. To realize that this came out less than ten years after Steamboat Willie (itself a breakthrough) is pretty amazing: a full-blown feature length musical animated movie in color. You can trace back pretty much every animated movie back to this one, and not many have surpassed it.
Pinocchio (1940) -- Co-directed with Norman Ferguson, T. Hee, Wilfred Jackson, Jack Kinney, Hamilton Luske, Bill Roberts, and Ben Sharpsteen. Even better than Snow White: better songs ("When You Wish Upon a Star" to name only one), better characters, better story, everything.
Fantasia (1940) -- Co-directed with James Algar, Samuel Armstrong, Ford I. Beebe, Jim Handley, Albert Heath, T. Hee, Graham Heid, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske, Bianca Majolie, Sylvia Moberly-Holland, Bill Roberts, Paul Satterfield, Ben Sharpsteen, and Norman Wright. Probably the best thing Walt Disney ever did, though you can't really compare this movie to the others, since it's not really a traditional movie at all. There's something really magic about this movie, and it's truly "something else." Every segment (including some of the goofier interstitials) are great (the one with the hippos is my least favorite, but I still like it), but the standouts are the Nutcracker Suite with its lazy imagery, the creation of the world and the dinosaurs, and the best of all, the "Night On Bald Mountain." The Mickey one was good too. A movie way ahead of its time, if it had been a success, you might have seen a more artistic Disney for the next several decades. Unique. (See Eric Goldberg for the sequel, Fantasia 2000.)
Dumbo (1941) -- Overseen by Walt, directed by Samuel Armstrong, Norman Ferguson, Wilfred Jackson, Jack Kinney, Bill Roberts, and Ben Sharpsteen. After Fantasia, this seems like a return to some of the cute and funny stuff that made Disney so popular to begin with in his short subjects. But it's certainly great, and it's got some interesting narrative choices: like the fact that Dumbo doesn't even fly (what some might remember as most of the movie) until the movie is almost over. Sweet, cute, and touching.
Bambi (1942) -- Overseen by Walt, directed by James Algar, Samuel Armstrong, David Hand, Graham Heid, Perce Pearce, Bill Roberts, Paul Satterfield, and Norman Wright. If you don't count Fantasia, this is the best Disney movie ever--and maybe even if you do count Fantasia, since this is more or less a full-length Fantasia segment, only this time with dialogue (little as it may be), characters, and a plot. The beauty, music, and magic of Fantasia is here, as is the hypnotic quality. The only thing missing is the occasional yawn that inevitably arises watching the lazy images of Fantasia. I've seen it over and over and not gotten tired of it. This marks the end of the "Golden Age" of Disney.
Saludos Amigos (1943) -- Overseen by Walt, directed by Norman Ferguson, Wilfred Jackson, Jack Kinney, Hamilton Luske, and Bill Roberts. And then came the war... As part of the "Good Neighbor Policy" with Latin America, Disney produced this travelogue which begins the "package films" Disney would put out for the next several years (a collection of shorts rather than a traditional feature-length). This is more of a documentary than a movie, sort of a making of itself, the shorts within, and potential shorts without, and it's actually only 45 minutes long. The shorts are cute if slight (after Bambi, cartoons about anthropomorphic airplanes don't cut it) and only hint at what they'll eventually produce with the following "real" movie and companion, The Three Caballeros. Treat it as a warm up to that one.
The Three Caballeros (1945) -- Co-directed with Norman Ferguson, Clyde Geronimi, Jack Kinney, Bill Roberts, and Harold Young. Coming through with the goods of what was promised in Saludos Amigos, this one is much better. After a mediocre short or two, the "story" takes off with Donald Duck going on a sort of tail-chasing drug trip through Latin America. It's a musical and visual movie, not a narrative one, so fortunately the visuals and music are good.
Make Mine Music (1946) -- Overseen by Walt, directed by Robert Cormack, Clyde Geronimi, Joe Grant, Jack Kinney, Hamilton Luske, and Joshua Meador. Fantasia with pop music, and little of the magic. It's hard for me to judge this as being "over-commercial" these days, since -- you know -- people like Dinah Shore and Benny Goodman seem like classical music to my late twentieth/early twenty-first century self. Most of the music holds up as good enough, anyway: some better than others. Since this is a package film, I'll go through each of the segments. (I ask myself why I don't -- and why others don't -- consider Fantasia a package film, and the answer is because it's not. It's a cohesive thing, even if it's divided into separate pieces.) First of all, I haven't seen the original opener "A Rustic Ballad," because the geniuses at modern Disney decided it wasn't suitable for kids, so they didn't release it on the DVD (something about gunplay, stereotypes, and "phallic imagery"). So, if I haven't said it somewhere else already, "Fuck you, Disney company, for revising your own history. You should be fucking ashamed of yourselves." "A Tone Poem"/"Blue Bayou" is fine, but forgettable. "A Jazz Interlude"/"All the Cats Join In" is a standout, and the jitterbug sequence no doubt influenced David Lynch's Mulholland Drive (it's almost a direct copy). "A Musical Recitation"/"Casey at the Bat" is good as far as Disney shorts go. "Ballet Ballad"/"Two Silhouettes" is interesting enough as being a different style of animation (rotoscoping dancers as shadows). "A Fairy Tale With Music"/"Peter and the Wolf" is definitely one of the standouts, with Prokofiev's wonderful music and great characters (though, like almost all the releases of "Peter and the Wolf," it would stand up better if the music told the story--not that I don't adore Sterling "Winnie the Pooh" Holloway's voice). "After You've Gone" is another decent Fantasia-type abstract revisiting. "A Love Story"/"Johnny Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet" is a typical cutesy Disney short (which I only have mild patience for) with a song that's pretty annoying. And finally, the rightful closer, "Opera Pathetique"/"The Whale Who Wanted To Sing at the Met," which is pretty hilarious in its bigness and absurdity, and which features a brilliant delivery of all the voices by Nelson Eddy. To conclude, each of these is fine as a short, but together they only add up to a pretty decent collection. Actually, though, I wish that Disney (or somebody) would do something like this today. For one thing, it would perfectly fit our short attention spans.
Fun and Fancy Free (1947) -- Overseen by Walt, directed by Jack Kinney, Hamilton Luske, William Morgan, and Bill Roberts. Again, a package deal, the "Bongo" section unbearably boring and cutesy. The second section, "Mickey and the Beanstalk," is fantastic however, with the three big stars Mickey, Donald, and Goofy teaming up in a feature with some of the best music ever written for Disney. The stories are connected by Jiminy Cricket and Edgar Bergen and his ventriloquist dummies.
Melody Time (1948) -- Overseen by Walt, directed by Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Jack Kinney, and Hamilton Luske. An improved version of Make Mine Music, Melody Time is another music-based shorts collection, but this time a real story narrative is more important to the pieces (which, though narrative is not necessarily better than abstraction in these Fantasia-type segments, helps to make the movie work better). "Once Upon a Wintertime" is a typical cutesy-poo love story, but decent. "Bumble Boogie" is a perfect example of how the failure of Fantasia made Disney want to "pop up" the idea, still decent. "The Legend of Johnny Appleseed" is a pretty good little short with some decent music. "Little Toot" isn't bad either. "Trees" is a nice oddball addition. "Blame It On the Samba" (looking like a leftover from The Three Caballeros) perhaps missteps by showing live action, since Disney's live action always looks dated, while the animation looks timeless, but the segment is nice enough, and Donald Duck is always welcome. "Blue Shadows on the Trail" features everyone's favorite cowboy and some 50s kids (again, in live action, though mixed with some animation) which essentially serves as a setup for "Pecos Bill and Sue," which is a pretty hilarious and inspired telling of the Pecos Bill story--like Make Mine Music, saving the best segment for last. After it's all said and done, Melody Time proves to be a nice time indeed.
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949) -- Overseen by Walt, directed by James Algar, Clyde Geronimi, and Jack Kinney. Similar to Fun and Fancy Free by having two stories, only both the stories are excellent in this one. The movies are fun retellings of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and The Wind in the Willows.
Cinderella (1950) -- Overseen by Walt, directed by Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, and Hamilton Luske. After eight years of package movies, Disney is finally able to make a feature-length about just one story. It's no wonder that they went way back to the Snow White idea and picked another fairy tale about a future princess, complete with book opening credits and other similarities. The story of Cinderella is kind of thin, and so much of the movie is filled out with "bits of business" with the little mice, setting up the talking animal as sidekick motif for years to come. Although not advancing Disney features much, it does get them back on track, and it's still entertaining to watch and has that great classic feel that we love.
Alice in Wonderland (1951) -- Overseen by Walt, directed by Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, and Hamilton Luske. No one will probably be able to do Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass justice, but I've always said that movies are movies and books are books and it's unfair to compare them--especially when people go so far as to say that the movie "ruined" the book (the book still exists, people). That said, I think that this is still the best movie adaptation of Carroll's work ever done--and I believe it's because it's using the story as a basis and then doing its own thing, not trying to directly translate it (impossible?) as many others have attempted.
Peter Pan (1953) -- Overseen by Walt, directed by Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, and Hamilton Luske. Kind of a dud. Disney took one of the richest pieces of children's literature (on par with Alice's Adventures in Wonderland) and completely cartoonified it. This can be somewhat said of many Disney features to this point, but none so much as this one. Everyone just becomes a buffoon, especially Hook, who isn't enough of a threat to be a real villain. (Compare him to the wicked stepmothers or any other previous villains.) Tinkerbell is about the only character that gets the proper respect. The movie is completely noisy and is just one gag or bit of business after another. However, some things make it okay, and that's the always-good animation, some of the songs ("You Can Fly!" and "Second Star to the Right"--lots of the rest just get in the way), and the little bit of magic that seeps through.
Lady and the Tramp (1955) -- Overseen by Walt, directed by Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, and Hamilton Luske. A new sort of Disney cartoon, the neatest thing about this is the maturity of the subject matter: babies and romance and social classes and all kinds of adult human stuff, only for dogs. It might have some little kids asking questions. Very stylish, with great songs.
Sleeping Beauty (1959) -- Overseen by Walt, directed by Les Clark, Clyde Geronimi, Eric Larson, and Wolfgang Reithermann. Basically a remake of Snow White with not one but three fairy godmothers from Cinderella. The story is kind of goofy sometimes, but the production design is so gorgeous (maybe the most gorgeous of any non-Fantasia Disney movie, and the darkest since "Night on Bald Mountain") that the shortcomings don't matter much. Pretty nice stuff overall.
One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961) -- Overseen by Walt, directed by Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske, and Wolfgang Reithermann. Okay, everyone loves this movie except me. I think the new animation techniques used looks like messy crap, and I think the story is crappy too. After fifteen minutes, I'm ready to shut it off. It seems to me to be the first of these one-after-another Disney cartoons.
The Sword in the Stone (1963) -- Overseen by Walt, directed by Wolfgang Reithermann. It's hard to keep up with what's being made when since all kinds of Disney movies are being made at the same time, but I think Walt's involvement must have been waning at this time (and I know for a fact that Walt's usual cast of directors was dwindling and being replaced by the new guys). It shows; and not because it's bad, but it just lacks that certain something.
The Jungle Book (1967) -- Overseen by Walt, directed by Wolfgang Reithermann. This is certainly the last movie under Walt's supervision, and I believe he wasn't around to see all of it complete. It's probably the best thing since Lady and the Tramp. It's a bit goofy, but not in a bad way, and the swing tunes are great.
Copyright (c) Jan 2001 - Apr 2007 by Rusty Likes Movies