Animation Inspiration

Dumbo – 1941

In 1941, in order to compensate for the relative poor box office of Pinocchio and Fantasia, Disney produced a low-budget feature film, Dumbo. Dumbo was a major hit and today is one of the most critically acclaimed animated movies ever made. Just a few days after rough animation was complete on Dumbo, the Disney animators’ strike broke out. This was caused by the Screen Cartoonists’ Guild, who severed many ties between Walt Disney and his staff, while encouraging many members of the Disney studio to leave and seek greener pastures. Later that year, Dumbo became a big success, the first time since Snow White. The critically acclaimed film brought in much-needed revenue and kept the studio afloat.

Dumbo is a 1941 American animated film produced by Walt Disney Productions and released by RKO Radio Pictures. The fourth Disney animated feature film, it is based upon the storyline written by Helen Aberson and Harold Pearl illustrated by Helen Durney for the prototype of a novelty toy. The main character is Jumbo Jr., a semi-anthropomorphic elephant who is cruelly nicknamed “Dumbo”, as in “dumb”. He is ridiculed for his big ears, but in fact he is capable of flying by using his ears as wings. Throughout most of the film, his only true friend, aside from his mother, is the mouse, Timothy – a relationship parodying the stereotypical animosity between mice and elephants.

Dumbo was released on October 23, 1941; made to recoup the financial losses of Fantasia, it was a deliberate pursuit of simplicity and economy for the Disney studio. At 64 minutes, it is one of Disney’s shortest animated features. Sound was recorded conventionally using the RCA System. One voice was synthesized using the Sonovox system, but it, too, was recorded using the RCA System.

In 2017, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

A live-action adaptation of the film directed by Tim Burton is scheduled to be released on March 29, 2019.

Pink Elephants on Parade

The Making of Dumbo

Tim Burton’s Dumbo – trailer

Fantasia – 1940

Fantasia is a 1940 American animated film produced by Walt Disney and released by Walt Disney Productions. With story direction by Joe Grant and Dick Huemer, and production supervision by Ben Sharpsteen, it is the third Disney animated feature film. The film consists of eight animated segments set to pieces of classical music conducted by Leopold Stokowski, seven of which are performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra. Music critic and composer Deems Taylor acts as the film’s Master of Ceremonies, providing a live-action introduction to each animated segment.

Disney settled on the film’s concept as work neared completion on The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, an elaborate Silly Symphonies short designed as a comeback role for Mickey Mouse, who had declined in popularity. As production costs grew higher than what it could earn, Disney decided to include the short in a feature-length film with other segments set to classical pieces. The soundtrack was recorded using multiple audio channels and reproduced with Fantasound, a pioneering sound reproduction system that made Fantasia the first commercial film shown in stereophonic sound.

Fantasia was first released in theatrical roadshow engagements held in thirteen U.S. cities from November 13, 1940. While acclaimed by critics, it was unable to make a profit due to World War II cutting off distribution to the European market, the film’s high production costs, and the expense of leasing theatres and installing the Fantasound equipment for the roadshow presentations. The film was subsequently reissued multiple times with its original footage and audio being deleted, modified, or restored in each version. As of 2012, Fantasia has grossed $76.4 million in domestic revenue and is the 22nd highest-grossing film of all time in the U.S. when adjusted for inflation. Fantasia, as a franchise, has grown to include video games, Disneyland attractions, a live concert, and a theatrically released sequel (Fantasia 2000) co-produced by Walt’s nephew Roy E. Disney in 1999. Fantasia has grown in reputation over the years and is now widely acclaimed; in 1998 the American Film Institute ranked it as the 58th greatest American film in their 100 Years…100 Movies and the fifth greatest animated film in their 10 Top 10 list.

Pinocchio – 1940

Pinocchio is a 1940 American animated musical fantasy film produced by Walt Disney Productions and based on the Italian children’s novel The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi. It was the second animated feature film produced by Disney, made after the success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

The plot of the film involves an old wood-carver named Geppetto who carves a wooden puppet named Pinocchio. The puppet is brought to life by a blue fairy, who informs him that he can become a real boy if he proves himself to be “brave, truthful, and unselfish”. Pinocchio’s efforts to become a real boy involve encounters with a host of unsavory characters. The film was adapted by Aurelius Battaglia, William Cottrell, Otto Englander, Erdman Penner, Joseph Sabo, Ted Sears, and Webb Smith from Collodi’s book. The production was supervised by Ben Sharpsteen and Hamilton Luske, and the film’s sequences were directed by Norman Ferguson, T. Hee, Wilfred Jackson, Jack Kinney, and Bill Roberts. Pinocchio was a groundbreaking achievement in the area of effects animation, giving realistic movement to vehicles, machinery and natural elements such as rain, lightning, smoke, shadows and water. The film was released to theaters by RKO Radio Pictures on February 7, 1940.

Critical analysis of Pinocchio identifies it as a simple morality tale that teaches children of the benefits of hard work and middle-class values. Although it became the first animated feature to win a competitive Academy Award – winning two for Best Music, Original Score and for Best Music, Original Song for “When You Wish Upon a Star” – it was initially a box office disaster. It eventually made a profit in its 1945 reissue, and is considered one of the greatest animated films ever made, with a rare 100% rating on the website Rotten Tomatoes. The film and characters are still prevalent in popular culture, featuring at various Disney parks and in other forms of entertainment. In 1994, Pinocchio was added to the United States National Film Registry for being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

Pinocchio: The Making of

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – 1937

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is a 1937 American animated musical fantasy film produced by Walt Disney Productions and originally released by RKO Radio Pictures. Based on the German fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, it is the first full-length cel animated feature film and the earliest Disney animated feature film. The story was adapted by storyboard artists Dorothy Ann Blank, Richard Creedon, Merrill De Maris, Otto Englander, Earl Hurd, Dick Rickard, Ted Sears and Webb Smith. David Hand was the supervising director, while William Cottrell, Wilfred Jackson, Larry Morey, Perce Pearce, and Ben Sharpsteen directed the film’s individual sequences.

Snow White premiered at the Carthay Circle Theatre on December 21, 1937, followed by a nationwide release on February 4, 1938. It was a critical and commercial success, and with international earnings of $8 million during its initial release briefly assumed the record of highest-grossing sound film at the time. The popularity of the film has led to its being re-released theatrically many times, until its home video release in the 1990s. Adjusted for inflation, it is one of the top-ten performers at the North American box office.

At the 11th Academy Awards, producer Walt Disney was awarded an honorary Oscar, and the film was nominated for Best Musical Score the year before. In 1989, the United States Library of Congress deemed the film “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry. The American Film Institute ranked it among the 100 greatest American films, and also named the film as the greatest American animated film of all time in 2008. Disney’s take on the fairy tale has had a significant cultural impact, resulting in popular theme park attractions, a video game, and a Broadway musical.

The Making of Snow White:

The Old Mill – 1937

The Old Mill is a 1937 Silly Symphony cartoon produced by Walt Disney, directed by Wilfred Jackson, scored by Leigh Harline, and released to theatres by RKO Radio Pictures on November 5, 1937. The film depicts the natural community of animals populating an old abandoned windmill in the country, and how they deal with a severe summer thunderstorm that nearly destroys their habitat. It incorporates the song “One Day When We Were Young” from Johann Strauss II’s operetta The Gypsy Baron.

Like many of the later Silly SymphoniesThe Old Mill was a testing ground for advanced animation techniques. Marking the first use of Disney’s multiplane camera, the film also incorporates realistic depictions of animal behavior, complex lighting and color effects, depictions of rain, wind, lightning, ripples, splashes and reflections, three-dimensional rotation of detailed objects, and the use of timing to produce specific dramatic and emotional effects. All of the lessons learned from making The Old Mill would subsequently be incorporated into Disney’s feature-length animated films, such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), which was released a month later, as well as Pinocchio (1940), Fantasia (1940) and Bambi(1942).

In 2015, the United States Library of Congress selected the film for preservation in the National Film Registry, finding it “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

I hope you enjoy The Old Mill as much as I do!

Popeye the Sailor Meets Sinbad the Sailor – 1936

Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor is a two-reel animated cartoon short subject in the Popeye Color Feature series, produced in Technicolor and released to theatres on November 27, 1936 by Paramount Pictures. It was produced by Max Fleischer for Fleischer Studios, Inc. and directed by Dave Fleischer, with the title song by Sammy Timberg. The voices of Popeye and J. Wellington Wimpy are performed by Jack Mercer, with additional voices by Mae Questel as Olive Oyl, and Gus Wickie as Sindbad the Sailor.

This short was the first of the three Popeye Color Specials, which were, at over sixteen minutes each, and were billed as “A Popeye Feature.” Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor was nominated for the 1936 Academy Award for Best Short Subject: Cartoons, but lost to Walt Disney’s Silly Symphony The Country Cousin. Footage from this short was later used in the 1952 Famous Studios Popeye cartoon Big Bad Sindbad, in which Popeye relates the story of his encounter with Sindbad to his 3 nephews.

Producer and special effects artist, Ray Harryhausen stated in his Fantasy Film Scrapbook that Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor was a major influence on his production of The 7th Voyage of Sinbad.

Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor has been deemed “culturally significant” by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. In 1994, the film was voted #17 of the 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time by members of the animation field, making it the highest ranked Fleischer Studios cartoon in the book.