Archive for May 24, 2023


The Disney Project

After doing my Marvel movies project a couple of years ago and my Star Wars project over the winter, I think my summer project will be the Disney animated movies. They tend to be short, so I can start watching them after it gets dark enough for a movie and still finish by a reasonable bedtime.

I don’t have a particular methodology for this. They aren’t in any kind of united universe, other than in fan theories, so the order doesn’t matter. I think I’ll try to stick within eras so I can better track the technical progress. There’s the Classic era, with hand-drawn animation done with a lot of care. There’s what some think of as the fading or cheap era, when it was still hand-drawn animation, but with shortcuts, like reusing sequences or photocopying. Then there’s the Revival Era of the late 80s and beyond, with hand-drawn animation and the beginnings of computer animation, and then the computer animation era. But I may skip around based on what I’m in the mood for. I may compare live-action versions to animated versions, where applicable, but the live-action versions are a lot longer, so they may have to wait until the days get a bit shorter again.

I’m not sure what I’ll consider for the purposes of this — just the “princess” films, just the musicals, just the fairytale or storybook movies, etc. I think it’s mostly going to be the movies I want to watch, which could vary. I think I’ve seen most of them, but my memories of the actual movies may be spotty.

I grew up before the days of home video, so the only way to see these movies was to go to the movie theater if they re-released them. Some they might have shown on TV during the Wonderful World of Disney show on Sunday nights, but I don’t recall seeing any of the big Disney movies on TV back then. They saved those for the occasional theatrical re-release (the Disney Vault has always been a thing).

Instead, the way I experienced most of these movies was through records. There were three kinds of records you might get. There were single-sized 45 rpm records that came with a storybook. These told a very condensed version of the story, essentially reading the storybook to you. You were instructed to turn the page when you heard Tinkerbell chime. I don’t think these included any of the music, since the record could have held two songs, at most.

At LP size (the big records) you could get the movie soundtrack, which was just the music, as it was performed in the movie, or the “story and the songs” record, which was essentially a full-cast audio play of the movie, narrated by one of the characters, with the album case being a book of pictures from the movie. I didn’t figure out until much later that these recordings may or may not have been actual recordings from the movies and may or may not have been the actual cast members from the movies. I think they were more likely to be the real cast for the later ones, where they made the albums at the same time as they made the movies. I’m sure that they actually had Phil Harris on the records for The Jungle Book, The Aristocats, and Robin Hood. But for the older movies that were made decades before they started making these records, the original casts wouldn’t have been available, so they re-recorded everything. I know the Alice in Wonderland and Lady and the Tramp records were different from the movies. In some cases, the picture book in the album wasn’t actually from the movie, either. For instance, Bedknobs and Broomsticks. This is a picture from that album, and that brunette woman is clearly not Angela Lansbury. I remember being very disappointed when I finally saw that movie and the woman I’d seen as that character wasn’t in the movie.

Bedknobs and Broomsticks story and songs album, with a brunette woman instead of Angela Lansbury as Eglantine.
The Bedknobs and Broomsticks “story and songs” album, with an Eglantine who is very much not Angela Lansbury.

So, instead of watching the movies over and over again, I listened to the records. I often put on costumes from my dress-up clothes box and acted them out. I did see some of the actual movies, but my memories are really sketchy. I remember going to see Pinocchio and being embarrassed because my best friend behaved badly in the theater (it was his first time seeing a movie in a theater, while I was an old pro, and I was familiar with the story so was able to brace myself for the scary parts). I know I saw some of the others, but I don’t have specific memories of the experience. I saw some of the classics at the theater as a teen or older when they re-relased them. But mostly my memories of these stories come from the records and from the mental movies that played in my head, based on the pictures in the album, when I listened to them, which means I was always a little shocked when I saw the actual movies and the sounds and images didn’t fit what I remembered.

A little girl dressed up as the version of Eglantine from the story and songs Bedknobs and Broomsticks album
Four or five-year old me dressed up as the Eglantine from the Bedknobs and Broomsticks album, acting out the story while I listened to it.

As I do this, I’ll be comparing what I thought I remembered with what’s really there, analyzing the story structure, and looking at trends I spot, as well as anything else that comes to mind. For the most part, I’m not going to worry about spoilers because most of these movies are based on very common stories. If you don’t know how Cinderella ends and I ruin it for you, I’m sorry.

First up and coming in the next post: The one that started it all, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.