A Centennial Tribute to Walt Disney
For those of us who grew up in the 50s and 60s, Walt Disney was the kindly fellow with the mustache who introduced the Mickey Mouse cartoons and Davy Crockett serials on Sundays.
But to film historians, Disney was the man who (along with animator Ub Iwerks and his brother Roy) almost single-handedly brought the art of animation from its humble beginnings to the point where it could become a legitimate film genre.
When they told him people would never sit still for a feature-length cartoon, he went ahead and made “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and proved them all wrong. Then he made “Fantasia” and proved that animation could be about more than just fairy tales and funny animals. He went broke several times, but ended up creating a company that is today part of one of the leading media conglomerates, responsible for hundreds of films and shorts, most notably the Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck cartoons.
Later Disney started making live action movies, too, most of them entertaining, and a few — including “Old Yeller,” “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” “Mary Poppins,” and “Pollyanna” — truly memorable. Then there was Disneyland and Disney World, and a record 32 Academy Awards. Leonard Maltin called him “the most successful and influential producer in the history of moviemaking.”
But in the end, when classic fans think of Walt Disney, 100 years after his birth, it’s those amazing full-length animated features that come to mind — the kind that nobody else seemed to be able to make for several decades: In addition to “Snow White” and “Fantasia,” there was “Pinocchio,” “Dumbo,” “Bambi,” “Song of the South,” “Cinderella,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “Peter Pan,” “Lady and the Tramp,” and “Sleeping Beauty,” all of them in glorious color and made before 1960, when most people still had black and white TVs. It’s hard to believe.
A heavy smoker, Walt died in 1966, just after his 65th birthday, as a result of complications from lung cancer. It’s interesting to speculate about whether or not he would have changed the direction of his company had he lived into his 70s or 80s. While it may have continued to be profitable, it just wasn’t the same without Walt.
Part I: Introduction
Part II: Walt Disney Tributes and Other Pages
Part III: Movie Reviews & Where to Find His Movies
Part IV: Posters