I have been so excited about writing this post. This is MY era. And anyone else who was born in the eighties and was a kid in the nineties. I wanted to wait until the time was right. The Little Mermaid, which is the first of the renaissance, was released 26 years ago today. Perfect timing!
For those of you who were born too late to know this famous era, let me explain…
The Disney Renaissance is a special era in Disney history, between 1989 and 1999. It was a 10 year period where Disney Animation experienced a creative resurgence in producing successful animated films based on well-known stories, which restored public and critical interest in The Walt Disney Company as a whole.
As a witness to this magic, being a kid and seeing all these wonderful stories come to life on the big screen and VHS, was VERY exciting. I imagine the feeling would have been the same for those who went to the cinema to see Star Wars: A New Hope when it was first released in 1977.
During this decade, the studio produced and released 10 animated films…
This fantastic period in Disney’s animation history nearly never happend. Before The Little Mermaid, Disney didn’t have a commercial success for 18 years. During production of Fox and the Hound 17% of animators left with fellow animator Don Bluth, who left Disney to start his own company. Then the studio was severely shaken up when it was going through changes and narrowly escaped a hostile take over by Saul Steinberg. Michael Eisner, formerly of Paramount Pictures, became CEO in 1984, and he was joined by his Paramount associate Jeffrey Katzenberg, whileFrank Wells, formerly of Warner Bros., became President in 1985, to make more room for live-action film making.
After the box office failure of the 1985 PG-rated feature The Black Cauldron, the future of the animation department was in jeopardy. Going against a thirty-year studio policy, the company founded a television animation division (now Disney Television Animation) which was much cheaper than theatrical animation. In the interest of saving what he believed to be the studio’s core business, Roy E. Disney persuaded Eisner to let him supervise the animation department in the hopes of improving its fortunes.
Disney had been developing The Little Mermaid since the 1930s, and by 1988, the studio had decided to make it into an animated musical, but with more Broadway feel to it. Lyricist Howard Ashmen and composer Alan Menkin became involved in production, writing, and composing the songs and score for the film. It opened November 14th, 1989, (4 days before my sister Holly was born) and was a critical and commercial success! It also won two Academy Awards for Best Original Song (Under the Sea) and Best Original Score.
The success at the Academy Awards would continue throughout this period. Most notably with Beauty and the Beast. It was the first animated feature film to be nominated for an Academy Award. It lost out to Silence of the Lambs, but did when the Golden Globe for Best Picture. Beauty and the Beast would also win the Academy Award for Best Original Song and Best Original Score. Aladdin, Lion King, Pocahontas and Tarzan would all win these awards too.
Of course not everyone likes ALL the animated films that were released during the renaissance. But often considered to be one of the greatest of all Disney animated features, Beauty and the Beast is my favourite from the renaissance. Click here to read the post I wrote of my favourite Disney film.
So if I was going to put them in order of which ones I like best it would be: Beauty and the Beast, Hercules, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Pocahontas, Tarzan, Aladdin, The Lion King, Mulan, The Little Mermaid and then Rescuers Down under. But please don’t think I dislike Rescuers Down Under, I loved it as a kid, but the others have loads of good songs! Are you thinking about what order you would put them into now??
You may be surprised to know, Tarzan was the most commercially successful film after The Lion King from the renaissance period. It earned $448 million at the box office and widespread positive reviews. It was also the most expensive film to make from that era as well, costing $130 million. Wonder how much it costs to make a Disney film now?! The release of Tarzan is retrospectively seen as the end of the Renaissance era. But you have to admit, it does go downhill from then on.
Well until 2008ish.
So would you agree that the renaissance era is the best era of Disney?
“Movies can, and do have, tremendous influence in shaping young lives in the realm of entertainment towards the ideals and objectives of normal adulthood.” – Walt Disney
Originally posted NOV 14TH 2015 on previous website