snow white and the seven dwarfs 2

The Relic of Hand-Drawn Animation

Now, of course, talking about hand-drawn animation may make me sound like a bit of a dinosaur. The last hand-drawn animated Disney feature was the cruelly underrated 2011 film Winnie the Pooh. Before that, there was a brief hint at a larger revival when Disney mounted the lovely, vibrant, and exciting 2009 film The Princess and the Frog. But these days, when Disney hand-drawn animation is back in the news, it’s because a new live-action remake of a hand-drawn animated film is being announced. (Or, in one case, an animated remake of an animated film is being announced. I see you, The Lion King 2019.) Walt Disney famously stated that his core belief was to “keep moving forward,” which is inarguably something that his company continues to do. They have moved far away and past what the company made back in the 1930s, experimenting with animation styles and techniques to tell old-fashioned stories of adventure, romance, thrills, and excitement. But moving forward shouldn’t be equated with ignoring the past.

Of course, hand-drawn animation still has a place, of some kind, at Walt Disney Animation Studios as well as Pixar Animation Studios. Newer films like Coco and Moana have hand-drawn storyboards before they’re brought to life in three colorful dimensions. More importantly, the technological breakthroughs of the multiplane camera, and of feature-length hand-drawn animation in general, have inspired other innovators and filmmakers over time. Many more men and women have been inspired to become animators because of the experience of watching Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, themselves bringing something new to the art of animation that did not exist when they watched that original feature film. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs may not be the best Disney animated film (or, at least, it’s not my favorite), but its influence and inspiration are genuinely impossible to overstate.

However, it’s easy to think about the 80 years between the release of Snow White and now, and think about what there is to come in the world of feature animation in the ensuing decades. Some of the early Disney animated features, unlike Snow White, were neither critically nor financially successful; movies that we now revere as classics, such as Pinocchio and Fantasia, were once ignored at the box office and treated with bafflement by film writers. But they led to new iconography for Disney, from the image of Mickey Mouse as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice to the inspiration for theme-park attractions and shows. The impact of these films, as well as Snow White, can be found in many recent Disney animated features. Frozen and Moana, in successful and unsuccessful ways, subvert the princess-movie template that Snow White established, just as Zootopia represents how far the studio has come at animating and telling stories about somewhat anthropomorphized animals, like those in Fantasia and Bambi.

The Future Influence of Snow White

Will Snow White’s influence persist in the next 10, 20, or 80 years? What will feature animation look like in December of 2037 on its centennial? The major animation studios are more prone to making self-referential, pop-culture-literate films, from Blue Sky’s Ferdinand to Zootopia to The LEGO Batman Movie, and many more in between. This isn’t to suggest that such films are bad — Zootopia and LEGO Batman are both quite clever and enjoyable — but they are tonally and thematically vastly different from the seemingly simplistic story of good triumphing over evil in Snow White.

The immediate future of Walt Disney Animation Studios is somewhat murky. In the fall of 2018 and 2019, Disney will release two respective sequels: Wreck-It Ralph 2 and Frozen 2. For now, at least, their slate is otherwise empty in terms of officially confirmed films. They were going to take on one of the most well-known fairy tales of all, “Jack and the Beanstalk,” in Gigantic, but that film was recently taken off the calendar. So, for now, the Disney Animation slate ends with Frozen 2, a film whose predecessor communicated very directly with the tropes on display in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and countless other princess movies.

In many respects, movies like Frozen are a massive step forward for an animation studio that once had tinier ambitions in mind. But while computer technology may seem more cutting-edge, considering Snow White on its 80th anniversary is a fine time to reflect on the reality that its old-fashioned charms and now-antiquated techniques may be among the most important and valuable innovations in cinema history.

Pages: Previous page 1 2

Cool Posts From Around the Web: