Posted on Thursday, April 1st, 2021 by Josh Spiegel
(Welcome to Out of the Disney Vault, where we explore the unsung gems and forgotten disasters currently streaming on Disney+.)
The 1980s were a very rough time for the Walt Disney Company, at least in the first half of the decade. We may now think of the 1980s as the time when Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg joined Disney, steering it to new heights with films like The Little Mermaid and with the expansion of the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. And while that’s all true, the two men didn’t arrive until 1984. The first few years of the decade were a bumpy stretch, marked by minimal animated products and only a smattering of live-action films. The flip side is that the theme parks were moving onward, with the 1982 opening of EPCOT Center and the 1983 unveiling of Tokyo Disneyland.
But the side of the company focused on filmmaking seemed adrift at best. The 1981 film The Fox and the Hound, turning 40 this summer, does have its fans (and some impressive setpieces), but its production was mired by a huge walkout of young animators and a warring battle between the old guard of Disney animation and newer artists who wanted to steer the studio in new directions. Live-action fare wasn’t much more notable; cult films like Tron and Return to Oz are well-liked by fans precisely because they stand against so much of what we envision a “Disney movie” as.
The same is true for another film that celebrated its 40th anniversary this year, the 1981 melodrama Amy.