To this day, guests might experience at Disneyland, Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and Tokyo Disneyland the classical log flume ride called Splash Mountain. Little remembered now except by dedicated researchers is the fact that this attraction is based on a 40s Disney film that hasn’t been exhibited for decades now.
Song of the South (1946) is a musical film that blends live-action and animation, that frames a time spent by children in a Southern plantation post-Civil War, being entertained by elderly farmhand Uncle Remus with folktales about animals like Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear, in three full-animation segments.
Since its original release, public sensibilities have changed to the point that the movie was burdened with controversies: racism, white supremacy propaganda and denial of the cruelties of slavery in the Antebellum South (erroneous because its source storybook was written in the 1870s). Ever since 1986 Song of the South was banned from public release.
Still, we’ll give a list of the animated segments of Song of the South, all based on folktales collected by Joel Chandler Harris as of 1880, and presented as being told by Uncle Remus about Br’er Rabbit and his friends. They are, in chronological order:
Br’er Rabbit Earns a Dollar a Minute
Br’er Rabbit and the Tar-Baby
Br’er Rabbit and His “Laughing Place”
Perhaps counting as a segment by itself, is Uncle Remus taking a stroll while singing “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” accompanied by animated forest creatures. This is likely the most memorable part of the film, other than the Splash Mountain ride which “adapts” the stories above.
Classic fairy tales and children’s stories weren’t the only source for material by Walt Disney Productions in making animation films and shorts. They also took on legendary figures such as the characters from tall tales of American folklore.
A number of these animated shorts may have release solo, or packaged with the “anthology” films released in the 1940s, during and shortly after World War II. In 2002, a more recent anthology released direct to home video, Disney’s American Legends, featured four of these folklore shorts (one made in 2000), and was presented by James Earl Jones.
Here we’ll list the content short animations of Disney’s American Legends, as well as other shorts about similar folklore figures that fall somewhere in the Disney Animated Canon history.
Disney’s American Legends
John Henry (1999) – about the railroad steel-driver who competes against a steam-powered drill to prove the worth of manpower in railroad construction work; plans for theatrical release fell through and was thus included in this anthology
The Legend of Johnny Appleseed (1948) – about the same-named pioneer nurseryman who planted apple trees during the westward movement; originally part of the 1948 package film Melody Time
Paul Bunyan (1958) – based on the giant lumberjack whose exploits shaped America; this short was released theatrically and was nominated for Best Animated Short in the 1959 Academy Awards
The Brave Engineer (1950) – based on the heroic exploit of train engineer Casey Jones, who prevented a serious railway accident; unlike the folk figure, the Disney version of the character survived his ordeal
Pecos Bill (1948) – about the life and adventures of the cowboy and Texas folk hero Pecos Bill; it relates a fanciful account of his early childhood until adulthood, and the sour end of his love life; also part of Melody Time
Casey at the Bat (1946) – not like the others who are traditional folk heroes, Casey is the central character of an 1888 poem about baseball, where he arrogantly believes he’ll hit a home run to win the game for his team (but fails); part of the 1946 package film Make Mine Music
No sooner did Walt Disney Productions finally establish a strong foundation for their animation studio, than World War II happened. A number of Disney animators got drafted, while the remainder was commissioned to create animations for military training and civilian propaganda. The company’s animated feature-film division was thus terribly hobbled.
With too few people free to work on movie-length animations like Snow White or Pinocchio, the team could only develop small productions with short running times. Then the studio decided to put these shorts together into “anthology” packages that would run as long as any other film, for cinematic screening.
All in all, six of Disney’s Animated Canon can be considered as package films. Usually they contain musical shorts, a number of which have famous musical pieces as their instrumental. This a list of them all; while Fantasia (1941) is also comprised of segments, it was purposely conceptualized as such, rather than the stitching together of these anthology package films.
Saludos Amigos (1942) – first appearance of Jose Carioca
The Three Caballeros (1944) – first appearance of Pancho Pistolero
Make Mine Music (1946) – includes animated short Peter and the Wolf
Fun and Fancy Free (1947) – includes animated short Mickey and the Beanstalk
Melody Time (1948) – includes animated short Pecos Bill
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mister Toad (1949) – starring the voices of Basil Rathbone and Bing Crosby
This period of segmented filmmaking ended with the release of Cinderella in 1950.
We risk kick-starting a phenomenon by saying this, but the song “Let It Go” from Disney’s 2013 animated film Frozen has got to be one of the most memorable (both good and not-so-good connotations) musical pieces in the whole Animated Canon. For years afterwards, children have been prone to spontaneously singing it out loud as soon as they hear it.
“Let It Go” is also remarkable in how Disney marketed it to showcase their extensive initiative of dubbing their animated movies into many languages, making them more accessible to more countries around the world. That includes translating the songs too.
Down below is a list of the languages featured in the special music video released by Disney, “Let It Go: Multilanguage”, which has 25 singers including original interpreter (and English VA for Elsa) Idina Menzel, singing a line or two in the official dub languages, and stitched into one whole.
One of the elements that totally sold audiences for Disney’s 2012 animated film Wreck-It Ralph was a key animation visual depicting the titular main character as participating in a videogame villains’ support group meeting, surrounded by other digital baddies, many of which come from famous gaming franchises with multiple installments.
The “Bad-Anon” group became breakout favorites in the film due to their quirky personalities reinforcing the “reality” of the setting that videogame antagonists are only acting the part of villains, hence their affirmation: “I’m bad, and that’s good. I will never be good, and that’s not bad. There’s no one I’d rather be, than me.”
For those who have trouble recalling who they are, here’s a list of members for Wreck-It Ralph’s Bad-Anon support group. Note that some of the characters are named generic names on the credits list; they will be pointed out here:
Wreck-It Ralph (main character)
“Satine” (Satan – pronounced Satine – from Satan’s Hollow)
“Shinobi” (Smoke from Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3)
Bowser (VS. Super Mario Bros. arcade game, as the original Super Mario Bros. was only for consoles)
Zangief (Street Fighter II) – presented as a “bad guy” in the movie because the screenwriter always got beaten by the CPU character in the game
Dr. Eggman (Sonic the Fighters, or Sonic Championship in the US)
M. Bison (Street Fighter II)
Clyde the orange Ghost (Pac-Man) – the support group chairman
1011001 (Yellow Robot from Cyborg Justice)
Sorceress (original character with no real-life arcade game basis)
Neff (Altered Beast)
Cycloptopus (original character with no real-life arcade game basis)
“Cyborg” (Kano from Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3)
“Zombie” (Cyril from House of the Dead) – “Labels not make you happy. Good, bad, ugh; you must love you.”
Dr. Wily (Megaman: The Power Battle arcade game) – was part of the original key animation visual; replaced by Shinobi in the actual movie release (below, next to Bison)
If you’re surprised to be told that Disney is better at using emoji than Sony Pictures’ The Emoji Movie, then you probably haven’t yet seen one of the “As Told by Emoji” videos. In the greatest crossover of storytelling meets modern method, a number of films got the “MMS” treatment.
Starting from 2015, “As Told by Emoji” retells some Disney animated films old and new, as if they were a text stream of a smartphone’s messaging feature. From emoji heads of characters, to the application of popularly-used symbols and quirky animation, 90-minute to 2-hours movies are condensed into 2-3 minutes.
Just so we can make this a recurring theme in Disney Movies List, we’ll start things off with a list of Disney films “As Told By Emoji” during its inaugural season, when the narrative themes of the web series were introduced and codified for the seasons that would come after.
It’s easy at times to perceive Disney animated films as being mostly adaptations of fairy tales, or else happening at either a particular period in history (1995’s Pocahontas) or some other fantastical setting (Treasure Planet, 2002).
But just as enchanting are their animated features set in the present day – relative to the time the movies each first premiered, of course. We’ll start off the week by doing a list of all installments of the Disney Animated Canon that can be construed to be taking place in modern times (at least when they came out in cinemas); no Pixar entries, however. Also, only feature-length films with a single narrative are listed.
Bambi (1942) (though you’d barely notice, seeing as the film’s set in the woods)
101 Dalmatians (1961) (the British novel it’s based on was published only in 1956)
The Rescuers (1977)
Oliver & Company (1988) (Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist with animal characters and set in the modern day)
The Rescuers Down Under (1990) (contemporary setting update from the first film in 1977)
Lilo & Stitch (2002)
Chicken Little (2005) (anthropomorphic animals in a modern setting)
Meet the Robinsons (2007) (part is set in the present, the other in the future year of 2037)
Zootopia (2016) (anthropomorphic animals in a modern setting)
Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It-Ralph 2 (coming this 2018)
When Walt Disney released Fantasia in 1940, he originally conceived it as a constantly-evolving production, being re-premiered in cinemas regularly with new animated musical segments replacing the old ones in turn. His idea was shelved due to low box office returns, and it wasn’t until the year 1999 when The Walt Disney Company decided to make a sequel from it.
Fantasia 2000 is composed of eight animated segments set to a selection of classical music from famous composers. In keeping with Walt’s original vision, one segment is carried over from the 1940 film as “retention” while the others are new.
Symphony No. 5 first movement (Ludwig van Beethoven) – multicolored butterflies are chased by black bats through a world of light and darkness
Pines of Rome (Ottorino Respighi) – features flying humpback whales prominently displayed in the movie trailer
Rhapsody in Blue (George Gershwin) – four down-on-their-luck strangers in 1930s New York City end up improving each other’s lives through their individual actions despite never seeing each other face to face
Piano Concerto No. 2, Allegro, Opus 102 (Dmitri Shostakovich) – a musical rendition of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “A Steadfast Tin Soldier”; in the same manner as Disney’s adaptation of another Andersen tale, 1989’s The Little Mermaid, there’s a happy ending
The Carnival of the Animals (Le Carnival des Animaux), Finale (Camille Saint-Saëns) – in hindsight, sort of like 2006’s Happy Feet but with flamingoes and an odd member who loves to play with a yoyo
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (Paul Dukas) – returning from the original 1940 Fantasia as its most memorable segment, Mickey – as you know – steals his master Yen Sid’s hat and tries to magic animated brooms, leading to disaster
Pomp and Circumstance – Marches 1, 2, 3 and 4 (Edward Elgar) – adapts the Bible story of Noah’s Ark, with Donald and Daisy Duck as one of the “two for every animal” that boards the ark; Donald assists Noah in assembling the other animals, causing hilarity and heartwarming (the music might be better known as the “Graduation March”)
Firebird Suite—1919 Version (Igor Stravinski) – a dramatic counterpart of sorts to the original Fantasia’s “Night on Bald Mountain” segment, with visuals of destruction followed by tranquility