MONDAY Walt Disney is a name that nearly everyone is familiar with. He was a Face of Creativity earlier this year. This week he is our artist of the week because of his talent and creativity in animation. Walt Disney was an artist who drew cartoons, and he created a cartoon character who became very popular, Mickey Mouse. He and his brother, Roy, founded Walt Disney Productions which pioneered many innovations in the world of animation. Our artwork of the week is a scene from Disney’s animated movie, Cinderella.
YouTube video - Min-Biography of Walt Disney (4:15 min.)
YouTube video - The Walt Disney Story (21:53 min.) [A longer video produced by Disney Parks that tells Walt Disney's life story]
TUESDAY - Walt Disney - early years and Laugh-O-Grams
Walt Disney attended high school in Chicago, where he took drawing and photography classes and was a contributing cartoonist for the school paper. At night, he took courses at the Chicago Art Institute. Later, he worked as a newspaper artist and then for a company where he made commercials based on cutout animation. Disney began experimenting with a camera, doing hand-drawn cel animation, and decided to open his own animation business.
Cel animation is how the first cartoons were produced. Cel is short for celluloid, which are clear sheets of plastic. Characters are drawn on cels or celluloid and laid over a background drawing or painting that stays in place. This reduces the number of times a background has to be redrawn. The outlines were hand-inked and then painted by a staff.
A full-length feature film produced with cel animation would often require a million or more drawings to complete.
In the 1920’s, Disney and a partner began making cartoons called Laugh-O-Grams. The first six of the Laugh-O-Grams were modernized fairy tales.
YouTube video - Disney's Laugh-O-Gram Cinderella 1922 (7:23 min.)
YouTube video - The Animation Process from 1938 Disney Studios (4:54 min.)
YouTube video - Explanation of animation cels [upper grades] (4:25 min.)
WEDNESDAY - Disney's Mickey Mouse
Walt Disney, his brother, Roy, and a partner named Iwerks (i-works) moved to Hollywood, California and opened an animation studio, Disney Brothers. They created a character, Oswald Rabbit.
They lost the copyright to Oswald, and so developed a new mouse character.
In 1928, during a train trip Walt showed the mouse drawing to his wife and said he was going to call it "Mortimer Mouse." She replied that the name sounded "too sissified" and suggested Mickey Mouse instead. Disney told interviewers later that he was inspired to draw Mickey by a tame mouse at his desk at his Kansas City Laugh-O-Gram Studio. He said,
“They used to fight for crumbs in my waste-basket when I worked alone late at night. I lifted them out and kept them in wire cages on my desk. I grew particularly fond of one brown house mouse. He was a timid little guy. By tapping him on the nose with my pencil, I trained him to run inside a black circle I drew on my drawing board. When I left Kansas to try my luck at Hollywood, I hated to leave him behind. So I carefully carried him to a backyard, making sure it was a nice neighborhood, and the tame little fellow scampered to freedom.”
The first animated shorts featuring Mickey were Plane Crazy and The Gallopin' Gaucho, both silent films.
YouTube video - Plane Crazy- Mickey Mouse's first cartoon 1928 (5:59 min.)
When sound made its way into film, Disney created a third, sound-and-music-equipped short called Steamboat Willie. With Walt as the voice of Mickey, the cartoon was an instant sensation. Mickey's popularity grew rapidly in the early 1930s.
YouTube video - Disney's Steamboat Willie (7:22 min.)
In the film The Opry House, Mickey was first given white gloves as a way of contrasting his naturally black hands against his black body.
Animator Fred Moore redesigned Mickey Mouse in 1939 after Donald Duck overtook him in popularity among theater audiences. Instead of having solid black eyes, Mickey was given white eyes with pupils, a tan colored face, and a pear-shaped body. He went on to appear in over 130 films.
In 1978, Mickey became the first cartoon character to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Mickey Mouse is still very popular today. He is the official mascot of the Walt Disney Company.
A Walt Disney quote appears at Disneyland, "I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse."
YouTube video - The History of Mickey Mouse (3:19 min.)
YouTube video - Creation of the new Get a Horse cartoon that appeared with Frozen in theaters (3:36 min.)
Disney's Silly Symphonies
Walt Disney’s company produced 75 animated short films in the 30’s called Silly Symphonies. These cartoons were designed to accompany pieces of music, and that’s why they were called Silly Symphonies. Each cartoon was a stand-alone story and did not feature continuing characters such as Mickey Mouse.
Frolicking Fish, a Disney Silly Symphony
The Silly Symphony, Flowers and Trees, was the first Disney cartoon to use Three Strip Technicolor.
The Silly Symphony series became a showcase for the Disney team of artists. In them, the artists were able to let their imaginations run a little freer. They were not locked into a real plotline as most tended to be dance numbers or pastoral works. The Silly Symphonies also became a great way for the Disney artists to experiment with new techniques.
YouTube video - The first Silly Symphony;The Skeleton Dance (5:31 min.)
Walt Disney shoiwing a diagram of multi-plane camera
The multi-plane camera, which made the cartoons look more three dimensional, was first used for a Silly Symphony, and it proved to be a major advancement in animation.
The multi-plane camera
How a multi-plane camera works
YouTube video - Silly Symphony: The Old Mill [using a multiplane camera] (8:43 min.)
Goddess of Spring cartoon with a realistic human character.
Disney’s first color short was a Silly Symphony and the studio made advances with Technicolor. The artists’ first attempts at animating realistic human figures was also tried in a Symphony cartoon. Walt Disney believed that The Three Little Pigs Silly Symphony cartoon was their first to successfully create true characters. The Silly Symphony cartoons helped Walt Disney prepare to create feature length animated movies which would become probably Disney’s most appreciated works.
YouTube video - Silly Symphony: The Grasshopper and the Ants (8:26 min.)
YouTube video - Silly Symphony: The Three Little Pigs (8:22 min.)
Walt Disney's Animated Feature Length Movies
In 1934, Walt Disney began planning a full-length feature. When the film industry learned of Disney's plans to produce an animated feature-length version of Snow White, they were certain that this goal would destroy the Disney Studio. Who would want to watch a full-length cartoon? They called the project "Disney's Folly". Even Disney’s wife and brother tried to talk Disney out of the project. Walt’s budget for the film ran 8 times bigger than planned, and animators and crew were strained as they tried to meet Walt Disney’s high expectation and ideas. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first animated feature in America made in Technicolor, was released in 1938. At the screening of Snow White, which was held for some of the most powerful people in the movie business, the audience gave it a standing ovation.
The movie was a huge success, and Disney was even awarded one full-size and seven miniature Oscar statuettes from the Academy Awards. Shirley Temple presented the Oscars to Walt at the ceremony.
YouTube video - Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs 1937 Trailer (1:35 min.)
YouTube video - Walt Disney on Snow White and the studio animation techniques (2:55 min.)
Snow White began an era that would later be known as the 'Golden Age of Animation' for the studio. During this time Disney Studios created Pinocchio, Fantasia, Bambi, and began work on Alice in Wonderland,Dumbo, and Peter Pan.
By the late 1940s, the studio started work on Cinderella, which became Disney's most successful film since Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. During Walt Disney's lifetime, the Disney animation department created Lady and the Tramp, Sleeping Beauty, One Hundred and One Dalmations, and The Sword in the Stone. Disney produced Mary Poppins in 1964, which mixed animation with live action actors. The final animated productions in which Disney played an active role were The Jungle Book and the shorter feature, Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day.
Walt Disney died of lung cancer in 1966. After his death, his Walt Disney Pictures continued to produce movies.
Many more wonderful full-length animated movies were made, especially during a period beginning with The Little Mermaid that came to be known as the Disney Renaissance.
YouTube Video - The Eras of Disney Animated Films (7:07 min.)
Walt Disney left behind a vast legacy, including numerous animated shorts and feature films, the Disney company, the Disney theme parks, an animation studio, and the California Institute of the Arts.
YouTube video - The History of Donald Duck (4:20 min.)
YouTube video - Top 10 Classic Disney Animated Characters (10:29 min.)
YouTube Video - Top 10 Modern Disney Animated Characters [these characters were created after Walt Disney's death] (11:51 min.)
YouTube video - Top 10 Animated Disney Villains (9:12 min.)
Arkansas Visual Art Frameworks
VA.7.5.5 Discuss ways media reflects contemporary culture and art across the globe
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