Originally at this link which is no longer up. Reposted below.
Whenever the subject of animation is brought up, one name that always comes to mind is Walt Disney. More than just an old pioneer in animation, Walt Disney and his company were important to the advancement of modern animation and made a considerable contribution to many of the films and cartoons enjoyed today. From their humble beginnings in the 20's, the genius and inventiveness of the Disney Company has inspired thousands of artists. Disney's early venture into animation has brought about innovations such as color animation, feature-length animated films, and the popularity of musical cartoons, as well as the drive for marketable characters, a legitimizing of animation, and even Japanese animation, which is now a part of the pop-culture.
It's ironic that many hardcore fans of Japanese animation, or "anime," are proud to be Disney-haters, since Walt Disney was the main inspiration of Osamu Tezuka, the "Father of Anime," who is widely credited as the most influential animator in Japan. Fascinated with Disney's large, glossy-eyed style, Tezuka shaped his own techniques, adapting those Disney eyes. Shiny eyes are now the most recognizable feature of Japanese animation today. Tezuka was always a huge fan of Disney, claiming to have watched "Bambi" eighty times, and two years before his death in 1987, created "Legend of the Forest," which was an homage to Disney. By inspiring the "Father of Anime," Disney helped give rise to Japanese animation.
Another factor of Disney that also rubbed off on animation is the concept of creating marketable characters. In interviews with Walt, he mentioned that he wanted to give his characters emotion and life. Needless to say, he succeeded when he created Mickey Mouse in 1928. Mickey, and the rest of his colorful, Disney trademark friends are known around the world, and have made millions of dollars, even spawning their own chain of Disney stores. Now marketable and lovable characters have become an integral aspect of animation. Disney's successes with such characters in an earlier time have no doubt sparked the creation of other notable characters, like the Warner Brothers' "Looney Tunes" cast. (Friz Freleng, a head honcho at Warner Brothers' had his start at Disney in the 20's). Sadly, the marketability of characters has also had a negative effect on the animation industry, such as carbon copies of already successful characters, and creating cartoons for the sole purpose of selling merchandise. Disney's extremely prosperous characters have inspired other animators to create something similar, leading to an endless supply of imaginative personalities.
In more recent years, Walt Disney has become known for their animated musicals -- some of them being successful enough to spawn their own Broadway musicals like "Lion King" and "Beauty and the Beast." Walt himself once said, "There's a terrific power to music. You can run any of these pictures and they'd be dragging and boring, but the minute you put music behind them, they have life and vitality they don't get any other way." Perhaps he was right, considering "Lion King" became the seventh top-grossing film of all time. After the release of "The Little Mermaid," it seems that almost every American animated movie has been a musical, for example, "Anastasia," "The" King and I," "The Prince of Egypt," and "The Road to El Dorado." The animated musical has become a whole new medium that Disney created and gave to the animation industry.
One of the most important effects Disney has had on the animation world was helping to legitimize the medium. In other words, the overwhelming success of Disney's efforts have helped to shut down the belief that animation is just for kids. "Fantasia" was a movie that really drove this message. It was imaginative eye-candy that featured the adult-cultured taste of classical music. Besides, there were few kids that could sit through the entire film without squirming or complaining. In more recent years, "Fantasia 2000," "Tarzan," and both "Toy Story" movies have included complex culture, intelligence, and emotion that allows adults to enjoy the film just as much, or even more so, than children. The "just for kids" stigma unfortunately still exists, but Disney has made efforts to reduce this belief.
Definitely the most significant impacts Walt Disney Studios made in the animation world were due to the many "firsts" that they achieved. "Flowers and Trees," a short animation Walt put together in 1932, was the first animated film in color and the first to win an Academy Award. After such an accomplishment, there would no doubt be many people making color cartoons. The famous, early Mickey Mouse cartoon, "Steamboat Willie," was the very first animation to be synched with a talking soundtrack. This was a major feat, and again, inspired many other animators and copycats. Probably the most important "first" was Disney's "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves," the very first full-feature animated film. Making the film was considered a risky and unprecedented move, but in the end, it was a major hit, and is still the thirty-seventh top-grossing movie of all time. Without "Snow White," audiences may have never gotten to see many of the great, animated features released today.
There is a reoccurring pattern with Disney's influences on the cartoon industry. Every big success Disney created is like a stone tossed into a pond, generating countless ripples every time. Those ripples of creativity, ideas, and inspiration bounce off of each other in almost a domino effect. Disney's stones inspired animator, Osamu Tezuka, who later inspired hundreds of other artists, who are now inspiring hundreds more. Through their successes and creativity, Disney has had an important and heavy effect on the world of animation, leading to the creation of anime, the drive for marketable characters, the popularity of animated musicals, the legitimacy of the art form, the widespread production of full-feature animated films, and talking, full-color cartoons.
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