Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Research Paper on Disney Animation

Early Disney Animation

Walt Disney is one of the most outstanding and influential figures in the field of entertainment in the US. His contribution in the entertainment industry of the US as well as the entire world can be hardly fully assessed. Nevertheless, his works were highly appreciated during his lifetime and in the aftermath of his death. He received numerous rewards for his works and his creation still is one of the leading companies in the field of entertainment. Obviously, the major successes of Walt Disney are closely related to his animated works. He proved to be a successful animator and, what is more, he managed not only to created cartoons but also successfully promote them.

In fact, Walt Disney may be considered successful animator as well as producer since during his lifetime he was the producer of practically all of his works but the few first ones. At the same time, it is probably due to the problems with his producer at the beginning of his career that provided Walt Disney with an essential experience and made him a successful producer.

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Nevertheless, it is necessary to underline that his impact on the development of animation was extremely significant to the extent that even nowadays his ideas, style and concepts are still relevant. Moreover, it is even possible to estimate that modern animation simply continues traditions of Walt Disney’s work. In such a way, Walt Disney may be viewed as a predecessor, or to put it more precisely as a father of the modern animation since the roots of the modern animation grow from the early Walt Disney’s works. In such a situation, it is really important to trace the development of Walt Disney’s creative work in order to adequately evaluate his contribution to the modern animation and his significance to the entertainment industry at large and the early works of this talented animator are particularly important because practically all his innovative ideas were implemented throughout 1920-1930s while the rest of his career may be viewed as a period when the great artists simply polished his technique and style.

The first success – Alice series 
Regardless his world recognition and popularity, Walt Disney had a long way to go before he gained the public acclaim and popularity. At the same time, it should be said that since his early works he demonstrated his talent as an animator and his desire to implement innovations, to create works which were different from others created by his colleagues and which were characterized by the high level of originality.

His long way to the recognition of his talent started in 1923 when he arrived in California. His only wealth was his own ideas and strong desire to work and create really interesting cartoons. In fact, it is possible to estimate that Walt Disney was extremely enthusiastic about his work and he simply wanted to share his ideas with the wide audience, it seems as if his only target was to entertain the public. At the same time, it should be said that he perfectly realize that there was no other place in the US than California where he could realize his ideas successfully and where his innovations could be perceived and accepted by specialists as well as by the public. One of his first works he decided to show to specialists and the wide audience was a cartoon he had made while he was in Kansas City.

When Walt Disney arrived in California he decided to present this cartoon as his pilot project which actually could predetermine his future as a cartoonist because the failure could be crucial to Walt Disney, taking into consideration his financial position which was far from perfect. So, this first work was a cartoon about a little girl, named Alice, who lived in a cartoon world. The cartoon was called “Alice’s Wonderland” and it was just one of the cartoons in the series called “Alice Comedies”. It should be pointed out that Walt Disney it was extremely important to Walt Disney to gain success with the first cartoon as it actually defined his further development and progress in the field of animation and entertainment at large.

Fortunately, Walt Disney was lucky enough and soon after his arrival in California he had managed to promote his first pilot project. As a result, he found a distributor in New York, M.J. Winkler, who contracted to distribute Alice Comedies on October 16, 1923 (Gabler 2006). It was a great chance Walt Disney awaited for and, naturally, he could not fail to lose it. At the same time, it should be said that at that epoch he was just a beginner in the entertainment industry and he apparently lack the experience of work with distributors that actually affected negative his work at the beginning of his career.

Nevertheless, Walt Disney did not have any problems as Alice series grew more and more popular and the audience was simply admired with the quality of his work. At the same time, it is necessary to underline that it was a really innovative work because it was the first time when animated characters were acting along with the real, human characters. At this point, it should be said that Walt Disney were more focused on animated characters which were made so skillfully that gradually the attention of the audience were largely drawn to them, instead of human characters. Such a shift was probably unexpected since animation was not so popular as traditional feature films at that epoch. In fact, it is basically due to Walt Disney’s gift he had managed to create vivid and really interesting characters, such as the cat Julius, who resembled Felix the Cat. The animated characters attracted the attention of the audience more than live-acting characters and it was animated characters that made Alice series extremely popular.

However, as any other series Alice Comedies had eventually arrived to the logical end in 1927 but it did not mean the end of Walt Disney’s career. In stark contrast, this first really successful series marked the successful debut of the beginning animator who had never been known to the wide audience before and who could not disappear from the animation avant-scene after the end of the Alice series.

Oswald the Lucky Rabbit 
On achieving first significant successes, Walt Disney naturally wanted to continue progressing and after the end of the Alice series he decided to entirely move to the creation of fully animated works where he could realize his talent as an animator and which was more interesting for him. It is necessary to underlie that in order to create a new series Walt Disney needed a totally new character that was quite original and interesting for the audience. For this purpose, he created the new animated character whom he called Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. It should be said that this new character and the new product were almost instant success and Oswald became a popular property which could be quite beneficial to its owners. In such a situation, it was quite natural that Walt Disney worked on the new character and new series with great enthusiasm and within a year he had created 26 series of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.

However, he could not fully enjoy the success of the new series. In actuality, he turned to be hypocritically deceived. In this respect, it should be said that when Walt Disney tried to get some additional money from his distributor for a second years of the cartoons, he found out that his distributor had gone behind his back and signed up almost all of his animators, hoping to make the Oswald cartoons in his own studio for less money without Walt Disney’s participation.

Obviously, it was a great blow that practically knocked Walt Disney out. Nevertheless, he had managed to cope with this probably the greatest deception in his entire career and kept working. In this respect, it is necessary to underline that the actions of the distributor were legally justified and, what is more, it was basically Walt Disney who should blame himself in such a failure. At the same time, it was rather the lack of experience than any other factors that put Walt Disney in such a disadvantaged position because he signed the contract without paying attention to some details and, only when he faced the problem of losing the rights to Oswald, he finally realized that he had no rights at all for, according to the contract, it was the distributor who actually had the rights to Oswald (Gabler 2006).

In such a way, it was the first serious failure of Walt Disney, but, on the other hand, it was also a great lesson the young animator and producer had to learn and he did learn since after that episode he produced his works himself and had all the rights to his works.

At the same time, it should be said that the Oswald series was not a real failure. It was just a serious financial problem, while from the artistic point of view the Oswald series was a great success. In fact, Walt Disney had managed to create a new all-animated series which main character became an important figure and whose popularity could easily compete with any live acting character in cinematography of 1920s. Naturally, it was a great achievement of Walt Disney since, for the first time in history, he perfectly demonstrated the potential of animated cartoons which could be extremely popular and compete with live acting performance. This is why, regardless the great deception and resulting financial problems, the Oswald series was a large step to the great popularity of Walt Disney and his works and it was also a great experience not only in the animated world but also in the real world where moral and ethic principles were easily rejected and sacrificed for the sake of higher profits.

Mickey Mouse as one of the major creations of Walt Disney 
In fact, the Oswald series paved the way to the probably the most popular character created by Walt Disney, Mickey Mouse. Obviously, after losing Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Walt Disney had to start his work from the beginning. Consequently, again he had to create a totally new character. However, unlike the previous series created by Walt Disney, this time his creation should compete with another creation of his own. In such a way, it was a great professional challenge he had to cope with.

Speaking about Mickey Mouse as the major creation of Walt Disney, it is necessary to point out that it was not fully the work of Walt Disney alone. In fact, it was the creation of the tem, of the entire company “Walt Disney Studio”. In this respect, it is worthy of mention that he closely cooperated with his chief animator, Ub Iwerks, and together they designed Mickey Mouse and gave him a personality that endeared him to all. It is necessary to underline that the animators paid a lot of attention to the personality of the character that was quite unusual for the animation of that epoch since traditionally animated characters were viewed as insignificant and they were traditionally used for a pure entertainment of the wide audience. Naturally, in such a situation, there was no need in a profound development of the personality of the animated character. In such a situation, Walt Disney’s attention to all the aspects of his character, i.e. only to his animated image, but also to his personality made his character quite different from others and brought Mickey Mouse great popularity and public acclaim.

Naturally, such attention to Mickey Mouse from the part of Walt Disney was not occasional since it was a totally new character, which was the major project of Walt Disney which should overshadow the popularity of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. In a way, the new cartoon series may be viewed as a revenge of Walt Disney on his distributor. The fact that Mickey Mouse’s popularity eventually outweighed the popularity of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit proves the fact that Walt Disney was a really talented animator and producer who managed to create not only a successful project but also gather talented and skillful professionals in his team.

However, it is worthy of mention that, unlike Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Mickey Mouse series was not an instant success because the first two cartoons were practically unnoticed by the wide audience. Basically, this was the result of the relative backwardness of the technology used by the animators. To put it more precisely, these two cartoons were silent films, while sound was revolutionizing the movie industry of that epoch in late 1920s. As a result, Walt Disney even failed to sell his first cartoons of Mickey Mouse series.

Nevertheless, he had never gave up and the third cartoon had fully synchronized sound and Steamboat Willie opened to rave reviews at the Colony Theater in New York Novermber 18, 1928 (Barrier 1999). In such a way, a new cartoon star, Mickey Mouse, was born and gradually this character became a super star whose popularity persists till the present days.

Obviously, on creating Mickey Mouse, Walt Disney achieved his first and probably largest independent success since it was his really first cartoon series that he made and distributed independently from other companies. Consequently, he proved that cartoons could be really interesting to the audience and that his company can produce and distribute cartoon series without any external assistance. At the same time, it is necessary to underline that such a popularity of Mickey Mouse was determined by the innovations of Walt Disney in his approach to an animated character who acquired characteristics of a live acting character, and what is more, he had got a personality.

Furthermore, Mickey Mouse proved that cartoon series could be really popular since it was already his second all-animated series that gained public recognition and was positively accepted by critics. In this respect, it is worthy of mention that, in 1932, Walt Disney received a special Academy Award for the creation of Mickey Mouse as the best cartoon whose series was fully moved in color and, to a significant extent, it is due to such technological innovations the cartoon series received this reward. Actually, it was the first and not the last reward received by a cartoon and it is possible to estimate that Walt Disney was the first animator who received the Academy Award and it was him who established such a tradition because, in the past, it was practically an unimaginable situation when an animated work received the Academy Award.

The Silly Symphonies 
Obviously, Mickey Mouse was the major success of Walt Disney. Nevertheless, he continued to progress and attempted to create new characters targeting at the diversity of animated characters and cartoons offered to the mass audience. Along with Mickey Mouse series, Walt Disney launched another series called The Silly Symphonies. This series was also extremely popular, but it could hardly overshadow the enormous popularity of Mickey Mouse.

At the same time, it should be said that the Silly Symphonies were quite a different animated series. Unlike Mickey Mouse, this series comprise a variety of different characters and animators could experiment in each cartoon they made since the cartoons within the series had not been so closely linked to each other as the cartoons within the Mickey Mouse series. Also, it should be said that the Silly Symphonies had a number of other unique features that made it possible to speak about this series as about a new original and unique product created by Walt Disney. In this respect, it should be said that animators working on the series could experiment on each cartoon and, what is more, the stories in the Silly Symphonies relied less on gags and quick humor, which were the characteristic of the Mickey Mouse series, and, instead, they were more focused on the mood, emotions and music themes (Barrier 1999).

Regardless the fact that the Silly Symphonies could hardly become more popular than Mickey Mouse but this series was the further step ahead in the animation production. It should be said that the new series wider use the opportunities of the sound that was totally contrasting to the first Mickey Mouse silent cartoons, which failed dramatically. Moreover, animated characters grew more and more complicated, to the extent that it was possible to speak about the gradual evolution of animated character which acquired more and more features of live acting characters. On the other hand, such an evolution was typical for Walt Disney’s work.

Furthermore, it is necessary to underline that the Silly Symphonies revealed a totally new approach to the creation and promotion of animated characters and cartoons at large. To put it more precisely, the Silly Symphonies turned into a training ground for all Disney’s artists as they prepared for the advent of animated feature film. In fact, it was really important and progressive step in the development of animation since due to the Silly Symphonies, Walt Disney could simply assess the potential of each character created by his company. At this point, it is important to remind about the variety of characters created within the Silly Symphonies that meant that Walt Disney intentionally chose such form of work and attempted to use this series as a kind of test for various ideas which could be later successfully implemented like Mickey Mouse, for instance.

In such a situation, Walt Disney could simply trace what the character is more popular among the audience and decide whether to keep developing this character further gradually transforming it in a new or another Mickey Mouse, or, in contrast, to stop the production of cartoons with certain character. On the other hand, such innovative approach also provided an opportunity to conduct a kind of market research since it was possible to analyze what the audience preferred the most, what its reaction of different cartoons and series was and, thus, it was possible to define the most perspective ways of the development of animation and the major directions of the company’s work.

It is necessary to remind that it was just the beginning of 1930s when the Silly Symphonies were launched and grew more and more popular. This is why its success determined the further development of the company, in a way, as well as the entire animation industry since the Silly Symphonies series was an excellent example to follow and it actually showed the way to the beginning animators what could be done to find out the successful idea that was worthy to realize.

At the same time, it should be also said that the Silly Symphonies perfectly demonstrated the potential of cartoons which, being short films, could successfully convey different emotions, mood and depict various characters which had their own, unique personality. In such a way, it is possible to estimate that Walt Disney managed to make his animated series closer to the live acting films.

The growing popularity of Walt Disney’s characters and their commercialization
In such a way, by the mid-1930s Walt Disney’s works became a rapidly progressing and profitable enterprise. It should be said that the popularity of the main characters of cartoons created by Walt Disney was enormous, especially popular was Mickey Mouse who unquestionably was the major super star of Walt Disney’s production. At the same time, it should be said that even though the commercial success was probably not the major goal of Walt Disney, when he had just arrived in California in 1923, he could hardly avoid making a god business using the potential of his company.

In fact, it is possible to argue what the real reasons for the creation of his animation were. On the one hand, it is obvious that Walt Disney was a real enthusiast in the field of animation and it was the sort of work he really enjoyed and performed perfectly. On the other hand, since the beginning of his work Walt Disney demonstrated that the profitability of his business was also quite significant to him. In this respect, it is worthy of mention his permanent intention to find alternative ways to produce and distribute his works, especially after the failure of his Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and deception by his producer. In fact, the decision to preserve the rights to his works and production of original and unique products perfectly demonstrated anther side of Walt Disney’s personality and his talent as a producer which harmoniously completed his gift of an animator.

In such a way, it is possible to say that Walt Disney successfully combined the work of an animator and producer. At the same time, the popularity of his animated works brought him not only public acclaim but also financial stability and made his company quite profitable. However, it is worthy of mention that again Walt Disney demonstrated his ability to easily accept innovations. To put it more precisely, he had managed to modify not only the production of animated films but he also modified the entertainment and animation business. In fact, he was the first who started to earn money on his animated characters and it became a substantial source of income to his company. Obviously, it was a great experience that many modern companies attempt to follow.

In such a situation, it is possible to speak about the growing popularity of Walt Disney’s works which brought him financial success but, unlike his competitors and predecessors, he started to merchandize his characters. To put it more precisely, he started to merchandize his characters whose images and names were used in different products which often were not even related to animation or entertainment industry. In this respect, it is worthy of mention the first case when Walt Disney had managed to earn money on merchandizing his characters. A man in New York offered Walt Disney $300 for the license to put Mickey Mouse on some pencil tablets he was manufacturing. As Walt Disney needed the money he agreed and that episode marked the start of merchandizing of his characters, which became a really profitable business. Within a few years, his most popular character, Mickey Mouse, was widely exploited. There were Mickey Mouse dolls, figurines, dishes, toothbrushes, radios, etc. Moreover, there was even the Mickey Mouse book published in 1930s, as was the first Mickey Mouse newspaper comic strip (Barrier 1999).

In such a way, Walt Disney received an additional source of revenue, while his characters were promoted in various ways. Consequently, such merchandizing of Disney’s characters was an extremely successful and, at the same time, an unparalleled step undertaken by a cartoonist. In fact, it created the basis of the financial stability and popularity of Walt Disney’s works.

Snow White and Seven Dwarfs as one of the first animated feature films 
Naturally, the commercial success of Walt Disney’s cartoon series contributed to the improvement of its financial position. At the same time, the characters created by Walt Disney remained popular and the audience simply loved them. At first glance, it seems as if such a success is sufficient and can satisfy even the most ambitious individual. However, for Walt Disney it was not enough and he kept experimenting and looking for new forms and genres in the animation that proved his great artistic enthusiasm and his desire to create new, original and really valuable works which could be measured not only in material terms but also in artistic ones.

In such a situation, it seems to be quite natural that Walt Disney attempted to continue his efforts to make animated characters and animation at large closer to live acting characters. This is why, in 1934, Walt Disney announced to his animators his intention to create the first animated feature film (Barrier 1999). The basis for this film was the story of Snow White and Seven Dwarfs.

Obviously, the idea of Walt Disney was unusual, absolutely innovative and quite extravagant for that epoch. As a result, some of his animators perceived this idea with a great skepticism. In actuality, their skepticism was quite natural because what Walt Disney offered was to challenge a traditional feature film and, instead of live acting actors, he wanted to use animated characters who were supposed to perform the same roles that live acting actors could do.

This innovative step was really revolutionary at that epoch because the creation of an animated feature film was accompanied by a number of problems, among which may be named the problem of making animated character more vivid, true to life actors. In other words, it was extremely difficult to convey, or to put it more precisely substitute, the play of live acting characters by animated ones. The animated characters should perfectly convey not only the ideological message of the entire film that was not the greatest problem but they had to convey typically human emotions, feelings, sufferings, etc., in other words, they had to be human.

Nevertheless, such serious difficulties, Walt Disney created the first animated feature film Snow White and Seven Dwarfs. It should be pointed out that it took Walt Disney and his animators three years to fully realize his idea and it is only at Christmas time, 1937, the audience had got a chance to watch this original and unique film. It is necessary to underline that since the day of its release Snow White and Seven Dwarfs had become the highest grossing film of all time, a record it held until it was surpassed by Gone with the Wind.

The success of this animated feature film, to a significant extent, predetermined the further development of animation and its impact is quite strong even at the present days. This animated feature film created in 1937 marked the end of the early epoch of Walt Disney and symbolized the new era of animation which had overcome the borders of conventional short animated films and competed with the best feature films.

Walt Disney’s contribution in the modern animation 
Obviously, Walt Disney made a great contribution in the development of animation and, what is even more important, his impact on the modern animation remain quite strong. In fact, his ideas, being implemented during his lifetime, still remain the major ideas that define the development of the modern animation. It is possible to speak about Walt Disney as a great revolutionary in the world of animation whose achievements remain unsurpassed and whose ideological and artistic heritage remains unshaken since till the present moment it is hardly possible to speak about irrelevance of his ideas, techniques, or genres.

No wonder that Walt Disney is considered to be the forefather of the modern animation. In this respect, it should be said that all his ideas were really innovative and defined the development of animation. For instance, his short animated films still may be viewed as the basis for the modern cartoons, while his characters created in 1920-1930s still remain popular. For instance, Mickey Mouse is one of the most recognizable animated characters not only in the US but in the entire world. The same may be said about other characters created by Walt Disney in such works as Silly Symphonies. As for the animated feature films, these films only grow more and more popular and perfectly demonstrate the extent to which preceptive Walt Disney was.

At the same time, it was not only the diversity of genres that the modern animation inherited from Walt Disney. In fact, his of animated character as practically live beings, who have their own personality, traits of character, identity, is successfully implemented in the modern animation where animated characters are really vivid and often are true to life. In other words, it is possible to speak about ‘humanizaiton’ of animated character, which could be observed in Walt Disney’s work from Mickey Mouse through Silly Symphonies to Snow White and Seven Dwarfs and which is particularly obvious in the modern animated feature films.

Furthermore, it should be said that Walt Disney’s works and achievements of 1920-1930s influenced animation not only as a form of entertainment but also as a business. To put it more precisely, his strategy he had been using since Mickey Mouse release, i.e. produce and distribute animated works, proved to be extremely efficient.

At the same time, the merchandizing of animated characters is nowadays one of the major sources of revenues for the companies working in the field of entertainment. Anyway, it is due to Walt Disney the world had learned that animation can be a really profitable business and the modern animation, being based on ideas of Walt Disney, is a perfect illustration of the fact that Walt Disney had chosen the right way in animation.

Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that Walt Disney was not just a great animator but he was also a great producer and businessman. His works created in 1920s and 1930s demonstrated his talents and revealed the potential of animation. In fact, at this early period of the development of Walt Disney, as a company that occupies one of the leading places in the field of entertainment proves the fact, the animation made a great leap forward and created the basis for the modern animation. It seems to be obvious that the wide use of technological innovations, experiments, and search for excellence made Walt Disney a predecessor of the modern animation who practically made the revolution in the field of entertainment. Nowadays, it is hardly possible to imagine what the modern animation would look like if there were no Walt Disney. This is why it is possible to estimate that Walt Disney defined the development of the modern animation in 1920-1930s.
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