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Disney Canon Countdown: Disney’s Golden Age

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Before we start looking back at the Disney animated canon, we thought it would be good idea to look into the Disney eras a little deeper. Not too many people are aware the Disney canon can be separated into specific eras, so this is the perfect time to introduce more fans to this concept.

Before we enter each time period, we’re going to give a brief overview of the particular part of Disney’s history. And to begin, we are, of course, starting with the Golden Age.


Disney’s Golden Age began in 1937 and spanned five films before being abruptly cut short by World War II. Had so many of Disney’s animators not been drafted into the war, who knows how long this period may have lasted.

This era started with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which was one of the first full-length animated features, and the first film of its kind to be produced in the United States. This venture was a huge risk for Walt Disney, with many in Hollywood calling the film, “Walt’s Folly,” but Disney’s risk paid off immensely and paved the way for him to make more movies for years to come.

The Golden Age continued with the release of Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo, and Bambi, all of which are incredible works of art. Of these last four films, the most successful, initially, was Dumbo, but through re-releases, the others have proven themselves many times over.

The Golden Age is sometimes referred to as the Tar and Sugar era, due to the melding of two very different sensibilities. All the films contain very cute, lovable characters with fun songs, and maybe some romance, but underneath the adorable exterior, there is a shocking amount of darkness. How many children were scarred for life by the death of Bambi’s mother or the intensity of the donkey transformation sequence in Pinocchio? How many were terrified by Snow White’s flight through the forest or by Chernabog and his hordes of demons in Fantasia? While there is a lot of darkness in later Disney films, no other era had as much this consistently.

While the Golden Age is generally agreed to have lasted from 1937 to 1942, there is sometimes some disagreement about this timeline. Some people want to include every film completed within Walt’s lifetime, while others want to include all those films, except for those made during the Wartime Era. While we agree that just about everything Walt touched was pure magic, there is a distinct difference in tone during the three eras in his lifetime, which is why we chose to separate them the way we did.

Over the next two and a half weeks, we’ll be taking a look back at every film completed during Disney’s Golden Era. Tune in on May 16th  when we’ll be taking a look back at the very first Walt Disney animated feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

What is your favorite movie from this era? Which scenes do you think distinctly defined this period of Disney’s history?

Edited by: Kelly Conley

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