As we exit one of the most unknown eras of Disney filmmaking, the Wartime Era, we enter into one of the most well-known eras, the Silver Age. Also known as the Restoration Age, or, for those who want to view all of Walt’s full-length, non-package films as part of one era (the second half of the Golden Age), the Silver Age contains some of Disney’s most beloved and well-known films.
The era began in 1950 with the release of Cinderella, Disney’s first full-length feature since Bambi. With a budget of 3 million dollars, and Walt Disney Studios already over $4 million in debt, the future of the studio was literally riding on this movie. Thankfully it was a huge success, and the profits taken in allowed them to continue producing full-length features for many years to come.
While not every feature was quite as successful as Cinderella, none of them were commercial failures. Alice in Wonderland was initially a critical failure, but the studio bounced back soon after, and Lady and the Tramp ended up becoming the studio’s highest grossing film since Snow White. While not every film was a massive success, none of the films in this era were financial bombs. Unlike most of the films during the Golden Age, every film in the Silver Age at least turned a profit.
The Silver Age lasted until roughly the time of Walt’s death and is generally agreed to have ended in 1967 with the release of The Jungle Book, the last film that Disney himself oversaw the production of. While some wish to include The Aristocats in this era, given that this was the last film approved by Disney, it does not really fit in with the quality of the other Silver Age films and is generally agreed to be an all-around weaker film.
Most of the films in this era continue the legacy Walt began with Snow White and Pinocchio, with classic retellings of famous fairy tales. The others continue Bambi’s legacy with more modern stories, centered around the lives of ordinary animals. Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty, and The Sword in the Stone were all new versions of classic fairy tales, while Lady and the Tramp and 101 Dalmatians were more modern, animal stories, and The Jungle Book managed to bridge the gap between the two, pulling both kinds of stories into one movie.
The movies in this era mostly used a very artistic, painterly look, where everything, even ordinary scenes had a magical quality to them. Later films in the era would begin to experiment with a cheaper, quicker form of animation known as xerography, giving the animation a more sketchy, hand-drawn look, that to this day some still view rather contentiously. But for the most part, the films in this era are considered by many to be some of Disney’s most beautiful.
Over the next four weeks, we will be looking at the eight films that make up Disney’s Silver Age. Check back tomorrow for the next installment of our Disney Canon Countdown and the first film of the Silver Age: Cinderella.
Have you seen all the films from Disney’s Silver Age? Which one is your favorite?
Edited by: Kelly Conley