Disney, Opinions, Studios

Disney Canon Countdown: The Disney Renaissance

Share on Pinterest


As we leave the dark period of Disney’s Bronze Age, we enter what is arguably the most popular era in Disney animation, one of the most popular recent eras, the Disney Renaissance.

After Disney hit its lowest point with The Black Cauldron, it slowly began to work its way out of its slump with movies like The Great Mouse Detective and Oliver and Company. These two films were much more successful than a lot of the other films that the Bronze Age had produced and led to the creation of The Little Mermaid, one of the most successful films the studio had produced in years. It broke box office records and received two Academy Awards. The Disney Renaissance had begun.

Following The Little Mermaid, The Rescuers Down Under was a far more modest success. While it performed well and is notable for being Disney’s first canon sequel, it is not as well remembered as the film that came before it, or the films that came after.

Beauty and the Beast, the next film in the Renaissance, is considered by many to be one of Disney’s greatest films of all time. Not only did it win two Academy Awards, it was nominated for three others, including Best Picture, something that is almost unheard of for an animated film. Following this success, Disney kept the successes going when they released Aladdin, which again won two Oscars, and had three other nominations.

Two years later, Disney released The Lion King, yet another film considered by many to be one of Disney’s greatest. It also won two Oscars, was nominated for two more, and at the time, became the highest-grossing animated film ever. To this day, it remains the highest-grossing traditionally animated film in history.

These great successes, were followed by three films that, while not flops by any means, were not as well received by critics, nor as commercially successful as their predecessors. Pocahontas opened to poor reviews, which led to it taking in far less money than The Lion King. This led to a downward trend for Disney as The Hunchback of Notre Dame took even less the next year, and Hercules reached the lowest revenue for the company in quite some time.

While the media began to murmur that this was a downward trend for Disney as a whole, their next film dispelled those rumors. Mulan was a commercial and critical success, restoring the Disney name.

The final film of the Renaissance, was their most expensive film to date, but the investment paid off when Tarzan became Disney’s most successful film since The Lion King. Not only was it an instrumental learning experience for the animators who used it to pioneer the “Deep Canvas” background painting technique, but it also won an Academy Award, as well as a Grammy for Phil Collins’ soundtrack.

The Disney Renaissance was one of the most universally acclaimed periods of Disney’s history. To this day, it is beloved by Disney fans everywhere, and many of its films are held up by fans as the gold standards by which all other animated films are to be judged.

Over the next month, we will be going through these ten classic films and reviewing them individually. Join us tomorrow as we take a look at the film that breathed new life into the Walt Disney company, The Little Mermaid.

What is your opinion on the Disney Renaissance? Do you think the films live up to the hype? Which one is your favorite?

Edited by: Kelly Conley

Share on Pinterest

About Jonathan North

Jonathan North is writer, photographer, video editor, and animation fan from Iowa. He studied advertising and design at Iowa State University, and also has degrees in multimedia and art. His favorite movie is Fantasia, and his favorite cartoon is Gravity Falls. Or maybe Steven Universe. He can’t decide. You can find more of his work on his blog, as well as his Podcast and YouTube channel, where he reviews animation, movies, TV, or whatever else his guests feel like talking about. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, @jonjnorth.