As animation addicts most of us turn to our favorite artform during times of stress and uncertainty. With the upheaval caused by the coronavirus I’m sure our current situation will be no exception. Perhaps some of you have considered checking a big item off your bucket list: reviewing the Disney Canon. In an effort to help you with this goal I will clarify what the canon is and some tips that will make the experience more rewarding.
The ‘Disney Canon’ is a list of films created by the Walt Disney Animation Studios. Some countries have slightly different lists but currently in the United States there are 58 films in the canon. The earliest film is Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and the most recent is Frozen II.
This list does not include films from other Disney owned studios like Pixar or Disneytoon Studios. It is just the main WDAS group of films. Typically these 58 films are divided up into eras like the Disney Gold Era or Disney Renaissance.
Obviously over 58 films there are highs and lows but watching the complete canon has become something of a rite of passage for Disney and animation fans. Seeing those lows gives you perspective on the prosperous times and getting the full view of the history of such an iconic animation studio is fascinating and enriching.
I’ve actually reviewed the complete canon twice, once for my blog and again for my youtube channel. It’s a challenging endeavor and you may find yourself wanting to give up on more than one occasion. Here are some tips on how to have the best experience possible:
- Know your Behind the Scenes– as you are watching it is fascinating to learn about the goings-on that either inspired or frustrated the animators and/or cast and crew. This information is so easy to obtain these days and what you can learn about early artists like Mary Blair or the 9 Old Men adds a lot to the experience.
- Go out of Order- this might be controversial advice but just because you are reviewing the canon in order doesn’t mean you have to watch them that way. Certain eras of Disney films are rough (I’m talking to you package era) and if you have to sneak in a Renaissance film to keep your sanity we won’t tell. This is supposed to be fun so why not make it so! In my recent watch for a podcast, I am reviewing them in complete random order and really enjoying that approach. Whatever works for you!
- You will Hate Some of Them- sometimes big Disney fans have a hard time admitting when the House of Mouse goes off the rails. You can’t watch 58 movies and not have some you dislike. It’s all part of the experience and makes for an overall rewarding project.
- Educate Yourself on the Art- as you are watching the canon pay attention the artistic styles as they change. While viewing Fantasia think about each color palate and style for each short. As you are watching 101 Dalmatians notice the xerox style and how it works so well in bringing the puppies to life. That kind of thing!
- Revel in the Obscure Films- the whole joy of reviewing the Disney Canon is finally watching the films that get forgotten by the average moviegoer. For example, while doing my first watch I discovered Make Mine Music: the most experimental and strange of the package films. Perhaps you will end up loving The Black Cauldron or maybe Atlantis: the Lost Empire will become a new favorite? Who knows? That’s the fun of all this.
- Share Your Experience with Us- if you write a blog or have a youtube channel that follows your experience we’d love to hear about it. Part of the fun of watching the Disney Canon is hearing from other animation addicts who have done the same. It’s great comparing notes and contrasting experiences. A fellow rotoscoper may even know details about a film, animator or era you don’t and that sharing of information only makes us richer.