Disney At the Movies – Day 1

Snow White Movie Night

photo by Martin Blanco

Since we’re social distancing for the long haul, we thought it would be fun to watch the entire canon of Disney animated films in chronological order.  We’ll begin with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and work our way to Frozen Two.

I saw many of these films in summer re-releases.  They would often be part of a double feature which included a live action comedy or nature adventure and sometimes they would begin with a Disney cartoon.   We thought it would be fun to recreate the complete movie theatre experience, so with each Disney animated classic, we’re going to make “pairing” suggestions.  We’ll recommend a Mickey Mouse cartoon, a Silly Symphony cartoon and a live action film that we think will pair well with the animated feature.  Of course you don’t have to watch all of them (or any of them), but we’re going to have as much fun crafting the presentations as we are watching them.

Thanks to Disney+, many of you will have unprecedented access to most, if not all, of our suggestions.  So break out your popcorn maker and DVD player or streaming device and join us at the movies.

Let us know what you think.

 

Disney at the Movies – Day 1

  1. Cartoon Shorts    Steamboat Willie and Flowers and Trees
  2. Main Feature       Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
  3. Live Action           The Absent-Minded Professor

 

The main feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, was the first full-length animated feature film.  From the moment of its world premiere on December 21, 1937, the film was a triumph.  It established a level of excellence that changed both animated and live action motion pictures. The financial success gave the Walt Disney Company the capital, and Walt Disney himself the clout, to continue to develop projects that would forever change the world (for the better I would argue). I’ve watched this film more than a dozen times, and I never tire of the stunning artwork, the rich details, and the brilliant storytelling.

While Snow White… did not win any Academy Awards by election, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences saw fit to honor it with an award for what they called “significant screen innovation which has charmed millions and pioneered a great new entertainment field.”

But before watching Snow White…, we suggest opening the evening with the black-and-white short Steamboat Willie, another cinematic landmark. It has the distinction of being the first official Mickey Mouse cartoon, and was the first cartoon ever to employ the use of synchronized sound.  This little film is culturally important enough to be on display at the Smithsonian Institute’s Museum of American History.  You’ll meet Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, and my favorite foil of all time, Pete. It premiered at the Colony Theatre in New York City on November 18, 1928.

The next short, Flowers and Trees, is part of Disney’s Silly Symphony series and another landmark cartoon.  It was the first cartoon from that series to be filmed in color.  The color process was created by a company called Technicolor and marked a great improvement on what was the current standard.  Flowers and Trees was released on July 30, 1932 and won the Academy Award for Best Cartoon.  It was a technological bridge to the more substantial Snow White…, particularly a sequence in which the frightened Princess is fleeing for her life in a dark, foreboding forest.  The animators anthropomorphized the fauna to make her escape that much more harrowing.  Similarly, Flowers and Trees anthropomorphized the plants and trees and you’ll see right away that the forest sequence in Snow White. . . owes much to its predecessor.

Finally, we suggest for our live action “pairing” The Absent-Minded Professor.  It was released on March 16, 1961 and it’s hard not to like this endearingly goofy film.  It centers around the follies of Professor Ned Brainard, a brilliant man of science, but a clumsy, naïve simpleton in every other aspect of his life. Brainard is played to perfection by Disney Legend #1, Fred MacMurray. Even though the good Professor can’t remember to attend his own wedding, he accidentally creates a substance that can defy gravity. The film was successful enough to spawn a sequel and a reboot decades later with Robin Williams playing Brainard. Serious Disney fans will appreciate that The Absent-Minded Professor features the first song written by Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman for a Disney film, “The Medfield Fight Song.” While the film is no great work of art, it is as funny as it is earnest.

The corn is popped and we are ready to embark on Day 1 of Disney at the Movies.  Hope you enjoy this!

#Snowwhiteandthesevendwarfs #steamboatwillie #flowersandtrees #theabsentmindedprofessor #sillysymphony #disneymovienight

 

Sources:

Disney A to Z The Official Encyclopedia Fourth Edition Dave Smith c. 2015 Disney Editions

The Disney Films Leonard Maltin c. 1978 Popular Library

 

c. Martin Blanco, Kathryn Blanco,  and Disney at Home

April 21, 2020

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