Friday, 16 March 2012

Profile: Walter Disney

Figure 1. Walter Disney

Walter Disney, born in 1901 and died in 1966, was one of the founders of Walt Disney Productions. He was a director, producer, animator and ultimately a perfectionist, seeking new ways to innovate and forward the world of traiditional, 2D animation. His work is known throughout the western world and his films have become the centre of many childhoods ever since.

Disney's most beloved character, 'Mickey Mouse', is the mascot for his company and arguably the most well known cartoon character in the world of animation, becoming a cultural symbol of sorts. He has spawned an empire of merchandise, toys, spin-off cartoon shows, movies and many other forms of media. Thanks to this one animated mouse, Disney's success grew with one of his very first cartoons, 'Steamboat Willie' which was the words very first animated film linked with sound. Leonard Martin, in his book 'Of Mice and Magic', while interviewing the man himself, quotes Disney on his success. He responds with:

"The effect on our little audience was nothing less an electric. They responded almost instinctively to this union of sound and motion. I thought they were kidding me. So they put me in the audience and ran the action again. It was terrible, but it was wonderful! And it was something new!" (Disney, 1980:34) 

The implimentation of a myriad of other anthropomorphic cartoon companions to Mickey caused his widespread success around the world.

Disney began to create his own feature-length film in 1934: an animated, musical retelling of the classic fairy tale 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfes'. The techniques used to create the film were revolutionary for the animation industry and heightened the level of innovation. The film also signified the transition into full length animated movies such as Fantasia (1940), which is composed of seven short films, each of which is synchronized to famous, classical pieces of music performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra and conducted by Leopold Stokowski. 

The opening sequence, played along side Bach's 'Toccata and Fugue in D Minor', is a myriad of gorgeous visuals to set the mood of the entire film as a review of tells us:

"Here, these somber strains score blobs of light and abstract stars like you see when you close your eyes and rub your eyelids real hard (as if the movie itself wasn't enough to bring me back to kidhood)." (<no author name>, 1999)

'Toccata and Fugue in D Minor' isn't about telling a story as much as it is about bringing the music to visual life in front of our eyes with gorgeous imagery.

Disney further pushed himself and the company to become better at crafting animated films. Such familiar movies like Pinocchio, Dumbo, Bambi, Cinderella, The Lion King and many, many others which have captured the imaginations of children world-wide.


Martin, L (1980) Of Mice and Magic, New York, Penguin Group

flickfilosopher (1999) Fantasia (Review) (Accessed on 06/03/12)


Fig 1 Disney, Walter (1901 - 1966) Walter Disney  (Accessed on 06/03/12)

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