It all started with a mouse : part 4 – 1942 to 1946.

Part one here: Part two here: Part three here

In this part of the time line we will be looking at the years 1942 to 1946. These were some hard years for the disney company with there films having mixed reviews and low earnings even though today many are seen as classics. The first film to be released in 1942 to was:

Bambi – 1942

Bambi was adapted from the Felix Salten novel, Bambi: A life in the woods, and tells the tale of a young deer coming of age. When Bambi started development in 1936 with Walt preparing a team of hand selected artists who would spend six years working on this film. To help make the animals in Bambi more real animal draftsman Rico Lebrun was brought in to train the artist in animal anatomy and movement. A pair of four month old fawns were brought to live at the studio for the animators to study. Additional creatures including birds, squirrels, chipmunks and rabbits were also brought in as live models.

To create a realistic yet stylised forest Walt enlisted the talents of conceptual artist Tyrus Wong. Walt recognised that Wong’s poetic style had a great influence throughout the film especially within staging, background and colour.

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Two of Bambi’s stars were not in the book. Flower (the skunk) was introduced into the movie during the early story conference by Walt. However Thumper was originally to be a child of a central character named Mr Hare. Thumper’s role as best friend kept expanding and the storyline was adapted to fit the appeal of this emerging character. Thumper soon not only displaced Mr Hare, but also because the young deer’s guide to the forest.

Bambi’s forest took a new level of reality thanks to the muliplane camera. Under the guidance of Disney technical expect Bill Garity a department of 18 skilled engineers invented this 14ft high crane that allowed background, middle distance and foreground objects to be placed at the different levels under the camera lens. The multiplane camera was an important tool in expanding the cinematic storytelling vocabulary. Very few of the fragile multiplane backgrounds survived so this is one of the most precious treasure in Disney’s animation research library.

At the time Bambi received mixed reviews from critics mainly because of the lack of fantasy elements in the film. Bambi lost money at the box office out of its $1.7 million budget it only grossed back $1.64 million. Despite this the film received three academy awards nominations for Best song, Best sounds and original music score.

Today Bambi is viewed as a classic. The film holds a 91% rating from critics on rotten tomatoes.

Fun Facts:

  • There is a sequel to Bambi called Bambi 2. Set in the middle of the original Bambi film, it shows the great prince struggling to raise the motherless Bambi and Bambi doubts his fathers love. The film was released straight to video in 2006 in USA, Canada, China and Japan but got a theatrical release in Australia, Austria, Brazil, France, Mexico and UK.
  • “Man is in the forest” was a code phrase used by Disney employees when Walt was coming down the hallway.
  • “Man” was ranked number 20 villain on the American film institute’s list of the greatest hero and villains this is the only character on the list not to appear on screen.

 

Saludos Amigos – 1943 

This film is set in latin America and is made up of four different segments; Donald duck stars in two of them and Goofy stars in one. It also features the first appearance of Jose Carioca, the Brazilian cigar smoking parrot. Saludos Amigo was popular enough that Walt decided to make another film about latin America, The Three Caballeros, to be produced two years later.

In early 1941, before U.S. entry into World War 2, the united states department of state commissioned a Disney goodwill tour of South America, intended to lead to a movie to be shown in the US, central, and South America as part of the “Good Neighbour Policy”. This was being done because several Latin American governments had close ties with Nazi Germany, and the US government wanted to counteract those ties. Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters were popular in Latin America, and Walt Disney acted as ambassador. The film included live-action documentary sequences featuring footage of modern Latin American cities with skyscrapers and fashionably dressed residents. This surprised many contemporary US viewers, who associated such images only with US and European cities, and contributed to a changing impression of Latin America. Film historian Alfred Charles Richard Jr. has commented that Saludo Amigos “did more to cement a community of interest between peoples of the Americas in a few months than the State Department had in fifty years”.

Saludos Amigos was nominated for three academy awards for Best musical score, Best original song and Best sound recording.

Fun Facts:

  • This was the fist Disney animated feature to be shown in South America before it was in the USA.
  • At 42 minutes, this is the shortest Disney Feature to date.

 

The First Aiders – 1944

Minnie’s learning first aid and she asks Pluto and Figaro for help. Pluto keeps throwing Figaro into buckets and otherwise getting him into trouble. This was the first short that Minnie appeared without Mickey.

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The three Caballeros – 1945

This film plots an adventure through parts of latin america combining live action and animation. The film is plotted as a series of self contained segments, strung together by the device of Donald Duck opening Birthday gifts from his latin american friends.

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The film was produced as part of the studio’s good will message for South America. The film stars Donald Duck, who in the course of the film is joined by old friend Jose Carioca, the cigar-smoking parrot from Saludos Amigos, who represents Brazil, and later becomes friends with a pistol-packing rooster named Panchito Pistoles, who represents Mexico.

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The film was nominated for two academy awards for Best musical score and best sound recording.

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The film received mixed reviews upon its original release. Most critics were relatively perplexedly the “technological razzle – dazzle” of the film thinking that, in contrast to the previous feature films up to this time, “it displayed more flash than substance, more technique than artistry. However the film currently holds an 88% approval rating on Rotten tomatoes.

fun fact:

  • Roy Disney became the president of Disney company in this year.

 

Make Mine Music – 1946

During the second world war much of disney’s staff was drafted into the army and those who remained were called upon by the us government to make propaganda films. As a result the studio was littered with unfinished story ideas. In order to keep the feature film division alive the studio released six package film which include : Saludos Amigos, The Three Caballeros, Fun and fancy free, Moldey time, The adventures ichabod and mr toad and this film make mine music.

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Make mine Music was made up of various unrelated segments to music. These were; The Martins and the coys, Blue Bayou, All the cats join in, Without you, Casey at the bat, Two Silhouettes, Peter and the wolf, After you’ve gone, Johnnie Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet and the whale who wanted to sing at the met .

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Song of the South – 1946

This film was based on the uncle Remus stories collected by Joel Chandler Harris. The film depicts the character Uncle Remus (presumably a former slave) relating to several children the folk tales of the adventures of Br’er rabbit and enemies Br’er fox and Br’er bear.

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There are three animated segments in the film (in all, they last a total of 25 minutes). These animated sequences were later shown as stand-alone cartoon features on television. Each of these segments features at least one song that is heard in the various versions of Splash Mountain.

Although the film was a financial success, netting the studio a slim profit of $226,000, some critics were less enthusiastic about the film, not so much the animated portions as the live-action portions

The score was nominated in the “Scoring of a Musical Picture” category, and “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah”, won the award for Best Song at the 20th Academy Awards on March 20, 1948. A special Academy Award was given to Baskett “for his able and heart-warming characterization of Uncle Remus, friend and story teller to the children of the world.

However this film has been surrounded by controversies. The film’s depiction of black freemen and race relations in Reconstruction era Georgia has been controversial with a number of critics both at the time of release and in later decades describing it as racist.

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Thats it for this part of the timeline. Next time we will be looking at the years 1947 to 1950.  These years include fun and fancy free, Melody time, Cinderella and Treasure island.

Hope to see you again for the next one. Thanks for reading.

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