After the Golden, Silver and Bronze Eras of Disney, the time when Walt Disney was alive, Disney was now trying to survive without its leader. And the company struggled. Most of the next movies were made with cheap animation, some were box office bombs while others had to deal with a rival animation studio that was born from disgruntled Disney animators. There are some good movies during this era but none of them were as great as the Disney movies that came before them. So, now lets look at the Disney movies that came during the era known as the Dark Age of Disney.
Robin Hood is the first movie in the Dark Era and it is one of the better films. Everyone knows about the recycled animation from other Disney films being used to cut costs. And And Little John is a brown bear that wears clothes but looks exactly like Baloo. But beyond all of that, I think Robin Hood is a nice Disney movie. It tells the story of Robin Hood but with animals. And I love it. I love just about every character. You have Robin Hood who is a fox and is clever and very good with a bow and arrow. He cares for his kingdom and does all he can to bring happiness back to the people of Nottingham. Maid Marian is sweet and not just a damsel in distress character. She fights for those she loves just as much as Robin Hood. All the other characters are nice such as Friar Tuck and Little John. Now lets talk about the villains. Prince John and the Sheriff of Nottingham. They may be comical villains but Prince John is a ruthless villain who takes pleasure in seeing others suffer and even allowed an execution to take place in front of children, it didn’t happen but still it would have if it wasn’t stopped. The Sheriff is more the like the brawn behind Prince John’s brain. Prince John comes up with an idea and the Sheriff carries it out. This movie was a success at the box office during its run so this movie should not be called a bad movie just for recycled animation. Robin Hood is a nice Disney movie that is worth a watch. Sometimes Robin Hood and his fellow movie companions make an appearance in the Disney Parks but it not very often I am afraid. Robin Hood was also the first Disney animated feature to be released on Home Video. Give Robin Hood some love, he deserves it.
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
If there was one movie that was never going to fail during this era it was the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. This is the movie that started the love for Winnie the Pooh and his many friends. We love this bear and this movie took us to his home in the 100 Acre Wood. And we have loved him ever since. This film is actually 3 Winnie the Pooh stories linked together to tell one story. The story is about a stuffed bear and his friend Christopher Robin. These two have always been together and they can never be separated. Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree is the first segment and it show Pooh’s love for honey and the many ways he tries to get some. The Honey Tree was actually produced while Walt was alive and was shown in front of the Ugly Dachshund before being out in this movie. This is the only Winnie the Pooh story that does not feature Tigger or Piglet. Due to the popularity of the Honey Tree, Disney decided to make a sequel to it called the Blustery Day. This is the longest segment in the movie and introduces Piglet and Tigger and gives us his famous song. This segment showed us what Heffalumps and Woozles are. Walt never saw this one completed but he did give pointers on who Piglet’s voice actor should be. And finally the last segment is called And Tigger Too which features Tigger and his love for bouncing and how it bothers Rabbit so much. In 1975, this feature was nominated for Best Animated Short. Paul Winchell voiced Tigger and to honor this when the Winnie the Pooh ride in Disney World opened Paul Winchell’s Tigger voices the safety regulations for the ride. It’s so nice to hear the original Tigger’s voice while waiting to ride this ride. So after all these features were made, Disney decided to compile them into 1 movie to connect the stories. It was a success and it spawned a massive franchise that rivals Mickey Mouse’s franchise. Winnie the Pooh and his friends are featured in all Disney Parks and I believe there is a ride in just about every Disney park for Winnie the Pooh. I would tell you to see this movie but I know you already have.
And now we come to the most successful movie of the Dark Age. This movie is said to be as good as 101 Dalmatians, Sword in the Stone and the Jungle Book. It did very well and helped everyone remember that Disney can be a good thing. This is an adventure story about 2 mice who seek to save a little orphan girl who was kidnapped by a mad woman with pet alligators. Bernard and Miss Bianca are very cool and I love that no matter what happens they never give up. And they do rescue Penny and her dreams come true and she gets adopted by loving people. Medusa is the mad woman and she is determined to find the Devil’s Eye the largest diamond in the world. But it is in a small hole and she needs someone small enough to get it for her. Medusa is an evil woman who only cares about herself and her precious diamond. She drives like Cruella and in early development of this movie, Cruella was considered to be the villain. But Disney wasn’t into making sequels yet and so Medusa was created. Bernard and Miss Bianca are a sweet couple and after this mission they go on many other adventures rescuing people. The Rescuers was so successful that they became the first movie to get a sequel, the Rescuers Down Under. Despite the film being a success, there are very few references to the Rescuers in the Disney Parks. You might find a pin of the Rescuers but that is about it. Bernard and Miss Bianca were walk around characters in the past, but they are now retired. Go see the Rescuers, but watch out for alligators and madwomen.
The Fox and the Hound
Fox and the Hound is one of my favorite Disney movies. It did OK but not as good as the Rescuers. This movie had a lot of new animators that would become well known by Disney fans in years to come. Such as John Lasseter, Tim Burton and Brad Bird. And John Musker and Ron Clements. Another animator worked on this film, Don Bluth. Don Bluth left the Disney Company when he thought that the director of the movie was too stern and out of touch. Don Bluth went on to make his own animation company and it would be a thorn in Disney’s side for the rest of the Dark Age. A lot went into making Fox and the Hound and if you know anything about the book you know that it is a very dark book with a lot of death. Well Disney’s version while not as dark is still pretty dark. We have another Disney mother death and a little fox kit is left without a mother. A widow finds the kit and nurses it and decides to keep it as a pet and named him Tod. On the other side of the tracks a hunter has gotten a new puppy to help his hunting career. Chief is the older dog and is looked up to by Copper as a father figure, despite Chief’s not so nice nature. Eventually Copper and Tod meet and become friends and vow that nothing will come between them. But as life goes on, this promise becomes harder to keep. Especially when Chief wants to kill Tod and gets hit by a train and knocked off the tracks. Copper believes that Tod is responsible and vows revenge. Chief does not die unlike the book, even though many of the animators wanted him to die like he does in the book. And you know the rest. Tod is released, the hunter and Copper come to the forest to kill him. They come across a huge bear and Tod risks his life to save Copper and the hunter that are trying to kill him from the bear. This movie is funny and sad and will make you cry. It doesn’t end in a traditional happy ending either. Tod and Copper go their separate ways, both knowing that despite all the challenges their friendship faced, they will always be friends. This was one of the weaker films during the Dark Age and did not do has well as the previous films. Fox and the Hound can only be found in the parks through merchandise. There is a long-tailed Tod stuffed animal and I have found a pin of them. And I was shocked to find it. But like I said I love Fox and the Hound and watch it often.
The Black Cauldron
Now we come to the lowest of the low and probably the only reason this era is called the Dark Age. The Black Cauldron was Disney’s first animated movie to be rated PG and it had to be heavily edited to not get a PG-13 or R rating. This movie is scary and gross and has an awful story and was a huge box office bomb. The bomb was so bad that this movie lost money to the Care Bears Movie. It was such an embarrassment for Disney, that they did not release it on home video until 1998. It was made in 1985. I have seen this movie and it is worth a watch at least once. If you don’t mind characters that have no redeeming qualities and a story that is very bland but violent and scary. This was just something that Disney should have never made. I have never read the books that this movie is based on, but fans of the books say this version doesn’t do the books any favors and heavily omits things. I will say the villain is creepy and has a scary voice and eerie music that accompanies him. But other than that avoid this movie at all costs. I do know there is a small cult following of this movie but don’t expect to see this movie anywhere on Disney property. But if this movie wasn’t so bad I don’t know if things would have changed for Disney. Luckily the next 2 movies would help bring Disney out of the Dark Age.
The Great Mouse Detective
After a period of what most Disney fans call the Dark Era, Disney was tired of producing mediocre movies that never performed well or flat out bombed. Disney started looking for new ways to tell stories. The Great Mouse Detective and Oliver and Company were “test movies”. Movies that would test what audiences wanted to see. The Great Mouse Detective is about the famous mouse detective Basil of Baker Street. Based off of Sherlock Holmes, whom he lives under. Basil loves crime solving and has spent years trying to stop the evil Professor Ratigan. This movie is awesome. It is a full-on adventure in the sewers of London. Alan Young the voice of Scrooge McDuck voiced Olivia’s father. Vincent Prince voiced Ratigan. While the Great Mouse Detective did well, it good not trump the other mouse movie that came out about the same time, American Tail. It did help pave the way to an era that would remind people that Disney is awesome and a force to be reckoned with… The Disney Renaissance. This movie could be scary at times and even has a few jump scares. And the fight scene at the end is pretty brutal. But this movie is so awesome, I know you will enjoy it. A few Easter eggs to look for in this movie. Dumbo can be seen in the toy shop; the snarls and howls of Toby are recycled from Trusty from Lady and the Tramp. The Great Mouse Detective is quite an underrated Disney movie. Not many people even know this movie exists or that it is a Disney movie. But I love it and would give this movie a C. The Great Mouse Detective has a very small presence in the Disney parks. Basil and Ratigan used to be walk around characters, but they have been retired. It was said that Ratigan would scare children. Well he did drown orphans so I would be scared of him too. Ratigan is a pretty nasty Disney villain. He has a history of villainous schemes and always getting away with them. Also, in this movie was the some of the first uses of computers in animated films. Computers were used to help animate the Big Ben gears during the Big Ben scene. The Great Mouse Detective is a great Disney movie that I hope you enjoy as much as I do.
Oliver and Company
Now we come to the final Disney movie of the Dark Age. This movie is Oliver and Company a movie based off on Oliver Twist. This movie is a good Disney movie that is no reason to hate it. it’s got dogs and cats and Bette Midler as a poodle and awesome songs. The villain is kind of lame and one dimensional when compared to the previous wicked Professor Ratigan. But if you borrow money from Sykes, you better pay it back or else. Dodger is one cool canine and loves a good beat. Oliver is cute and awesome and just a really cool character. This movie was the return of a musical style movie for Disney and it was a success. Now it did not do as well because it was going up against Land Before Time from Don Bluth Productions. Land Before Time smashed Oliver and Company, but it showed Disney that audiences liked adventure and musicals. Disney learns from this and the next movie would be Don Bluth’s undoing. But back to Oliver and Company. This was one of the few Disney movies to be set in the present day and New York. I love the music in Oliver and Company especially Why Should I Worry and Streets of Gold. Despite it being moderately successful, Oliver and Company is one movie I have yet to find a reference to in the Disney parks. But Oliver and Company is worth a watch. I bet you will be tapping your foot to the beat too.
And those are the movies that came out during Disney’s Dark Age of Animation. Disney would learn from their mistakes and soon the world would know that Disney will never die. And next time the era is awesome.
Coming soon the Disney Renaissance.