Is Disney at the Start of a New Renaissance Era?

A+comparison+of+three+older+films%2C+The+Little+Mermaid%2C+Beauty+and+the+Beast%2C+and+Aladdin%2C+to+three+of+the+more+recent+films%2C+Moana%2C+Raya+and+the+Last+Dragon%2C+and+Encanto.+It%E2%80%99s+hard+to+say+which+are+objectively+%E2%80%9Cbetter%E2%80%9D+films%2C+but+they+all+have+their+strengths+and+weaknesses.

Photo Taken From disney.com

A comparison of three older films, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin, to three of the more recent films, Moana, Raya and the Last Dragon, and Encanto. It’s hard to say which are objectively “better” films, but they all have their strengths and weaknesses.

Walt Disney Animation Studios has been around for almost a century now, creating many well-acclaimed films, including some of the most successful in entertainment history. The studio’s most renowned era supposedly took place from 1989 to 1999, when the studio made their most famous films. But are the newer films living up to the high standards of the older ones, or is Disney really losing its magical inspiration?

1989 through 1999, or the “Renaissance Era,” as fans call it, started with The Little Mermaid’s release. Throughout the previous couple of decades, Walt Disney Animation Studios wasn’t exactly flourishing; their recent films such as Robin Hood and The Black Cauldron didn’t do well in the box office. 

A scene from the 1985 film The Black Cauldron. The movie’s budget was 44 million dollars, making it the most expensive animated movie at the time, yet it only made 23 million in the box office. The disappointment of the movie’s success, or lack thereof, eventually made it drift into obscurity.
(Photo Taken From cinaspe.com)

The Black Cauldron in particular was so unsuccessful that it lost 23 million dollars and put the studio on the cusp of bankruptcy. On top of that, one of the studio’s long-time animators, Don Bluth, left to make his own studio, Don Bluth Productions, which became major competition for Disney.

However, back in 1989, everything changed with the release of The Little Mermaid. The movie was incredibly successful, grossing over 235 million dollars in the box office (in comparison to Robin Hood’s 32 million). This led to the creation of many other famous films like Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Mulan, and the highest-grossing traditionally animated movie of all time, The Lion King.

Recently, Disney has established a trend of remaking the Renaissance films either in live-action or with computer-generated imagery (CGI). A throwback to childhood favorites is enough to get veteran Disney fans to buy tickets, but the reimagined films are objectively missing the magic that made the originals so special. This led many to believe Disney had become a studio more interested in making money than good movies.

“I think the idea [of live-action remakes] is neat, but there’s something just so magical about animation,” Jillian Porter, the theater teacher at Sage Creek High and a long-time Disney fan, said.

A screenshot from the CGI remake of The Lion King. While the animation is so beautiful you’d think you were watching a nature documentary, the movie misses the heart-wrenching emotion that the original movie captures so well.
(Photo Taken From digitalspy.com)

However, this may be untrue when it comes to the recent animated films. The last five years have produced movies such as Moana, Frozen 2, Raya and the Last Dragon, and Encanto. While Frozen 2 and Raya and the Last Dragon were deemed mediocre by fans, Moana and Encanto were viewed as some of the best movies in Disney history due to their perfectly planned stories, diverse characters, beautiful animation and catchy music.

Encanto especially is giving fans hope for the future of Disney. While some think it’s a result of Disney inconsistently making a good film every few years, others keep their fingers crossed that this could be the start of a new generation of successful films.

“[Encanto] was really good. I thoroughly enjoyed it,” Mazie Hertzberg, a freshman at Sage Creek High and major Disney enthusiast, said. “The animation is super cool, all the tiny little details they added were so good. And the songs are amazing; they’re stuck in my head all the time!”

A photo taken from the music video of We Don’t Talk About Bruno, from the 2021 film Encanto. Encanto’s soundtrack was written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, famous for his work in the musical Hamilton, Moana, In the Heights, and many more.
(Photo Taken From disney.com)

They are definitely not the only one who has had this experience; We Don’t Talk About Bruno, a song from Encanto, has gone viral on various social media platforms and hit no.1 on the US Billboard Hot 100– a feat not even done by other Disney songs like Let it Go and A Whole New World.

Is Disney really in a new golden era, or are the new movies given too much credit? It’s really up for the individual to decide. While older fans might see the 90s films as the best films due to the nostalgia and childhood memories they bring them, newer fans may see the recent films as better simply because they don’t have the same connection to older films and this, paired with the improved music and animation, may make the more recent films more appealing. Either way, both hope the pattern of good Disney movies keeps up to make this decade Disney’s best yet.