Disney is known for a lot of things, but its 1960s and ’70s era is often glossed over like a paintbrush on a blank canvas. The era is not as celebrated as its early origins with the introduction of Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy, or Disney movies from the ’90s when there was an animation Renaissance, a boom that encompassed Beauty and the Beast, Aladdinand Mulan.
The middle portion of Disney’s era seems like a chapter that fans have been less enthusiastic about, as it cranked out underrated animated films like The Sword in the Stone, Robin Hoodand The Aristocats. While these movies may not be up to par with the level of acclaim from the Renaissance era, they have provided memories and nostalgia for children all around the world and brought a pinch more of magic to the Mouse House that is always welcome.
So why are Disney’s’s 60s and’s 70s films so underrated?
Disney’s Different Musical Structure
Movies like The Jungle Bookthe original101 Dalmatians, and The Sword and the Stone have had songs in their storytelling but, unlike the films of the Renaissance era, the ’60s and’ 70s Disney movies have songs more sporadically, and there are times when it seems like only two or three numbers are stretched out through the whole runtime. For people who dislike the incessant soundtracks of Disney animation recently, these older films might be more appreciated.
Disney Renaissance movies seem more meticulous with the placement of their songs. They’re often interconnected by a theme for the film, which provides perfectly paced timing and space for each song while giving many of them a sense of tumultuous grandeur, the kind usually heard only on Broadway.
Obviously, Merlin’s cleaning song from The Sword in the Stone is not going to be as memorable as the theme from Beauty and the Beast, though. A large part of why this is the case has to do with the minds behind the music. While the brothers Richard and Robert Sherman were obviously great songwriters, having been responsible for literally more film scores than any other songwriting team, their workmanlike approach stood no chance against the massive cultural appeal of majorly popular musicians used from the Disney Renaissance and on, like Billy Joel, Elton John, Randy Newman, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and a ton of other contemporary chart-toppers.
It’s difficult to compare to them, because the films before and after this middle era have been known to be the defining flagships of Disney, or the films that brought about a resurgence in the Disney franchise. While the songs in the Disney period of the ’60s and’ 70s are not as memorable as’ 90s Disney, they have a certain level of nostalgia that resonates within the hearts of Disney fans for generations afterwards.
The ’60s and’ 70s Disney is Still Entertaining
Despite the films not having strong music and their effects and production being understandably weaker than anything during and after the Disney Renaissance, the middle movies are still rousing entertainment for young and old fans. What is truly amazing about these movies are the level of danger that encompasses each film. The Sword in the Stone succumbs to a magnificent and dangerous fight between the wizard Merlin and his evil rival Madam Mim, where Mim turns into a dragon and is only defeated when Merlin transforms himself into a rare virus.
1973’s Robin Hood saw the titular anthropomorphic fox get trapped in a castle belonging to Prince John, that has been set ablaze, which ends with the sly fox jumping in the river and fooling the prince with his wits. Their unconventional storytelling still has a resonant beauty and magic that perfectly encapsulates the heart of Disney with a flair for creativity and a fervor for childlike wonder. Their campy humor and passion for cartoon antics are what kept the films afloat in the Disney pantheon.
The Disney Animation Style is Unique
The animation is something that needs to be taken into account. The animation from Disney in the ’60s and’ 70s is a unique blend of realism with occasional psychedelic or surrealist touches; it flows more fluidly in the films. The films have had the help of Milt Kahl in the animation process as a directing animator.
The animators took their time to utilize an individual style that separated itself from other eras of Disney’s rich history. The films have prided themselves on simplistic animation that looks exceptional in their execution. Luckily, these films were all made before the explosion of flash animation and had a certain level of authenticity that could never be rivaled by the other eras. Like the best Studio Ghibli moviesthe ’60s and’ 70s Disney films have a kind of in-house, hand-made, artisanal feel to their animation, which somehow is just much more homey and comforting than the ridiculously bright and colorful, hyper-energetic animation of CGI and digital effects.
Comparisons and contrasts are usually a losing game, however. Luckily, the animated Disney movies from the ’60s and’ 70s stand wonderfully, if anachronistically, on their own. The next time you’re browsing for movies on Disney +do yourself a favor and check out films such as Pete’s Dragon, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, The Sword in the Stone, The Aristocats, the ’60s Winnie the Pooh movies, and the original Jungle Book. It will be well worth your time.
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