A look through the different Disney Musicals

One of the most entertaining part of Disney's history through the ages has been its many musicals over the years. While not complete, these are some of the many musicals in Disney's history that have made impact in our lives.



 

 

Walt Disney - The Originator

Walter Elias Disney (December 5, 1901-December 15, 1966) was more than just an animator, voice actor, screenwriter and Academy Award-winning film producer and director. He was also an entrepreneur, theme park designer and a philanthropist. However, he’s best known as the man who, along with his staff, brought entertainment, color and humor to the big-screen in the form of animated musicals, a tradition which The Walt Disney Company continues to the enjoyment of vast crowds representing all walks of life from around the globe.

One of five children, Disney was born in Chicago, Illinois but spent most of his childhood in Marceline Missouri where his family relocated shortly after his birth. He started exhibiting an interest in art at a very early stage in life and was known to sell drawings to neighbors to earn an extra buck. Encouraged by his mother and older brother Roy, he furthered his interest in art by studying it, alongside with photography, at the McKinley High School in Chicago during the day and the Academy of Fine Arts at night.

When he was rejected by the military for being underage in 1918, he joined the Red Cross and was sent by them to France for a year during which he drove an ambulance and chauffeured Red Cross officials. The ambulance he drove, is said to have been covered "from stem to stern" with Disney cartoons. On returning to the U.S., he started a commercial art company by the name of Laugh-O-Grams which soon went bankrupt. In August 1923, with just $20 and his suitcase, Disney headed west to Hollywood to keep his tryst with destiny.

Pooling his meager funds with the $250 contribution of his brother Roy (who was already in California), and borrowing an additional sum of $500, both brothers built a camera stand in their uncle’s garage and set to work. They soon received an order from New York for the first of The Alice Comedies. From there on, Disney went to create such epic cartoon characters such as Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Pluto and Goofy, working tirelessly and imaginatively to create and incorporate such technological advances as the inclusion of sound and Technicolor.

The year 1937 is a landmark that all animation movie fans are familiar with. It was the year "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," the first full-length animated musical premiered in Los Angeles. A whopping sum of $1,499,000 went into the production of this historical feature, a no small feat in the very depths of the Depression. With Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Disney started off an animated musical tradition that The Walt Disney Company has kept alive through the years.

Here’s a list of all the animated musicals created first by the involvement of this brilliantly imaginative man and then by the company he founded: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo, Bambi, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, Sleeping Beauty, The Sword in the Stone, Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, The Aristocrats, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Robin Hood, Pete’s Dragon, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Muppet Christmas Carol, The Lion King, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Muppet Treasure Island, Hercules, Mulan, Tarzan, High School Musical 3: Senior Year, Hannah Montana: The Movie and a couple more like Tigger and Pooh and A Musical Too that were either only released straight to DVD or made exclusively for the Disney Channel.

Some of these animated musicals were also created into theatrical Broadway musicals. Among some of the more famous ones being Lion King and The Little Mermaid. To purchase tickets for difficult to find musicals you can go to Stubhub, one of the most popular places to find Broadway tickets. Find a stubhub fan code and get an even bigger discount.

 

Let’s take a look at the most impacting and popular Disney musicals through the years:

Disney Musicals produced by Walt Disney:

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Work on this Brothers Grimm fairy tale started in early 1934 and was announced to the New York Times in June that year. At the start of production Disney estimated that a budget ten times the amount spent on his short features ($250,000) would be more than enough. He was dissuaded both by his brother and his wife but stuck to his guns and Snow White, the result of three years worth of hard work and improved production quality premiered at the Carthay Circle Theater on December 21, 1937 to a standing ovation from such celebrities as Charlie Chaplin and Clark Gable and Shirley Temple. The songs in the movie were composed by Frank Churchill and Larry Morrey while the incidental music score was composed by Paul J. Smith and Leigh Harline. "Heigh-Ho," "Some Day My Prince Will Come" and "Whistle While You Work" were some of the most popular songs from Snow White which holds the distinction of being the first American film to have a separate soundtrack album released along with the film. This animated musical went on to win an honorary Academy Award

Pinocchio: Released on February 7, 1940, this Disney animated musical was based on Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio: Tale of a Puppet. The plot involves a wooden puppet who is brought to life by a blue fairy and told he could become a real boy if he proved himself to be "brave, truthful and unselfish." The ensuing story involves Pinocchio’s pursuit of humanity while encountering several distasteful characters and situations. The end result of this musical was far from the original plans which were brought to a halt midway because Walt Disney wasn’t pleased with the way it things were shaping up. It was during this phase that the change in the appearance of the puppet and the addition of Jimmy Cricket took place. Pinocchio achieved both critical acclaim and commercial success in the U.S., grossing almost $39 million, but its release in Europe and Asia were delayed by World War II and its aftermath. "When You Wish Upon a Star," sung by Jimmy Cricket became a great hit. Pinocchio won the Academy Award for Best Song and Best Scoring of a Musical Picture.

Fantasia: Encouraged by the success of Snow White, Disney began working on and produced (both Pinocchio and) Fantasia in 1940. This experimental animation movie teamed classical music with animation, minus the dialogues. Seven of the eight classical pieces were performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra and recorded under the direction of Leopold Stokowski. Noted for being the first major movie to be released in stereophonic sound using "Fantasound," this film received mixed critical reviews and was not a commercial hit though it’s considered a classic film today. Its lack of commercial success landed Disney in financial straits.

Dumbo: Released on October 23, 1941 by RKO Radio Pictures, Dumbo was the fourth film in the Disney Animated Classics series. Based on the book of the same name written by Helen Aberson and illustrated by Harold Perl, the musical features Jumbo Jr., constantly ridiculed for his large ears and nicknamed Dumbo by others who don’t know that the baby elephant can fly using his ears as wings. Dumbo’s only trusted friend apart from his mother is the mouse, Timothy. This musical, created to help recover the financial losses caused by Pinocchio and Fantasia, Dumbo proved to be a great success despite the start of World War II. The musical won the Academy Award for Original Music Score (musical directors Frank Churchill an Oliver Wallace) and for Best Song - Baby Mine - for Churchill and lyricist Ned Washington

Bambi: Released on August 13, 1942, Bambi was based on Bambi, A Life in the Woods a 1923 book authored by Australian Felix Salten. The movie revolves around the life of a white-tailed deer in the woods. Though it received good reviews, Bambi both failed to make profits at the box office and also received criticism for the violence and death (of Bambi’s mother) it depicted. It was nominated for three Academy Awards for Best Sound, Best Song (for "Love is a song") and Original Music Score, but failed to convert any of the nominations. Rereleased in 1947 it recouped it production cost of over $2,000,000. Bambi was voted the third best film in the animated genre in June 2008 (in the Ten top Ten survey conducted by the American Film Institute).

Cinderella: Made at the cost of $3,000,000 this movie was based on Charles Perrault’s classic fairy tale and went on to become the biggest hit for Walt Disney and company after Snow White. Profits from the box office, soundtrack sales, music publishing and the sale of other merchandise were used by Walt Disney to establish his own distribution company, to start construction on Disneyland and to fund a slate of productions. It is said that had this musical offering failed at the box office, it would have resulted in the closure of the Disney studios.

Intervening Disney Musicals: The 1950s saw Disney produce and release such classic as Alice in Wonderland (July 26, 1951), Peter Pan (February 5, 1953), Lady and the Tramp (June 22, 1955), Sleeping Beauty (January 26, 1959) and The Sword in the Stone (December 25, 1963). While Alice in Wonderland received a lukewarm reception from both the audiences and the critics, it’s considered to be the best work of the Disney Studio. Peter Pan was the last Disney movie to be distributed by RKO Pictures. Walt Disney then started his own distribution company named Buena Vista Distribution. Lady and the Tramp was the first Disney movie that was filmed in CinemaScope, making it the widest film that Disney has ever produced. It was a huge hit with the masses but wasn’t as warmly received by the critics. Sleeping Beauty which was Disney’s next production got mixed reviews from critics. Regardless, it grossed a whopping $48 million, seven times its production cost, and also bagged the Academy Award for Best Soundtrack Album, Original Cast - Motion Picture or Television. The Sword in the Stone also made an impact at the box office becoming the fifth highest grossing film in 1963. It received better reviews from the British critics than their American counterparts.

Mary Poppins: P.L. Travers’ Mary Poppins books series were the basis for this Walt Disney production, released on August 27, 1964 starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. The songs and the music score were by Richard and Robert Sherman also referred to as the Sherman Brothers who played a significant role in the success of this musical. The plot surrounds a calm and defiant nanny who responds to the advertisement created by the kids in a family looking for a fun and kind-hearted person to take care of them. This musical received 13 Academy Award nominations and went on to win 5: Best Actress, Best Film Editing, Original Music Score, Best Song (Chim chim cher-ee) and Special Visual Effects. It was the top grosser of the year and netted a profit of $28,500,000.

The Jungle Book: Based on Rudyard Kipling’s book, this was the last movie to be produced by Walt Disney who died during its production. Revolving around the life of a wild child adopted by a pack of wolves in the jungle, it’s famous for songs like "The Bare Necessities" and "I Wan’na Be Like You" composed by the Sherman brothers. It was an enormous success in the US grossing over $73 million.

The Post Disney Intervening Musicals:

Such musicals as The Aristocrats (December 11, 1970), Bedknobs and Broomsticks (October 7, 1971 - UK and December 13, 1971 - US), Robin Hood (November 8, 1973) and Pete’s Dragon (November 3, 1977) were released after the demise of Walt Disney and prior to the Animation Musical revival in the Disney camp in 1989.

Important Disney Musicals of the Disney Renaissance Era (1989-1999):

The Little Mermaid: This musical hit marked the beginning of what’s known as the Disney Renaissance (1989-1999). Based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, it was released on November 17, 1989 after a string of commercial failures. It’s remembered for many important reasons such as the original songs composed by Alan Menken and written by Howard Ashman, the special effects, the Academy Awards it won - Original Music Score and Best Song - and last but not least the amount it earned worldwide - a staggering $200,000,000.

Beauty and the Beast: The best known Disney musical, Beauty and the Beast released on November 13, 1993. Based on the popular fairy tale, it boasts the distinction of being the only animated full-length movie ever to be nominated for the Best Picture category of the Academy Awards. The story revolves around a beautiful girl held prisoner in a castle by an ugly monster. Nominated for six Academy Awards, it bagged two - Best Music, Original Score and Best Music, Original Song (Beauty and the Beast). The musical also went on to win several prestigious awards. Praise poured in from all quarters of the globe and this movie is credited for fueling interest in computer animation.

Aladdin: Centered on the Arab Aladdin from One Thousand and One Nights, this 1992 musical was the top grosser of the year, earning $504 million worldwide. Acclaimed for its soundtrack (composed by Alan Menken and lyrics written by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice), Aladdin went on to win two Academy Awards: Best Music, Original Score and Best Music, Original Song (for A Whole New World).

The Lion King: Released on June 15, 1994, this movie follows the plot of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and went on to become the highest grossing animated film of all time. It held on this distinction until the release of Finding Nemo but still retains this title for a hand-drawn animated feature film. Critics praised its music and story while the profits at the box office left little doubt about the viewers’ opinion of the musical. Songs written by British pop star Elton John and lyricist Tim Rice, combined with Hans Zimmer’s original score to make the movie soundtrack an overnight hit on the billboards. The music of the movie is what garnered four Academy Award nominations, eventually earning two: Best Original Score and Best Original Song (Can You Feel The Love Tonight). The list of awards won by this musical in various categories is long and impressive. The Lion King grossed an unbelievable $783 million worldwide.

Pocahontas: The first Disney movie to be based on a historical character, Pocahontas is the story of a Native American woman and the fictionalized account of her encounter with an Englishman John Smith and his group of English settlers. Pocahontas earned $347,179,773 worldwide and is by all standards deemed a hit though it was unable to match the success of its predecessor, The Lion King. Once again, in keeping with the Disney Academy Award winning streak, Pocahontas won two Academy Awards for Original Music Score (by Alan Menken) and Best Original Song (Colors of the Wind).

The Hunchback of Notre Dame: Based on Victor Hugo’s classic work of the same name, The Hunchback of Notre Dame was released on June 21, 1996. Though it was the movie that received the highest critical acclaim that year, it was also attacked by Hugo fans that weren’t happy with the changes made to the story. It grossed over $325 million worldwide and though that sum doesn’t beat that of other Disney Musicals such as Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King and Pocahontas, it earned more than The Little Mermaid and Hercules.

Hercules: Though it won an Academy Award for Best Original Song (Go the Distance) and earned $252,700,000 worldwide, Hercules wasn’t considered to be as big a hit as all the other Disney Renaissance movies. The musical revolves around the life of the Greek mythological character, Hercules, son of Zeus. Though known to the Greeks as Heracles, Disney chose to make use of the Roman version of the mythical hero in its title.

Mulan: Based on a Chinese folktale of a high-spirited village girl (Hua Mulan) who wants to make her parents proud, Mulan was Disney’s next musical offering. Released on June 19, 1998, it was the 7th highest grosser that year and earned $304,000,000 worldwide. It opened to good reviews from most critics though a few criticized the songs for being "unmemorable" and slowing down the pace of the movie.

Tarzan: The only animated full length movie to be based on Edgar Rice Burroughs fictional character, Tarzan is known to be the last of the successful Disney musicals released during the Disney Renaissance Era. Released on June 18, 1999, Tarzan won an Academy Award for Best Song (You’ll Be in My Heart) and earned a good $448,191,819 worldwide. It holds the record for being the most expensive Disney animated film to be made with a production cost of $150 million.

Hope you enjoyed this resource on animated Disney musicals. If you are looking for theatrical Disney musical tickets use a resource such as Stubhub or Razorgator. Use a razorgator promo code or a stubhub promo code, if available for additional discounts.

 

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Last updated by on 5/12/2010
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