Friday, December 15, 2006

The First Full-Length Animated Film

The earliest animated films that most people remember seeing are the later, more sophisticated Disney feature films that contain exquisite detail, flowing movements, gorgeous and rich color, enchanting characters, lovely musical songs and tunes, and stories drawn with magical or mythological plots. The first, full-length animated film was Disney's classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) released on December 21, 1937, which took four years to make and cost $1.5 million dollars. It was 1938's top moneymaker at $8 million.

It was financed due in part to the success of Disney's earlier animated short, The Three Little Pigs (1933). Although dubbed "Disney's Folly" during the three-four year production of the musical animation, Disney realized that he had to expand and alter the format of cartoons. He used a multi-plane camera, first utilized in his animated, Oscar-winning Silly Symphonies short, The Old Mill (1937) to create an illusion of depth. His version of the Grimm Brothers' fairy tale was the second of its kind - the first was a five-minute Snow White (1933) starring Betty Boop (with an appearance by Cab Calloway). Disney's risk-taking paid off when the film became a financial and critical success.

[It must be noted that another little-known but pioneering, feature-length animated film was released more than a decade earlier by German film-maker and avante-garde artist Lotte Reiniger, The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926), based on the stories from the Arabian Nights. Reiniger's achievement is often brushed aside, due to the fact that the animations were silhouetted, used paper cut-outs, and they were done in Germany. And the rarely-seen prints that exist have lost much of their original quality. However, the film was very innovative -- it used multi-plane camera techniques and experimented with wax and sand on the film stock.]

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