Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Disney's Animation Renaissance in the 80s

In the 60s through the 80s, Disney released a second-tier of animated feature films, including 101 Dalmatians (1961), The Sword in the Stone (1963), The Jungle Book (1967) - the last film that Walt personally worked on before his death, The Aristocats (1970), Robin Hood (1973), The Rescuers (1977) (with Disney's first official animated sequel The Rescuers Down Under (1990)), The Fox and the Hound (1981) - the first major effort by the "new generation" of Disney artists, The Black Cauldron (1985), The Great Mouse Detective (1986), and Oliver & Company (1988).

Although not a classic animated film, Disney's TRON (1982), the studio's first PG-rated film and the first feature film to imaginatively attempt to represent a computer-generated 'cyberspace' world, was the first live action film with over 20 minutes of computer animation. It was also the first film to popularize the idea of a computer or network in which one could experience virtual reality, and the first film to use the term 'hack' (the root of 'hacker' or 'hacking'), and to refer to the cyberuniverse as the 'matrix'. [Landmark composer Wendy (nee Walter) Carlos (who had collaborated earlier with Stanley Kubrick on A Clockwork Orange (1971) and The Shining (1980) - among others) provided a unique synthesized/orchestral score to accompany the pioneering, on-screen animation.] It was disqualified for a Best Visual Effects award because the old-fashioned Academy believed that it "cheated" by using a computer. (In fact, the film used a laborious, frame-by-frame process to produce its computer animation.) The concept of using computers to craft environments, rather than drawing them by hand, was considered inauthentic - until Cameron's computer-animated The Abyss (1989) won the Best Visual Effects Oscar.

[The fictional cyberpunk book (the first of the cyberpunk literary genre) credited with coining the word 'cyberspace' (referring to the Internet) was William Gibson's Neuromancer in 1984. The book also referred to cyberspace as the Matrix. One of Gibson's short stories was later turned into the film Johnny Mnemonic (1995) with Keanu Reeves.]

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