Disney Eras,  Entertainment,  Film

The Silver Age: Disney’s Return to Big-Budget Films

Photos courtesy of Walt Disney Studios.

The Silver Age also know as the “Restoration Age” is the era between 1950 and 1967 that marked Disney’s return to the big screen with big-budget feature-length films. This era includes the following films: Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, Sleeping Beauty, One Hundred and One Dalmatians, The Sword and the Stone, and The Jungle Book.

Cinderella (1950)

The Silver Age began with the release of Cinderella in 1951. This film became the biggest critical and commercial success since the release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937. The film follows a young woman named Cinderella who is forbidden to go to the Royal Ball by her wicked Stepmother gets some unexpected help from mice Jaq and Gus and her fairy godmother.

The film received 3 Academy Award nominations including one for Best Music: Original Song for Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo.

The film is followed by two direct-to-video sequels. Cinderella II: Dreams Come True and Cinderella III: A Twist in Time were released on home video in 2002 and 2007. It was also adapted into a live-action film. It was released in 2015 and stars Lily James as Cinderella and Cate Blanchett as Lady Tremaine. It grossed over $500 million and received a nomination for costume design at the Academy Awards.

The Cinderella Castle has become an icon for the Walt Disney Company. It can be found at Walt Disney World and in the introductions of the many films released by Walt Disney Studios.

Alice in Wonderland (1951)

Alice in Wonderland was released in 1951. The film depicts the journey of young girl named Alice through a world called Wonderland. Will she make her way home? The Queen of Hearts may put a stop to it.

Initially, the film’s release was disappointing but Walt Disney decided to air it on his television show, Disneyland and it was a success. The film was re-released in theaters and became a huge success. It became a cult classic.

Like Cinderella, it was made into a live-action adaptation. It was released in 2010. The Tim Burton directed-film stars Mia Wasikowska as Alice, Johnny Depp as Mad Hatter, and Helena Bonham Carter as the Queens of Hearts. A sequel, Alice Through the Looking Glass, was released in 2016.

The bright colors and fun atmospheric storyline make this film a delightful experience.

Peter Pan (1953)

Peter Pan was released in 1953. It follows three siblings as they journey to Neverland with Peter Pan, the hero of the stories they’ve been told all their lives. It was the final Disney film to feature the nine original animators.

Songs like Second Star to the Right and You Can Fly! You Can Fly! You Can Fly! remain to be iconic to this very day.

A sequel, Return to Neverland, was released in 2002.

Lady and the Tramp (1955)

Lady and the Tramp was released in 1955. The film tells the tale of an uptown Cocker Spaniel and downtown mutt who fall in love. The film is based on an article from Cosmopolitan in 1945.

It received generally mixed to negative reviews but is seen as one of the best animated films from Disney.

A direct-to-video sequel, Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp’s Adventure, in 2001. A live-action/CGI adaptation was released for the premiere of Disney’s streaming service, Disney+ on November 12, 2019.

Sleeping Beauty (1959)

Sleeping Beauty was released in 1959. The film follows a vengeful fairy who put a curse on the daughter of the Royal family which only true love’s kiss can break, along with the help of three fairies.

The background animation was designed to look like a painting because of the textures and colors used. Because of the artistry of the backgrounds, the characters were stylized to match them.

Mary Costa voices Princess Aurora and sings Once Upon a Dream and I Wonder, two songs that are notably worth mentioning.

One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)

One Hundred and One Dalmatians was released in 1961. The film follows a litter of Dalmatian puppies that get stolen by Cruella De Vil. Her owners must rescue them before she turns them into a fashion statement.

The Xerox process was used to make multiple copies of the Dalmatian puppies. Marc Davis was the sole animator for the diabolical Cruella De Vil.

A live-action remake was released in 1996 with Glenn Close starring as Cruella. It success led to a sequel, 102 Dalmatians, which was released in 2000.

A live-action reboot, Cruella, was released in 2021 with Emma Stone starring as the title character.

The Sword in the Stone (1963)

The Sword in the Stone was released in 1963. It follows a boy named Arthur who learns the power of love, bravery, knowledge and kindness with the assistance of a wizard named Merlin. The path leads him to become one of the most beloved kinds in history.

Critics gave the film mixed reviews despite a lifetime domestic gross of $22.2 million.

This film was the last film to be released before Walt Disney passed away in 1966.

The Jungle Book (1967)

The Jungle Book was released in 1967. A black panther named Bagheera and a bear named Baloo have a difficult time trying to convince a human boy named Mowgli to leave the jungle to be with his own kind.

It got positive reception from critics and praise for its soundtrack which includes the iconic songs The Bare Necessities and I Wanna Be Like You.

Disney released an animated sequel, The Jungle Book 2, in 2003 and a live-action/CGI remake in 2016 which features the voices of Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Scarlett Johansson, and Lupita Nyong’o. A sequel is currently in development with Jon Favreau returning as director.

Time to Wrap It Up

Disney’s Silver Age was the company’s big return to the big screen. This era brought audiences films that feature beautiful animation and backgrounds with soft colors. Its commitment to larger productions was assisted by innovative visuals.

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