A wise fish once told us to just keep swimming. Throughout its history, Disney has had to do just this. Despite periods of sparkling “renaissance” (1990s), other times have been seriously lacking in the pixie dust department. The noughties were a prime example of this.
With the exception of Princess and the Frog, Disney turned away from hand-drawn masterpieces and offered us Atlantis on a plate. Don’t remember Atlantis? Trust me, that’s probably a good thing. In the meantime, Pixar was going from strength to strength with Monsters Inc., The Incredibles and – of course – our beloved Nemo. Poor Disney was clearly floundering, with the legacy of the Ariel/Belle era slipping away.
So what do you do? You go and shop your sorrows away, in the form of a $7.4 billion cheque for Pixar. Clearly, it was the magic dust they needed. From 2007, the Disney revival began. Many of the golden moment came from Pixar projects, notably Ratatouille (2007), Up (2009) and Toy Story 3 (2010) – has it really been five years? It broke box office records for an animation film, surpassing DreamWorks’ Shrek 2 (2004).
Nonetheless, Disney could still hold its own. Sometimes, all it takes is an act of true love to thaw a Frozen Box Office – by $1.3 billion to be exact. For this movie, The world realised that Disney was still worth melting for. Frozen has become a cult and the Mouse has his mojo back.
The current decade has been a revival to rival the 90s. Kicking off with Tangled in 2010, Dori’s “just keep swimming” became “at last I see the light” (Rapunzel). Disney, indeed you did. Yet it was a new kind of light and one I personally adore.
Live-action. We all know Disney can do animation like no other – they’ve proven their worth here. But they also have a gift for storytelling that will translate through any medium. Mary Poppins proved this.
Perhaps my enduring love for this movie makes me a bit biased, but one of my favourite films of the Decade was Walt Disney’s Saving Mr Banks. I still think Emma Thompson was robbed of an Oscar Nomination here, the soundtrack still makes me cry and who but Woody himself could play Walt Disney? Tom Hanks was made for that part like Lily James for Cinderella.
Another Disney gem, complete with Downton and Game of Thrones Royalty. All it needed was Kevin Spacey and they’ve united my TV viewing on one screen. They even got Kenneth Branagh to direct. Need I say more?
Now Disney are set to repeat this golden formula, with Lily’s fellow ‘english rose’ Emma Watson, Downton alumni Matthew Crawley (I forget his real name), Ian Mckellen, Emma Thompson and Josh Gad. The story? Beauty and the Beast. Disney you have made all my dreams come true. Thank-you!
As with Cinderella, Saving Mr Banks and Maleficent, the live-action remakes to offer a different take on the stories we know and love. Often, it is with a more progressive outlook. Cindy actually meets her prince before the ball *shock horror* and the villain isn’t quite so evil as she first appears. I cannot wait to see how Disney rework Beauty and the Beast, but I will be there on opening night to find out!
This isn’t the only project the mouse has in store. Finding Dory, Toy Story 4, Frozen 2 and The BFG. As much as I love my squishy blue fish and warm Olaf hugs, the Dahl adaptation has well and truly caught my attention. Alongside these, Disney owns both Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm, both of whom have huge releases set for the Marvel Universe and Star Wars. Upcoming films include Captain America: Civil War, a new take of Spider-Man, new Avengers films, a new Star Wars trilogy and spin-offs.
Two of these four films are collaborations with Pixar animation, reflecting the balance Disney has finally established. Although the partnership instantly provided a whole catalogue of successful films, I think the real success is the confidence it gave the studio.
It turns out all they needed was faith and trust and a little bit of Pixar dust. I could not be happier that Disney are finding their voice again. I only hope that, this time, they don’t let it go.