It’s been 100 years, a century filled with innovation, beautifully crafted stories, and larger-than-life characters. Walt Disney once said, “Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age, dreams are forever.” As Disney Animation celebrates its 100th birthday, those words hold no less weight today as they did many decades ago when the man behind the studio brought an imaginative world full of wonder and magic. To cap the celebration, Disney recently released an homage of sorts, bringing together a multitude of characters, complete with iconic princes and princesses, heroes and villains, man and animal, culminating in Once Upon a Studio.
Once Upon a Studio, shot live at Walt Disney Picture’s Burbank, California location, provided a brief look at the shenanigans of some of your favorite and most iconic Disney characters as they get together to immortalize 100 years of magic in one photo. Minnie Mouse, Peter Pan, Moana, and so many more attempt to corral the wily group of Disney animations at Walt Disney Pictures Studios, leading to rare interactions between the pups from 101 Dalmations and Chernbog from Fantasia, or Kaa from Jungle Book, who takes a frying pan from Rapunzel, and much more.
In true Disney style, headed up by Mickey Mouse, there was no better way to pay respect to the last 100 years of Disney Animation and what it has meant in the world of entertainment and the advancement of technology and storytelling. In a short film that would make Walt Disney proud, the company, which has been under so much heat recently, with an empathetic voice, shared the sentiments of nostalgia and appreciation that their film fans feel and miss. Within 13 minutes, Disney showed the world they still knew where they came from.
Disney Reconnects with Their Audience
Although Walt Disney Studios is busy pushing out live-action remake after live-action remake, this is one retelling of traditional characters Disney fans can get behind. Not only does Once Upon a Studio remind us of simpler times when life seemed full of possibility, but it also reminds us of the Walt Disney Company that we all know and love, not the power-hungry, cash-grabbing juggernaut it has become in the eyes of many.
Disney, who many feel have been disconnected from their audience, appropriately utilized tradition and icons of Disney Animation in a way that tugged at the heartstrings of many, leading us to believe that although they’ve had wax in their ears, Disney still knows how to resonate with their audience. Once Upon a Studio is what Disney fans needed to carry them and hold on to hope that Disney hasn’t completely abandoned what made the studio great in the first place.
In a time where another 100 years isn’t promised for the company, those who have fond and loyal relationships with what Walt Disney built needed a boost of confidence that current Disney leadership still knows how to tell a story, and in the 13-minute short film, they did just that, while treating viewers to quit the spectacle.
Mickey Mouse Takes Center Stage in “Once Upon a Studio”
In an age where we’ve seen the most recent evolution of Mickey Mouse, Disney decided to depict Disney’s brand anchor in a fashion that most adore. Instead of the current version of Mickey that you’ll find at Hollywood Studio’s Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, Walt Disney Pictures decided to stick with the traditional understanding of Mickey Mouse as he tries to round up characters like Maui, Cinderella, Scar, and Winnie the Pooh for the 100th Anniversary photo.
Despite everything going on in Once Upon a Studio, with nods to Disney characters just about everywhere, Mickey Mouse, being genuine to his creator, takes a few silent seconds on a landing to appreciate the man who gave us hope for a slightly more magical world, Walt Disney. This scene, in particular, was a tear-jerker, accompanied by Richard M. Sherman’s “Feed the Birds (Tuppence a Bag)” from Mary Poppins; Mickey stops to pay his respect to Walt Disney’s photo, somberly claiming “Thanks” and “The show must go on.” There wasn’t a dry eye watching!
“Once Upon a Studio” Gives Other Somber Moments to Nostalgic Fans
Outside of Mickey Mouse stopping amongst the black and white photos of Disney animators of the past, there were a few other moments that may have caused the shed of a few tears. Although controversial in a sense, Disney animators decided to bring back Genie from Aladdin, and although they could have used a separate voice, they chose to stick with the immeasurable Robin Williams.
Sadly, Robin Williams passed away in 2014. Still, Disney had a plan in place to bring his iconic portrayal of Aladdin’s Genie back to life for Once Upon a Studio, as well as Disney’s 100th Anniversary celebration. Instead of recasting, animators have utilized artificial intelligence to bring William’s portrayal of Genie back to life again. Although some were very appreciative of the effort, others felt it was an insult to William’s legacy with Disney. Disney would rely on William’s past recordings and others to provide their own voices, such as Josh Gad as Olaf from Frozen.
There’s also the culmination of the short in which all the characters join together to sing the beautiful Disney balan, “When You Wish Upon a Star,” Despite Hades dissatisfaction with the singing, what would a Disney short be without a song, and nothing sums up what Disney means to its fans better than Jiminy Cricket’s original voice cooing the classic song made famous in Pinocchio.
Here’s to 100 More
Not only did Once Upon a Studio pay tribute to Walt Disney and Disney Animation’s century-long legacy, but it also looks forward to what’s to come. Sending off one of their Once Upon a Studio is a farewell to Burny Mattinson, Disney’s longest-serving employee of nearly 70 years, who passed away last winter. However, it also paints a beautiful picture of what dedicated animators and employees accomplished in 100 years, creating joy and tearful excitement about what the next century may hold for the company.
Complete with each and every character you could think of, Once Upon a Studio provides excitement about what new revelations and stories will be told by new free and creative thinkers who we hope will rival that of Walt Disney himself. What new worlds will we discover? Could there be a new princess hiding out there who needs to be rescued from her tower? What stories will melt our hearts? What character will define the next generation of childhood? Luckily, we’ve got 100 years to find out.