Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs (1937)
This was the film that started it all, and the first to be called "Disney's Folly" during its lengthy production. At the time, the notion of an American studio labouring over an 83-minute, full-colour, cel-animated film seemed insanely ambitious, and as the production schedule and cost spiralled (to six times its original estimate and sixty
times the cost of a Disney short), Tinseltown prepared itself to laugh Walt into exile. Instead, he was very much the one laughing - all the way to the bank. The film remains in the Top Ten highest-grossers of all time, adjusting for inflation, ahead of Avatar and five out of six Star Wars movies.
But is it any good? Well, yes. Sure, Snow herself will never go down as one of the great feminist heroines, but there's immense charm in both her cluelessness, the cutesy Disney forest animals who were to become so emblematic of the studio, and the dwarfs' growing devotion to their new charge. What's more, the Wicked Queen remains one of the more terrifying villains in Hollywood history, and is certainly one to make small children quake in their seats. It may look dated, but the stretch-and-squash animation and catchy tunes will still make you feel like a six year-old. Gallery: Early Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Concept Art Feature: The 50 Best Animated Movie Characters Pinocchio (1940)
Disney remains a corporation and a tradition and a brand-name, but it was originally an artist's signature. Walt Disney's masterpiece is Pinocchio, a triumph of his production model - a cottage industry within Hollywood - and a glowingly personal movie, as rich now in its joys and terrors as it was when first released.
After the immediate artistic and commercial success of Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, Disney put a follow-up, designed to top its predecessor in every department, into production. Instead of a fairy tale, he selected a literary property, Carlo Collodi's 1881 serial, which was then thoroughly adapted to take advantage of the animation medium.
In Collodi's novel, Jiminy Cricket volunteers to serve as the wooden boy's conscience and Pinocchio squashes him underfoot; the film creates an unforgettable character for Jiminy, yet avoids the moralism of too many children's stories by having the Cricket come across as a lecherous ne'er-do-well who gets the job of conscience by default and then has to live upto it. Like Snow White, Bambi, The Little Mermaid and The Lion King, Pinocchio is a story of maturation and moral growth; the wooden boy becomes 'real' by learning responsibility and outgrowing the bad sides of his personality.
The film has the mercilessness of many fairy tales: Lampwick, the adolescent beer drinker and pool player whose idea of a good time is breaking windows in a theme park which seems like a dark premonition of Disneyworlds to come, is horrifically turned into a donkey and sold into the salt mines. Pinocchio learns from this example, but Lampwick is never rescued. And the puppet's road to humanity is littered with ordeals, most memorably the gigantic Monstro the Whale, one of the most convincingly huge villains in cartoons.
The Disney name became associated with squeaky clean entertainment in the '50s, with the opening of Disneyland and the television success of The Mickey Mouse Club, but in the early days no compromises were made with the material in the name of family viewing. Pinocchio is richly animated throughout - few cartoons have such a sense of physicality - but also has a surprising earthiness and sensuality. The Blue Fairy who breathes life into the hero is literally a vision of loveliness, but there are more obviously Freudian overtones to the affectionate, if nervous relationship between Figaro the cat and Cleo the goldfish (seriously, one of the sexiest anthromorphised animals in the cinema) and the famous, deliberately phallic, nose-growing sequences.
The film has gorgeous background drawings, a collection of perfectly-realised characters (the stooped and lonely Gepetto, mountainous and mock-jovial villain Stromboli, suave conman fox J. Worthington Foulfellow, the grotesquely sinister coachman who conveys victims to Pleasure Island), the best-ever score for a Disney musical ('Give a Little Whistle', 'I've Got No Strings', 'When You Wish Upon a Star', 'Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee') from composer Leigh Harline and lyricist Ned Washington, and a plot which keeps forging on, so that the film never feels like a mere succession of star turns handled by different animation teams. KIM NEWMAN Feature: Ten Things You Didn't Know About Pinocchio