Music Director's Message, May 19, 2018
With the last of our children having just turned 21, it has been more than a few years since an impending release of the latest Disney animated feature caused excitement in our home. Still, we of a certain age, who remember a time before cell phones, the internet, cable TV, video streaming, DVDs and Blu-Ray, Cinema Multiplexes and so on, remember not only the delicious anticipation of the release of a new Disney film and that magical Saturday afternoon in the movie theater, we remember the annual re-release of a classic animated feature which we could only see ONCE EVERY SEVEN YEARS. That’s right — no home videos, no TV reruns, just a biblically-ordained seven years of waiting for the return to this country’s movie theaters. I missed the first three cycles of Pinocchio (1940) and Bambi (1942), and waited seven years for my first Lady and the Tramp (1955), but I caught Sleeping Beauty (1959) and 101 Dalmatians (1961) the first time out and consider myself special for that. I’m sure everybody remembers their first Disney films.
From Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Disney’s first full-length animated film until today, “The Mouse” has produced over 575 movies. By the end of 2018 there will be eleven more. Any studio that turns out that many movies will have its share of duds. Does anybody remember The Last Shot (2004), Firelight (1998), or It’s Pat (1994)? And then there is The Song of the South (1946), the seventh largest grossing Disney film (adjusted for inflation). The depiction of happy Georgia slaves led to charges of racism, and it has the dubious distinction of being the only successful Disney film that was never released on home video.
But just consider the hits: Snow White, Pinocchio, Bambi, Cinderella (1950), Lady and the Tramp, Sleeping Beauty (1959), 101 Dalmatians: as the years advance, the winners just keep piling up. Not every Disney movie came with a great musical score, but from the beginning Walt Disney had a keen appreciation for the power of music in film that few other producers could match. Disney died fifty-two years ago, but one could make the case that, just like the buckets of water washing over poor Mickey in Fantasia (1940), the magic keeps growing even after the Master has left the room.