Brian Byrne reminisces the good ol’ days of Disney
Like every kid of the ’90s, my childhood comprised three things: Pokémon, penny sweets and Disney. While the former two are still decidedly awesome, the latter has declined so far into sheer crappiness that I just have to ask: what the hell happened?
The Lion King (1994) was the first film I ever saw in the cinema. I had just turned 5, and, although I was too much of a youngling to understand what was going on, I still recall being mesmerised by the whole thing. Looking back, all I can really remember are the bright colours and the fact that my sister was bawling. But damn, that movie was amazing.
The Lion King was my first foray into the Disney empire and succeeded in cementing my love for the studio forever more. It had everything Disney is famous for: an epic story, fully realised characters, comedy, horror, and sentiment. Not to mention a killer soundtrack, much of which today resides in my iTunes collection.
The aforementioned film is part of what is now termed The Disney Renaissance, a period of time when Disney could do no wrong. Running from the late 1980s to the late 1990s, releases included classics like Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992), and Pocahontas (1995). Every one of these films are widely regarded as Disney’s finest. In particular, Beauty and the Beast, which many believe to be the best thing Disney has ever done, was the first animated film ever to be nominated the Best Picture at the Oscars.
The Disney Renaissance came to an end in 1999 with the release of Tarzan. This was the moment when Disney began its long-lasting decline; when it turned from sacred to shit. Sure, Tarzan was great, but nothing beyond this has really wowed me since. Well, one has, but we’ll get to that later.
The 2000s, as far as I’m concerned, is when Disney lost the respect it took all those years to instil. Atlantis: The Lost Empire? Crap. Treasure Planet? Crap. Home on the Range? Crap! To add insult to injury, the company tried to save its own ass in 2006 by buying the perpetually awesome Pixar. When I learned of the acquisition I was terrified: how could Pixar, a studio with a perfect track record, allow itself to be tainted by Disney, a studio that hadn’t released anything worth watching since ten years before? Alas, it was ok: while Disney would oversee all projects, creative control would remain in the hands of Pixar.
For the last few years I had entirely forgotten about Disney. An endless string of disappointment had left me with little faith in the company, and I moved on to bigger and better things, namely the studio mentioned five or six times in the previous paragraph.
And then 2011 came. And with it, a movie so brilliant it has undone much of the irritation brought on in the noughties: Tangled. Based on Rapunzel, Tangled retells the classic tale in a witty and exciting way. But it’s not just that. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but Tangled has succeeded in recapturing the magic classic Disney features boast. That may be down to the fact that the movie cost a staggering $260 million to make, but perhaps the people at Disney have rediscovered something they had for such a long time lost. Maybe, just maybe, the Disney we all know and once loved is back. Hopefully, the studio’s next release doesn’t prove Tangled to be nothing more than a diamond in the roughest of the rough.