In the history of animated films, there have been many milestones, benchmarks, and undeniably important films. By important I don’t necessarily mean best, I mean films that have paved the way for others to come; the pioneers, the giants, and the challenging. This list features the innovations that shocked the world and the films that gave birth to new eras of success. They are in chronological order only, because each one is arguably as important as the next.
Walt Disney’s second feature showed the world that his success in feature-length animation was no fluke. Disney didn’t have to make an excellent movie after the success of Snow White and The Seven Dwarves, but the studio did more than expected, making one of the greatest and most-beloved animated films of all time. Almost everything about this piece was an improvement over Snow White: the music, the animation quality, the characters, the themes and the story line. A legacy was born, and we’re all still wishing upon that star.
Disney’s 1940 epic took animated filmmaking to an ambitious new level. Fantasia merged experimental animated sequences with pieces of classical music. The two elements merge so seamlessly, it seems the musical pieces were written for the animation, not the other way around. The film is also credited for improving film sound quality with its innovative Fantasound, a surround sound system developed to enhance audiences’ theater experience. The benchmark for audio in animation was set, and boy was it a high standard.
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984)
Anime feature films were a thing before Hayao Miyazaki’s breakthrough, but this was an early financial success. According to Wikipedia, the film made 1.48 billion yen ($11 million USD, about $24 million USD adjusted to 2015 inflation) at the box office in Japan. Also, the success of Nausicaa led to the creation of Studio Ghibli two years later, an empire of legendary animated features. A golden anime age was born, and the industry began to make great profits. Unfortunately, it took 21 years for the the full version of Nausicaa to reach the United States, but the film’s impact in Japan influenced more widespread anime films to come.
What comes next? Check out Part 2!