A Very Disney Quarantine: The Golden Era

I’ve been a massive Disney fan since day one, watching my VHS tapes of “The Little Mermaid” and “Aladdin” on repeat even when little me got scared. (My parents laughingly recall me getting scared when the Cave of Wonders first forms but not letting them turn it off…Every. Time.)

When Disney+ launched, I immediately subscribed. I’d been meaning to rewatch my childhood favorites ever since but never had time…and now, with too much time on my hands, I decided—what better way to fill this time than by re-watching my childhood? (Being in a Disney bracket Facebook group and a friend of mine doing his own Disney binge also inspired me.)

I haven’t seen some of these movies in over 20 years, back when you had wait impatiently as your VHS tapes rewound. (I absolutely do not miss that.) Needless to say, now that I’m older, I’ve noticed a lot of things that went over my head as a kid.

Disney movies (well, the animated ones*) are broken down into seven eras: The Golden Age, the Wartime Era**, the Silver Age, the Bronze Age, the Renaissance Age, the Experimental Era, and the Revival Era/Modern Golden Age. I’ll be recapping each era on their own as I finish them, so stay tuned for the rest of this series!

*These eras technically only include the animated movies. But since my master list includes live-action movies as well, I’ll be including those in the corresponding eras.
**I skipped this era since I’ve never seen them, and I wanted to keep this primarily to the movies I’ve already watched.

And away we go!

The Golden Age: 1937-1942

I totally forgot that early Disney movies had the chorus singing at the opening of each movie, usually a theme song of the film. It was a sweet nostalgia to hear the swell of orchestral music and a chorus at the start of each movie.

Also, a lot of these early Disney movies start with the opening of a book and narration, like someone reading aloud a fairy tale at bedtime.

I’d forgotten about this, too! It was like being a little kid again, tucked under my covers while Mom or Dad read to me from my big books of Disney stories.

Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs, 1937

I knew this movie was going to be…interesting to watch again as an adult, and it didn’t disappoint. “Snow White” is very much a product of its time, featuring a young girl who stays cheery and upbeat even through the hardest moments of her life and in reward for her good heart and positivity, ends up with the wicked queen dead and her “true love” rescuing her with true love’s kiss.

This Depression-era movie’s message couldn’t be clearer: If you stay upbeat and positive, keeping your chin up even through the worst of times, everything will turn out all right.

To jump back a second: Yes, I put “true love” in quotes. Call me a pessimist and definitely say I’m looking at this through a modern lens, but let’s be real: Prince Florian (surprise, he has a name) and Snow White are not ‘true love.’ They meet ONCE for five seconds and only because he happened to overhear her singing as he rode by. He starts singing along and she runs inside. Florian serenades Snow White, she hides, he leaves…and that’s the only interaction they have until he kisses her awake at the film’s end. Yet Snow White tells the dwarfs he’s her true love?? It’s…very, very weird.

But like I said, the film is a product of its time, just trying to bring cheer and share a happy ending in a time where neither were abundant.

Pinocchio, 1940

I know I watched this at some point as a kid, since I distinctly remembered certain bits—like the boys turning into donkeys (still unsettling as an adult, honestly)—but I think it was only once if ever.

“Pinocchio” was a rather enjoyable movie from the Golden Era, although it certainly was a lot darker than I remember. I mean, Pinocchio gets kidnapped and threatened to be turned into firewood, is lured into a child trafficking scheme, semi-turns into a donkey, he and his father are eaten by a whale…oh, and he DIES at the end before becoming a real boy. Dang.

“Pinocchio” is a movie with very clear messages, similar to how fairy-tales and folktales were told to scare kids into listening with their morals and consequences for actions. You have “good children don’t lie (and bad things will happen if do),” “listen to your elders,” and be “brave, truthful and unselfish” (which is what the Blue Fairy says is required for Pinocchio to get what he desires).

Fantasia, 1940

This must have been super cool to watch as a tot, with all the pretty colors moving across the screen to pretty music. But as an adult…yeah, I was BORED.

Honestly, I skipped through most of “Fantasia” except for “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and “The Pastoral Symphony”—and the latter was because of a documentary I watched in college that looked at Disney’s sexualization of animals and women (or both in this case…because centaurs) in early animation, featuring that sequence. Yeah, it was weird to watch that number now…just watch the gif. You’ll get it.

Dumbo, 1941

I saw the live-action “Dumbo” last year, and I have to say, I’m amazed that the writers could craft an almost 2-hour movie from such minimal source material. I’d guess that the original 1-hour movie was condensed into the remake’s first half-hour or so. I was actually surprised while rewatching this movie to see that Dumbo doesn’t actually fly until the last two minutes of the film…and that’s where it ends.

Final verdict of this one: cute, especially since watching baby Dumbo feels like watching a puppy—I mean, look at him!

Although Dumbo’s drunk dream sequence is extremely creepy, even now. I most likely won’t watch this one again because there isn’t much to it. Also, the racist crows…’nuff said.

Bambi, 1942

Does anyone else distinctly remember watching this movie as a kid and actually seeing Bambi’s mom be shot? Because I was genuinely surprised to not see that. Instead, you just hear the gunshot and Bambi’s father tells him later what happened. The Mandela effect strikes again…

This movie was really cute! It’s full of simple innocence and some funny lines, mostly courtesy of Thumper. The owl cracked me up with his cynicism towards the world and mockery of “twitterpating,” which as an adult, you very much understand what he’s implying beyond “falling in love.”

Overall, I enjoyed the simplicity and (relative) innocence of the films from Disney’s first era. I most likely won’t find myself rewatching these until the next time I do a Disney binge, but they definitely made for a nice bit of nostalgia. My mind is still blown at the talent and level of animation they could do back then, and all recorded on film, no less!

Here’s to chapter one of A Very Disney Quarantine! Stay tuned for the Silver Era.

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