The one that dared to tackle bigotry. One of the cornerstones of the decades of Disney animated films has been crafting adorable talking animal characters that not only capture the hearts of audiences but also lend themselves to an endless stream of profitable merchandise. Whether it was a cute baby circus elephant in Dumbo, a family of jazz-loving felines in The Aristocats, or two dogs forming an unlikely romance in Lady and the Tramp, Disney consistently fell back on its tried and true formula of placing animals at the...

The one that fused Marvel Comics with Disney animation. In 2008, the release of Iron Man launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe in spectacular fashion. After years of DC Comics heroes like Batman and Superman dominating the cinematic landscape, Marvel was suddenly everywhere you looked and The Walt Disney Company wanted a piece of the action. In late 2009, CEO Bob Iger purchased Marvel Entertainment for a staggering $4 billion and the studio subsequently acquired the distribution rights for future Marvel Studios films. After the acquisition, Iger encouraged the entire company...

The one that became a cultural phenomenon. Let it go. Three little innocuous words that took on a new life of their own post-2013. The history of Disney animation is dotted with films and characters that captured the pop culture zeitgeist, but none quite like the unprecedented phenomenon that was Frozen. With box office figures, soundtrack sales, and merchandise revenue not seen since the early 1990s, Frozen was the cultural sensation Disney had been chasing for the better part of two decades. While it inevitably became nauseatingly overexposed, it...

The one that took a leaf out of Pixar's playbook. When Pixar animator/director John Lasseter became the Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios in 2006, he went searching for new projects to push the studio into new territory outside their traditional princess fairy tale fare. In his hunt for something unlike anything Disney had previously produced, he stumbled across a promising project that had been stuck in development hell for over 15 years. In the late 1980s, Disney began developing an animated action-adventure set inside the chaotic world...

The one that brought an era to a close. Throughout its seven decades of animated features and shorts, Walt Disney Animation Studios had created some of the most indelible icons in pop culture history. While it was all started by a mouse named Mickey, Disney's cavalcade of animated stars had ballooned to dozens upon dozens of adorable animals, brave heroes, and nefarious villains. But if there was one character to challenge Mickey's status as the face of the studio, it was undoubtedly that chubby little cubby all stuffed with...

The one that marked a turning point for Disney animation. When then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner announced the end of traditional animation in 2002, he almost caused a revolt amongst the studio's animators. Several of the animators who survived Eisner's extensive layoffs weren't entirely convinced computers should replace the art of hand-drawn animation, causing a fierce divide amongst the team between those already experienced in computer animation and those resistant to the idea of adapting their skills. Desperate to resolve the situation, then-president of Walt Disney Feature Animation David Stainton begged...

The one that started the second Disney Renaissance. Since the revival of Disney animation in the late 1980s, the studio had (occasionally) strived towards crafting animated films featuring more diverse characters to juxtapose the decades of exclusively white narratives of Disney's past. While the animation studio had delivered their first Asian and Native American heroines in Mulan and Pocahontas respectively, the studio had yet to produce an animated feature film headlined by an African American, either male or female. To put it mildly, Disney's history with its depiction of people...

The one that you probably forgot existed. With the much-maligned Michael Eisner gone and the highly-respected Bob Iger now in charge of The Walt Disney Company, spirits within the studio began to rise again in 2006, particularly amongst the animators at Walt Disney Feature Animation. For over a decade, Pixar had been the envy of the animation industry, and now two of its leaders, Edwin Catmull and John Lasseter, were at the helm of leading Disney animation through the difficult transition from traditional animation to fully computer-generated films. Both Catmull...

The one that honoured Walt's legacy. At the dawn of the new millennium, the management of Walt Disney Company was in utter chaos and morale amongst the ranks at its animation studio was disastrously low. After a string of box office failures, the days of traditional animation were over and then-CEO Michael Eisner was fumbling his way through Disney's transition to computer animation, while also mishandling negotiations with then-Pixar CEO Steve Jobs over the future of Disney's distribution deal of Pixar titles. In late 2003, Eisner and his board of...

The one that fumbled the launch of a new era. When production on Disney's last traditional animated film Home on the Range finished in 2002, then-CEO Michael Eisner laid off most of the employees at the Feature Animation studio in Burbank, downsizing the department to a single unit. The Paris studio closed in 2003. Walt Disney Animation Florida followed suit in 2004. And, with that, Disney was officially out of the business of producing traditional animated feature films. With the company now solely focused on producing computer animation productions, morale...