The Walt Disney Company has embarked on so many projects over the years, it’s pretty hard to remember everything that they have ever done. Some things are best forgotten, but I would like to put forward five things that I think are worth remembering!
REMEMBERING NUMBER FIVE
ENGLISH LIVE-ACTION MOVIES
Due to some obscure law in England that I don’t fully understand, Walt Disney couldn’t get the profits from his movies off the British Isles. So to make the best use of these locked resources, he started making movies over there!
You likely well know the first one, Treasure Island, made in 1950. But it didn’t stop there. In 1952 The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men followed, with The Sword and the Rose coming just a year later in 1953. Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue (1954) was one of the last efforts, if my research is correct.
These films aren’t forgotten, as my title insinuates, but the facts that they were filmed in England, and the reason why, may be forgotten for most Disney fans. Just think: If that little tax law hadn’t existed, we would have missed out on an entire chapter of Disney films!
REMEMBERING NUMBER FOUR
This series was a collection of fourteen full length and short subject documentary films produced between 1948 and 1960. It was an Academy Award winning series that really paved the way for such shows as Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom (1963-1988), among others.
This series may also be remembered by older Disney fans, but with the theatrical release of the Disneynature films, which started in 2007, a younger generation may not realize that documentaries and nature aren’t new concepts to the Walt Disney Company!
For a full list of the films in this series, visit the Wikipedia page here.
REMEMBERING NUMBER THREE
When Walt Disney famously said: “It all started with a mouse!” he was not quite telling the truth. First came a little series called the Alice Comedies which were followed by a successful run of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoons. Then came, and it continued with, Mickey Mouse!
Laugh-O-Grams started this series, but made only one demonstration reel before going bankrupt. It had to wait until Walt started The Disney Brothers Studios with his brother, Roy, to truly come to life and have a successful run.
Few may remember little Virginia Davis who starred in the first 15 cartoons. Margie Gay followed her and starred in an additional 31 episodes. Dawn O’Day (1) and Lois Hardwick (10) also took the role. But when we think of famous Disney ladies, we don’t often remember Virginia Davis, who started it all for Walt Disney!
REMEMBERING NUMBER TWO
FIREHOUSE FIVE plus TWO
The Firehouse Five Plus Two was a Dixieland jazz band consisting of members of the Walt Disney Studios animation department. The band was active from 1949 to 1972, playing and recording while never giving up their day jobs as animators and artists with the Walt Disney Studios.
Ward Kimball (leader, trombone) and Frank Thomas (piano) might be the most recognizable names from the original lineup of talent. Although the original group consisted of seven players, four other men joined in over the years.
This great band guested on the original Mickey Mouse Club, marched in Disneyland parades, played on Disney television specials, and appeared in animated form in the 1953 Goofy animated short, How to Dance. They also appeared in movies for other studios. The reference you may have missed comes at the end of The Princess and the Frog when the alligator Louis is playing his horn with a group called The Firefly Five with Lou.
They released thirteen albums of which I am proud to say I have eight! Although many have probably seen them in the background of Disneyland specials and heard their music on Disney soundtracks, I’m sure most don’t realize that they were a big part of the Disney experience, especially in the 1950’s. Gone now, but hopefully never forgotten!
REMEMBERING NUMBER ONE
WARTIME PROPAGANDA FILMS
Now we get to the forgotten thing that the Walt Disney Company would most likely want us to forget. Back in the 1940’s, film studios weren’t known for their tact or for being politically correct. Of course, this made for some amazingly uninhibited films, but also for some very embarrassing product filled with negative stereotypes and nasty prejudices!
With the war effort first and foremost on the minds of the public, studios took liberties and got away with them by wrapping them all up in the flag of patriotism. Contemporary audiences back then ate it up and cheered. Modern audiences find it all a bit hard to watch!
Kudos to the Walt Disney Company for releasing all of the propaganda films in the Disney Treasures series of DVD’s. They are a part of our history, and as such, should be remembered.
Is there a forgotten piece of Disney history that I’ve missed? Please add it in the comments section below!