With the upcoming release of “Strange World,” Walt Disney Animation Studios will be releasing their 61st animated feature. Throughout these releases from 1937 to the present day, fans and critics have divided the releases into animation eras. Although there are no set parameters for what constitutes an era, there is usually a major event that helps people tell them apart. The Disney Revival started with “The Princess and the Frog” in 2009. Now I want to know if we are still in the Disney Revival? Or have we entered a whole new era of Disney Animation?

ERAS OF ANIMATION

Currently, the Walt Disney Animation Cinematheque can be divided into seven animation eras.

  • Golden Age: 1937-1942 (5 films)
  • Wartime: 1943-1949 (6 films)
  • Silver Age: 1950-1969 (8 films)
  • Bronze Age: 1970-1988 (8 films)
  • Rebirth: 1989-1999 (10 films)
  • Experimental Age: 2000-2008 (11 films)
  • Rebirth: 2009-present? (Minimum 10 films)

As I mentioned, everyone is marked by an event that led to change. World War II, the death of Walt Disney, and experiments with animation styles were some of the notable reasons for the change. The Golden Age, Silver Age, Renaissance, and Revival were all marked by impressive box office performances, and a few mixed flops. The War Age, Bronze Age, and Experimental Age were all less financially successful. Have we experienced this event that leads us to move away from Revival and into a new era?

PANDEMIC EFFECT

I know no one wants to remember 2020, but the effects of the pandemic and the shutdown have changed the way we view cinema and the box office. “Raya and the Last Dragon” went to open theaters and was shared on Premier Access on Disney+. It grossed $130 million worldwide, which is good considering the number of theaters closed, but very disappointing compared to the $1.4 billion made by “Frozen II.” “Encanto” did not go to Premier Access, but only got a 30-day box office window before going to streaming. It’s clear that the pandemic as well as the influx of streaming services has changed viewing habits and that could lead to another shift in animation eras.

HOW TO CALL THIS NEW ERA?

If we are in a new era, where did the last era officially end and what is this new era called? As I hinted previously, I think the Disney Revival ended with “Frozen 2”. We see a dramatic change in box office performance after this point. Yes, the pandemic is the cause, but we have this watershed moment, much like World War II or the death of Walt Disney. But for a name? My fellow “What’s On Disney Plus” writer, Jon Potter, suggested we call this the streaming era of animation. “Raya and the Last Dragon” and “Encanto” both saw growth once they hit streaming services. I think he’s onto something. Whether that ends up being the official era name and whether it ends up starting with “Raya and the Last Dragon” is yet to be determined, but I think the name is appropriate and the timing makes sense.

CONCLUSION

I think we’re in the era of streaming animation, and I think we would have finally reached this point even if the world hadn’t stopped. The pandemic may have accelerated the transition, but we were still heading for change. Let’s see how long until another animation era change takes place.

What do you think? Are we in a new era of animation? If so, does “Streaming Era” describe it well?


Jeremy Brown

Jeremy has been a huge Disney fan since he was a kid during the Disney Renaissance. One day, he hopes to visit every Disney park in the world.