The Disney Renaissance a term for the time in the 1990s in which Disney released many of its most beloved animated films of all time. After the death of Walt Disney in 1966, there was a steady decline in the quality of Disney animated films.Template:Opinion For the next couple of decades, films like The Aristocats (1970), Robin Hood (1973), The Fox and the Hound (1981), The Black Cauldron (1985), and Oliver & Company (1988) were met with mixed to negative reaction. In the 1980s, films from Don Bluth (himself a former Disney employee) were outperforming Disney films. An American Tail (1986) had outperformed Disney's The Great Mouse Detective (1986). The Land Before Time (1988) and Disney's Oliver & Company (1988) were released the same day, November 18, and The Land Before Time performed better. Eventually, Roy E. Disney convinced then-CEO Michael Eisner to let him oversee the theatrical animation division of the company.
- The Little Mermaid (1989)
- The Rescuers Down Under (1990)
- Beauty and the Beast (1991)
- Aladdin (1992)
- The Lion King (1994)
- Pocahontas (1995)
- The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
- Hercules (1997)
- Mulan (1998)
- Tarzan (1999)
The Disney Renaissance had a major impact on millions of childhoods back then, and today. It also is enjoyed by millions of adults, who thought animation was only for kids. It also had several messages in the movies that started the push that turned Disney from the most conservative studio in Hollywood into the leftist company that Roy E. Disney described as “A rapacious soulless conglomerate always looking for the quick buck.”
Starting with The Little Mermaid, the ship toward Disney being what it is today sailed. From feministic messages regarding fathers and other men, to the homosexual agenda with open homosexual Howard Ashman being the lyricist. From “Part of Your World” being recognized as an LGBT anthem, to his personal life almost being parallel to Aladdin’s character. It was also around this time that homosexuality started to get more and more tolerated in the United States. From a supermajority opposing it in 1990, to Vermont legalizing homosexual unions in 2000.
In The Little Mermaid, one could say it justified rebellion against your father because he reprimanded you, and he doesn’t understand what you think about a world you don’t belong in. Furthermore, it’s the first of open homosexual Howard Ashman’s major works at Disney (Prior, he only wrote one song “Once Upon a Time in New York City” in Oliver and Company) It’s been looked at in Don Hahn’s 2018 documentary Howard that Ashman’s homosexuality and him having AIDS played a major influence in some of the songs he wrote. “Part of Your World” is the most notable from The Little Mermaid, and it’s often described as an LGBT anthem. Ashman was very protective of the song, and threatened to quit Disney when Jeffrey Katzenberg wanted it cut from the film. Howard even ends with Ashman singing the song which voice of Ariel, Jodi Benson called “perfection.”
In Beauty and the Beast, Katzenberg brought over Ashman to do the lyrics, which he wasn’t happy to do due to his AIDS getting worse, and may derail what he had planned for a movie he wanted to do, being Aladdin. Ashman did it anyway, and had a major influence. He wanted the Beast to play a bigger role in the story, and he also wanted the inanimate objects to talk to have a more light-hearted tone. Hahn described “The Mob Song” which was used in the film’s climax as Ashman’s message to the anti-AIDS community saying that they’re basically Christians that are more against homosexuality than AIDS. Ashman never lived to see the final project, as he died nine months before it hit theaters. The film is dedicated to Ashman, and they put this message at the end of the credits. “To our friend Howard, who gave a mermaid her voice and a beast his soul, we will be forever grateful. Howard Ashman 1950-1991.” Other messages include more feministic messages as said by screenwriter Linda Woolverton, such as men being either mean or just oafs as shown with the Beast prior to Belle taming him, Gaston as he’s the film’s villain, and Belle’s father Maurice despite being loving, he can’t even save himself as Belle swaps places with him as the Beast’s prisoner, and him collapsing when he went out to break Belle free towards the end. The film received so much love, it got nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, but it lost to The Silence of the Lambs.
In Aladdin, many things were supposed to be related to Ashman’s life as he had a distant relationship with his mother “Proud of Your Boy” and that AIDS reduced him to practically nothing “Humiliate the Boy.” However, due to Katzenberg not liking the story, he had many of those things cut. Only three Ashman songs stayed in the final product. Being “Arabian Nights,” “Friend Like Me,” and “Prince Ali.” However, Ashman had a different idea for them to be delivered. He wanted the Genie to be a blues/jazz guy in the style of Cab Calloway, but Katzenberg casted Robin Williams to be the Genie, and he brought his own style to the character, but had a small Calloway tribute in the middle of the song.
Following the release of Tarzan in 1999, Disney would have several movies of conflicting reviews. Movies like Lilo & Stitch (2002), The Princess and the Frog (2009) would be well-received while films like Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001), Treasure Planet (2002), and Home on the Range (2004) would have a more negative reception. In recent years, however, films like Frozen (2013) seem to be signaling a sort of "Neo-Renaissance" for Disney.