Disney: Never Short of Heart | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Disney: Never Short of Heart

With Disney's latest short 'Feast' taking home an Academy Award this year, Hayley Crump takes a look at the legacy Disney has left with its beautiful and heart warming series of short films...

It has become the trend in recent years to show an animated short before every Disney feature film. The studio’s latest box-office success, Big Hero 6, is no exception, and it’s Oscar-winning pre-show entertainment Feast seemed to illuminate what made the company great before Snow White and her Seven Dwarfs even heigh-hoed onto the screens and into the hearts of the public.

feast 1The now Oscar-winning Feast is a hand drawn/computer animated hybrid which portrays one of Disney’s most common themes: that of the relationship between humans and their furry counterparts. Although the short’s top-dog Winston doesn’t help with the housework, or guide his owner through new adventures, he does seems to encapsulate the love between a pet and his owner via the simple framing device used by the Disney animators. As an audience, we not only witness Winston’s world through his puppy-dog peepers, but also from the view of his plate; by using the food given to Winston as a continuous metaphor not only for the relationship between owner and pet, but also as a symbol for events which occur within his human’s life (and their subsequent psychological effects), Disney seem to engage with the modern world’s obsession of what is, or shouldn’t be, on our meal plan and on our minds.

Whilst Feast is undoubtedly modern in execution and ideals, it is the legacy of Disney’s first real critical and commercial successes. The Silly Symphony cartoons, a series of animated shorts produced between 1929 and 1937 - in addition to the usual escapades of Mickey, Donald and Goofy - romanced the American public long before Snow White’s prince crooned to her from across the kingdom. Winning a total of fifteen Academy Award in the category of Best Animated Short Film, the Disney short is perhaps the company’s most prominent critical success story.

GET A HORSE!The roots of Disney’s original Academy Award success with their first colour cartoon, Flowers and Trees, is embraced by the inclusion of animated shorts prior to modern feature films. This is perhaps more evident in the 2013 short Get A Horse!, which visually combines traditional hand-drawn black-and-white animation with CGI colour animation, in addition to archived recordings of Walt himself as the voice of Mickey Mouse, to produce a short that is both reminiscent of the past and accepting of the present world of animation. The use of metafilm within the short, and the metaphorical flexibility of the screen within the cartoon, gives this celebration of the company’s legacy depth and perhaps even an element of gratuity to the animators of the past. Ironic, as Get A Horse! Premiered before Disney’s most commercially successful film to date, Frozen. Similarly, Feast’s employment of both hand-drawn and computerised animation further emphasizes this appreciation of the past from a company that has been heavily criticised in recent years over its abandonment of a medium (it’s last traditionally animated feature was 2009’s The Princess and The Frog) which is somewhat impractical in today’s competitive and rapidly evolving business of animation.

Whether they function to continue a fan-favourite narrative (such as 2013’s Tangled Ever After which premiered before Beauty and The Beast 3D), or as a stand-alone exploration of art and love in modern civilisation (alike 2012’s The Paperman, the first Disney animated short to win an Oscar since It’s Tough To Be A Bird in 1970), these minute-long snippets of artistry seem to be the most appropriate way to pay homage to what can be argued to be Walt Disney’s most critically successful work. The studio’s choice to begin screening animated shorts such as Feast before feature films is one of the most ambitious, admirable and admiring moves made by Disney in recent years. As you sit there staring into Winston’s fresh bowl of spaghetti and meatballs, you can’t help but feel humbled by the tradition of the Disney short; a tradition that all began with a man and a mouse.

Hayley Crump 


4th April 2015 at 12:53 pm