Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is the film in full production from 1935 to summer 1937, when the studios fall short of money. To find funds to finish the film Disney must submit an excerpt of the film finished to financial managers of the Bank of America. The money is obtained. The film is presented for its first time at the Carthay Circle Theater in Hollywood on 21 December 1937. At the end of the performance, the public gives Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs a standing ovation.
The first animated feature film (in English) and in Technicolor, Snow White was released in February 1938 under a new distribution contract with RKO Radio Pictures. The film became the most profitable in the year of 1938 and brings more than eight million dollars at the time (now U.S. $ 98 million) in its initial broadcast. It will be the most important success for film until the release of Gone with the Wind (1939) and the highest grossing as well until Gone with the Wind.
The same year, the first radio show produced by Disney, Mickey Mouse Theater of the Air, is broadcast on NBC with Mickey interpreted by Walt.
The success of Snow White allows Disney to build a new complex built in the form of a campus for the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank. They open the new studio on 24 December 1939. Former Hyperion Avenue studios are sold and then destroyed to become a supermarket. The animation team which has just completed Pinocchio, continued work on Fantasia and Bambi, while the teams who do Shorts continue working on series of Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy and Pluto, and the latest Silly symphonies.
Pinocchio and Fantasia succeed Snow White in cinemas in 1940. Both are financial disappointments (Pinocchio cost twice as much to produce as Snow White). The public receives the release of Pinocchio quiet well, on February 7 in New York. Nevertheless, the war in Europe and the financial pressures on the U.S. market cannot generate sufficient profits. Fantasia is released on 13 November 1940 at the Colony Theater, on Broadway. It is primarily the work of Disney studios to obtain an artistic recognition, often described as masterpieces of the studio.
In 1941, Disney was approached by the State Department, led by Nelson Rockefeller, to represent the United States and Latin America “to fight against Nazism.” Disney is really asked so he can make a diplomatic trip to go shake hands with leaders as a diplomat for the US. He agrees to go and the mission will provide an opportunity to continue the work of his artists and discover new sources of inspiration.
To satisfy the curiosity of the public, Disney produced The Reluctant Dragon on the sidelines of his movies. This is a documentary combining real images and cartoons. In 1941, Disney decided to participate in the war effort. In partnership with Lockheed Martin, the studios make a cartoon on the methods pf riveting aircraft for new employees in factories. It’s Four Methods of Flush Riveting would stay a long classified top secret film. The popularity of studios was growing; many regiments or squadrons ask the American studios to produce Disney characters that will decorate the fuselage of their aircraft.
The film Dumbo which was inexpensive, is produced in order to make a profit for the company quickly. During production of this new film, most members of the animation team have issues on their working conditions and begin the first studios strike. Despite these difficulties, the production is completed, the film takes place in October 1941. Dumbo is a success, but the United States entered World War II. The U.S. military requisition most buildings of the studios at Disney. Disney is asked to create movies for training and instruction for the military, as well as propaganda films such as Der Fuehrer’s Face which won the academy award for best short featuring Donald Duck in Naziland, or the feature Victory Through Air Power, both released in 1943. Because of the work on the military films Bambi does not get the desired results when it was released in April 1942.
Disney is reviewing his strategy. He re-release of Snow White in 1944 and establishes a tradition of reprinting, every seven years, Disney films in the United States. He completes Saludos Amigos (1942), The Three Caballeros (1945) and Song of the South (the first Disney movie with real actors, released in 1946).
In the late 1940s, the company found enough money and leadership to continue the production of feature films such as Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan, interrupted during the war years. The studio is beginning the work of Cinderella and a series of animal documentaries, entitled True Life Adventures (first released in 1948), including one episode, On Seal Island was inspired by a trip to Alaska Walt had in August 1948.
Barrier, Michael (1999). Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in Its Golden Age. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Eliot, Marc (1993). Walt Disney: Hollywood’s Dark Prince. Carol.
Gabler, Neal “Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination” (2006)
“Walt Disney Goes to War.” LIFE 31 Aug. 1942
Watts, Steven, The Magic Kingdom: Walt Disney and the American Way of Life, University of Missouri Press