In to become the trademark of their company.(Encyclopædia

In this essay, I plan to focus most of my research on one of Walt Disney’s most successful films, Steamboat Willie and also discuss its conception and how it compared to other animated films at the time, as well as analyse its place in the history of film. This is how Steamboat Willie changed the animation industry.In 1928, Walt Disney had released an animated short film, titled Steamboat Willie. The film starred an anthropomorphic mouse named Mickey Mouse, a character that would later go on to become the trademark of their company.(Encyclopædia Britannica, 10th November 2014, Mickey Mouse, source 1) The film not only displays excellent animation; putting principles such as squash and stretch, anticipation and exaggeration, just to name a few, into great use, but also shows amazing sound design with the use of music and sound effects; something which was relatively new in 1928. With these two of the factors combined, as well as a humorous narrative, not only does it bring believability to the characters, but also brings the other animals in the film to life, as well as the inanimate objects. From the long pipes increasing and decreasing in size as smoke comes out (as seen in the image below) to the three small air horns symbolising a small family of three to different animals being used as different instruments. Tiny details such as these didn’t just add to the humour of the animation in general, but enhanced the bigger picture and made the animation groundbreaking for its time, which paved the way for the future of animation. In my opinion, it is still an animation that holds up to this very day.(Walt Disney Studios, 18th November 1928, Steamboat Willie)Contrary to popular belief, Disney’s famous Steamboat Willie was not actually the first ever animation in history with sound included, nor was it the first appearance of Mickey Mouse. In fact, the first appearance of Disney’s most popular character was in another animated short film, titled Plane Crazy, which was a completely silent animation, released earlier in 1928.(Big Cartoon News, Steamboat Willie Was The First Animated Sound Film, source 3) This was followed by Gallopin’ Gaucho, which was once again released in complete silence. Both animated by Ub Iwerks.(Encyclopædia Britannica, 10th November 2014, Mickey Mouse, source 1) Walt Disney would later find inspiration from a film named The Jazz Singer, a full-length live-action musical feature film that included synchronised dialogue, which made it a massive success in the late 1920s. Therefore it is widely recognised as being the first ‘talkie’ film, bringing an end to the era of silent films.(Lee Pfeiffer (18th April 2014), The Jazz Singer, source 4) After the success of The Jazz Singer and the failure of the previous Mickey Mouse animations, Walt Disney decided to take on the idea of an animated film with synchronised audio. During production, Disney had used a metronome, with a chart to show where sound effects should be played. These sound effects were created by artists working for Disney at the time and with the use of a harmonica.  After the film had been completed in July, Walt Disney had travelled to New York in hopes of finding a recording facility and a distributor, where he eventually came across a man named Patrick Anthony Powers, who owned a Cinephone System and then agreed on doing a recording for Steamboat Willie in September. Despite this, the first recording session was a failure, much to Walt Disney’s disappointment. It was awful. The orchestra that was hired simply couldn’t keep up with the animation that was being displayed. But things were different in the second recording sessions, which occurred just a couple of weeks after the first one. With the help of a bouncing ball now on the film print, the orchestra’s conductor able to change tempo when necessary. This second session was so astounding that it caught the attention of Harry Reichenbach, a man known for owning the Colony Theater on Broadway. Steamboat Willie then ran for two weeks at the Colony Theater, and needless to say, the audience loved it.(Dave Smith, Steamboat Willie, source 5)However, as I mentioned above, Steamboat Willie was not the very first film in the animation industry to have sound included, despite Disney advertising it as the first to do so. Even before the release of The Jazz Singer, in 1925, Inkwell Studios (later known as Fleischer Studios) would re-release a short from the previous year, titled Come Take  A Trip To My Airship, but this time with sound included. Inkwell Studios would then release the first animation with sound synchronisation the following year, titled My Old Kentucky Home.(Big Cartoon News, Steamboat Willie Was The First Animated Sound Film, source 3) Inkwell Studios would not be the only animation studio to include sound in their animated films before Disney though. Fable Studios would produce an animation with synchronised sound, although released it after Steamboat Willie, titled Dinner Time as part of their series, Aesop’s Film Fables. Not only was this film one of the first few animations to include sound, but Walt Disney was also somewhat inspired by it to go through with his plans, as he was a fan of Aesop’s Film Fables. Nevertheless, the release of Dinner Time was completely overshadowed by the success of Steamboat Willie, and the people who did happen to watch it considered it a failure, including Walt Disney himself, who was disappointed as a fan of the series.(Paul Terry and John Foster, 29th September 2009, Cartoon Brew TV #3: Dinner Time, source 6) Regardless of this, in my opinion, Steamboat Willie was the first animated film to do this to such a high degree, setting a standard for animation.Another animated series I want to briefly touch on and compare to Disney’s Steamboat Willie and Mickey Mouse is the Sullivan Studio’s Felix the Cat. Felix the Cat was an anthropomorphic cat created by Otto Messmer in 1919 and was a massive hit in not only the United States, but also internationally. The series took a lot of inspiration from Charlie Chaplin’s famous The Tramp from the era of silent film, with animations such as Felix in Hollywood, Felix Switches Witches, and Comicalamities being cited as some of the best. With all of this success, Felix was considered to be the most popular cartoon character in the world at the time.(Encyclopædia Britannica, 9th August 2016, Otto Messmer, source 7) When other studios began creating animations with sound, the producers of Felix the Cat would also give it a shot. Unbeknownst to them, this would lead to the downfall of the series. While in silence, Felix the Cat lived in a fantasy world, capable of the wildest possibilities and very entertaining and humorous visual gags, many viewers say that once sound was introduced into the series, the character of Felix the Cat felt “clumsy and sugary”(Norman M. Klein, 1993, Seven Minutes: The Life and Death of the American Animated Cartoon, page 8, source 2). What made matters worse Patrick Sullivan, owner of the Sullivan Studio, was an alcoholic whose wife had just died.(2) This meant the staff below him had no direction, which would obviously affect their workflow and efficiency, causing a dip in quality. By 1931, Felix the Cat was discontinued, bringing an end to a once beloved series and character. Eventually, the alcoholism had caught up to Patrick Sullivan by being one of the causes of his death in 1933, leaving the rights to the franchise to no one. Even though Felix the Cat went on a decline after the introduction of sound, I believe Disney took inspiration from such an iconic character and translated it over to Mickey Mouse and Mickey Mouse’s predecessor, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. For example, the simple, but yet unique design of Felix the Cat, his well-defined personality and many more.(Encyclopædia Britannica, 9th August 2016, Otto Messmer, source 7)Not only did the success of Steamboat Willie challenge Disney’s competition, but it also challenged Disney to reach new heights and continue improving. This was evident with later Disney animations, such as The Skeleton, Three Little Pigs and of course, the revolutionary Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. While not the first animated full-feature film, it was definitely impressive for its time, and arguably still is to this very day. It no doubt set the wheels in motion for other Disney greats, From Pinocchio, all the way to The Lady and the Tramp. The quality of Disney films simply just kept increasing. Something that was so special and rare to see back then, eventually became a standard in animation. The need to keep up with Disney meant other studios had to push themselves as well, leading to the creation of many great animated series.(Encyclopædia Britannica, 14th December 2017, Disney Company, source 8)In conclusion, I believe Disney the concept and production of Steamboat Willie was revolutionary. It was a tremendous idea that propelled Disney to new heights and kicked off what was known as the ‘Golden Era’ of animation, by pioneering the use sound within animation. It was not only a film that set the bar for all other animations, through its amazing use of sound design, animation, synchronised dialogue, but used its success and popularity to continue raising the bar with later Disney animated films, which in turn pushed other studios. Steamboat Willie set the wheels in motion for the great animation we have today, which I believe is one of the major reasons Disney is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, film studios in modern society.-Azhar Uddin—————Word Count: ReferencesEncyclopædia Britannica (10th November 2014), Mickey MouseAvailable at: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Mickey-Mouse#ref247601(Accessed: 18th January 2018)Norman M. Klein (1993), Seven Minutes: The Life and Death of the American Animated CartoonBig Cartoon News, Steamboat Willie Was The First Animated Sound FilmAvailable at: http://blog.bcdb.com/lies-disney-told/steamboat-willie-animated-sound-film/(Accessed: 20th January 2018)Lee Pfeiffer (18th April 2014), The Jazz SingerAvailable at: https://www.britannica.com/topic/The-Jazz-Singer-film-1927(Accessed: 20th January 2018)Dave Smith, Steamboat WillieAvailable at: https://www.loc.gov/programs/static/national-film-preservation-board/documents/steamboat_willie.pdf(Accessed: 21st January 2018)Paul Terry and John Foster (29th September 2009), Cartoon Brew TV #3: Dinner TimeAvailable at: http://www.cartoonbrew.com/brewtv/cartoon-brew-tv-3-dinner-time-by-paul-terry-and-john-foster-7499.html(Accessed: 24th January 2018)Encyclopædia Britannica (9th August 2016), Otto MessmerAvailable at: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Otto-Messmer#ref739012(Accessed: 27th January 2018)Encyclopædia Britannica (14th December 2017), Disney CompanyAvailable at: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Disney-Company(Accessed: 29th January 2018)