Walt Disney has been the gold standard in animation for the last 80 years or so, the yardstick by which all other cartoons are judged. It was the studio’s Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs that made feature-length animated movies viable back in 1937, and Disney has released over 50 more full-length animated features since then. Film student Bora Barroso encapsulates many decades of movie history into a two-and-a-half-minute video called “The Evolution Of Disney Animation (1937-2016),” ending with 2016’s Zootopia. You can see how the studio generally got more ambitious and innovative over time, embracing new techniques and technology from the multi-plane camera to computer generated imagery.
One could argue that there is a noticeable dip in animation quality following the death of Disney himself in 1966. From roughly the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s, Disney films take on a slightly sketchy, hurried look. They never descend into outright cheapness, but The Aristocats is a long way from Cinderella and Fantasia. Students of animation know that a rebirth is just around the corner, sparked by The Little Mermaid in 1989.