Why the 1990s Was the Golden Age of Disney Movies

Everyone has a favorite Disney movie. Chances are, yours was most likely made during the 1990s. Critics called this era “the Disney Renaissance,” due to iconic movies, like Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King, premiering during this time. Now, Disney is transforming their classic stories. Thanks to CGI technology, live-action adaptations, like Aladdin are enjoying their moment on the silver screen.

Is Disney in the middle of their second Renaissance? Learn more about Walt Disney Studios and their movies, here.

Disney Women
Disney Women Paige O’Hara, Lea Salonga, Anika Noni Rose, and Jodi Benson | Photo by Richard Harbaugh/Disney Channel via Getty Images

Why is it called ‘The Disney Renaissance?’

Some say the Disney Renaissance technically began in 1989, when the film The Little Mermaid splashed across the silver screen. There, Princess Ariel fought for her independence and earned herself the Academy Award for “Best Original Music Score.”

For the next decade, Disney created animated movies with award-winning soundtracks and stories. What made these stories different from older movies, like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, was in part the humor, but also the characterization. Paige O’Hara, who voiced Belle, commented in an interview on how different her character was from previous Disney princesses.

“She was the first [princess] that wasn’t looking for a man, she was looking for adventure. [Belle] was an older princess, in her twenties instead of a teenager,” Paige O’Hara said. “She was just very liberated and very intelligent. And I just love the fact that she was the bookworm…there were all these firsts with her. I knew that Belle would be popular, I just had no concept of how popular and how big this film would be 25 years later!”

Pocahontas
Pocahontas on Disney Junior | Image by Disney Junior via Getty images

Disney made ‘The Lion King,’ ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ and ‘Pocahontas’ during the 1990s

You’d be surprised at how many iconic movies, branded as “Disney Classics” were made during the Disney Renaissance. The Nightmare Before Christmas premiered in 1993. The Santa Clause premiered in 1994. Additionally, Disney produced animated flicks, like Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King during this era.

The company turned some Disney movies created during the 1990s into stage productions. The Lion King, among other musicals, is enjoying one of the longest runs in Broadway history. Other films created during this time include The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Pocahontas, Tarzan, and Hercules.

Disney Channel's "Descendants 3"
Descendants 3 | David Bukach via Getty Images

Disney is remaking ‘The Lion King’ and ‘Mulan’ into live-action movies

There’s a reason why Disney remade Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast as live-action films. The original animated films broke box office records, creating a new space for children’s movies in the world of cinema. The 2017 adaptation of Beauty and the Beast was one of the highest grossing Disney movies to date, raking in over $500 million in domestic box office sales, according to Business Insider.

Other Disney movies from the 1990s will be remade into live-action films, including The Lion King, a film that tells the story of a lion cub on his way to becoming king. When it premiered, the film earned two Academy Awards, including “Best Music — Original Song” and the Golden Globe Award for “Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy.”

The remake of the film includes well-known actors and public figures, including Donald Glover, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, Seth Rogen, and Billy Eichner. It premieres in the United States on July 19, 2019.

The Disney film, Mulan, premiered on June 5, 1998. This movie, with iconic songs like “I’ll Make a Man Out of You,” also made Disney history with an empowering female protagonist. The live-action adaptation of this movie premieres in March 2020. 

Some say Disney is currently in its second renaissance, lasting from 2009 to 2019. Now, the company is creating a unique brand of empowering, diverse Disney characters, including Elsa from Frozen, Tiana from The Princess and the Frog, and Moana from her self-titled movie.