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How 1930s Animations Shaped Animations Today

“Art is a continuous activity with no separation between past and present”

Henry Monroe

Known as the golden age of animation, animations in the 1930s have had a significant influence on the course of the animation and film industries alike. 

From color and sound to characters and techniques, the golden age of animation took the underestimated art of animation and injected it with new life.

But why was the 1930s animation style so influential, and why is it making a major comeback today?

In this blog post, we explain animation in the 1930s and why it’s still a pivotal part of contemporary animation.

How the 1930s Animation Style Developed

The golden age of animation, which began just before 1930, came about due to hard times and complicated realities. 

The 1930s were ushered in by major political and economic crises that were the remnants of World War I, which lasted from 1914 to 1918.

world war I had a lot of effects on the entertainment and animation industry

GIF by Movies Across Time and Space via GIPHY

Following hot on the heels of World War I’s devastating effects, World War II piled further economic and political constraints on communities worldwide. 

While Americans were facing some of the highest unemployment and inflation rates ever experienced, the entertainment industry was taking off in surprising ways.

Animation, in particular, was evolving from a dying medium into a form of entertainment that could tickle the humor—and pull perfectly on the heartstrings—of the reeling masses. 

Walt Disney played a major role in pushing the limits that led to the golden age of animation. His approach to the craft-focused on weaving artistry, comedy, and drama into every animation produced by his studios.

Discover some ideas on adding the Disney spirit to your animations in our blog post, “6 Secrets Animators Can Learn From Disney Animators”

Explore more about the history of the 1930s animation style by watching Modern Mouse’s YouTube video: Disney Animation’s Golden Era Explained

Why Is 1930s Animation Important?

The 1930s animation style became known for: 

  • including sound and color in animations for the first time
  • more artistic character and background animation work
  • animated feature films
  • animation and special effects that were more organic and realistic.

These trademarks of 1930s animation are some of the most important components of what’s considered great animation today.

The never-before-seen features of animations in the 1930s drew audiences that were bigger and more inclusive than ever before. 

1930s animation of characters clapping

GIF by Maudit via GIPHY

This golden age of animation provided the perfect type of entertainment for the times—when people were seeking opportunities to escape from the realities of life and share a laugh with their loved ones. 

But the 1930s animation style didn’t stop once audiences started noticing. No! Over the following decade, animations in the 1930s would be refined and improved marvelously. 

During the earliest part of the golden era of animation, creating the stunning animations that came to be expected was time-consuming and required excessive funds. 

Take a look at this Paramount newsreel for a peek into animation in the 1930s: Animation in the 1930s

As animators found their groove, the 1930s animation style began to include time and money-saving processes like animation recycling and artistic simplification of animations. 

These approaches took 2D pencil animation to towering new heights and shattered the restrictions that had held back animators of the past. 

Get a better idea of how traditional 2D animation processes can make life easier for animators of today by reading our blog, “How a Traditional Animation Process Helps Freelancers”.

Animations Showcasing the Timeline of 1930s Animation Style 

Betty Boop

The darling of animation during the Great Depression, Betty Boop was a curvaceous character styled after the crooners of Jazz-Age culture.

Betty Boop is an icon of the golden age of animation because of the evolution she underwent during 1930s animation. 

betty boop was one of the pinnacle points of 1930s animation

GIF by allakinda via GIPHY

Betty changed from a dog to a woman, from skimpily clad to covered up, and from monochrome to colorful. 

The transformation of Betty Boop demonstrated how traditional animation styles could be upgraded to meet new-age audiences’ viewing needs.

Unfortunately, Betty Boop did not exit the golden age of animation on top. 

And while the animation had some spectacular components, Betty Boop served as one example of what not to do to fit in with the leading 1930s animation style. 

Take a look at Betty Boop’s debut appearance in the 1930s animation Dizzy Dishes

Mickey Mouse

Mickey Mouse kickstarted his career in 1928. 

This revered rodent is arguably the most popular animated character to ever strut across audiences’ screens. 

1930s mickey mouse reinvented in modern animation

GIF by Mickey Mouse via GIPHY

Mickey Mouse’s outstanding reputation has much to do with his smooth transition from a pre-golden era character to a post-golden one.

Mickey, of course, benefitted from the fact that his creators were driving the innovations of the golden era of animation. 

The studio secrets that bedazzled Disney’s animations were poured into Mickey and drove his rise to fame and immortality. 

Mickey’s evolution is an all-encompassing tutorial on how drastically animation in the 1930s improved. 

Snow White and The Seven Dwarves

With more than a little experience under their belts, the Disney studio was in full swing in the mid-1930s and looking for ways to crash right through the glass ceiling.

“Why not make a full-length film using only animation?” was the thought that set up shop in Disney animators’ minds and started the gears rolling at new neck-breaking speed. 

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves debuted in 1937 and staked its claim as Disney’s first-ever animated feature film. 

While the first known animated film is thought to have been created as early as 1917, Snow White garnered unrivaled adoration and heightened respect for the animation industry.

With its colorful artistry, spectacular sound, and realistic rendering, Snow White far surpassed any of the monochromatic animated films that had come before it. 

1930s animation introduced us to our disney princesses

GIF via GIPHY

This success of a 1930s animation catapulted Disney to international status and showed that animated films could pack a real punch. 

Pinocchio

Many animated films were produced after Snow White and were received with varying success. 

Pinocchio was unleashed on audiences in 1940, with high expectations attached to the film.

pinnochio was released in the 1940s but was animated in 1930s

GIF by JinxedPinokkio via Tenor

However, despite its exceptional artistic appeal and dramatic storyline, Pinnochio barely made a blip at the box office.

The cold reception of Disney’s newest animated film showed that something needed to be done. This stark reminder that no matter how good the animation was, it was still unfolding with the times. 

How 1930s Animation is Still Shaping Animation Today 

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1930s animations and their principles are still visible in the modern

GIF by palerlotus via GIPHY

Animation in the 1930s saw creativity peaking and realism setting the tone for stellar productions. 

It was a time when animators learned fast, and audiences discovered new and exciting things with every flicker of the camera shutter. 

This momentous time in entertainment taught professional animators tons about working with sound and color, as well as how to nestle 2D characters within the hearts of viewers, young and old. 

And these tricks of the trade are as relevant today as they were a century ago—all they need is a present-day spin!

Let 1930s Animation Add to Your Success as an Animator 

Why do we dream of singing with the animals like Snow White? How come Mickey Mouse’s squeaky voice can take us back to a better time? Why does seeing Bambi as a grown buck spark the slightest pride in every viewer's heart?

It’s because 1930s animations are a timeless representation of the human need to bask in the beauty, find fun, and experience excitement.

For animators, animation in the 1930s shows that innovation and effort can bring about the next best thing.

You can learn tons about the techniques and strategies used by the golden era of animations’ forerunners by working on your development as an animator.

Get clued up on the business side of things, and you’ll be sticking to the good-sense strategy that these forerunners employed too. Get started by taking our free masterclass, downloading our free marketing handbook, and checking out our blog on “How to Start an Animation Studio”!

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