Sitting in a movie theater watching the usual half hour of trailers, you get the idea that there are a poopload of animated features coming soon to your local AMC, because there are a whole lot of animated trailers touting them.
Ten years back, the Mainstream Media got it into its large, dim head that the Second Golden Age of animated features happened during the decade that straddled the late 1980s through the bulk of the 1990s. Disney, Bluth, DreamWorks Animation, Turner, Warner Bros., all of them were turning out bright, hand-drawn cartoons of the ninety minute variety.
But as impressive as it all seemed at the time, the numerical output and quality is but small potatoes compared to the animated features coming at us in the soon-to-be future ...
Let's do a little inventorying, shall we? First, the olden days, and the tally of animated feature created in the U.S. of A. when Franklin Roosevelt ruled with a benevolent hand.
The first "Golden Age of Animation," -- 1937-1942 --saw exactly six full-length animated features made. (I'm not counting the two Fleischer P0peye featurettes, nor Fanatasia or The Reluctant Dragon, since those were compilation features.) Here's the list:
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Mr. Bug Goes to Town
And that's it. A paltry half-dozen, after which the production of same stopped dead for twelve-plus years, until Cinderella rolled into neighborhood Bijous during the age of Milton Berle. Thereafter, Uncle Walt pretty much had the feature playground to himself for the next few decades because nobody else was making them. (Oh sure, there were occasional pretenders to the throne like Yellow Submarine and the Magoo Arabian Nights feature, but by and large it was Disney, Disney, Disney.)
Then in the 1980s, Don Bluth decamped from the House of Mouse and began producing a long string of animated features on his own, and Katzenberg/Eisner arrived at Disney where they ended up revitalizing the basic hand-drawn program. After that, of course, there was the frenetic nineties where huge grosses for the newer Disney product had everyone and his Aunt Tilly opening animation studios in their own quest for big pots of gold.
Which brings us to the 21st century ... and now. And take a look at the animated extravaganzas that are in theaters as I write ... or will be over the next thirty-three months:
Monsters Vs, Aliens
The Battle for Terra
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs
The Princess and the Frog
How to Train Your Dragon
Shrek Goes Fourth
Ice Age 3
Toy Story 3
Kung Fu Panda 2
Green Eggs and Ham
The Bear and the Bow
If I'm adding correctly, that's nineteen features over thirty-three months, the seventeen without asterisks produced wholly in Aux Etats Unis. (No doubt I've left a few specimens out, but this is a damn blog post, not an article for the Atlantic Monthly.)
And if you include the features in release between January 1, 2009, and December 31, 2011, the total bumps up to include Bolt and the French feature The Tale of Despereaux. A grand total of twenty-one.
Now. Compare that number to the first dozen years of cartoon features, when a big six got made. Another wrinkle to that first Golden Era? Way more live-action features were being ground out by Hollywood then than get made today. Way more.
Which makes the current rate of output even more amazing, at least to me.
So if you want to talk about Golden Ages for longish cartoons, in a commercial sense there is one that towers over the rest, and we happen to be living in it.
Add On: Then there's Christmas Carol from Disney/ Image Movers Digital at Christmas.