Walt Disney is a name we associate with all the films created by his company, which have shaped our lives in one way or another. Without the world success of Walt Disney Studios, it’s unlikely we would’ve gotten Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, Adult Swim, and most of the satirical and psychedelic animated offerings we have today.
The man was responsible for waking the fantastical imagination of children and adults all over the globe. Since his death in 1966, he’s been honored by numerous artists who see him as a pioneer of changing our perspective.
Here are a few reasons why the man behind Mickey Mouse is also the king of the psychedelic.
Mixing animation with classical music
Fantasia is considered as one of the best visual works of all time. It continues to astound the fact that it was made in 1940. It earned a cult following among the young people because of the relationship between drugs and the psychedelic. However, a more important fact is how Disney faced a wave of criticism from fans of classical music for using it in the piece. He fought with his employees to defend his vision that animation needed to be paired with massive musical scores.
Disregarding Fantasia not making back the investment
Disney was aware that his animation was a complex piece of art and that it was unlikely to grab the attention of young children. What he wanted was to create discussion among the adults by presenting a work that changed the way they thought about films. He took a chance and when Fantasia did not make back what he’d spent on its production, he kept to his guns. Disney was convinced he would continue to use classical music and complicated scenes in his movies. Eventually these became staples of his career.
His use of color was ahead of its time
While other animation artists used the same colors through their features, Disney pushed his animators to take their art to the limit. Among the creative director’s instructions were to use color psychology in the work. From Little Red Riding Hood, the color palettes created sensations that were stronger in the audience. Disney did not stop until those techniques were perfected and gave those characters’ expressions particular traits.
Used kids to continue experimenting
Audiences were impressed when Dumbo reached the movie theaters in 1941. In one of the scenes Dumbo, in a drunken stupor, goes on a psychedelic journey. That sequence, one of the most iconic moments in his career, also influenced the Hippie movement. When he faced backlash from his producers, he explained that children would not understand the complex aspect of the scene and would only see it as an appealing moment. It definitely did that.
Worked with Salvador Dalí
Walt met with Salvador in the decade of the forties. Together they were going to work on a short film called Destino, which had designs from the Surrealist artist. The encounter and collaboration prove Disney’s interest into a deeper form of art. The project did not surface until 2003, but both creators maintained a friendship for several year. Some point out Dalí as one of Walt’s biggest influences, which is evident in his work.
His influence in progressive music is undeniable
After the era of Jazz and Big Band, music returned in a basic state that only relied on a few instruments. Bands were made up of only four members, leading to the tradition of guitars, bass, and drums. But Disney refused to accept that, choosing to add classical music to his work to create more complex compositions. Despite how simple the instrumentals, the use of echoes and distortion mixed multilayered images that created the Disney brand.
He is still considered an example of experimental animation
Animation has evolved quite a bit since Disney's first creations. Japanese anime grew through those examples and there is not one artist who does not mention his name or work as an influence. Even those who experiment with different narration techniques have a bit of the psychedelic Disney spirit in them.
Currently, the Disney Company has left aside Walt’s experimental side. However, they’ve all learned from the past work. The man behind the mouse knew that changing the perception would do more than just grab people’s attention. He might’ve been misunderstood in his time, but the future would make his point.
Disney’s impact did not reach his film’s opening weekends. It came much later, when his vision had influenced different generations who created far more complex animations and even included music based on his films. There’s no doubt Disney is the King of the Psychedelic.
Translated by María Suárez