This paper compares and contrasts two animated films. The first, Walt Disney Studios' Peter Pan, is one of a series of animated musicals created by the studio that defined the genre of feature-length cartoons. The film is typical of the mainstream, studio-produced animation that continues to be the benchmark for such productions. It stands in contrast to Rick Park's A Close Shave, a British-produced independent film done in the Claymation style. While the two share some structural similarities, they offer an intriguing example of the differences in sensibilities, aesthetic concerns, and marketing interests between mainstream and independent productions.
Released in 1953, Peter Pan was the ninth feature-length animation to come out of the Walt Disney Studios. It was based roughly on J. M. Barrie's play about a boy who refused to grow up and who lived in Never Never Land, constantly on the lookout for the crafty Captain Hook. Leonard Maltin notes that, at Disney, "a tremendous amount of thought went into every animated feature before any footage was shot" (74), and evidence suggests that preparation for the film had begun as early as 1935. He describes the resulting production: "This handsome, sure-footed retelling of the James Barrie fantasy, with its durable characters like Tinker Bell and Captain Hook, and consistently attractive production design, was one of the studio's most likeable films" (73).
Walt Disney was the pioneer of feature-length animated films. Before he released Snow White and the Seven Dwarves in 1937, few believed that an audience would be willing to sit through a full-length cartoon, especially an audience of adults. Disney proved the viability of the long form through close attention to detail and an ongoing perfectionism that sometimes frustrated his animators. Eventually, his optimistic viewpoint and cheery championing of American values brought him heavy criticism.