Cinema: Walt's Precocious Progeny

Animated fantasy is once again spooky and spirited

In the beginning was Walt. With Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Disney established the rules of the movie-fantasy universe and anchored it in the fears and wonders of childhood. But Disney's success turned the innovator into a caretaker at the mausoleum of his own style. After his death, the studio limped along on audio-animatronic pilot, while the true heirs of the true Walt--canny kids like George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Jim Henson --updated the old master's tricks and made pots of dough. Now a new generation of Disney artists, some young enough to have made Star Wars, Close Encounters...

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