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The Disney Logo: A Brief History of Its Evolution and Variations

The Disney Logo: A Brief History of Its Evolution and Variations

It’s one of the most iconic opening credit logos of our time, that magical Disney logo. Every man, woman, and child can spot that castle and arced shooting star a mile away and know exactly by whom the movie was made, and ergo the quality of the film they’re about to watch. The sweeping instrumental version of “When You Wish Upon A Star” can even clue you in if you’re not facing the television set. It’s about as solid as branding goes and has yet to lose its charm after all these years. Ethan Jones created this decades-spanning retrospective:

The logo many of us remember, in its varying shades of blue with some white font, was introduced to moviegoers in 1985 alongside The Black Cauldron and was left largely unchanged for a decade. As someone who was born in ’85, I’ve never known a world where that logo didn’t precede a brand new Disney film. It wasn’t until 1995’s Toy Story, the instant classic resulted from the union of Pixar and Disney, that the logo was swapped out for something more thematic to the feature it introduced. This one featured for the first time a computer-animated castle, as well as the first time that castle was colored something other than light blue.

Soon after, more Disney movies began to get their own unique logo animation, with the now-nostalgic original lined castle and “Walt Disney Pictures” tag being used as a standard across all other movies. For instance, as you can see in the video above, Snow Dogs added some icicles to the arc. [Sidebar: As a fan of 30 Rock, I have to wonder what the logo that accompanies 5now Dog5 would look like. “Five-now-dog-five. Five-now-dog-five!”]

In 2006’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest “logo classic” was officially retired and “logo modern” was introduced. It was a fully computer-generated animation with the camera panning backward over lush kingdom scenery and then the top of the castle, eventually pulling back to reveal the full logo. For 25 seconds worth of animation, it was pretty damn magical in its debut. Since 2006, all variations have spawned from this version with only one major change to the logo: the wording. 2011 saw the company drop “Walt” and “Pictures” from the title (which I’m sure had him turning in his cryogenic chamber) leaving “Disney” as the sole moniker. The one variation that actually struck me as I watched it unfold in theaters was the silhouette of the logo castle in 2014’s Maleficent. The Angelina Jolie-led movie featured what I believe is an entirely different castle structure to the logo, as most others are very similar silhouettes. Granted, it could’ve just been a camera rotation trick to make it appear like the film’s unique castle. Either way, it’s a fun little quirk in a beautiful evolution of an iconic logo.

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