In the 1930s and early 1940s before the war, Walt Disney had Mickey Mouse, but he feared losing the rights to his blockbuster character, having already lost Oswald the Rabbit in a rights dispute.
He was also worried about having only one popular character, Looney Tunes was hot on his heels.
To remedy his concerns, the animation icon set a course that included high quality drawings with exquisite color, solid classic stories, and intricate animation. He also moved away from shorts and to full length animated movies.
The change was expensive. It almost broke him and his studio. But, for a while, it gave him competitive advantage. It made him a legend.
Of the films insiders consider his studios’ best animated films, four: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Fantasia, Pinocchio, and Bambi, were produced in that first decade of experimentation, and two more (Cinderella 1950 and Alice in Wonderland 1951) had to wait until after World War II, but still had many of the same animators who made Disney famous.
The other four of Disney’s top ten: The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King, were made in earlier eras, in transition to the Pixar explosion and fantastic, computerized special effects.
This list, however, is impossible to top with the tools available to the artists involved.