Evolution of Animation Film Posters from 1937 to Present

Movie posters, just like the movies themselves, have changed dramatically over the past seventy years. This post showcases a selection of advertising posters of some of the most well-known and greatest animated full length productions/movies known to man.

From Walt Disney’s first ever production (and still one of the most popular) ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs‘ back in 1937, to classics such as ‘Snoopy, Come Home!‘ in the early 1970’s, and of course the modern day whoppers such as ‘How To Train Your Dragon‘ released earlier this year. There’s something here for everyone, whether you’re an avid animation movie fan, an occasional viewer, or a graphic/media designer in search for some inspiration using trends ranging from 1937 to 2010 – that’s a lot of generations!

We love discussions here at SpyreStudios, so please make use of the comments section below by letting the other readers know what poster in this showcase is your favorite and why – do you prefer posters that were designed back in the mid twentieth century, or those that are completely computer generated in the modern twenty-first century? Let us know!

The 1930’s

The 30’s didn’t see many animated movies, and the only one that most people can say they’ve actually seen is the excellent ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’. Clear trends in the 30’s poster industry (by looking at this individual poster) were the use of white space (OK, so it’s not quite white) and bold, clear typography.

1937 – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

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The 1940’s

After the huge success of Disney’s ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs‘ the world started to see loads more animated movies, some of the most popular being Pinocchio, Dumbo and Bambi, a selection that most kids (and adults) of the modern day can say they’ve seen, probably several times! It’s safe to say that the poster industry had developed over those few years since the release of ‘Snow White‘, although a couple of which still make use of white space. Typography is one thing in the following posters that has a adapted quite a lot since the 30’s. As can be seen below, most of the film titles, such as ‘Fantasia‘, ‘Dumbo‘ and ‘Bambi‘ have all had various styles added to them such as shadows and strokes, giving the typography a three-dimensional element.

1940 – Pinocchio

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1940 – Fantasia

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1941 – Dumbo

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1941 – Mr. Bug Goes To Town

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1942 – Bambi

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1944 – The Caballeros

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The 1950’s

After the success of Walt Disney’s films in the 1940’s, we unsurprisingly saw a lot more of them in the 50’s. This section showcases a range of classics: ‘Cinderella‘, ‘Alice in Wonderland‘, ‘Peter Pan‘, ‘Lady and the Tramp‘ and ‘Sleeping Beauty‘. The styles used in the following posters are virtually the same of those in the 40’s, although we do start to see a little more vivid color instead of that old washed-out feel. Another trend that we can see developing is the use of grid design in the 1955 hit ‘Lady and the Tramp‘.

1950 – Cinderella

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1951 – Alice in Wonderland

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1953 – Peterpan

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1955 – Lady and the Tramp

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1959 – Sleeping Beauty

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The 1960’s

One of the most loved things about “vintage” design in the modern design industry is the use of borders, such as that used in the great ‘The Jungle Book‘ poster. The use of borders pull the whole piece together tremendously well, and brings out the colors in the poster very well. Other poster designs in the following section make use of white space and designing on a grid.

1961 – One Hundred and One Dalmations

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1963 – The Sword in the Stone

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1964 – Yogi Bear

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1967 – The Jungle Book

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The 1970’s

The 1970’s saw the release of several animated productions that weren’t produced by Walt Disney, such as ‘Snoopy, Come Home!‘, ‘Charlotte’s Web‘, ‘The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat‘ and ‘The Lord of the Rings‘. We saw borders being used a lot more in the 70’s, in several posters such as ‘The Aristocats‘, ‘Snoopy, Come Home!‘ and ‘The Lord of the Rings‘.

1970 – The Aristocats

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1972 – Snoopy, Come Home!

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1973 – Charlotte’s Web

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1974 – The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat

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1977 – The Rescuers

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1978 – The Lord of the Rings

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The 1980’s

We started to see some fantastic effects being used in the 1980’s, such as some interesting and slightly crazy depths of field, especially that used in the ‘Oliver and Company‘ poster. This particular technique helps to draw the viewer into the poster, and helps the viewer to pay attention to the main focal point (Oliver and various dogs in this case) without having to use a boring background.

1981 – The Fox and the Hound

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1986 – My Little Pony: The Movie

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1988 – Oliver and Company

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1989 – The BFG

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The 1990’s

One trend that is easy to spot in the following selection of posters (and a trend that is still used today) is minimalism, which can be seen in posters such as ‘Beauty and the Beast‘, ‘Antz‘ and ‘Toy Story 2‘. Out of these three posters, all but ‘Beauty and the Beast’ use a lot of whitespace and to draw your eyes into what’s important; the title and characters of the film, this can be seen in the ‘Antz‘ and ‘Toy Story 2‘ posters. Other than this, the 90’s animated movie posters had come a long way since the 80’s, generally using more computer-based software to create incredible rendered characters and scenes.

1990 – Jetsons The Movie

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1991 – Beauty and the Beast

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1992 – The Little Mermaid

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1994 – The Lion King

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1995 – Toy Story

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1997 – Hercules

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1998 – Antz

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1998 – A Bug’s Life

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1999 – Toy Story 2

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The 2000’s

The following selection of posters is from the millenium, previously known as the future to those who created the posters back at the beginning of this article in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s.

The animated film industry was thriving (and still is today) and a lot of great movies were released, including some huge hits such as ‘Monsters, Inc.‘, ‘Shrek‘, ‘Ice Age‘, ‘Finding Nemo‘, ‘Ratatouille‘, ‘Kung Fu Panda‘ and ‘Up‘. As you can most probably imagine before even scolling down and looking at the selection of movie posters, a lot of modern day trends and techniques have been used, and there isn’t a single ‘old fashioned’ technique to be seen, which goes to show how much we rely on computers these days.

Throughout the selection, minimalism can be spotted on a regular basis, as well as the use of patterns and lines to draw your eye into the main focal area – a good example of this is ‘Rataouille‘, where different knifes of all shapes and sizes are used to make your eyes look straight at the main character of the film, instead of wondering around elsewhere.

2000 – Chicken Run

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2000 – Rugrats in Paris

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2001 – Monsters, Inc.

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2001 – Shrek

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2002 – Ice Age

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2002 – Lilo and Stitch

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2003 – Brother Bear

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2003 – Finding Nemo

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2004 – The Incredibles

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2004 – Shark Tale

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2005 – Madagascar

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2005 – Robots

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2006 – Cars

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2006 – Flushed Away

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2007 – Bee Movie

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2007 – Ratatouille

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2008 – Bolt

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2008 – Kung Fu Panda

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2009 – Monsters vs Aliens

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2009 – Up

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The Present

Below is a small selection of animated movies that have been released this year or are still yet to be released. The selection includes ‘How To Train Your Dragon’, ‘Toy Story 3’ and ‘Shrek: The Final Chapter’, all of which are available to view at the cinema in 3D – maybe three-dimensional posters are going to be something we’ll be seeing a lot of in the coming years… What do you think?

2010 – How To Train Your Dragon

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2010 – Toy Story 3

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2010 – Shrek: The Final Chapter

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Your Turn To Talk

I hope you liked this post! Please take a moment to leave a comment below. Which posters are your favorites?

source: IMP Awards

Comments

  1. says

    I absolutely love this – such a mix of nostaglia and design interest all in such a simple post. Thank you for collating these. It is really interesting to see the trends and the way poster design for this medium has evolved over the years. I had also forgotten how beautiful some of the older posters were, especially those which use watercolour to depict the film.

    The psychedellic style of the Alice in Wonderland poster suits the film perfectly, as does the dramatic, romantic, operatic feel to the Beauty and the Beast poster. The simple simplicity of some of the more recent efforts such as Finding Nemo, Antz and Monsters Vs Aliens also shows that there are a range of approachs which work as well as the colourful fairytale style we often imagine these posters to take on.

    As animated films in the western world have moved further away from the traditional disney fairytale content and are often aimed at families or even teenage audiences, the approach to the posters design has also been affected – I think this is one of the main reasons why the minimalist stylised approach has been employed more often, as well as it just being a contemporary design trend.

  2. says

    Great round-up! I think it is neat to see the evolution of the Walt Disney logo too! I dont know about anyone else, but growing up with Disney, when I was younger I always thought the “D” in Disney was a backwards “G”. It was always a little confusing as a youngster. I still look at it that way.

  3. miguel says

    you know – there was a time, when one-sheets were hand crafted. save for a couple excepts (Yogi Bear) it seems like the late 1980s began a trend of characters mugging to camera/audience. i hate that. it’s a preference but the old posters from the late 30’s on seem to tell more of a story and not just some character staring back at you with cold, dead CG-Eyes.

    When the Bambi one sheet claims the film is “Enchanting Entertainment for Everyone” i can believe it cuz the characters are involved with each other and the look on Bambi’s face is full of wonder. compare that to Bolt – where it conveys something like this: “Hi i’m celebrity voice John Travolta playing a doggy character. I’ve got attitude and i’m gonna stare at you and smirk to prove it.”

    There’s no story here, no essence of what the movie is about. Modern movie posters in general fail at this. it may not be shiny, but I like the old shit.

    I will say this though – they got it right with “UP”.

  4. says

    the evolution is amazing!

    i have to admit, looking through all these posters brought back so many childhood memories. recently i have been re-watching some of these movies with my son, and its great to see that these classics will never disappear.

    …ju8ngle book, and dumbo are still my favorites…

  5. says

    I worked at Disneyland for 3 years, and I was always amazed that their designs always seemed so superb, and after decades the older posters still look great!

  6. says

    my favorite in your list are

    Snow white – I like the mood of washed effect of the detailed drawing

    The Nine Lives of Fritz The Cat – like the drawing and it captures interest – minus the loud border line

    Beauty and The Beast – simple, elegant, stunning and cinematic

    Finding Nemo – Creative, dramatic and has focus/direction

    for me, recent posters use loud colors that are distracting sometimes (thought they really attract attentions)

  7. says

    Great overview, Callum. Its always nice to see the intersection of animation and design, especially when it comes down to marketing, which in the case of these films are targeted at younger viewers. I’d be interested to see which of these poster designs have the most appeal to children.

  8. says

    Hard to say which is my favourite as they are all brilliant but what stands out in my mind after a quick look with my kids are: Dragons, Shrek, Aristocats, Antz and Sleeping Beauty.

  9. says

    scrolling from top to bottom really shows how those artworks are “evolving” and how it’s getting better and better. i just noticed that most posters especially the old ones are from walt disney. it’s nice to look how these posters are improving. though the first ones are still very impressive and artistic. come to think what tools they were using back then.

  10. says

    Wow, really very informative post. Lot of great collection of year wise posters. I like it very much. Thanks for sharing nice collection. Awesome….

  11. says

    Thanks to the advent of 3D. We are enjoying these films and marveling every detail of animation. One of my favorites here is Kung Fu Panda. I love its storyline and its fighting scenes. I really find the panda cute even in fighting. Great post. I’ve got to watch all of these.

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  1. Evolution of Animation Film Posters from 1937 to Present…

    Movie posters, just like the movies themselves, have changed dramatically over the past seventy years. Here’s a selection of posters of some of the greatest animated productions known to man….

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