The Typography of Disney Animation Logos #1: ‘Snow White’ and ‘Pinocchio’

Months ago, I did a post on the various logos that Pixar uses for their films. The interesting thing about Pixar logos? Usually just one is made for any given feature-length film, and minor variants are used on marketing materials. I was able to talk about all of their logos in one post…

Walt Disney Animation Studios is a whole different case, altogether.

For one, Disney Animation was firing on all cylinders before the pioneers of Pixar were even born. The likes of Alvy Ray Smith, John Lasseter,  Steve Jobs, Ed Catmull… With a lot of Disney’s older animated features, the logos used in the films themselves often didn’t appear on the posters… And because these films were made at a different time, they were theatrically re-released. With new posters accompanying these releases.

Then there’s home video. Video release covers for the older films often didn’t use the proper in-credits logos.

Given these few complications, I have decided to little by little look at the logos for the Disney animated classics, and spread my thoughts over a series of posts. This first post will focus on Walt Disney’s first two full-length animated features…

Before I go on, here is how the series will be outlined…

  1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Pinocchio
  2. Fantasia
  3. Dumbo and Bambi
  4. Saludos Amigos, The Three Caballeros, and Make Mine Music
  5. Fun & Fancy Free, Melody Time, and The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad
  6. Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan
  7. Sleeping Beauty, 101 Dalmatians, and The Sword in the Stone
  8. The Jungle Book, The Aristocats, and Robin Hood
  9. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, The Rescuers, and The Fox and the Hound
  10. The Black Cauldron, The Great Mouse Detective, and Oliver & Company

SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS

The Film Proper…

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For me, this is the definitive logo for this film. It’s a fantastic mix of German/Bavarian-like scripture, a general olden days fairy tale look, and careful spacing for the individual letters.

The Original Theatrical Poster…

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After having its world premiere on December 21, 1937, Snow White went into general release in February of 1938. The original poster is very nice, featuring pretty much the whole cast of the film. The logo, however, is rather simple compared to the lavish one used in the picture’s opening credits.

Re-releases: 1944-1958…

The wave of posters and promotional materials for the film’s first-ever theatrical re-release in 1944 strongly emphasizes comic relief character Dopey. The simplistic font sticks…

The text still sticks in the 1952 re-release posters… The emphasis on the dwarfs is still heavy.

You can actually see the letters themselves getting sharper and much less bubbly…

… The 1958 re-release poster doesn’t change things…

This was the first release of the film to be handled by Walt’s own distribution company, Buena Vista. RKO’s final Disney animated feature was 1953’s Peter Pan, they distributed a couple of shorts and live-action films up until roughly 1956.

My guess is that the poster designers didn’t wish to recreate what we see in the film. Perhaps they felt the more simplistic fonts were more marketable to an American audience?

The 1967 re-release was the first posthumous re-release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

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No major change in the fonts. For some reason, Disney’s poster designers still didn’t deviate from this simplistic type.

The 1975 and 1983 re-release posters…

Here’s where things begin to change…

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I think this is a sharp improvement over what we’ve seen in all the previous posters. For once, the text actually gives off a fairy tale vibe and rings much closer to the in-film logo. This logo was only used once in the film’s lifetime.

The film’s 1983 re-release introduces a look that seems like a precursor to what we’d see from the late 80s up until the late 1990s. It’s a very calligraphic font, and very fancy to say the least.

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Though nowhere near the film’s logo, it is a very nice design and I kind of wish that Disney would use it again somewhere.

The 1987 and 1993 re-releases, and the first home video release…

This one would stick around for quite a while.

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The font is certainly its own beast, but Disney liked it enough. For some people my age, it’s one of the first things you associate with the film. It also lines up nicely with the corporate Walt Disney font. By the late 1980s, this font was being used on pretty much every Disney theatrical poster.

What I like about this one is the size of the “S”, which I think makes it similar to the film logo. The spacing here works wonderfully.

Disney used it again for the 1993 re-release posters.

Snow_White_1993_Rerelease_Poster

1993 was the last time Walt Disney Pictures theatrically re-released Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in North America.

The logo was carried over to the home video premiere, which was in 1994.

The home video release went into the vault in the spring of 1995. Disney wouldn’t release the title again until DVD really began to take off. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs would be the very movie that launched Disney’s Platinum collection. A DVD line reserved for the studio’s best-selling and iconic animation features.

DVD and Blu-ray…

Simplicity is back… The 2001 Platinum Edition DVD and VHS cover keep the fairy tale feel, but this font is nowhere near as flashy and fancy.

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This edition of the film went out of print in early 2002. Being one of the special league titles, Disney wouldn’t release it again on home video for another seven years.

In 2009, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs kicked off the successor to the Platinum line, the “Diamond” collection. An even more simplistic font is used for all the cover variants…

I feel this font works as well, because the shape and composition keep that fantasy feel, with a slight hint of darkness, as it is one of Walt’s earlier films. While I appreciate the 2001 DVD cover’s overt fairy tale book scripture-like look, I do really like this one. It pops nicely, too, being a more 3D-looking logo.

Vaulting in 2010, Disney used the film to kick off the successor the Diamond collection: The Signature Collection. This font, unfortunately, doesn’t do it for me.

It isn’t an eyesore by any means, but it just feels… Generic. While you can argue the same about all the posters made prior to the film’s 1975 re-release, this font just doesn’t do it for me. I think it loses the fairy tale look, and I think it loses other qualities as well.

Wherever home media may be in in, say, 2023, I wonder what kind of font Disney will cook up for this film. Maybe they might go back and use a more classic one, maybe not. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs remains a fine example of a Disney film whose logo was re-done several times for posters and promotional materials. For me, the fairest of them all is the proper film logo, but the 1975, 1983, and 1987 print/posters logos all are excellent works on their own.

PINOCCHIO

The Film Proper and the Original Theatrical Release Posters…

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This one is perfection. Disney still keeps an old time fairy tale Europe look for the text, and it’s arranged so nicely on this title card.

Best of all, the original theatrical release posters… Keep it!

… and also work the title card version of “Walt Disney” into them!

The 1945 re-release poster, however, gets rid of it!

Re-releases from the 40s, 50s, and 60s…

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Definitely more showy and 40s in a way, and while there’s nothing wrong with the logo they choose, I feel it doesn’t quite line up with the movie’s aesthetics.

The 1954 re-release poster sort of goes back to the original logo, but keeps it simple…

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Interesting note that the 1945 and 1954 re-releases of the movie seem to bill it as “Walt Disney’s Wonderful Adventures of Pinocchio“… Certainly strange. Maybe it was an attempt to help the picture sell better, because Pinocchio had flopped on its initial release due to World War II and the high budget of the film. During these very re-releases, Pinocchio was able to make back the amount it had cost to make.

Disney oddly re-used the 1962 re-release poster for the 1971 re-release’s campaign. The fonts in both don’t deviate much from the 1954 poster.

Seven years later, we see a nice change of pace.

Re-releases from the 1970s and onward…

Perhaps fitting, for Snow White‘s mid-70s re-release finally did away with the rather bare-bones fonts that were being used on posters.

pinocchio1978poster

This is a neat little font that keeps the old world feel, and much like the 1975 Snow White poster font, it’s just shapes really. Really, both films’ poster logos evolved similarly.

The 1984 re-release poster has the perfect logo. See, you can translate an originally-complex logo design into something simple with much success, and I think the poster below proves it…

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The woodcarving-looking Pinocchio head below adds a fantastic touch. Disney re-used the logo for the film’s 1985 home video premiere, and it works perfectly there too!

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The video release of Pinocchio vaulted in early 1986, came back for a brief period during the holiday season of that same year, and then officially vaulted in spring 1987. This didn’t mark the end of the film’s theatrical life in North America, though. After Snow White‘s big restoration in 1987, Disney turned to Pinocchio. Its restoration was released theatrically in the summer of 1992, it was the last US re-release of this picture.

Two posters were made for this re-release. The strategy mirrored the marketing Disney did for Beauty and the Beast, which was released in the fall of 1991 and was a smash hit. Perhaps Disney’s marketing and designers felt that a similar approach could be used for the restoration of one Disney’s greatest cinematic achievements.

See, Beauty and the Beast was given two prominent posters during its pre-release marketing campaign: There was a more serious poster designed by John Alvin, a painterly, silhouette-like image of Belle and the Beast dancing. The other was much more colorful and perhaps much more kid-friendly, with Belle and the enchanted objects by a chalky-looking lake with the castle in the far background, and the Beast integrated into the clouds.

Pinocchio‘s 1992 re-release got a serious poster and a fun one. Here’s the more epic one, which Alvin also designed.

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Look at the font there. Definitely complements the image, and also looks very universal and fairy tale-like in some ways. This was the logo used for the trailers, too. The trailer was later recycled for the restored film’s subsequent home video release.

Here’s the more “fun” poster…

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The logo here kind of reminds me of the 1978 poster’s logo. A decent one to say the least. This one kind of sets the precedent, the font we’ll be seeing on a good number of the ensuing home video releases of this film.

Now we get to the 1993 home video release, which uses a nice font…

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Definitely fairy tale-esque. It’s a shame they didn’t re-use this one for future releases.

Pinocchio vaulted again in early 1994. It returned to home video – contrary to what Disney warned buyers – in 1999, as a “Limited Issue” DVD. A short-lived line of Disney DVD releases of the animated classics.

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The same cover was re-used for the 2000 DVD and VHS release, which was part of the short-lived Walt Disney Gold Classic Collection. No need to show it here, it’s the same exact cover except that “Limited Issue” banner is replaced with the “Gold Classic Collection” one.

The font is also used for the 2009 Platinum Edition DVD and Blu-ray covers, but is given a more 3D appearance.

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But the 2009 Platinum Edition Steelbook? Whole other story…

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This font rings closer to the one used for all the Diamond Edition covers for Snow White, which was released mere months after this was. I feel the same way about it, too… Very fairy tale and fantasy-like, with a slight hint of darkness. It almost looks like a logo you’d see for a current fantasy film. If Disney ever theatrically re-released this film in the digital age, they could very well use this for the posters and trailers!

Pinocchio is back on video, after being on moratorium for about seven years. The Signature Collection edition goes the Snow White route, going for a very simplistic font that just doesn’t quite do it for me.

You can see it’s a little more stretched out on the Best Buy exclusive cover. I haven’t been fond of Disney’s Blu-ray covers as of late, so I think this kind of continues that trend.

I feel that both features’ logos evolved and changed in similar ways. The films had the lavish ones, 50s and 60s posters used more basic ones, but then we saw more stylized ones in the 70s and 80s, only for the designers to slowly slip back into simplicity.

Will the next set of features follow the same path? Tune in next time!

(All images and photos of various posters and video covers belong to their respective owners.)
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5 thoughts on “The Typography of Disney Animation Logos #1: ‘Snow White’ and ‘Pinocchio’

  1. Wow, you should write a book about this with your knowledge of all this typography!

    Yeah, the first one I think of for Snow White is also the one for the first home video release.

    And wow, that 1992 Pinocchio re-release one is quite misleadingly epic, lol!

    Like

  2. Pingback: The Typography of Disney Animation Logos #2: ‘Fantasia’ | Kyle Loves Animation and More…

  3. Pingback: The Typography of Disney Animation Logos #3: ‘Dumbo’ and ‘Bambi’ | Kyle Loves Animation and More…

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