The Golden Age Of Animation is a period in animation history that began with the advent of Steamboat Willie on November 18th 1928 also with Fleischer's, Warner's and MGM's rise to prominence in the years following. It faded out in the late 1950s / early 1960s when theatrical animated shorts slowly began losing ground to the new medium of television animation.
Many memorable characters emerged from this period, including Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, Donald Duck, Daffy Duck, Popeye, Betty Boop, Woody Woodpecker, Mighty Mouse, Mr. Magoo, Tom and Jerry, and a popular adaptation of Superman, among many others that haven't survived along the way. Feature length animation also began during this period, most notably with Walt Disney's first films: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo, and Bambi.
Prior to 1928, animation was a dying novelty; less than 23% of theaters carried animated short subjects, and the demand wasn't high for them; Felix the Cat and Out of the Inkwell were the only series of prominence during this period, and even they were starting to lose steam by the closing of the twenties. Max Fleischer, creator the Inkwell series, was a principal investor in Red Seal Pictures which was a distribution company that produced a variety of films not limited to animation, until it went defunct in 1927. This came shortly after Max was experimenting with animated lip-synch through his groundbreaking animation series Song Cartunes— namely with their final effort By The Light of the Silvery Moon. The series, which lasted from 1924 - 1927 although synchronized sound wasn't incorporated until 1926, is argued by many to be the first sound animation, although that distinction could arguably be credited to Princeton Sound Test of 1925 and some of Edison's obscure animation experiments with cut-out animation which had sound incorporated into it.
Regardless Max's series pioneered the use of the bouncing ball. Ironically, Lee Dee Forrest's sound on film process which Fleischer used had been patent infringed by Pat Power's (this is how the cinephone came to be) and sold to Disney. After Song-Cartunes and Red Seal Distribution company went under, Max didn't have the necessary funds to pay back the film labs to have the negatives returned, so Alfred Weiss took care of the payments and help establish a deal with Paramount Pictures, which lasted until the Fleischer's company was acquired by them in 1942. Pat Sullivan, owner of the Felix cartoons, was mourning the death of his wife, and his addiction to booze made it increasingly difficult to discuss business matters with him, even moreso after his subsequent mental degeneration, and death. So in all likelihood this played a role in him not seeing the potential of sound.
Paul Terry incorporated sound within the release of Dinner Time, a month before the release of Steamboat Willie. However, it lacked the appeal and believability of the latter film due to it being post-synchronized, meaning the sound was synchronized after the animation had been completed, making the characters feel out of place. Paul Terry was encouraged by Amadee Van Beuren to continue producing sound animation, but he rejected the offer and was fired on the spot. He then decided to start a business partnership with Frank Moser, noted for being an exceedingly fast animator with a huge output, leaving John Foster to lead Amadee's department.
This gave Walt Disney the leverage he needed to progress within the industry. Charles Mintz rejected his proposal to raise the budget on his Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoons, and threatened to lower the budget and recruit his staff including Harman And Ising and Friz Freleng. Walt persevered, and managed to have Ub Iwerks provide him drawings that would serve as the groundwork for Mickey Mouse. They had produced Plane Crazy and Gallopin Gaucho without much praise or reception, when doing a silent release for Steamboat Willie. They came to the conclusion that the only way to have Mickey ever be marketable was to exploit the profitability of sound film. Steamboat Willie was derived from Steamboat Bill, Jr., a Buster Keaton feature of the day also the title of a novelty song by Arthur Collins.
Meanwhile, Charles Mintz was not fulfilling his promise to improve the state of Oswald for Universal, and thus had the carpet pulled out from under him. The series was given to Walter Lantz after he won a poker game against owner Carl Leammel. Lantz, who started his animation career at the International Film Service at Hearst, collaborated with J.R. Bray on such series such as Dinky Doodle and Unnatural History, and was a gag writer for Mack Sennett. Lantz in collaboration with Bill Nolan produced the remaining Oswald Rabbit shorts beginning in 1929 and lasting into 1937note with a failed revival attempt in 1943, around this point Tex Avery began making his earliest creative contributions to the field of animation; His work is easily noticeable through such entries like Grandma's Pet and Towne Hall Follies. In many instances Avery filled in for Bill Nolan when it came to directing duties. Bill Nolan departed Lantz in 1935, he later resurfaced in Max Fleischer's Miami venture in the late thirties where he was credited as an animator for Gulliver's Travels.
Early cartoons were very musically oriented and simply drawn, for obvious reasons—animation was an expensive medium and in order to remain profitable, the cartoons had to be produced and rushed out as quickly as possible, with little time for refinement—using public domain music (or in Harman and Ising's case, the entire Warner Bros. music library) solved the music problem, allowing song snippets to be quickly added and timed to the animation. Color got off to a slow start: while cartoons were initially hand-colored on occasion in the past (e.g. in the works of Winsor McCay), it wasn't until the appearance of the animated segment of the 1930 Universal film The King of Jazz, that the first cartoon to make use of the (two-strip) Technicolor process appeared. Then in 1930, former Disney veteran Ub Iwerks brought color to standalone sound cartoons via the first Flip The Frog cartoon "Fiddlesticks." for MGM studios. A few years later, Disney followed suit with its lushly colored Silly Symphonies short "Flowers And Trees"—however, studios like Warner Bros. , Fleischer and 20th Century Fox's Terrytoons would stick to black & white until many years later.
But regardless of the rising quality of cartoons, they were still relegated to be merely filler material that played before the main attractions of feature length films, however, and animation wasn't getting the treatment it truly deserved. Walt Disney went out of his way to put a stop to that notion—he was constantly pushing technical boundaries in his cartoons, in an attempt to be the best studio out there-he quickly abandoned the old fashioned weightless rubberhose cartoons and began integrating more naturalistic techniques into his works, which contributed to his wide success. However, Walt soon came to realize that no matter how much effort he put into these shorts, they would never be particularly profitable—this was because the shorts' wages depended on the length of the film, rather than popularity. Thus came Walt's next big step for animation—in 1934, he began work on America's first feature length animated motion picture and finished it just in time for Christmas 1937: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
While the idea of a feature length animated film was nothing new to foreign countries, and the Fleischers made their own 20 minute short feature the year before, this was the first one to have both sound and color, and had shockingly high quality animation and art productions which blew all of the competition away and still manages to hold up to this day. That and Walt's simple yet effective story formula—use the characters to define the movie, and not have the plot define the movie. While Snow White was originally derided during production as Disney's Folly, even by his own wife, when the film unspooled in theaters, it was an instant success, receiving universal praise from critics and audiences and for its time was the most financially successful motion picture ever made.
But all was not well, for Disney's influence was a very mixed blessing for the whole industry. On one hand, it began building on the idea that animation could compete with live action in a way that earlier cartoons could not, but on the other hand, the animation became much, much more expensive and also required much more skilled draftsmen, robbing many animators from previous years of their jobs, due to no longer being able to keep up with the high demands of their studios. Also, almost every studio from the time period—sans Terrytoons—began copying Disney's works. Soon, everybody, from the Fleischer brothers, MGM's big budget studio led by former Disney veterans Harman And Ising, to even low budget outlets like Walter Lantz, Van Beuren Studios and the Ub Iwerks studio were trying to ape Disney. Nonetheless, all of these attempts led to dead ends, as those studios only copied the superficial aspects of Disney cartoons—the fairytale-like settings, color and lush animation, but none of Disney's character or storytelling skills which helped make them such a hit to begin with.
Fortunately for the other studios, the tables were turned on Disney when rising star Bugs Bunny made his debut in 1940, incidentally the same year when Disney experienced the disastrous failures of Pinocchio and Fantasia. Soon, Looney Tunes became the prime cartoon series of the era, complete with other studios trying to cash in on this new breed of gag cartoons, including the then struggling Disney, among them being Walter Lantz's Woody Woodpecker, Tex Avery's MGM shorts, Tom and Jerry, Columbia Cartoons' The Fox And The Crow, Herman And Katnip, among many other imitators. Despite the limitations in budget, resources and manpower due to the War effort of the time, many animation connoisseurs consider the 1940s to be the peak of this era, where comedic timing and fluid animation was easily at its highest point in animation history.
To some, the decline of this era began at some point in the early 1950s. Due to rising production costs and changing tastes, animators were forced to cut more and more corners in their work and gradually adjust to the newer styles coming out at the time. UPA's excessive use of Limited Animation in The Fifties actually rose to popularity. The rise of television didn't appear to help matters either. Eventually, with the inevitable Fall of the Studio System that had managed cartoons before, cartoons gradually declined in quality, and as a result began to fall out of popularity in theaters. Banished to television, they looked like mere shadows of their former glory. But helpwas onthe way.
For a more comprehensive history of the era, visit The Other Wiki's take of it here.
For this era's precursor, go to The Silent Age of Animation. For its successor, check out The Dark Age of Animation. And for a taste of some of the best cartoons this era has to offer, take a gander at The 50 Greatest Cartoons and The 100 Greatest Looney Tunes lists. For the live action film equivalent of this era, visit The Golden Age of Hollywood.
Mickey Mouse (1928-1953): Appeared in 125 short subjects from 1928 to 1953, made three feature length film appearances note Those being "Hollywood Party", "The Sorceror's Apprentice", and "Mickey and the Beanstalk" and was the initial big star of Disney.
Silly Symphonies (1929-1939): A pioneering series of cartoons, generally centered around synchronized music, and used to experiment with animation techniques. Lasted from 1929 to 1939 for 75 shorts. Inspired many knockoffs and imitations in the 30s.
The Reluctant Dragon (1941): A feature made prior to Dumbo in an attempt to make some quick cash for Disney, the bulk of it is centered around journalist Robert Benchley, who is touring Disney's then-new Burbank studio in an attempt to sell the story "The Reluctant Dragon" as a movie, all while getting a humorous behind-the-scenes look at the animation process, complete with a few animated segments, the most noteworthy being the "Baby Weems" segment, told entirely through storyboards with almost no animation.
Seaman Hook: Another series made by the studio that lasted for four shorts—three of them were made by Leon's studio, while one was outsourced to the Walter Lantz studio. The main character was also designed by Dennis the Menace (US) creator Hank Ketcham.
Whens Your Birthday (1937): A live action film with an animated sequence in the opening, which was directed by Bob Clampett.
She Married A Cop (1939): Features a trip through an animation studio (undoubtably Termite Terrace, although the story claims it is a New York Cartoon Studio) complete with an animated cartoon featuring ersatzes of Porky and Petunia Pig.
Two Guys From Texas (1948): Features an animated segment, where Bugs Bunny makes a cameo.
My Dream is Yours (1949): While the bulk of it is a live action feature film, it has a live action / animation segment starring Bugs Bunny.
The Captain And The Kids: The first series of cartoons produced by the new in-house MGM cartoon studio. This was a disasterous series of short subjects adapted from the Katzenjammer Kids comics. Friz Freleng directed some of these during his brief tenure at MGM, and could attest that they warranted failure.
Count Screwloose: A very short lived series based on Milt Gross's classic comic characters "Count Screwloose of Tooloose and J.R. The Wonder Dog" made in an attempt to make up for the failure of The Captain And The Kids. Milt himself was hired to direct both shorts.
Anchors Aweigh (1945): A mostly live action film, most notable for the famous sequence of Gene Kelly dancing with Jerry Mouse.
Dangerous When Wet (1953): Another live action film featuring a Roger Rabbit Effect sequence, featuring Esther Williams alongside Tom and Jerry underwater.
Invitation to the Dance (1956): A Gene Kelly film featuring several very well done Roger Rabbit Effect sequences.
MGM Oneshot Cartoons: MGM also made many unsorted shorts that were not part of any running series, even before Tex Avery arrived at the studio, works such as "Officer Pooch", "The Homeless Flea", "Little Buck Cheeser", "The Mad Maestro", "The Stork's Holiday", "Peace on Earth" and so on.
Barney Bear: An unfortunate Chew Toy character created by Rudolph Ising at MGM, right around the time the studio began to make its cartoons more comical and less cutesy. Barney Bear starred in several shorts between 1939 and 1954, but these shorts are often overshadowed by Tom and Jerry and Tex Avery's MGM shorts.
Talkartoons (1929-1932): A series of sound cartoons initially starring recurring dog character Bimbo. Eventually evolved into the Betty Boop series.
Screen Songs (1929-1938): A series of early sound cartoons that used Max's bouncing ball. Screen Songs would later be revived by Famous Studios.
Betty Boop (1932-1939): One of the Fleischer brothers' most popular characters, and the first sex symbol of animation... that is, until the Hays Office cracked down on the series from 1934 and onward, forcing the Fleischers to turn Betty into a bland nagging female character. Betty was also one of the favorite characters of anime legend Osamu Tezuka. The Fleischers' original Silent Age cartoon star Koko the Clown would also make frequent appearances in her early shorts.
Popeye the Sailor (1933-1942): While the Fleischers didn't create the character (he was a popular comic character of the time) they helped mold him into what he's best remembered as today.
Color Classics (1934-1941): A series of Silly Symphonies clones made by the Fleischers due to Executive Meddling from Paramount. These shorts also feature a 7 short sub-series called "Hunky and Spunky", starring the eponymous mother burro and her baby. Betty Boop also made an appearance in the first one.
Mr. Bug Goes to Town (1941): The Fleischers' second—and last—animated film, which had the misfortune of being released just when Pearl Harbor was around the corner (two days to be exact), not to mention the lack of promotion from Paramount. As a result, the film tanked at the box office and was part of what brought Fleischer Studios to its demise.
Gabby (1940-1941): A short lived series based on the town crier from Gulliver's Travels.
Animated Antics (1940-1941): A short lived series, largely composed of oneshot shorts. Two of them would feature characters from Gulliver's Travels.
Stone Age (1940): A short lived series of Caveman themed cartoons.
Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy (1941): A two-reeler short subject centered on the characters.
Oswald the Lucky Rabbit (1929-1938, 1943): Initially made as a Silent Age cartoon star by Walt Disney, when his creator left he fell into the hands of Walter Lantz, the head of Universal's animation department, after Oswald had been taken from Charles Mintz's studio "Winkler Pictures" at that time, after Mintz had taken Oswald from Disney beforehand. While he would continue making appearances throughout the thirties, he never regained his original popularity he earned under Disney's watch. The character was fairly popular early on, but was gradually phased out by 1938, with an ill-fated revival attempt circa 1943 (with the exception of a brief cameo in The Woody Woodpecker Polka during the early 50's).
The King of Jazz (1930): Not the whole film, but the opening animated technicolor segment, the very first use of Technicolor in a cartoon, in fact.
Pooch the Pup (1932-1933): 13 short comedies that were probably meant to give Lantz another star besides Oswald.
Peterkin: A oneshot short starring a character created by William Pogony, an attempt to launch a new star for Lantz.
Meany, Miny and Moe (1936-1937): A series of 13 shorts centered around a trio of monkeys, who initially appeared in four Oswald shorts.
Jock and Jill
Andy Panda (1939-1949): Universal and Walter Lantz's second major cartoon star after the Oswald series ran out of gas. Initially popular when he debuted in 1939, the cub almost as quickly fell out of popularity when Woody Woodpeckermade his debut in one of his shorts. He would still pop up in the occasional short afterwards until he was completely phased out by 1949 (with the exception of a non-speaking cameo in The Woody Woodpecker Polka along with Oswald during the 50s, as well as an appearance in the Woody Woodpecker show special Spook-a-Nanny).
Woody Woodpecker (1941-1972): Lantz's attempt at cashing in on theScrewy Squirrel craze of the early 40's, which resulted in a beloved series of short subjects, making Woody a huge star and the official mascot of Universal Studios. He starred in 195 shorts.
Chilly Willy (1953-1972): Another popular Universal cartoon character that debuted in the 50s. While this cute lil' penguin never reached the popularity of Woody Woodpecker, he did last long enough to get 50 shorts. Tex Avery (after he left MGM) also directed two of his early cartoons, helping establish an identity for the series.
Cartune Classics (1934-1942, 1953-1957): An on-and-off series of oneshot cartoons. Lasted for 51 shorts.
Swing Symphonies (1941-1945): A 14 short series of musically oriented cartoons, often themed around top boogie woogie songs.
Musical Miniatures (1946-1948: A short lived offshoot of Swing Symphonies, but themed around classical music. Only lasted for six shorts.
Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein: The studio animated the opening cartoon sequence for the film.
Sioux City Sue (1947): A B-Western with a brief animated sequence done by Lantz.
Destination Moon (1950): Woody Woodpecker makes a brief appearance, in his newly redesigned form, via an animated sequence explaining rocket propulsion.
Pete Pelican: Another attempt at a series by Tashlin, but only lasted for two shorts.
Li'l Abner: A brief attempt at an adaptation of this comic was attempted in 1944, but was ultimately a failure.
The 40s Columbia studio also made many other oneshots or short lived attempts at launching potential new series, far too many to list here individually.
In the late 40s, in Columbia's live action Superman serials, there would be a bizarre use of the Roger Rabbit Effect, that when Superman takes flight, he turns into an animated version of himself (done due to budget constraints). These animated bits were done by ex-Disney veteran Howard Swift.
Mr. Magoo of UPA-The most famous short sighted old person. He got his start in short animated films towards the tail end of the Golden Age.
Flip The Frog: A series of animated shorts made by Ub Iwerks after he left Disney to make his own animation studio. Distributed, but not made, by MGM.
Willie Whopper: Another series made by Ub Iwerks, starring a young little boy. Also distributed by MGM.
Comi Color Cartoons (1933-1936): A 25 short series made by Ub Iwerks after he lost MGM as his cartoon distributor in favor of Harman And Ising's shorts. These cartoons being distributed through Pat Powers's "Celebrity Pictures." Predictably, the series was Iwerks' answer to Disney's Silly Symphonies shorts.
Aesop's Fables, AKA "Aesop's Film Fables", which introduced one of the earliest sound cartoons, "Dinnertime", as well as hosting its sub-series "Cubby Bear."
Amos N' Andy: A short lived attempt at adapting the popular radio show of the 30s.
The Little King: An animated adaptation of the classic Newspaper Comic strip.
Toddle Tales: A very short lived Roger Rabbit Effect-based series of cartoons made by Burt Gillett to help beef up the quality of Van Beuren's product.
Rainbow Parade: A color series of cartoons, which include obscure series like Toonerville Old Folks and Parrotville Old Folks. Many of the non-series Rainbow Parades are obvious knockoffs of Disney's Silly Symphonies, typical of the 1930s.
Felix the Cat: While Felix was very prominent in the silent era, the rise of sound film ultimately proved to be his downfall. However, he did receive a very brief three-cartoon revival via Van Beuren Studios' "Rainbow Parade" series during the 1930s. Unfortunately, despite the decent animation and use of sound, the shorts lacked the charm and spirit of the original Otto Messmer shorts and comics and Felix was hastily put back to rest again...until he was revived for a new TV series in the late 1950s/early 60's, ironically. These three shorts were directed by ex-Disney veteran Burt Gillett.
Toby the Pup: Initially produced by the Charles Mintz studio, a very cartoony, but short-lived series. Only twelve were made, and seven of those twelve are known to exist today.
The Romer Grey Studio: A very short lived studio, notable for being the first studio Robert McKimson worked at. Only two films were made by it, and both are lost. More info about this esoteric studio can be found in this article.
The Ted Eshbaugh Studio: A very obscure, short lived early 30s California-based studio. Notable for producing some of the earliest color cartoons, such as "Goofy Goat Antics"— Stillborn Franchise that never went beyond one short.
The John Sutherland Studio: An obscure industrial film producing animation studio.
Bray Studios: Continued to produce industrial films during this era.
The Jam Handy Studio, an industrial film company located in Detroit. In 1948, it would make the first animated adaptation of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. During the 40s to the 60's, the studio provided work for Max Fleischer, after he was booted out of his own studio.
Alexander Film Co.: An esoteric colorado-based animation studio that produced many theatrical advertisements. Info on this studio can be found here.
Bob Clampett Productions: A studio started up by the ex-Looney Tunes director in the late 40s. It only managed to produce one short, "It's A Grand Old Nag", for Republic Pictures.
Shamus Culhane Productions: A TV studio started by the veteran that produced thousands of TV spots and commercials.
Joe Oriolo Productions: A TV studio started by ex-Fleischer/Famous animator Joe Oriolo in the very late 50s. Most notable work was the TV revival of Felix the Cat. This studio became a hang-out for many ex-Famous Studios staffers.
Hanna-Barbera: The studio started in 1958, a year after MGM's animation department closed. First TV cartoon made was the esoteric Ruff and Ready.
The Snow Queen (1957): A russian animated adaptation of the classic Hans Christian Andersen story. Was dubbed in english in 1959, during the twilight years of this era. Its lush art and animation were undoubtably a standout from the more stylized animation of the time period, almost being a throwback to 1930s Disney animation and its followers.
George Pal's Puppetoons: A series of Stop Motion short subjects. Bugs Bunny would make a cameo in one of them.
Grampaw Pettibone: An ultra rare series of Wartime Cartoons. At least two of these shorts still survive, one made by Warner Bros., the other made by UPA. See them here.
David Hand's Animaland: A series of British Disney-esque shorts. Only lasted for nine shorts, as they were unable to find distribution in the US.
Music Paintbox: Another series of foreign David Hand shorts.
Alice in Wonderland (1933): This live action Paramount Pictures film contains a brief animated segment adapting the tale of "The Walrus and the Carpenter", directed by Harman And Ising, and animated by Friz Freleng.
The Air Force Base Unit AKA First Motion Picture Unit: A military based animation studio lead by Rudy Ising, usually consisting of oneshot cartoons, although they did have a "star" character called Trigger Joe. The studio produced loads of films, but unfortunately due to them believing their films only had ephemeral value, little of their work has survived to this day.
Audio Productions: A little-known animation studio that produced the short "Once Upon a Time", which is an advertisement for Metropolitan Life insurance.
Animal Farm: The 1952 Animated Adaptation of the book, as well as the first widely released animated film from the United Kingdom.note A previous film, Stop Motion film Handling Ships, was only meant to be viewed by the British navy, so it was never publicly released in theaters.
Blogs and Websites Dedicated To This Era Of Animation
Animation Resources: A large, open to public animation museum, filled with juicy info and instructional materials from this era. You can find it here.
Classic Cartoons: A site full of frame grabs and old comics based on classic cartoon characters. Full of juicy, obscure stuff. See it here.
Deja View: A blog ran by Disney animator Andreas Deja. Dedicated mostly to classic Disney, particularly the work of Disney's Nine Old Men. See it here.
Duck Walk: A website with observations of old cartoons. See it here.
Inkwell Images: A classic cartoon DVD company founded by animator and historian Ray Pointer, its main claim to fame being its Out of the Inkwell collections. You can find it here.
Jerry Beck's Cartoon Research: A classic cartoon website run by animation historian and Cartoon Brew founder Jerry Beck. Also has a section where you can aquire thousands of rare, but unrestored cartoons on research DVDs—but not for cheap! See it here.
John K Stuff: A controversial blog (not surprising; John Kricfalusi is a very polarising cartoonist), but chock full of info and frame grabs on old cartoons and comics all the same. See it here.
Mayerson On Animation: An ideal blog for fans of Classic Disney. See it here.
Micheal Barrier.Com: An acclaimed animation historian's website, full of rare historial stuff and interesting observations of old and new cartoons. See it here.
Shane Gline's Cartoon Retro: Another classic cartoon dedicated blog. See it here.
The Blackwing Diaries: A blog made by a Cal Arts animator, with, take a guess, stuff centered on old cartoons. See it here.
The Rod Scriber Project: A blog dedicated to tracking down scenes of animation done by famous Looney Tunes animator Rod Scriber. See it here.
The Sacred Tree Of The Aracuan Bird: Another ideal blog for fans of Classic Disney. See it here.
This Blog's A LOAD Of Cartoons: Another blog full of stuff related to classic cartoons and comics. See it here.
Thunderbean: A classic cartoon DVD company that has released many superb collections of rare cartoon matierial, some of which can be found on their website. The rest can be found listed under their works on Amazon.com.
Art Evolution: Animation as a whole slowly went through this phase from The Silent Age of Animation to The Golden Age of Animation. Early cartoons were very crudely made-they were very stiff, rigid and mechanical in appearance and movement, had no construction, no line of action, lots of symmetry (which made them look flat) and the body parts were piled onto each other, rather than being directly connected by form. This began changing when Disney began forming and refining The Twelve Principles of Animation, as well as animators like Fred Moore altering Mickey's design to become more pear-like and organic, allowing it to not only be three-dimensional, but also be more pliable and organic than the earlier, rigid designs from shorts like Plane Crazy and Steamboat Willie. Disney immediately adapted this to their other characters, and everyone else in the animation industry (sans Max and Dave Fleischer) copied this immediately, sending classic rubberhose animation to its grave within a few years.
Clip Show: Started appearing increasingly more often in the 50s, signaling the twilight of the Golden Age in some ways.
Conspicuously Light Patch: AKA The Fudd Flag. Very, very prominent in this era of cartoons. Justified in that the coloring done by cel artists is meant to keep the movable objects from blending into the backgrounds.
Fleeting Demographic Rule: This was partly why a lot of series rehashed plots after enough years had gone by (most notably Popeye). Another reason was that theaters didn't often rerun old shorts, especially after color became widely used.
Genre Throwback: Don Bluth's early films were intended as throwbacks to the older, more emotionally powerful Disney films, right down to only using traditional animation techniques in his works.
Epic Mickey also appears to have many homages and shout outs to Mickey's early cartoons, and even older, forgotten/scrapped Disney characters. Mickey even has his old dot eyes, Disney's original cartoon star Oswald is making his official comeback in this game, and Warren Spector even said the game is meant to be heavily influenced by Fantasia. Kingdom Hearts, this is not.
Speaking of Kingdom Hearts, one entire level of Kingdom Hearts II called Timeless River is meant to be one big throwback to the early Black and White Disney shorts, right down to being in black and white and even having grainy, mono-track sound! Even the heartless of this level are given a cartoony Golden Age-esque makeover.
While not a total throwback, Word of God has stated that Batman: The Animated Series intentionally draws many of its elements, aesthetically and story-wise, from the Fleischer Superman theatrical shorts. One episode in particular, Christmas With The Joker even has a few clever shout outs to those shorts.
Limited Special Collector's Ultimate Edition: Usually averted with most collections of toons from this era—many Public Domain cartoons can be found readily available on budget DVDs for dirt cheap. Although more popular stuff like the Warner Home Video DVD sets (i.e. Looney Tunes Golden Collection Vol. 1-6, Popeye the Sailor Vol. 1-3) plays this a bit more straight (although they're still very common and readily available to the public) this trope is played perfectly straight with the Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and the rereleases of Disney's Golden Age films.
Ridiculously Cute Critter: They ran rampant during a period in the 30s when almost all of the cartoon studios were trying to emulate Disney's successful Silly Symphonies series. Some might mark the infamous moment in the short Screwball Squirrel beats up a cute squirrel as the final nail in the coffin of this trend.
Rule of Animation Conservation: Was initially very common thanks to the efficiency of rubber hose characters...until Disney began demanding more realistic, dynamic and natural animation in his works-his imitators promptly followed suit (especially MGM). Studios like Universal, Fleischer and Warner Bros. usually stuck by this trope all the way however, as they had to cope with generally low budgets that would have made it impossible to reach the level of quality the works of Disney and MGM reached. This trope became increasingly more common during the twilight years of this era, however, even with big budget studios like Disney and even MGM. Naturally, this trope and it's sister trope Limited Animation would grow and spin completely out of control by the dawn of the next era.
Vindicated by History: Many of Disney's films from the 40s post Snow White were actually financial flops, and it wasn't until later theatrical re-releases of these films that the studio was able to make a profit off of them.
Wartime Cartoon: Each one full of examples of politically incorrect material as well, in the way the Japanese were represented. Bugs Bunny and Popeye have some of the most infamous examples. However, one must keep in mind that this was still an age in which a character left wearing Blackface after Non-Fatal Explosions was practically a trope all on its own.