I’ve been a Disney fan for as long as I can remember. While I didn’t enjoy ever single animated movie, they were still good memories, and I still think of all the studios, Disney still has the best record. So for this week’s edition of Aspie Catholic, I’m counting down my favorite Disney movies. Some criteria first:
- I consider Pixar a separate entity. Originally, Disney merely distributed the movies. The same goes for Studio Ghibli movies, especially since not all Ghibli movies are distributed by Disney (Grave of the Fireflies and From Up On Poppy Hill for instance)
- No direct-to-video movies.
- I wanted to only talk about movies I grew up watching over and over. So I’m stopping with The Lion King. Anything made after that isn’t eligible, as I was an adult by that point.
So let’s begin.
#10. The Lion King–This movie is often considered the beginning of a new renaissance for Disney, but in reality it’s not. Computer animation was started before this with The Great Mouse Detective,and using pop music started with Oliver and Company. This was more the result of good storytelling and marketing. It was the right place and time, while the others flopped due to poor timing. Besides that, Lion King is a magnificent movie, even if it’s borrowing from Shakespeare and Japanese animation.
#9. Robin Hood began a trend in Disney that continued with Mickey’s Christmas Carol and their version of the Three Musketeers starring Mickey, Donald, and Goofy–Making anthromorphic characters out of popular folklore. It was at a bad time for Disney, when they were recycling animation. But let’s not quibble over that. It’s still a good movie.
#8. 101 Dalmatians has been turned into a franchise thanks to its needless live-action version, but I like the original cartoon best. Cruella De Ville is one of my favorite Disney villains because of how over-the-top she is. Yes, Disney had scary villains like Scar and Maleficent, but sometimes their less frightening ones were still entertaining.
#7. Fox and the Hound was a great parable about racism cleverly disguised as a cute story. It’s a powerful story about how what we’re taught by society can destroy opportunities for true friendships.
#6. The Little Mermaid was a beautiful rendition of the classic Hans Christian Andersen story. It was the start of Disney’s relationship with Alan Menken and Tim Rice, leading to other great scores in movies such as Aladdin and Lion King (Elton John recorded his versions separately. They were never used in the actual movie). Ursula is another one of the greatest Disney villains. Ariel was also the start of a new kind of Disney heroine–one who takes a more active role in the story than characters like Cinderella and Aurora from Sleeping Beauty.
#5. The Great Mouse Detective–Okay, quiz time. What was the first Disney cartoon to use computer animation? Aladdin? nope! The Little Mermaid? Wrong again. The actual first movie was The Great Mouse Detective, which sadly flopped as it was up against Don Bluth. And in my opinion, it shouldn’t have flopped. Come on, Vincent Price was the villain! It was a great homage to Sherlock Holmes. The clock chase was Disney’s first brush with computer animation, and although it’s now taken the place of traditional animation, it showed that Disney could adapt and create new trends, even if they took a while to catch on.
#4. Aladdin continued the trend started with The Little Mermaid and showed the greatness of Alan Menken and Tim Rice once more. Add in Robin Williams as the Genie and you have a great story. This is why so many of us were saddened with his passing.
#3. Bambi. Disney’s adaptation of Felix Salten’s classic children’s story was an excellent story, even with its addition of Thumper and Flower (that’s right, Thumper and Flower were not in the original story. What’s great about it was that it showed the hardships of life and how we move on from grief to accept new challenges and new chapters in our lives.
#2. Pinocchio is a long-endearing parable. I’ve read the original, and I have to say Disney tells it better. The original version of Pinocchio isn’t as enjoyable and is too mischievous for me to actually applaud him. He doesn’t seem to learn from his mistakes. I found this story more entertaining than the original folk tale.
#1. Fantasia was Disney taking its biggest risk, and it’s surprising to learn that it failed. This is why the home video market was embraced by Hollywood–it vindicated movies better than box office sales. Not all the best movies did well at the box office, and Fantasia is proof. Sometimes the risky ventures don’t pay off right away, and there are times when I wish Disney was this daring again.