Ah, Disney movies…is there anything more fun, more relaxing and more “Disney” to enjoy aside from being at Disney World? Watching Disney films, whether via Blu-Ray, DVD, Netflix or at the theater brings that Disney magic into our everyday lives, and—if for only 1 ½ hours or so—all is right with the world. Magic is real. Heroes abound. Dreams come true. “Happily” really is forever after, and every girl lands her prince. And Disney is the master when it comes to continually producing films for which the crowds go wild—with the exception of only a few. Here are our picks for the 5 best and 5 worst Disney films thus far.
The Worst – let’s get the bad news and negativity out of the way first. The following five films just didn’t give us all the Disney feels. A disclaimer though—Disney doesn’t fail at anything, but we just think that these five films lacked in one area or another (but what they lack in these five, Disney more than made up for in its other films).
5. Brother Bear (2003)
Kenai is a vengeful man who kills a bear after one kills his brother. His punishment is taking on the form and persona of the very animal he despises so that he can learn compassion and understanding. The premise is weak at its best and boring, uneventful and lacking at its worst. Brother Bear was an attempt on the part of Disney to bring back the story of an anthropomorphic animal—one that has human characteristics—in the hopes of it being received well by critics and audiences, as it always had been. After all, talking, humanistic animals played a vital role in Disney’s success as an entertainment giant, and everyone loves a comeback. Sadly, this film was anything but a comeback. The word “setback” is more fitting in this case.
4. Pocahontas (1995)
The story of Pocahontas, as told by Disney in this film, was perhaps the furthest thing from the truth about the life of Pocahontas. The real-life woman, Pocahontas, lived a tragic life full of hardships. We understand Disney’s need to romanticize some things, as children make up the majority of the audiences watching Disney’s animated features. But romanticizing such an historical figure as Pocahontas isn’t always in good taste. We liked “Colors of the Wind” sung by Vanessa Williams, but beyond that, we think Disney probably should have left this story from history alone.
3. The Good Dinosaur (2015)
This Disney/PIXAR effort included some beautiful animated backgrounds. The scenery in the film is really very good, as is the animation. But The Good Dinosaur was just a little awkward. The premise is intriguing—what if the asteroid hadn’t hit earth and dinosaurs weren’t wiped out of existence? Ok, we can roll with the imaginative and creative value in that. But what ensues is a story in which Arlo the Apatosaurus experiences the loss of his father (classic Disney move) and then falls into a river that sweeps him hundreds of miles away from familiar surroundings. The storyline moves at a snail’s pace as dinosaurs befriend humans and we find that dinosaurs are more advanced than we are. Oh yeah—there’s no taking, which just feels strange. Arlo may be the good dinosaur, but the film wasn’t so great.
2. Fantasia 2000 (1999)
Not every film is worthy of, or benefits from, a sequel. That’s why it’s a classic. Enough said.
1. The crab scene in Moana (2016)
We really like Moana. The storyline is good. The music and characters and voices and animation are all on point. There’s just one thing—Tamatoa the crab. You’ll remember he was voiced by Jermaine Clement and sang the song, “Shiny” about mid-way through the film. And while we realize that Tamatoa is Maui’s arch nemesis, the entire crab scene could have been shelved (and we wish it had been) and the storyline could have continued. Instead, the scene wasn’t scrapped, and no matter how many times we watch Moana, that scene just sticks out—as they say—like a sore thumb.
The Best – these films are good every time you watch them—especially if you’re a Walt enthusiast and a lover of all things classic Disneyana. These are films you watched when you were growing up—and now you share them with your children and grandchildren. Here they are, in no particular order simply because they are all so good! (P.S.—it was nearly impossible to only list five, but in the interest of time, we’ve kept it at five. Rest assured there were many more we wanted to list!)
5. Cinderella (1950)
Cinderella is one of the many hallmarks of Disney films—and the film industry altogether. The 2D animation was leaps and bounds ahead of its time for 1950. And we could identify with Cinderella at one point in our lives or another. Cinderella embraces a kind-heartedness, a gentleness and an innocence we hope to possess in ourselves, whether we do or not. We could also identify with Cinderella’s heart cry in “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes,” and we find ourselves exceedingly grateful that no matter how our hearts are grieving, if we keep on believing, the dream that we wish will come true. To this day, Cinderella is still one of the first films we think of when we hear the phrase “Disney movie.”
4. Sleeping Beauty (1959)
Disney’s Sleeping Beauty is the quintessential Disney film—a beautiful princess, a dream come true for her parents, an evilly beautiful villain, a prince just out of reach (until she realizes she’s already betrothed to him), a valiant battle between good and evil and the ultimate happily ever after. One of Disney’s “Nine Old Men,” Marc Davis, was responsible for much of the animation in this film, including the designing of Maleficent and her trademark horns. The animated backgrounds in the film are a testament to the animators’ vast range of abilities at that time. Sleeping Beauty comes alive on the screen thanks to vibrant color schemes, an engaging storyline and a happily ever after. And, while we’re on the subject, let’s end an age-old debate here and now. The dress should be blue. Not pink.
3. Beauty and the Beast (1991)
It’s the tale as old as time, so clearly it belongs in the category of Disney’s best. Belle is perfectly content living with her inventor father in a small village in France. The townspeople think she’s a bit odd—“a most peculiar mademoiselle.” She loves to read, and she barely acknowledges the arrogant gentleman caller who’s intent on making Belle his bride. He’s completely undeserving of her as he is self-seeking, and she’s compassionate to a fault. Her compassion for her father is what ultimately leads her to Beast’s castle and lands her in the position of captive. Though Belle is initially startled by Beast’s looks, she doesn’t allow his nonconformity to influence her actions. It is a selfless love between the two that blossoms and grows and is verbalized just as the last petal falls from the enchanted rose. This film’s storyline embodies that eleventh-hour hope that we have when things look nearly lost.
2. Up (2009)
PIXAR is deserving of more than one spot on our list, but as stated before, we only have five spots on this one. Up is one of those films that makes you happy you get to live the human experience. Carl and Ellie experienced life—they didn’t just live it. And they did so despite setbacks—a piggy bank that had to be continually broken, the loss of a baby, Ellie’s failing health, her death, Carl’s clash with the city about his property, etc. But they walked through life hand-in-hand and took what they were dealt with grace and a forever love that transcended even death. Carl went on to fulfill their dream because of his love for Ellie. Surely their adopted motto of “adventure is out there” impacted the outcome of their lives in positive ways.
1. Snow White (1937)
It would be a form of blasphemy to list Disney’s five best films and not include Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It was Walt Disney Studios’ first ever film, and the world’s first ever animated feature. And while the animation is 2D and not like anything we enjoy today, you have to appreciate what an animation marvel the film was in 1937. It was a masterpiece from start to finish. And critics thought so too. It was the first time the world could watch an animated full-length film, complete with developed characters, a great adaptation of an old German fairy tale, a terrible villain who is defeated and of course, a handsome prince. Masterpiece—start to finish.