Walt Disney first drew the character that would become known as Mickey Mouse on a train ride from New York to Los Angeles in early 1928, and since then, thousands of characters have been created and made part of the Disney family. With the addition of characters created as part of PIXAR’s work, Disney fans find themselves with a seemingly endless list of beloved characters to choose from when trying to pick a favorite.
And I haven’t met a diehard Disney fan yet who has been able to choose only one character who really shines brighter than the rest. That’s largely because the Disney Company is not only exceptionally talented when it comes to drawing new characters, but the entertainment giant employs writers who are well-versed in bringing those characters to life through their stories, their dialogue with other characters and their backgrounds.
Nowadays, there are several thousand birds, bears, bugs, princesses, princes, toys, emotions, fish, children, adults, lions, tigers and many more characters who belong to the Disney family of characters. This makes it nearly impossible to pick a favorite, but there are several animated Disney characters who tend to pull on our heartstrings—those with whom we are instantly able to identify. Here are ten animated characters that many Disney fans would agree have won our hearts over the years.
10. Flower (Bambi, 1942)
Bambi meets this adorable blue-eyed skunk while the skunk is sitting in a field of flowers. Because Bambi knows what flowers are, he mistakes the skunk for a “flower” as well. When another animal tries to correct Bambi, Flower quickly interjects, “he can call me ‘Flower’ if he wants to.” The skunk’s actual name is never divulged to the audience; they simply know him as Flower. With his always positive outlook, gentle, soft-spoken demeanor and frequent blushing when he feels shy, Flower has surely won the hearts of fans of the Disney classics.
9. Fairy Godmother (Cinderella, 1950)
This benevolent soul appears to Cinderella as the young maiden is crying over the actions of her evil stepsisters and stepmother. Cinderella was excited about the ball and about the lovely dress her mice friends had tailored for her. But as she approaches her stepfamily to show them her dress, Cinderella’s stepsisters begin tearing her dress, and soon it is in shreds on the floor. Cinderella runs out behind the family chateau and begins lamenting over her circumstances.
Fairy Godmother wins the hearts of the audience from the very beginning of her appearance in the film as she offers hope to the hopeless Cinderella. She’s quite the provider too, as she not only gives Cinderella a gorgeous new ball gown, but also her own coach, driver, footmen and glass slippers! By the end of the scene, a very thankful Cinderella is dressed to the nines and whisked away in her carriage en route to the ball at the castle.
8. Flora, Fauna and Merryweather (Sleeping Beauty, 1959)
The three good fairies in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty win the hearts of Disney fans as they work feverishly to keep the infant princess safe from the clutches of the evil Maleficent. Flora, the pink and red fairy, is seen as the leader of the magic trio. Fauna, the green fairy, is the gentle, sometimes absent-minded fairy (think about the scene when she tries to make a birthday cake without magic) who likes to keep things peaceful and calm. Merryweather, the blue fairy, is the cute fairy who speaks her mind no matter what.
They win the title for Disney characters that have won our hearts because of their kindness to the king and queen and their dedication to raising the infant princess into a young woman deep in the forest so that Maleficent is unable to carry out her evil plans against the heiress to the kingdom.
7. Lady (Lady and the Tramp, 1955)
Not too many things can beat the sweetness of a beautiful little cocker spaniel—unless it’s a Disney cocker spaniel. Lady is the beloved pet of Jim Dear and Darling: the apple of their eyes. That is, until they discover they are expecting a new baby in the family. Lady begins to feel left out as preparations are made for the baby. She meets Tramp, the “dog around town,” who tries to convince her that sticking to only one family is somewhat overrated. But that doesn’t change her mind or her feelings about her owners.
Toward the end of the movie, it’s Lady and Tramp who work together to alert the baby’s aunt that there’s a rat in the baby’s room. Tramp takes a chance and attacks the rat, thus saving the baby’s life. The film’s conclusion involves a family photo—not of Jim Dear, Darling and their baby—but of Lady, the Tramp and their new litter of puppies. Lady wins our hearts with her sweet spirit, her gentle kindness and those big gorgeous eyes. She’s also a fan favorite because she shows Tramp the meaning and value of belonging to a family.
6. WALL-E (WALL-E, 2008)
This lovable robot instantly won the hearts of Disney fans when he first made his motion picture debut in 2008. The year is 2805, and WALL-E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter-Earth Class) is a robot trash compactor who has been left to clean up trash and debris from Earth. Earth’s residents have been transported to a space station of sorts where they live since there seems to be no hope for plant and animal life to flourish and thrive on Earth anymore. But he’s not your average stoic, emotionless robot.
WALL-E has developed the ability to feel emotions and feelings. He collects trinkets, doo-dads and knick-knacks from the piles of trash he is charged with cleaning up. He has his own “home” where he neatly stores his priceless treasures. That’s enough to get your heart feeling a pitter-patter. But during the story, WALL-E meets a search robot named EVE, who has come to Earth to see if there is any life on it.
EVE is shocked to find that WALL-E has unintentionally found a live plant while performing his daily duties. She’s thrilled to find that plant life does exist again on Earth, and WALL-E is thrilled to find EVE. Though he rarely speaks in the film, except to say EVE’s name, his expressions tell his story and fill in the blanks where he doesn’t have the words. He loves EVE and is distraught when she powers down. The film continues on to tell about the robots’ adventures in getting back to the space station and finally having the chance to show those in charge that life once again exists on Earth.
5. Ray (Princess and the Frog, 2009)
“My name Raymond, but everybody call me Ray.” I never dreamed that a firefly could win my heart, but this adorable character does. Ray is a romantic Cajun firefly who plays a major role in helping Tiana and Naveen find Mama Odie in the hopes of having their curse removed. He’s very loving and caring and deeply enamored with “Evangeline,” who he sees at night among the stars. Others think he’s seeing only a star, but after he is killed by Dr. Facilier (that brings tears every time), we see him united in the sky with his true love. Whether she was a firefly suspended in the sky or truly only a star, the story warms the hearts of the audience as he finally has his dream come true.
4. Sheriff Woody (Toy Story, 1995)
Who doesn’t love Woody? Sheriff Woody is a pull-string cowboy toy—the favored toy of his owner Andy until the day Andy receives a new Buzz Lightyear action figure as a birthday gift. It’s at this time that Woody begins to feel that his position as Andy’s favorite toy might be in jeopardy. He has feelings of bitterness toward Buzz and nightmares about Andy choosing Buzz over Woody. Though Woody is angry with Buzz at first, he wins our hearts because he loves his owner and is truly afraid that his place in Andy’s life will be compromised. The plot moves forward to show Woody and Buzz eventually working together as a team, which makes him even more near and dear to our hearts in the end.
3. Dory (Finding Nemo, 2003 and Finding Dory, 2016)
Ever have trouble remembering what you were going to say? You have something in common with another Disney fan favorite—Dory, the forgetful but lovable blue tang fish in Finding Nemo and Finding Dory. Dory is super friendly and always willing to help—if she could just remember who she was helping and what she was helping them do. In Finding Nemo, it is Dory who teams up with Marlin, Nemo’s father, to help him find his son who was taken away by scuba divers. We loved her then, and we love her even more in Finding Dory when we see her as a baby, meet her parents and discover that she, too, had been misplaced from her family. Poor thing, she just couldn’t remember!
2. Joy (Inside Out, 2015)
Everyone loves to feel joyous, so it makes sense that Disney fans are in love with Joy from Disney/PIXAR’s Inside Out. Joy is the leader of the group of emotions that are at the controls inside the mind of 11-year-old Riley, who has just been uprooted from her home, friends and everything familiar to her when her father gets a new job. Over her 11 years, she has felt more joy than any of her other emotions, but dealing with such a big change in life has her often feeling more sadness, anger, disgust and fear than joy. All five emotions work to help Riley through her circumstances and emotions, and Joy is always positive, optimistic and hopeful. And, as you guessed, in the end, good wins, and Joy is back as the leader at the controls in Riley’s mind.
1. Mickey Mouse (b. 1928)
Here it is—the single most important litmus test in determining whether one can call himself or herself a true Disney fan: do you love Mickey? How much? Have you had an encounter with him at Disney World or Disneyland? Where does Mickey fall on your list of favorite Disney characters? Most diehard Disney fans agree that though we love many characters from a myriad of feature films, cartoons and movies, the one we get most excited about is M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E.
Mickey was born from the genius of Walt Disney on a notepad on a train ride from New York to Los Angeles after a devastating blow for Walt. He had just found out that due to some sneaky, underhanded contracts, he had lost all rights to his first major character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. He felt sure he would have to start his entire career over. It was then that he began to draw, and the result was a black mouse with round ears, a long tail, yellow shoes and red shorts with two yellow buttons on the front. Little did Walt know then, in 1928, that Mickey would be what started all of the Disney empire we know and enjoy today, and that’s why he’s won the hearts of Disney fans—young and old—all the world over!
It would be impossible to choose only one beloved character from the thousands of Disney characters we know and love, but these ten characters have surely won our hearts with their sweetness, innocence and kindness to others around them and for their ability to teach others lessons in kindness as well. Who among the Disney characters pulls at your heartstrings?