I like Disney. I grew up with the company, and watched every one of their feature films. From canon to direct-to-video, I have seen it all. But the most important ones are the Animated Canon, 55 films that began with Snow White and ends with Zootopia (until Moana releases as film 56).
These are my Top 5 films from Disney Canon.
5. Pocahontas (Canon #33)
In sixteen hundred seven, we sail the open sea~!
For glory, God, and gold, and the Virginia Company~!
So back in the mid-90s the Disney Renaissance was in full swing. Disney could seemingly do no wrong, and the sixth film was Pocahontas, Disney’s take on the establishment of the Jamestown colony in America. And apparently people didn’t take too kindly to this film. For reasons… I will not touch upon. I am not a historian, I am not interested in how the Disney company changed history to tell their story. I am here to be entertained, and entertained was I.
Pocahontas is one of the more mellow pictures Disney has released. Sure, there are stakes, and people die, and even a rather tense musical number leading up to what you think might be a great battle between the natives and the settlers. But it ultimately ends in a stand off, and everything is resolved at the end by one person’s “heroic” sacrifice. If you can even call it that?
But why do I love this film? Colors of the Wind. Mine, Mine, Mine. Savages. The soundtrack to this movie is why I love it as much as I do. When I think Disney music, these are the songs that come to mind. I have the fondest of memories for these songs, and Colors of the Wind is my favorite track in all Disneydom. Followed perhaps by Zip-a-dee-do-dah but that’s a discussion for another time.
Is Pocahontas a perfect film? No way. But I can look past the (many) faults each time. That’s what it means to love something. Or something. Point is I love Pocahontas. And it sits nice and comfortably at #5.
4. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (#34)
Morning in Paris, the city awakes to the bells of Notre Dame~
So despite the weaker outing before it, Disney did not slow down. This time they were tackling a literary classic by Victor Hugo, and what we got was one of the darker Disney films ever produced. Even if they took liberties with the source material (everyone does) and softened the tone a bit (or a lot depending on your point of view).
The music is a major part of why I like this film, but unlike Pocahontas before it, it’s not the primary reason. The music is all great, of course: Out There, Hellfire, Heaven’s Light, The Bells of Notre Dame; all of it’s fantastic. But what I love most about this film is undoubtedly the villain.
On the surface, Frollo is the villain of the film. But in the story he’s actually a judge, and his goal (while morally wrong by our standards) was actually par for the course in the time depicted in the film. His corruption is human flaw, which anyone can have. I’m not trying to defend what he did in the movie, of course. But it’s not like he did it with actual ill intent. Sort of?
Okay I’m digging myself a grave here. This movie is awesome. It’s visually stunning, it defies Disney conventions, and the music just elevates it to an experience I don’t think any other Disney film achieves. #4 for me.
3. The Fox and the Hound (#24)
“Forever is a long, long time. And time has a way of changing things.”
So when people think of the Disney Dark Age, they think of the worst things they put out during those 20-some-odd years. But people forget that it was during this time period they released one of their best films ever. The Fox and the Hound is a look at what happens when society dictates what your life will be like, regardless of the damage it does to people you knew in your childhood. With dogs and a fox.
Todd the fox is raised by an elderly woman living in the countryside who becomes friend with a hound pup owned by the elderly woman’s next door neighbor. They develop a friendship that would melt anyone’s heart, only for them to be separated when Copper the hound is taken on a series of hunting trips to teach him how to be the best hunting dog he could be. Upon returning, both he and Todd realize the friendship they had as children is no longer viable in the eyes of the world around them, and are essentially forced to be enemies.
Every time I see this movie I get emotional to the point of tears. I’m not ashamed to admit it. It kills me to see how Todd and Copper fight to the point of nearly killing one another, making me wonder if that could happen to any of us. If I had to pick the saddest part, it would be just before the film ends. There’s a moment where Todd is at the mercy of the hunter who owns Copper, and it’s at that critical moment that Copper stands up for his old friend. He stands between the hunter and the injured Todd, intent on protecting his old friend despite everything that has happened.
That scene gets me. Every single time. It deserves its spot at #3.
2. Beauty and the Beast (#30)
Tale as old as time.
So a few years back I did something similar to this series of blog posts where I shared thoughts on all the Disney films. And when it came time to talk about Beauty and the Beast, I couldn’t really say anything about it. Not positively, not negatively. It’s the one Disney film I think is as close to flawless as the company has ever come.
So I’ll say what I always do: the music is great (of course), the visuals are great (as usual), and it’s a classic (like many). However, for as great as I think the film is, I have a soft spot for another Disney film. Beauty and the Beast is #2. And a well earned #2.
1. The Little Mermaid (#28)
Click here and let the music play as you read.
I can’t say with any real certainty why I routinely pick The Little Mermaid as my favorite Disney film. I’ve found faults with it in the past. I love the soundtrack, but I also love the music from other films in Disney canon.
But I can never turn down a chance to see this. I love this film more than you can possibly imagine. And it might always be my favorite Disney movie of all time. Call it nostalgia. I don’t rightly care. Excuse me, I’ve got a Disney film to pop in and watch right about now.