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).
This is my personal rankings of the films. From the worst to the best. Be warned: you may be rustled.
20. Robin Hood (Canon #21)
Robin Hood is an outlaw who steals from the rich (in this case, Prince John) and gives it back to the poor (who are in turn robbed again by Prince John). Seen as a hero by the masses despite not really doing anything in the long run, if you think about it. What good is stealing the money of royalty if they just take it back as “taxes”?
This is Disney’s take on the classic legend of an outlaw with a heart of gold, where everyone is an anthropomorphic animal. And it’s pretty darn good. So much of this story has become muddled by time that so long as you have core essentials the end product might turn out good. I say might because that one adaptation a few years ago did not.
Being a Dark Age film, it does have a few issues of course. The animation isn’t great; it’s messy, recycled from older films like a trace job, and even reused on a number of parts. However, the music is pretty good. Not good enough perhaps to put on your MP3 player, but the songs are catchy and move the plot forward.
However, the end of the film isn’t that great. It’s a jailbreak sequence that ends too well for everyone in a way that just doesn’t seem plausible. I know it’s a bit of a nitpick for a Disney movie, but I never once was worried that everything wouldn’t turn out okay. The lack of a true final encounter was also a letdown, considering this is a story set in medieval times. A sword fight wouldn’t have been too much to ask between Robin Hood and Prince John. Even if he was a sniveling loser the entire film.
19. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (#22)
Framed like reading a storybook, this film follows Winnie the Pooh and his Hundred Acre Wood friends on several adventures, hence the title. All of them are likely taken from classic books, and they translate well to the screen, book and all. And that’s one of the coolest things about this film (and even the other film that came many years after); the book they reside in is as much a part of the world as the Hundred Acre Wood itself!
I don’t have much else to say about this one. There’s nothing really to hate here if you’re a fan of Pooh, and if you’re not then there’s probably nothing to change your mind. These are children’s tales told as such, and nothing more. I do have to say this is the best Pooh feature ever released, and nothing released since has come close.
18. Sleeping Beauty (#16)
A king and queen have a daughter, and when local powerful witch Maleficent is snubbed an invitation she curses the newborn to die on her 16th birthday. Talk about making a mountain of a molehill. One of the three good fairies that WERE invited places a counter on this curse, saving the princess so that instead of dying, she’d fall into an endless sleep. Not that much better, but the loophole of true love’s kiss is better than nothing, right?
So Sleeping Beauty doesn’t have a great plot. And that’s fine; I’m more engaged by the visuals of this film. Everything has this very angular design, layered upon one another to give the illusion of depth in such a way I can’t really describe it. That’s just the forest! One look at Maleficent’s castle and the countryside of Aurora’s castle when its covered in a maze of brambles is something else entirely.
One downside to this film is that it doesn’t seem to have a lot of forward momentum. We’re given the backstory, only a short time between our lead and the prince she’s to marry, before she’s whisked away to be cursed into her deep sleep. The rest of the film (about half of it) focuses on the good fairies as they work to prevent panic in the castle and free the captured Prince Phillip, who then faces off against Maleficent in one of the most tense action sequences seen in Disneydom to date. Sure, compared to most modern films its not GREAT, but this was quite the scene back in the day, and still holds up today.
The movie comes and goes far too quickly, and it’s not a bad thing. Not a good thing either, but this state of neither isn’t bad. I guess? I’m losing track of what I want to say. Point is the movie holds up, and there’s a reason why its climax of prince versus giant dragon was referenced many years later in the self-parody film Enchanted.
17. The Lion King (#32)
Ruling monarch Mufasa is blessed with an heir in Simba. This doesn’t sit well with his younger brother Scar, who plots to off both father and son and assume power afterward.
I’m certain everyone in the world has seen The Lion King, so spoiling it probably wouldn’t hurt anyone. But I won’t, because there’s no point to it. The film is good, featuring great voicework, terrific songs that have endured, and a story that feels timeless. Probably because it’s a retread of Shakespeare.
However, for as good as the film is (and all the praise it gets), I don’t put it that high on my personal list. As you can plainly see. I like other Disney movies; movies that resonate with me. But don’t take that to mean it’s not worth a watch because it didn’t make my top 15. Virtually any Disney movie (sans Aristocats) is worth a watch at least once.
16. Hercules (#35)
Disney has been accused of many things. Theft, white-washing, all that jazz. And then there’s Hercules, which took Greek mythology and somehow sanitized it to the point that it hardly resembles the original source material anymore. Heck, not even Jungle Book was mangled this much.
But despite all that I love this film. I love how it looks, I love the music, and for as ridiculous as the plot is I love it, too. Probably because it’s freaking stupid beyond belief if you give it even an ounce of thought. Magic potion to turn gods mortal? Planetary alignments to make a hole in the ocean appear? The final battle against the Titans going well just because Hercules showed up?
Man, people have done whole presentations on why this movie can be considered bad. But you know what? I don’t care. Go listen to “Go the Distance”. Go watch a music video of “I Won’t Say I’m In Love”. Just bask in the delight that is this movie. Of a time when you could just have mindless fun without worrying so much about messages and what a film wants to comment on. It’s just plain, simple, stupid, processed fun.