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.
10. Wreck-It Ralph (Canon #52)
What if after the arcade closes the characters that you control within the games clock out and hit up a local hub/tavern? It’s much the same idea as if your toys come to life and have a “life” outside your own. And Wreck-It Ralph is this idea.
Set in the modern day, the classic arcade cabinet Fix-It Felix Jr. has been operating for 30 years. The game’s antagonist, the titular Wreck-It Ralph, deals with the day-in, day-out hatred associated with being a villain at a “Bad Guys Anonymous” set up (which itself is kinda funny). 30 years doing the same thing has taken its toll on the poor guy, so he decides to hop into a different game to prove that he could be more than the bad guy he was designed to be.
It’s obvious the message here is that anyone can be anything they want, and that you aren’t restricted to what you were “born” to be. Or something. I’m not too good with messages.
Ralph carries the film as he should being its protagonist (despite being an antagonist in-universe), while the characters around him are all fun. I enjoyed the movie a lot, and a lot of that came from the world built here that pays homages to video game culture. I grew up playing video games after all, so it’s not small shocker this is on my Top 10. And this is probably the only film that I’d dare to say isn’t strong enough to make a Top 10 for your typical list of groundbreaking Disney films.
But this is my list. And on my list, Wreck-It Ralph earns that hero’s medal.
9. The Princess and the Frog (#49)
Set in the 1920s in New Orleans, the film follows Tiana, a hard-working young woman whose dream is to one day own her own restaurant. This plan is thrown a bit out of whack when she kisses a talking frog in the hopes of helping him out of a pickle, only to turn into a frog herself. With no other choice left to her, she teams up with the talking frog Naveen to visit a voodoo priestess so that she could undo the curse on the two of them.
Why is this film so high up on my list? Not so much because it’s the last traditionally animated Disney Princess (though that is a big part of it). But because this was the first real instance of Disney’s return to form following the Renaissance of the 90s. It’s good enough to stand alongside the films of the Renaissance, and I’m sure that if this film had been released during the same time period, it would have been remembered just as fondly as those. And while I never bring up how these movies did at the box office, it is sad to note that this one did as “poorly” as it did. Look into it yourselves.
What do I like best about this film? The animation quality (which is probably the best Disney has ever done). Yes, I mean that: better than even the Renaissance films. The music is also pretty darn good and catchy, though it is a notch weaker than the rest of the Disney Renaissance.
But if I had to peg a single reason why this film will remain as high as it is on my list, it would be that this (along with Winnie the Pooh) were the last traditionally animated films from the company. And it makes me all kinds of sad to know there will likely never be another film of this visual caliber again.
Though I hope I will some day be proven wrong.
8. Mulan (#36)
Set during Imperial China, the film follows Mulan, a young woman who doesn’t feel like she’s worthy of her family name. When the Huns invade her country, she chooses to take her father’s place in the Imperial Army, dressing up as a man since in those days women weren’t allowed to serve in the military.
It’s rather easy to poke holes in the narrative, but that’s not why I’m here. I love this movie, thanks in no small part to the music. As you’ll see tends to be the case for most of my Top 10. The animation style is also superb, bringing to mind what they did with Hercules (utilizing a distinct style to illicit the emotions of traditional Chinese art).
I don’t got much else to say about Mulan, really. The movie can be hilarious considering the amounts of jokes about how men are among other men (and Mulan is a woman). The songs while not as plentiful as other Disney films are all catchy, with my personal favorite being “I’ll Make A Man Out of You”.
7. The Great Mouse Detective (#26)
If I have seen one movie more than any other in my life, it would be this one. Childhood is a strange mishmash of things that way.
The Great Mouse Detective is an adaptation of a book series that is in itself heavily inspired by the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, he of Sherlock Holmes fame. The film follows Basil of Baker Street, who is for all intents and purposes Sherlock Holmes as a mouse, who takes on the case of Olivia Flaversham to find her kidnapped father. Aided by Doctor David Dawson, Basil discovers a plot by his arch-nemesis Professor Ratigan to replace the Queen of England with himself as ruler of the country. And so it’s up to Basil to put a stop to him once and for all.
It’s no joke when I say this film inspired my love of mystery fiction, and introduced me to Sherlock Holmes in the first place. I also like the fact that Sherlock himself is the man who lives above Basil in the film.
So what’s great about this film that isn’t completely related to nostalgia? The final confrontation between Basil and Ratigan. The two crash into the clockwork of Big Ben, and it is in there that they duke it out hand-to-hand. Every moment of this scene is tense as hell, with almost no music to speak of as Basil and Ratigan come close to killing one another. Better seen than described, trust me.
It’s one of the few Disney films that I think would actually benefit from a sequel in some capacity. A shame it never got one, but at the same time I guess it makes The Great Mouse Detective all the more special.
6. Aladdin (#31)
Poor boy Aladdin is trying to make a living on the streets of Agrabah when he meets a beautiful girl named Jasmine. She turns out to be a runaway princess, which gets him thrown into prison. He’s given a chance to escape by helping a strange old man find a magic lamp in a place known as the Cave of Wonders, which he then uses for himself to turn his life into a dream.
I don’t do justice to the film with that weaksauce synopsis. But that doesn’t matter; the movie is a classic. You know the drill by now: the music is great so I won’t say anything else about it. Also take note of that fantastic theatrical poster. Like many other Disney Renaissance films, the poster adds a certain mystic charm to the film. At least I think so.
Why is this one as high as it is? I think it’s one of the best straight-up adventures Disney has ever put out. It felt less like a fairy tale than most of Disney’s other films. I love Aladdin, and watch it over and over again rather frequently.