Continuing with the Disney rankings, this post is all about the last bunch of films before Disney’s death in 1966 (The Aristocats was the last film he approved). A mix of legends and contemporaries, these films remain favourites and have been the subject of remakes in recent years due to their followings.
This period of films sees my favourite animation in the entire Disney catalogue. Even after gaining a reputation as the frontrunner in animation, Disney is still trying to incorporate different styles to match the context of the films. Beginning with Sleeping Beauty’s Medieval setting which makes way for a glorious tapestry of block colours and simple shapes that is immediately striking and bold to the charming early 1900s Parisian setting of The Aristocats which brings a more classic style with it’s beautiful textured animals and heavy use of brush strokes and pastel colours.
Here are the other links if you haven’t read them:
Here we go with films 16-20:
16) Sleeping Beauty (1959)
Initially a box office bomb on release, Sleeping Beauty has grown into one of the most loved Disney films due to its charm and beautiful animation style. Telling the story of a young princess who is forced into hiding to avoid an evil fairy’s spell is a fairy-tale that everyone is familiar with. When Princess Aurora pricks her finger on a cursed spinning wheel, she falls into a deep sleep that can only be woken by true love’s kiss. The film home to arguably the most iconic Disney villain, Maleficent, who is my personal favourite villain in any Disney films. Like Snow White, I was fascinated with this film from an early age due to the fact that it terrified me with Maleficent’s ugly henchmen keeping me up at night. Not to mention getting me into the habit of checking the fireplace in case Maleficent was in there. The protagonist, Briar Rose, is a pretty one-dimensional character whose wish is to meet the love of her life; however, the film more than makes up for this shortcoming with the supporting characters of Maleficent and the three fairies, Fauna, Flora and Merryweather. The animation in this film is also arguably my favourite featuring some of the most beautiful sequences in the Disney repertoire such as the fairies blessings at the start and Prince Phillip’s battle with the dragon at the end.
17) One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)
Pongo and Perdita are two dalmatians living in London with their owners, Rodger and Anita. When Perdita gives birth to puppies, we are introduced to another Disney villain that has become instantly recognisible. The notorious Cruella de Vil is a lover of furs and plans to use the puppies’ furs to create a Dalmatian coat for herself. When she hires two men to kidnap the puppies, it is up to Pongo and Perdita to rescue them and bring them back home. Like Sleeping Beauty before it, the animation in this film is so unique and suits the London backdrop beautifully. The scenes in the countryside where the puppies are hidden is particular beautiful and quaint which is disrupted in the iconic scene when Cruella speeds done the road in a manic state. It’s a hugely enjoyable film that does a great job of creating identifiable characteristics for the main 12 puppies which is a tricky feat to do in a film that is 80 minutes long.
18) The Sword in the Stone (1963)
The Sword in the Stone is based on the novel of the same name about squire, Arthur, who is tutored by wizard Merlin while living with his foster father and brother, who is due to fight in a tournament to become the King of England. This film is often overlooked for a number of reasons. Although it is enjoyable to watch, the lack of narrative doesn’t fit with this particular story. The animation is fantastic as ever, particularly when Merlin is staying in the tower on a rainy night. The film’s faults lie in its heavy use of animal scenes compared to memorable human characters (with the exception of Merlin and Madam Mim) and the character of Arthur isn’t fleshed out well enough for the film. The fight between Merlin and Madam Mim is brilliant to watch bringing a nice element of fun that had been missing beforehand.
19) The Jungle Book (1967)
Disney’s retelling of the Rudyard Kipling classic follows Mowgli, a boy raised by wolves in the Jungle as he grows up and struggles with his identity all while escaping the wrath of the evil Shere Khan, a tiger who wants to eat Mowgli. Featuring the lovable Baloo, a bear who befriends Mowgli and shows him the way of the jungle, hypnotic snake Kaa and the elephant colonels, The Jungle Book seems to be the complete opposite of One Hundred and One Dalmatians, allowing the animators to cross continents and create the jungle. The animation style is more traditional like Dumbo and Cinderella but there is so much detail in the environment that it was a good choice not to make it over-styled or overcomplicated. One unique inclusion in this film is the incorporation of four vultures who are inspired by The Beatles which is unusual in Disney as the classics rarely incorporate popular culture.
20) The Aristocats (1971)
The last film to be approved before Disney’s death, The Aristocats tells the story of 3 aristocrat kittens who are kidnapped by a jealous butler, Edgar, when he finds out they are inheriting the entirety of their owner’s estate. The kittens’ mother, Duchess finds the kittens and together they embark to return to Paris with the help of alley cat, Thomas O’Malley. It’s a simple yet charming tale that is filled with memorable characters. The three kittens in particular are among my favourite characters in Disney. The film is also home to some lovable songs as well with my favourite being “Scales and Arpeggios”. The brilliant use of the paints in the songs bring literal splashed of bright colour that work brilliantly with the pastel backgrounds. There is an array of supporting characters across the animal kingdom from Roquefort, the friendly mouse to Napolean and Lafayette the suspicious dogs on a mission to hunt down Edgar and the brilliant Uncle Waldo, a goose who is found in Paris to be heavily drunk from a sauce he was due to be cooked with. It’s often seen as a middling effort from the Disney studio but I personally love this film a lot and remember watching it on repeat when I was younger.
Now we’ve come to the end of the films approved by Disney before his death, but where do they rank?
Here is my ranking:
1) Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
2) Fantasia (1940)
3) Sleeping Beauty (1959)
4) Bambi (1942)
5) Alice in Wonderland (1951)
6) The Aristocats (1971)
7) One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)
8) Peter Pan (1953)
9) The Three Caballeros (1945)
10) Pinocchio (1940)
11) Dumbo (1941)
12) The Jungle Book (1967)
13) The Sword in the Stone (1963)
14) Cinderella (1950)
15) Lady and the Tramp (1955)
16) Fun and Fancy Free (1947)
17) The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)
18) Saludos Amigos (1943)
19) Melody Time (1948)
20) Make Mine Music (1946)
My next blog begins to focus on the films created post-Disney. This period is known for producing underwhelming films pre-Renaissance so it will be interesting to see where they will rank.
What do you think of the ranking? What are your favourites? Let me know in the comments below!