Sorry for the long break! I’ve been so busy that I haven’t found the time to write up my articles. However, I’m back and ready to carry on with my rankings. I’m sure you’re all dying to see the end result!
Riding on the success of the Disney Renaissance, the studio finds itself in a period of cockiness and nostalgia and proves that the overwhelming success of the 90s didn’t just come on a whim. The head honchos believe that now is a good time to release direct-to-video sequels and prequels galore to accompany the re-releases of the classics that are released from the Disney Vault. This is also a time when lots of projects that were overlooked during the Renaissance find their way onto the big screen.
As ever you can read the previous instalments here:
The majority of these films were not kindly looked upon critically or commercially compared to the predecessors of the previous decade. I do have a soft spot for this bunch as I went to see all of them in the cinema (with the exception of Home on the Range) and I have fond memories of watching them all on a loop. However, I do admit that they don’t have the lasting legacy that other Disney offerings have and despite being under 20 years old, they are often overlooked.
Without further ado, let’s crack on with the reviews for films 41-45:
41) Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
Disney spared no expense on the production and marketing for this film (between $90-120 million was spent) and it was everywhere you looked. Atlantis was expected to be the next great Disney epic and the media and audience lapped the hype up only to be disappointed by the end result. Following Atlantis enthusiast Milo Thatch (voiced by Michael J. Fox) who embarks on a mission to find the lost kingdom, Atlantis is visually stunning and boasts some of Disney’s finest animation. What this film brings in style, it lacks in substance with a script that doesn’t feel finished. We’re presented with an array of one-dimensional characters but the real star of the show is Atlantis’ Princess Kida who is fascinated by the outsiders and wants to form a relationship with the outside world. It’s a shame that Disney hasn’t followed on her legacy in the past few years as she is overlooked in the Disney Princess canon constantly. This is a film that I thoroughly enjoy watching as there are numerous scenes that I hugely appreciate such as the Leviathan attack on the submarine, the scene where Kida is taken over by the protective crystal and the climatic battle in the volcano where Milo faces off the corrupt soldiers. It’s a film that (like 1985’s The Black Cauldron) deserved better writing and fleshed out characters but ultimately falls flat and has become forgotten with time.
42) Lilo & Stitch (2002)
One of the most loved modern Disney films about a young Hawaiian girl who befriends an alien on the run from his creator, Lilo & Stitch is a heartwarming film about differences and the struggle to fit in. Lilo is a quirky little girl whose hobbies include taking pictures of sunburnt tourists and playing Elvis Presley songs full blast. She is badly bullied by those in her dance class and unknowingly acts out, causing problems for her older sister, Nani who is also her guardian. When social services start to look into taking Lilo away, Nani thinks it’d be good for Lilo to get a pet dog to keep her preoccupied. Enter Experiment 626, the runaway alien who finds himself in the dog kennel. Lilo is immediately taken by his physical differences and ability to speak that she immediately adopts him, names him Stitch and shows him around the island. There’s a reason that this film has become among the most iconic and recognisable of modern Disney. Its message about the importance of family is one that immediately resonates with the audience. The scene in which Nani sings “Aloha Oe” to Lilo as she comes to terms with the prospect that Lilo will be taken away is one of the most heartbreaking and, because of this, daring scenes that Disney have put to screen. This aspect of loss makes the payoff even better when Stitch recites Lilo’s motto that “ohana means family” to Nani. The film is one that has touched hearts around the globe and Stitch is among the most iconic Disney characters of the modern era.
43) Treasure Planet (2002)
A project that had been pushed back for ten years, Treasure Planet finally saw its release in 2002. Featuring an all-star cast that includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Emma Thompson and an extortionate budget ($140 million!), this futuristic retelling of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island about a young man who comes in possession of a highly-sought treasure map and sets off with a group of pirates to seek it has been subject to countless adaptations throughout the year. Never has this story been told in space where aliens take up most of the characters and the audience is taken across the galaxy in search of an entire planet that is filled with treasure. Utilising computer animation more so than previous films, Treasure Planet attempts to hurl Disney into a new era. Sadly, like Atlantis before it, the result is hugely underwhelming and we’re left with another forgettable entry in the Disney catalogue. I think the script is strong, following the premise of its source material but the style feels inconsistent to me. Visually, it is quite overwhelming as there is a lot going on. It’s a world inhabited by humans, aliens, traditional structures and futuristic architecture. It feels like a mesh of the past and the future which comes across disjointed as there isn’t a middle-ground.
44) Brother Bear (2003)
Made on a more modest budget of $46 million, Brother Bear follows Kenai, a young tribesman who is transformed into a bear after recklessly hunting down and killing a bear in the mountains of the spirits. Joined by young cub, Koda, Kenai must find his way back to the mountain in order to be turned back. The film is definitely a middling effort and feels rushed in execution. My favourite aspect of the film is the great soundtrack that includes songs by Phil Collins and the mesmerising track “Transformation” sang by the Bulgarian Women’s Choir. The scene in which Kenai is transformed is beautifully done and it’s a shame that the rest of the film doesn’t follow that standard. It’s an enjoyable watch but doesn’t hold its own against the greater works by Disney. It’s a shame that it wastes such a talented cast that includes Joaquin Phoenix as Kenai and Rick Moranis making a rare return to voice work as one half of a randomly included moose duo. It feels that the tone is imbalanced throughout as there is a serious undertone that is constantly overthrown by characters such as the moose. Their humour doesn’t fit in well and it makes the overall experience jarring.
45) Home on the Range (2004)
By far one of the worst films ever to come out of the Disney studio, Home on the Range follows a group of cows who attempt to capture a cattle rustler called Alameda Slim. I enjoyed this film on release but sadly I don’t enjoy it at all watching it now. It’s forgetful and doesn’t have the same amount of Disney charm as the other instalments. The plot is weak and generic and the characters are bland. Featuring voice work by Judi Dench, Jennifer Tilly and Randy Quaid among others, Home on the Range falls into the trap of style over substance and suffers tremendously for it. Continuing the trend for middling efforts and released among a fleet of direct-to-video sequels and prequels, Home on the Range doesn’t stand out for its mundane effort. Sadly, there is a reason why Home on the Range is always forgotten and eschewed in Disney marketing and merchandise. There isn’t anything in the film that is marketable or memorable for the audience.
It’s mad to think that there are only two more posts left in this series until we’re up to date. The next post sees Disney delve into computer animation with Chicken Little (2005) and Meet the Robinsons (2007) and enter a new era of Disney masterpieces with The Princess and the Frog (2009) and Tangled (2010)
Here is my ranking:
1) Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
2) Fantasia (1940)
3) Beauty and the Beast (1991)
4) Sleeping Beauty (1959)
5) Bambi (1942)
6) The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)
7) The Lion King (1994)
8) Mulan (1998)
9) The Little Mermaid (1989)
10) Alice in Wonderland (1951)
11) Aladdin (1992)
12) The Aristocats (1971)
13) One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)
14) The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)
15) The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
16) Lilo & Stitch (2002)
17) Peter Pan (1953)
18) The Three Caballeros (1945)
19) Pinocchio (1940)
20) Pocahontas (1995)
21) Tarzan (1999)
22) Dumbo (1941)
23) Hercules (1997)
24) The Black Cauldron (1985)
25) Atlantis: the Lost Empire (2001)
26) The Great Mouse Detective (1986)
27) Treasure Planet (2002)
28) Brother Bear (2003)
29) The Jungle Book (1967)
30) The Sword in the Stone (1963)
31) Cinderella (1950)
32) The Rescuers (1977)
33) Robin Hood (1973)
34) Oliver & Company (1988)
35) Lady and the Tramp (1955)
36) The Fox and the Hound (1981)
37) Fun and Fancy Free (1947)
38) The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)
39) Saludos Amigos (1943)
40) Melody Time (1948)
41) Fantasia 2000 (2000)
42) The Rescuers Down Under (1990)
43) Make Mine Music (1946)
44) Home on the Range (2004)
45) Dinosaur (2000)
What do you think of the list? Do you think I’ve been too harsh on these entries? Let me know in the comments below!