Now we’re getting to the halfway point and already we have looked at some of the classic offerings that have stood the test of time. This period of films sees the Disney studios in a rut after the failure of The Black Cauldron and the emergence of what has become known as The Disney Renaissance. Some of the films in this post include cult classics such as The Great Mouse Detective as well as the film that garnered Disney its only nomination for Best Picture for an animated film, Beauty and the Beast. This post also sees the inclusion of the first sequel, The Rescuers Down Under which would remain the only sequel in the Disney Classic collection until the release of Ralph Breaks the Internet in 2018.
If you haven’t caught up, here are the other installments:
Anyway, let’s crack on with Disney films 26-30:
26) The Great Mouse Detective (1986)
Based on the famous Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Great Mouse Detective (or Basil, the Great Mouse Detective as it was released in the UK) tells the story of detective, Basil and his sidekick, Dawson as they attempt to figure out the notorious Rattigan’s plan. Obsessed would not be a strong enough word to describe my feelings towards this film when I was younger. I used to watch it on a regular basis and loved the characters and songs. It is often forgotten as the story itself is rather simple and the animation for the most part isn’t the best; however, the climactic scene in the mechanics of Big Ben is phenomenally done. Compared to One Hundred and One Dalmatians which portrays London as quaint and lovely, The Great Mouse Detective gives the film a grimy look into Victorian England as Basil and co venture into the sewers. Much like The Black Cauldron before it, this film wasn’t as successful as it should have been and yet I still love it.
27) Oliver & Company (1988)
The next Victorian adaptation brings us to modern day New York City. Based on Charles Dickens’ novel Oliver Twist, Oliver is a kitten who teams up with a group of dogs in his bid to find a true home within the big city. This film has struggles in its pacing and writing but the animation brings the audience into an urban city that we haven’t experienced before in Disney. It’s a shame that we don’t really get to know any of the characters beyond a single trait and their looks as they provide an interesting foundation for a film that could have been much better if given more time and a higher budget. There are moments that are exciting such as the song “Why Should I Worry?” belted out by Billy Joel, who voices Dodger, Oliver’s first friend who gives him a tour of the city. The two travel around and find themselves in precarious situations but the song acts as a safeguard as they ease themselves through and end up with a string of hot dog sausages at the end. I think that it was a clever idea to bring Dickens into 1980s New York as it is something unexpected and new, but as I have stated, I felt that this film could have brought more than it does.
28) The Little Mermaid (1989)
The film that helped Disney out of the financial and critical mess it was in. The Little Mermaid, based on the Hans Christian Anderson fairy-tale of the same name, is about a mermaid called Ariel who longs to be a human and what she will sacrifice in order to get there. It’s a beautiful return to the classic Disney films that people love and marks the beginning of fantastic songs written by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, who would begin to collaborate with Disney through the Disney Renaissance. It’s a film that remains a favourite with fans due to its brilliant songs and charismatic characters. Yet again, Disney provides us with another iconic villain in the form of Ursula, a sea witch who is half human/half octopus. She’s charismatic and relentless in her attempt to get what she wants. I don’t know if there is a more manipulative character in the Disney universe than Ursula. My favourite character is enigmatic crab, Sebastian who tries to act as Ariel’s mentor as she learns about being a princess and controlling her desires. He brings us two of the most memorable songs in the Disney catalogue “Under the Sea” and “Kiss the Girl” but a special mention also goes out to Ariel’s ballad “Part of Your World” which you can’t help but belt out whenever you watch the film.
29) The Rescuers Down Under (1990)
Disney’s first sequel takes us across the world to Australia where Bernard and Bianca travel to rescue a young boy kidnapped by a poacher who is hunting a rare eagle. It’s not a terrible film but it feels like the same concept but placed in a different environment therefore making it predictable and at times dragging. The animation also isn’t as ground-breaking as other films released around this time. It’s an enjoyable film to watch but The Rescuers is a far more superior film. I imagine the reason the studio played it safe and repeated the story was due to the film being Disney’s first sequel and with The Rescuers proving to be a success, they didn’t want to tarnish its reputation. The problem is that although this film was released within the Disney Renaissance, it is often forgotten because compared to the other films released during this time, it is by far the weakest instalment of the non-segmented features so far but then the quality of the rest is so high and it’s a shame to see this film fall short of the mark.
30) Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Disney’s only Best Picture nomination from the Disney Classic catalogue comes in the form of this flawless fairy-tale adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. This is always discussed as one of the best Disney films ever made and with good reason. There are countless memorable songs, flawless character development for both leads and supporting and writing that is perfectly paced. This film feels like Disney going back to its roots and creating a film that is both full of action and full of heart at the same time. The tale of the beautiful Belle, daughter of eccentric inventor, Maurice, is imprisoned in a castle ran by the Beast in exchange to free her father. As their relationship develops, word gets out to the villainous Gaston, the town hunk who loves Belle and wishes to marry her. It’s a film that is simple on the surface but incorporates complex issues underneath making it perfect for people of all ages. It’s a film filled with beautiful animation and intricate details, particularly in the castle as we venture around with the anthropomorphic objects such as Lumiere the candelabra and Cogsworth the clock. It’s a timeless tale of love that has inspired sequels and remakes galore and Disney are constantly releasing merchandise and incorporating the characters in the parks. The songs are the highlight of this masterpiece with songs again written by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman (who sadly passed before the film’s release). It’s legacy will no doubt stand even beyond the 100th film as it proved that The Little Mermaid wasn’t just a fluke and that Disney had managed to reignite its power again.
Now we’ve entered a truly exciting era of Disney and it’s truly difficult where to place them among the classics! It would be wrong not to recognise the reputation and legacy of The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast in particular because they are still well-loved by people of all ages.
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 Little Mermaid (1989)
8) Alice in Wonderland (1951)
9) The Aristocats (1971)
10) One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)
11) Peter Pan (1953)
12) The Three Caballeros (1945)
13) Pinocchio (1940)
14) Dumbo (1941)
15) The Black Cauldron (1985)
16) The Great Mouse Detective (1986)
17) The Jungle Book (1967)
18) The Sword in the Stone (1963)
19) Cinderella (1950)
20) The Rescuers (1977)
21) Robin Hood (1973)
22) Oliver & Company (1988)
23) Lady and the Tramp (1955)
24) The Fox and the Hound (1981)
25) Fun and Fancy Free (1947)
26) The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)
27) Saludos Amigos (1943)
28) Melody Time (1948)
29) The Rescuers Down Under (1990)
30) Make Mine Music (1946)
The next blog is another exciting one because we’re delving deeper into the Disney Renaissance featuring more big hitters in the Disney repertoire such as Aladdin and The Lion King.
What did you think of this post and the ranking so far? Let me know in the comments below