This post has been a long one coming as I have been slow reviewing and uploading this series of posts but we are almost there. This is the penultimate post before we are completely up to date just in time for the upcoming release of the much-hyped Frozen II. After featuring Disney during its slump, we see the last of it here and begin to move forward into the era of today known as the Revival. I can’t believe we’re almost at the end but some of the films in this list, I have watched countless times.
As ever you can read the previous instalments here:
With the introduction of the new era, we begin to see Disney pushing itself into the 21st century and reflecting the politics and society of today. With that in mind we begin to see a reintroduction to new Disney princesses who are more diverse and independent, inclusion of characters of different races and backgrounds. Disney has a long way to go with this as we eagerly await the first openly LGBT+ character in an animated film from them whereas other animation studios such as Laika have been more inclusive and fearless. However, the films in this list show Disney starting to go in the right direction.
Here’s the reviews for films 46-50:
46) Chicken Little (2005)
This film was everywhere on its release and marked a start for Disney beginning to incorporate computer animation more in its repertoire. The result, however, was extremely disappointing. Chicken Little sees Zach Braff as the titular character who convinces his town that the sky is falling and becomes a laughing stock. What the townspeople don’t know is that it is actually true and the town is on the brink of an alien invasion. The story itself is sweet but what lets it down is the animation, poor character development and overly tortured dialogue. The film reeks of noughties trends and tries so hard to be relevant that it becomes cringy to watch. The character of Chicken Little isn’t particularly well-rounded as he spends most of the film falling over or not communicating properly with other characters, mainly his father. Unlike Pixar, the animation doesn’t feel as modern as it should be (Pixar released The Incredibles in 2004 for comparison) and it seems that the plot is disjointed and isn’t pulled off as they imagined. The film did well commercially but not critically and I think that the team did take this on board. There’s a reason that we don’t see or hear of Chicken Little at the Disney Parks and I don’t think it’d even be considered for a reboot at any point. This definitely seems like Disney’s lowest point.
47) Meet the Robinsons (2007)
This was an interesting film for me to watch as I had only just seen it the once previously. Following orphan Lewis whose inventions prevent him from being adopted, he invents a machine to help him remember his mother’s face. At a science fair to debut this project, he is encountered by Wilbur Robinson, a teenager from the future who tells Lewis that the future is in jeopardy if his machine is stolen. Inspired by Tomorrowland at Disney’s park and using Disney’s philosophy “keep moving forward”, the film has a beautiful story and message but sadly it is overwhelmed by one dimensional characters and a strained first act. On rewatching, I did like the film a lot more than the first time but to me it is on the lower tier of Disney films. This is only because there is an abundance of characters and none of them feel really well-rounded. The animation is also problematic at times although a big improvement on Chicken Little. Scenes such as the incident with his peanut butter and jelly gun looks out of place and doesn’t match the aesthetic of the film.
48) Bolt (2008)
It seems hard to believe that Bolt was released a year after Meet the Robinsons. The animation looks so much more advanced and it feels like Disney going back to its original formula while pushing the studio into the future with the critical success that they had hoped for Chicken Little. Bolt (voiced by John Travolta) is a Hollywood stunt dog with his own TV show with his owner, Penny (voiced by Miley Cyrus). When he is mistakenly shipped to New York, he must team up with Mittens the cat and Rhino the hamster to reunite with Penny in Hollywood. The plot is a simple road movie and Disney goes back to using a big star ensemble to draw in the audiences but it works. It’s a film that shows that Disney are capable of bringing quality and heart to their films and starts to mark their presence in the 21st century in a computer animated dominated landscape. The soundtrack is another highlight for this film with the closing song “I Thought I Lost You” sung by Travolta and Cyrus a nice ending and ridiculously catchy.
49) The Princess and the Frog (2009)
After a few unsuccessful attempts at computer animation, Disney returned to hand-drawn animation for this seemingly classic retelling of The Princess and the Frog. Set in 1920s New Orleans, waitress Tiana kisses Prince Naveen, a talking frog, and is ultimately turned into one herself. Together, Tiana and Naveen have to figure out how to undo the curse before they run out of time and become frogs forever. This film was a significant step in Disney history as it features Disney’s first black princess. Unlike the previous films of the 2000s, the film feels sincere and harks back to the classic fairytales and yet sits nicely in a 21st century landscape. The soundtrack is standout and Facilier is one of the scariest villains in Disney history. The animation also feels traditional with its bright New Orleans carnival colours mixed with the Bayou landscape. It’s a gorgeous film that is a true testament to Disney getting itself back on track. There’s great character development and a nice cast of characters who are also developed, particularly friendly firefly, Ray and the jazz loving alligator, Louis.
50) Tangled (2010)
My favourite film on this particular post, Tangled is a quirky retelling of Rapunzel, a princess with long hair who is locked away in a tower. In this film, Rapunzel (voiced by Mandy Moore) is an anxiety-ridden young woman seeking adventure who, along with her sidekick, chameleon Pascal, heads on a quest to visit the “floating lights” with outlaw Flynn (voiced by Zacahary Levi). The animation is fantastic, the soundtrack is beautiful and the film as a whole knocks it out the park. It’s a shame that this was released the same year as Toy Story 3 which outshadowed every animated film that year. Fortunately, Tangled has succeeded in maintaining a legacy and a loyalty among fans with merchandise constantly updated and appearances by the characters in the parks. I think that “I See the Light” is one of the best songs and scenes in Disney history. Everything about it is perfection and brings what we love about Disney films to the surface. The animation of the lanterns and the accompanying scenes in the kingdom are amazingly detailed and filled with texture. It’s one of the most popular modern DIsney films for a reason and deserves more than one watch.
That’s the end of the penultimate post with one extended post to go for films 51-57. We’re deep into the Revival now and the next post features the first non-Pixar Disney films to win the Best Animated Feature Award at the Oscars showing that they are at the height of their game. The next post sees Disney venture into reboots, sequels and originals that vary in topics such as friendship, love and isolation.
I promise I will try to be quick with uploading the next post so I can be up to date and ready to see where Frozen II will slot into the list.
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) Tangled (2010)
11) Alice in Wonderland (1951)
12) Aladdin (1992)
13) The Aristocats (1971)
14) One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)
15) The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)
16) The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
17) Lilo & Stitch (2002)
18) The Princess and the Frog (2009)
19) Peter Pan (1953)
20) The Three Caballeros (1945)
21) Pinocchio (1940)
22) Pocahontas (1995)
23) Tarzan (1999)
24) Dumbo (1941)
25) Hercules (1997)
26) The Black Cauldron (1985)
27) Atlantis: the Lost Empire (2001)
28) The Great Mouse Detective (1986)
29) Treasure Planet (2002)
30) Brother Bear (2003)
31) The Jungle Book (1967)
32) The Sword in the Stone (1963)
33) Cinderella (1950)
34) Bolt (2008)
35) The Rescuers (1977)
36) Robin Hood (1973)
37) Oliver & Company (1988)
38) Lady and the Tramp (1955)
39) The Fox and the Hound (1981)
40) Fun and Fancy Free (1947)
41) The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)
42) Saludos Amigos (1943)
43) Melody Time (1948)
44) Fantasia 2000 (2000)
45) The Rescuers Down Under (1990)
46) Make Mine Music (1946)
47) Meet the Robinsons (2007)
48) Home on the Range (2004)
49) Dinosaur (2000)
50) Chicken Little (2005)
What do you think of the list? Let me know in the comments below!