We finally made it! After months of reviews and rankings, this is the final post before we are all up to date before Frozen II hits cinemas. This series of posts have taken us through not only the history of Disney but also a history of animation as we transition from hand-drawn to computer animation. Going from more traditional fairytale retellings to complex stories about identity and love, Disney continues to better itself as a studio although there is still a long way to go. Much like the animation studio in Burbank, it is held up by its traditions like the statues of the Dwarfs that hold up the building itself. This bunch of films sees Disney poke fun of its past in a bid to expose the mistakes that have been made in its portrayal of serious issues such as gender stereotypes and racism. In doing so, it tends to fall flat at times as the gestures don’t seem sincere and apologetic but it is made with good intentions.
We also see Disney’s most successful film as well as the first Best Animated Feature Oscar winners that aren’t Pixar. Disney seems to have found its footing in a landscape dominated by computer animation by using nostalgic elements such as Disney princesses but making them modern. With Disney being the most powerful studio in the world, they are able to recruit star-studded casts and the best crew such as Lin-Manuel Miranda’s stellar soundtrack for Moana and Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell as the two sisters in Frozen.
Just in case you need a refresher, here are the previous installments:
This list includes the last hand-drawn feature before Disney announced its dedication to computer animation and also includes some of the most progressive films in Disney’s catalogue. These films clearly have an aim to push strong female characters in them and although it isn’t perfect, it’s a step in that direction. There are areas as I have said previously where Disney need to step up such as including LGBT+ characters and a wider array of cultural backgrounds that don’t fall into stereotypical tropes. The films from Disney aren’t perfect but they are trying to right the wrongs of the past while also reflecting modern politics in a way where they please everyone. I don’t necessarily agree with their philosophy but they are a brand and revenue is one of the most important (if not THE most important) factor in the Disney process. Hopefully, they learned from the straight-to-DVD sequel, prequel fiasco of the early noughties and go back to creating films with heart where the audience is the primary focus rather than their pockets.
Without further ado, here are the reviews for films 51-57:
51) Winnie the Pooh (2011)
Marking Disney’s last hand-drawn feature, Winnie the Pooh seems to mark the end of an era as Disney begins to embark on computer-animated films only. I am really sad to say that this film falls flat for me. I just didn’t find it enjoyable in the slightest. The animation is off, the plot is boring and the characters aren’t as lovable. I mean, this is Winnie the Pooh we’re talking about. The characters are loved all around the world but this adaptation mauls the text and tarnishes the franchise. Luckily, we still have The Many Adventures of WInnie the Pooh to enjoy and we can forget about this mess of a film. The animation of the animals isn’t too bad but the design of Christopher Robin and the background looks out of place.
52) Wreck-It Ralph (2012)
Showing that Disney is still capable of producing original material, Wreck-It Ralph follows the titular character (voiced by John C. Reilly) who is the villain of an arcade game wanting to be the good guy for once like “Fix-It Felix”, the insufferable character who defeats Ralph numerous times a day. Ralph is despised by the fellow tenants of the apartment block that he tries to destroy. Sick of the same routine, Ralph escapes to Sugar Rush, another game where players race through lands of candy. There he encounters the tiny Vanellope von Schweet (voiced by Sarah Silverman), a funny and sassy aspiring racer who is also an outcast due to her glitch. Together, they try to become heroes when the arcade’s future is thrown into uncertainty. It’s a film full of nostalgia with its inclusion of iconic game characters such as Pacman and Sonic the Hedgehog but it isn’t held down by this or overwhelmed.
53) Frozen (2013)
The first non-Pixar Disney film to take home the Best Animated Feature Oscar is also the most successful Disney film of all time. Frozen takes its inspiration from “The Snow Queen” by Hans Christian Anderson and follows Princess Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell) who embarks on a quest to find her sister Queen Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) when the latter runs away and covers the entire Kingdom of Arendelle in an eternal winter. The film itself is a huge feat for Disney as it features one of the most iconic songs to come out of the Disney catalogue (Oscar winning song, “Let It Go”) as well as some of the most memorable characters in recent years, notably Olaf the sun-loving snowman (voiced by Josh Gad). Frozen is instantly recognisable around the globe and has become a phenomenon and a brand in itself which is hugely impressive for an animated film. Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez’s songwriting feels like the modern equivalent of the iconic songs from Alan Menken and Howard Ashman as they capture the essence of the film from the opening song. It’s not everyday that an animated feature passes the $1 billion mark at the box office but Frozen did it and with two female protagonists at the helm to boot. Who said women don’t make revenue at the box office?
54) Big Hero 6 (2014)
This is the one Disney film that I hadn’t seen before completing this ranking. I have been meaning to watch it but eventually I forgot and never got around to it. Following teenage Hero, a ridiculously intelligent robot enthusiast who has graduate high school early and doesn’t know what to do with his time, we see his budding friendship with Baymax, a robot made by his late brother. Big Hero 6 isn’t a bad film by any means but just as I had suspected, it just isn’t my cup of tea. I completely appreciate the height though as the animation is among Disney’s best in the modern age. Based on a Marvel comic that is based in a fictional city that combines San Francisco and Tokyo, the film appears to take aspects of Japanese culture such as using the language on shop signs and using Japanese characters names in an English-speaking white American setting. I think it is more of a tribute to Japanese anime than maliciously appropriating but it feels as though Big Hero 6 is more of a “trendy” film due the popularity of anime than a sincere offering. The animation style takes inspiration from anime but the style is more Disney’s version of anime. As I say, I don’t think the film is bad but I feel like it could have been more.
55) Zootopia (2016)
I have marked this down as Zootopia on the ranking as that was the original title although in the UK, this was released as Zootropolis. Set in a universe populated by animals where predators rule the roost and prey are subject to less dangerous careers such as farming. The film follows Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin), a rabbit who succeeds in becoming a police officer but is subject to parking duty because she is a rabbit. After numerous predators go missing, Judy eagerly volunteers to find them to prove herself and teams up with con-artist Nick Wilde (voiced by Jason Bateman), a fox who Judy blackmails into assisting her. The film is a clever depiction of racism in American as well as an accurate portrayal of gender politicals and the corruption of authority. Despite the obscure metaphor, the message of equality is easy enough for children to grasp and this is what makes the film more than simple entertainment.
56) Moana (2016)
The latest inclusion of a Disney princess sees us travel to the Polynesian island of Motunui where Moana is destined to become the Chief of her village but she longs to venture out to sea. What follows is a road trip style film where she has to retrieve the Heart of Te Fiti to stop her island suffering from famine. Teaming up with shapeshifting demigod, Maui, Moana must sail across the seas encountering monsters and finding herself along the way. The plot for the film is simple and the structure is reflective of a road-trip movie but elevates this film and makes it special is the soundtrack. Written by Pulitzer Prize winning songwriter Lin-Manuel Miranda, the songs are beautiful and clever, incorporating the language and music style of Polynesian culture naturally. I don’t think the film would be as successful as it is without the soundtrack as the songs really show the character development as Moana grows from a fearful girl wanting to explore to an adventurer who wants to continue her ancestor’s tradition. The animation is stunning and it is by far my favourite inclusion on this list.
57) Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)
The second Disney sequel to be included on the Animated Classics list, Ralph Breaks the Internet is the eagerly awaited follow-up to 2012’s Wreck-It Ralph. The arcade’s popularity is waning and Vanellope is growing bored with the same racetracks everyday. She wants more and longs to venture to the internet where free-riding games are all the rage. When a player accidentally breaks the steering wheel for the machine after fighting Vanellope for control, Ralph and Vanellope must find $27,000 for a new wheel to purchase before the machine is closed down. They venture into the internet to find the money. The film is even more bonkers than the first and really captures how random the internet really is. The studio even goes as far as to incorporate the dark web by making it sleezy and the creatures that reside there are truly disgusting and disturbing. Unlike The Rescuers Down Under, this is a sequel that feels fresh and familiar at the same time.
So that’s it! That’s all the reviews for every Animated Classic so far. It’s been a lot of fun but really challenging having to decide where they all slot because every film is so different (except for The Rescuers and The Rescuers Down Under which is the same film set in different countries). Needless to say, I am very excited to see where Disney goes as we enter a new decade and I hope that they also go back to including hand-drawn animation as well. It’d be nice to see their animations explored in all styles.
Here is my final 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) Moana (2016)
20) Peter Pan (1953)
21) The Three Caballeros (1945)
22) Pinocchio (1940)
23) Pocahontas (1995)
24) Tarzan (1999)
25) Frozen (2013)
26) Dumbo (1941)
27) Hercules (1997)
28) The Black Cauldron (1985)
29) Atlantis: the Lost Empire (2001)
30) The Great Mouse Detective (1986)
31) Wreck-It Ralph (2012)
32) Zootopia (2016)
33) Treasure Planet (2002)
34) Brother Bear (2003)
35) The Jungle Book (1967)
36) The Sword in the Stone (1963)
37) Cinderella (1950)
38) Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)
39) Bolt (2008)
40) Big Hero 6 (2014)
41) The Rescuers (1977)
42) Robin Hood (1973)
43) Oliver & Company (1988)
44) Lady and the Tramp (1955)
45) The Fox and the Hound (1981)
46) Fun and Fancy Free (1947)
47) The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)
48) Saludos Amigos (1943)
49) Melody Time (1948)
50) Fantasia 2000 (2000)
51) The Rescuers Down Under (1990)
52) Make Mine Music (1946)
53) Meet the Robinsons (2007)
54) Home on the Range (2004)
55) Dinosaur (2000)
56) Chicken Little (2005)
57) Winnie the Pooh (2011)
I am aware that the final rankings may seem shocking and the new films such as Frozen may seem really low on the list, but consider that the ones at the tops are classics that have been with me through childhood, I think they have done really well. The films at the top have proven to be classics that have stood the test of time for decades and still resonate with audiences today whereas the newer films need that chance to breathe.
I am excited to see where Disney go in the future and I am hoping Frozen II continues to push Disney in the right direction as it has done so far with its feminist outlook.
What do you think of my final ranking? What would be your top choice? Let me know in the comments below!