So, as you are reading this, I will be enjoying my 25th birthday in the sunny glow of Walt Disney World. And because it is such an occasion, I thought I would do something a bit more personal than my usual list posts, one that warms my heart and celebrates, well, me — as birthdays should!(#IswearIamneverthisselfish) So for those that are curious, here is a list that represents me in all my crazy Disney specific ways, and hopefully puts a smile on your face. Enjoy my top 10 favorite Disney (specifically animated) films of all time!
I easily can say I’m a big Edgar Rice Burroughs fan. My Grandfather educated me on his works, especially on Tarzan. Maybe that’s why the Disney incarnation has held such a special place in my heart, along with many other childhood memories. The animation is stunning, especially that of Glen Keane’s handle of the title character. Many people don’t know that Keane got inspired by his son for the sequences of Tarzan moving on the tree trunks, and that kind of personalized touch made those scenes, and the movie, stand out. And yes, I even like the Phil Collin’s music. Don’t ask me why I like it, I just do. #shrug
9) The Princess and the Frog
Some will look at me funny for this choice, but I will defend my love of this movie until the day I die. Sure, by most standards it isn’t Disney’s “best,” but something about the studio’s return to hand drawn animation had an effect on me. The unique setting of New Orleans and the “modern” twist made this not the typical Disney flick, and with the excellent, strong Tiana, there’s a lot to like here. But, one aspect stands among my favorite in Disney history: Charlotte La Bouff. This character elevates this movie to new, almost fourth-wall breaking, fangirl levels of hilarity. I almost wish they’d give Charlotte her own spin-off TV series, just for the possible hyjinks. With tons of cool elements, and a soundtrack to die for, Princess and the Frog is one of those movies that though it might not please everyone, it’ll always charm the socks off of this Disney nerd.
8) The Emperor’s New Groove
I’m usually not a big fan of comedies. Not that I have anything personally against them, but not many of them grab me in the way I typically want a movie to. But The Emperor’s New Groove is the exception to that statement. This underdog of a movie came out of nowhere, at a time where many had doubts about Disney as a company. Many people still don’t get its comedic brilliance, but I think that’s what has made it one of the few Disney flicks that can be regarded as a “cult classic.” From the casting of Eartha Kitt, to the epic duo that is John Goodman and David Spade, this movie is a gem. Squeak squeaken, squeak.
7) A Goofy Movie
Many of you younger readers will probably scratch your head at this addition to the list. “A Goofy Movie…. what the heck is that?” you may ask. Well, for little Dalin, this was one of those movies that really got to me. I think a lot of that can be attributed to the lead, Max Goof (played by Jason Marsden), a character that many a 90’s kid could connect to. He had an embarrassing parental figure, a crush that was hard to obtain, and he wanted to be liked. But even more so, the relationship between Max and his dad, Goofy, was also very relatable. I’m a child of divorced parents, meaning my relationship with my father has had its ups and downs. But, like our lead duo, we’ve worked through those struggles, and maybe that kind of similarity has brought me back time and time again to witness the cinematic adventures of Max and company.
6) Treasure Planet
Similar to A Goofy Movie, Treasure Planet also deals with kids and their relationships with their dads, but in a much deeper way. Jim Hawkins is a bit of a loner, a rebel in some cases, which comes a lot from his father leaving him at a young age. Some of the sequences in the film (particularly the musical montage ones) are images that hit pretty close to home, and I believe them to be some of the most beautiful pieces of animation that the studio has ever done. The same can be said for the voice acting, particularly the performance of Brian Murray as John Silver, who brought such rich emotion to even the simplest of sequences. Even though many will dash this particular Disney flick to the side, it still holds a special place in my heart.
5) Atlantis: The Lost Empire
I love adventure. The stories of swashbucklers and explorers has always made my eyes sparkle and shine. The same can be said for my love of Japanese Animation, along with the art of quirky comic book artists like Mike Mignola. And somehow, in 2001, Disney was able to mix every single thing I love into one perfect action movie, that just happened to be animated. Meet Atlantis: The Lost Empire, a movie that many to this day have yet to see, nor get its brilliance. From the incredible one-liners of Ms. Packard, to my personal favorite princess (Kida), this movie (for this particular Disney fan) has it all. Oh yeah, and Michael J. Fox, how can you go wrong with that?
I’ll be honest in that the character of Cinderella herself is not my favorite princess by a long shot, but the movie/universe she resides in is easily one of the favorites in Disney history. From the beautiful art direction by Mary Blair, with the incredible character animation by The Nine Old Men (particularly Ward Kimball’s work on Lucifer The Cat), every little bit of this movie resembles so much of what made Disney a household name. In fact, this is the movie that saved the studio, after their prior films had suffered major box offices loses due to the war. And of course, how can you not love the ridiculousness that is the Step Sisters, Anastasia and Drizella? Comedy gold and otherwise, those two are among my favorite characters in the Disney catalog. With lots of glamour and heart, Cinderella is a classic for a reason, and always will be to this Mouseketeer.
3) The Great Mouse Detective
Like some of the others on this list, I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve never seen nor heard of this one. The Great Mouse Detective came out during a transitional period for the studio, when the majority of their films were tanking at the box office (The Care Bears beat them, if you can believe it). What’s interesting about this particular film is that it really doesn’t feel like a Disney movie, mostly because it has a very adult sense of humor. There’s a lot about politics, underground crime, and the like, something parents would usually stray away from for their little ones. But like Atlantis, it’s one of those movies that over time has grown to have a cult fan base, and deservedly so. The shining jewel of this film is easily the voice acting of the late Vincent Price, who created with ease my favorite villain of all time, Ratigan. Fabulous, fashionable, and insane, he’s a memorable baddie for sure. With tons of charm to boot and love in every frame, Great Mouse Detective will always be on this list.
2) Beauty and the Beast
I’ll be honest that this (and the movie at number 1) are actually a tie. They both have incredible qualities that make them my favorite, but for very different reasons. Beauty and the Beast is my favorite fairy tale, and the Disney incarnation is definitely what got me hooked to the “tale as old as time.” With the breathtaking animation by Glen Keane, James Baxter, Andres Deja, and many others, and the perfect songs by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, this was really the little movie that could. It changed the way we see animated films, so much so that it was the first to ever be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. Belle and The Beast are both two of my favorite Disney characters, as is Gaston for the villain category. It’s a world I never want to leave, and will always return to again and again.
1) The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Hunchback, to some, is an odd movie. Though at times it is mixed with the awkward (
dated) humor of the Gargoyle sidekicks, the majority of the film has a much more mature angle, one that I was drawn to immediately as a kid. Something about the struggles of the characters, the beautiful animation by James Baxter and the other Disney artists, and the perfection in Alan Menken’s score, made this underdog of a movie stay with me and continues to bring a tear to my eye. In many ways, I feel like it was my first grown up movie, one that was almost dangerous to watch.
But even with its odd moments of failure, it continues to grab hold of me like no other animated movie has. The “Sanctuary” sequence alone, is among the greatest in the studio’s history, and also one of the most under-appreciated. Heck, I love this movie so much, I’m planning on seeing the musical adaptation four times this coming March, just because I can’t ever get enough of it. Gothic, moving, and a bit intense, Hunchback will always be my Disney movie, wacky gargoyles and all.
So, what are your favorite Disney films of all time? Though I clearly stuck to the animated flicks, are there live action ones you’d add to the list? Comment below with your picks!