I have previously done a Top 5 of my favourite animated films. But I wanted to go a little deeper into that genre, and the biggest creators of animated films are obviously Disney. They either own the competition, or just blow them away in terms of critical and box success. To that end my friend Anthony Levett (Who can be found on Twitter and Instagram) and I are here picking our Top 5 Disney Animated Classics. They have so many great films, such as Mulan, Fantastia, Frozen, The Princess and the Frog, Robin Hood, Lilo and Stitch, The Emperor’s New Groove, Hercules, Alice in Wonderland, and newest effort Zootopia, that even these couldn’t make it into my Top 5.
- Shuggie: Big Hero 6 – This is the only pick on my list that isn’t a Disney animated musical. Instead it is one of the best and most full of heart superhero films ever made, despite the fact that we are currently in the time of peak Superhero interest and filmmaking. Whilst actually a Marvel property and hitting a lot of the same beats of many Marvel films, it actually feels very different and has so much more of an emotional core. The character of Baymax is such a brilliant creation as well as one of the best modern film robots. His dynamic with Hiro is fantastic. But the most impressive aspect of the film is how they showed one of the most accurate depictions of someone struggling with and healing from depression after losing a loved one.
- Anthony: Hercules – Despite the severe deviation from the original Greek tale (not calling him Heracles for starters), this film manages to encompass many great things that make Disney stand out, most notably, having fully fleshed out characters who aren’t the lead. Meg was a female who did not need or want love after being burned once before by a previous lover. Also Hades was literally flaming! He was sassy, but that wasn’t all his character was. Whilst it’s up to debate whether Hades was actually meant to portrayed as gay, especially with the omission of his wife from the story, many young gay men identified with this character, giving him a cult following. Furthermore, the ability to place black women as the muses allow the inclusion of positive portrayals of black culture. This is come a long way from the days of Dumbo and Song of the South.
- Shuggie: The Lion King – I know many people would have this as their number one, and I understand why, but there are just some Disney films that have more of a place in my heart. I do think that the Lion King is fantastic, and it’s probably the greatest Shakespeare adaptation of all time, telling the classic Hamlet story in an interesting and engaging way. I normally subscribe to the Simpson’s take on Hamlet of “How can a story where everyone died be so boring?”. The Lion King has some brilliant characters, such as the lions Simba, Mufasa, Scar, Nala, as well as my favourite comedic sidekicks in Disney history, Timon and Pumbaa. I think songs like Circle of Life (serious do yourself a favour and make this you alarm tone) and Hakuna Matata are wonderful, and Can You Feel The Love Tonight and I Just Can’t Wait To Be King are good as well, even if they don’t come close to my favourites. Oh and lets not forget the fact that it has probably the most emotionally devastating moment of a lot of people’s childhoods.
- Anthony: The Emperor’s New Groove – This film broke the fourth wall as often as Deadpool, and was fully self-aware. This allows continues viewing pleasure as you grow older, as you were able to understand increasingly more highbrow layers of comedy. This is another trait of Disney films that flows throughout their work. Despite not being as successful at the box office as various other Disney films, not many others can say they left behind a legacy of memes and instantly identifiable quotes e.g. “Pull the lever Kronk! Wrong lever!” Yzma herself was used more for comedic effect than true villainy, making the entire film a light-hearted comedy. This is a pretty unique choice for a film about an Inca king.
- Shuggie: The Little Mermaid – I know not everyone loves the Little Mermaid, but I think that it gets a harshly looked on sometimes. It has, in my opinion at least, the best selection of songs in a Disney musical. Part Of That World is one of my absolute favourite film musical songs ever, throw in the likes of Under The Sea and Kiss The Girl and you’re on to a winner. I always find it slightly odd when people criticise the film for Ariel changing who she is for man, when in actual fact she makes it very clear early on that she wants to be a part of the human world, and doesn’t feel that connection with her own. I instead always see The Little Mermaid as a film of a young girl having to fight for her right to live her own life, and not merely follow what her father wishes for her, which isn’t such a bad message in my book.
- Anthony: Princess and the Frog – Despite being the newest hand drawn movie, it is most well known for being the first to have an African-American princess. To say that this is the film’s only selling point is a great injustice. It weaves a great tapestry of many intertwining stories, with each character hoping to realise their dream by the end. Despite its similarities at the start, this ragtag bunch differs from The Wizard of Oz gang, in that not everyone gets what they want. At least, what they thought they wanted. This film manages to cover such intense topics, such as death and systematic racism, and with such subtlety, that the viewer may not even realise the education they are receiving. Charlotte and Tiana’s friendship as children is never even questioned, and it is only when they’re older do outside influences comment on the poor black girl attending rich white dinner. Aside from this, the art style is a great return to form, and music by the great Randy Newman shows that despite a brief leave of absence, that magical quality that Disney possess so well is timeless.
- Shuggie: Beauty and the Beast – For my money Beauty and the Beast is the best Disney animated film ever made, although it doesn’t quite have a place as my favourite. Beauty and the Beast is a film with a great message about how beauty is not merely an external thing but is far more than skin deep. With a beautiful love story that is stronger than any other in Disney’s history. Alongside this it has some wonderful songs like Be Our Guest, and the titular song Beauty and the Beast. It also has one of my favourite Disney villains in the cocky, misogynist, and actually believable villain in Gaston, because he’s essentially just a self centred jock, rather than the embodiment of evil that we normally get Disney films.
- Anthony: Beauty and the Beast – It is a tale as old as time to quote Mrs Potts. Boy meets girl, boy trades her father for girl, boy is actually a giant hairy beast… Okay when said out loud you can understand why many people see this as romanticising Stockholm syndrome, but if you summarise anything that loses the key details. One of the most important plot points is not revealing the curse to Belle. She falls for the Beast not knowing that true love will turn him into a man. She would be more than happy to live the rest of her life with the Beast she grew to love. It’s also a good example of how fear of the unknown can easily stir up a mob mentality in your favour, especially amongst the uneducated *cough* Trump *cough*. I have only ever known one person who sympathised with Gaston, and now he steals to feed his heroin addiction, so… Just sayin’. Bell’s entire village think she’s strange because she reads. If the strangest thing about the most peculiar person in town is a love of literature, I think you’re doing all right. Gaston wants her because she’s pretty, whilst the Beast loves her for what’s inside; the same was she feels about him. Love wins over last; it’s cliché but that means it’s true.
- Shuggie: The Jungle Book – I’ve said before that I grew up on The Jungle Book. For the first 6 or 7 years of my life I probably watched this film more than any other. It has such a rich verity of characters who all play off each other so well; including King Louis, Baloo, Baghera, Kaa, and Shere Kahn. Alongside those it has two of the greatest song’s Disney ever wrote in I Wan’na Be Like You and The Bear Necessities. The remade live action film earlier this year was fantastic and took the film to new heights, however I doubt it will ever have a place in my heart like the 1967 animated original, because sometimes nostalgia can trump everything else when it comes to picking your favourites.
- Anthony: The Lion King – The film that told everyone the plot Hamlet without them even realising it was a plot to Hamlet. With beautiful illustrations and stunning songs, if you’re going to watch one Disney film, this has to be THE one to see. From the moment the sun rises in the opening scene and the iconic Circle of Life starts, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who didn’t know the song, especially amongst a crowd of people trying their best to pronounce the Afrikaans. With the soundtrack to this film being the only animated movie soundtrack to ever reach Diamond certification, that’s ten times platinum or 10 million to you or I, the songs have stood the test of time and even produced the only Disney Broadway show to truly make his mark on the great White Way. Plus, this was the first time an animated character had farted on screen, so there’s an iconic moment too.
So that’s our Top 5 Disney Animated Classics. What do you think of our choices and are there any you would like to see included? What’s your favourite era of Disney animation? And you can follow me @shuggiesays on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.