Disney are the biggest company around these days, and their animated division is where they’ve made their name. Obviously we all know about films like Snow White, The Lion King, or Frozen. But there are so many under-appreciated films from Disney’s history. That’s why this week my guest, Akira Jeffers, and I are choosing our Top 5 underrated Disney films.
- Shuggie: Dinosaur – Disney films from the 2000s is probably something you’re going to see a lot of on this list. They haven’t had the time to grow into classic status like some of the most classic Disney films, and aren’t quite at the quality of the Disney Renaissance in the 90s. But there are some very underrated gems in there, and one of the most overlooked in my eyes is Dinosaur. Maybe it’s because this was one of the films that I saw when I was around 5 or 6 but Dinosaur has a big nostalgic place in my heart. The film did well enough with critics, and had a decent box office return, but sadly has just slipped away into obscurity. I myself didn’t even think about it until I was looking through Disney films for this list and remember how much I loved it as a child.
- Akira: Oliver and Company – Essentially Oliver Twist but with 90% animals! It has the same tone and pace as The Aristocats, I love the animation, as it isn’t too perfect and rough which reflects the storyline. A gang of dogs taught to steal and cheat by a homeless man take this kitten in and raise him. It came out in 1988 so it has slipped beyond reach as there are so many animated films since then and that are more accessible on current forms of media. If you ever find it or it’s on television watch it! It’s actually so good!
- Shuggie: The Emperor’s New Groove – Another films from the 2000s, and it’s The Emperor’s New Groove. This is one of the most outright funny films in Disney’s catalogue. Kuzco actually goes through a great arc during the film, because he starts the film as such an unlikable, self-entitled, and often cruel emperor. But by the end of the film this has been pulled back to reveal an incredibly compassionate and loveable character. Yzma is probably one of the more incompetent Disney villains, but her sidekick Kronk is sensational, and of course voiced by the wonderful Patrick Warburton. The Emperor’s New Groove is certainly one of the Disney films from the 2000s that deserves revisiting.
- Akira: Brother Bear – I won’t lie I forgot about this film and I remembering loving it! The film is all about family; the initial focus is on avenging a loved one and reaping what you sow when acting out of hatred. I especially love that the culture that in the film isn’t based off of mainland Europe, following favourites like Pocahontas and Mulan (this came out in 2003 mind). It gives you enough comedy to keep you from actually sobbing the entire way through but not to ruin the emotional moments in the film. Also there’s this great scene with these goats and echoing. Don’t ask, just watch.
- Shuggie: Tangled – Everyone talks about Frozen as the film that kicked off Disney’s global dominance of the animated market once again, but far too many people overlook 2010’s Tangled, the film which truly started the second renaissance. There weren’t too many of the classic fairytales yet to cover, and Rapunzel could have come across as a very bland one, but thanks to Disney’s magic, and the addition of a host of wonderful characters Tangled deserves to be held up amongst the best of Disney’s “Princess films”. There is also an excellent voice cast in the film, particularly the leads Zachary Levi and Mandy Moore. Some of the music is also underrated, particularly I See The Light, and it easily stands up with the likes of Frozen.
- Akira: Atlantis: The Lost Empire – Why there are people in this world that have not seen this film I know not. This. Right. Here. The diverse characters that you come across with such personalities are really the key thing in this film for me. Don’t get me wrong I do enjoy the storyline more non-Eurocentric culture, it’s closer to southern American culture such as the Aztecs than anything else. It wasn’t as popular as it should’ve and it’s so annoying! Although it is essentially ‘white guy wants to find treasures to make himself rich and famous at the expense of others, which is like the story of….life.
- Shuggie: Lilo and Stitch – The best Disney animated film from the 2000s is such a beautiful story of two characters who feel as though they don’t fit in, but find family in their very strange group. There are obviously a ton of films out there about people who are viewed as social outcasts, but few manage to hit home as emotionally as Lilo and Stitch. The ending where Stitch repeats the mantra that “ohana means family” is so powerful. As well as two of the best (and in Stitch certainly the cutest) protagonists from any Disney film, Lilo and Stitch has some of the best supporting characters. Nani and David are two of the best parental figures from any children’s film, the aliens are all awesomely designed, and Cobra Bubbles at least earns one of the best names ever. Lilo and Stitch is one of the best, and most underrated Disney films ever.
- Akira: Wall-E – I cry every time I watch this. A gritty yet optimistic feel good, in the end, film I believe is highly underrated. Humans ruin the earth so much that we have to go live in space and leave robots to clean up but somehow they all rust and stop working EXCEPT the precious flower that is Wall-E. It points out the issues of Capitalism and corporate greed. The only thing I’d argue is a negative is the gendering of robots. It is an interpretation, probably accurate, of what our lifestyles as humans are doing to the Earth. It is a really soul destroying reality wrapped up in a cute friendship and hope of fixing what we broke.
- Shuggie: Mulan – Mulan falls at the tail end of Disney’s Renaissance period, and it doesn’t get the praise it should. Mulan herself is easily one of the absolute best Disney leads. When you look at what she actually achieves she is right up there as one of the best heroines from amongst Disney’s “princesses”. She saves China, and yes there is a love interest, but that’s secondary to Mulan’s desire to protect her family, and stop the assassination of the Emperor. The only other “princess” who is comparable to her is really Moana, who again saves her people. Mulan may have been the last great film in the Disney Renaissance, but it’s shame that people don’t look at it in the same regard as classics such as The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, or Beauty and the Beast.
- Akira: The Emperor’s New Groove – Another film that is not focused in Europe and what more could you ask from a Disney movie? Especially if you don’t like the princess types, though you could STRONGLY argue that Kuzco is a princess. One of THE most iconic characters ever in my opinion is in this film, Yzma and she is voiced by the eternal Eartha Kitt. The plot it so far fetched is just works! It even points out the obvious continuity issues such as a chase scene ending with those who were far ahead still ending up last; “By all accounts it doesn’t make sense”-Kronk. Also Kronk is just an adorable precious cinnamon bun that needs to be protected.
So those are what we think are the most underrated Disney films. What do you think of our choices, and what Disney films do you think are underrated? Let me know in the comments.