In honor of my daughter’s first day of preschool, I decided to make a list of my favorite Disney animated movies. I’m a huge fan of Disney animation, much to the joy of my daughter, who obviously benefits from my animated movie collection that was started long before she was born. So let’s take a look back at the 13 movies that have stayed with me all these years that I can now share with my daughter – and you.
13. Pocahontas (1995)
Say all you want about this movie being historically inaccurate. I don’t care. All I want is a good story paired with great animation and great songs, and I can get that when I watch Pocahontas. First off, Pocahontas was drawn by animator Glen Keane, who’s like the greatest Disney animator of all-time. You have that on top of the beautiful scenery – seriously, the colors are amazing in this movie – and two awesome songs sung by Judy Kuhn, Christian Bale as the voice of Thomas, and a raccoon named Meeko, and we all know how cute raccoons are. Oh, and Mel Gibson? Yeah, he might be kind of crazy as a person, but he does a great job at voicing John Smith. I can totally see why a 12-year-old would be in love with him.*
*I don’t think Pocahontas was really 12 years old in the movie. But in “real life”, that’s how old she would have been when she met John Smith.**
12. Mulan (1998)
When this movie came out, Disney was nearing the end of the decade that saw some of their greatest movies released. And although it didn’t receive as much recognition as its predecessors, Mulan is a kick-ass movie. A girl chopping off all her pretty hair to disguise herself as a boy just so she can fight in the war so her dad doesn’t have to? Awesome. How many of you would do that? Not I. But deep down Mulan is still a total girl and develops this crush on hunky Shang, and it’s kind of funny to see Shang struggling with his feelings because it’s totally obvious that he feels something for Mulan, but he thinks she’s a boy named Ping (awkward). Anyway, Shang is pissed (but probably totally relieved) when he finds out that “Ping” is really a girl, but decides after Mulan totally saves his butt that he can’t be mad at her because he’s in love with her. I guess he’s okay with Mulan wearing the pants in the family.
11. Peter Pan (1953)
Peter Pan is another one of those stories that I’ve always loved, and this movie is no exception. This movie was made during the time when Mary Blair worked for Disney, where she designed some of Disney’s best-looking movies. Sexual tension is all over the place, what with Wendy and Tinker Bell both wanting The Boy Who Won’t Grow Up, and all those mermaids who obviously have history with Peter (hello, they’re naked and they try to kill Wendy). Tinker Bell is really the only interesting character in this movie, a tiny fairy (or pixie? What is she?) suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder with a tendency to have temper tantrums. No wonder little girls love her so much!
10. Hercules (1997)
Sometimes a Disney movie doesn’t have to be about a princess to be good. Hercules is a good example of that. I was going into college when this movie came out, which apparently made me “too old to see animated Disney movies in theaters” (whatever), but when I saw this movie on video (seriously, it was a VHS), I thought it was hilarious. The funniest one I had seen since Aladdin. And the heroine, Megara (her friends call her Meg – that is they would if she had any friends) is a total bitch, which is so refreshing amongst a sea of polite and proper princesses. The animation is totally stylized, which is an artistic way of saying that the human characters look nothing like actual humans, but since this movie is about Greek (well, Roman if you want to get super technical) mythology, the style works. The songs are also super catchy and will stay in your head all day after just one listen.
9. The Lion King (1994)
It took me a year after its release to finally see this movie because thanks to movies like Benji and Old Yeller, I hate animal movies. Something bad always happens in animal movies. And The Lion King is no exception. SPOILERS: Mufasa dies. His own brother Scar kills him and blames it on Simba. Hey…that sounds a little like…Shakespeare! Hamlet, to be exact. Cue total appreciation for said animal movie. Seriously, though, The Lion King made a billion trillion dollars at the box office because it is a fantastic movie, despite the fact that something bad happens. And the music is awesome – don’t listen to Sarah Palin when she tells you to keep your kids away from the movie because “a gay man wrote the music”.*
*Actually, don’t listen to Sarah Palin at all.
8. Tangled (2010)
Can I just start out by saying that I love this movie? When I found out that Glen Keane, animator extraordinaire, was going to direct the movie, I had no doubt it was going to be fantastic. Mandy Moore as the speaking and singing voice of Rapunzel? Love her. Zachary Levi as the speaking and singing voice of Flynn Rider? Swoon. And a tiny green chameleon named Pascal? Adorbs. And you know what? The movie looks amazing. Rapunzel’s unnecessarily long hair looks like real hair. And yes, while the songs might not be iconic like other princess songs, they’re not what’s driving the movie forward. It’s the relationships – Rapunzel and her creepy kidnapping psycho mother, Rapunzel and swoony Flynn, and Rapunzel and her miserable parents who make me cry every time I see them release those depressing lanterns.
7. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
I think it’s safe to say that none of us were alive when this movie came out. Seriously, this movie is 75 years old! And it still stands on its own today. It doesn’t matter that the Prince has absolutely no purpose in this movie other than scaring the crap out of Snow while she’s singing into the well and then kidnapping her from the dwarfs at the end of the movie. It doesn’t matter that becoming the housemaid of seven dirty little men is somewhat disturbing. What matters is that this movie is wonderful and timeless and horribly frightening, namely any scene involving the Evil Queen. I’m serious, have you actually paid attention during those Queen scenes? How a kid can watch this and not have horrible nightmares involving skulls and blood and ravens and apples is beyond me.
6. The Little Mermaid (1989)
The fact that I saw this movie in the theater when I was ten years old makes me feel really old. Since Snow White sort of owns the title of “The One that Started It All”, I guess we can say that The Little Mermaid is “The One that Restarted It All”. It was the first movie of Disney’s “Power Decade”, as I like to call it, and when you compare it to the Disney movies that were coming out in the 70s and 80s, you can see why. The animation is fresh, the songs are powerful (I still tear up when I hear “Part of Your World”), and Ariel is a ginger! And yeah, she can kind of get whiny every now and then, but cut her some slack – she’s only 16, she can’t walk, let alone get her driver’s license, her sisters are stupid, her only friend is a guppy, and she has to wear actual seashells over her boobs every day. I don’t know about you, but I’d be pretty whiny, too. But you know what? It all works out for her. She gets the guy based on her looks and the fact that she combs her hair with a fork. Awesome.
5. Aladdin (1992)
If you think about it, Aladdin was a pretty ballsy movie to make. You mean we just fought in a war in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and Iraq and Iran, and you want to make a movie that takes place in a fictional Arabian place called Agrabah? Whatever, let’s do it! And thank God they did, because Aladdin is awesome. Some of my favorite Disney songs are from this movie, including one of my favorite Disney scenes ever (MAGIC CARPET RIDE!!!!), Genie makes me laugh out loud every time he opens his blue mouth, and yes, I admit, I kind of still have a crush on Aladdin. Come on, he’s the boy from the wrong side of the tracks! He’s got a pet monkey, for Pete’s sake! What’s not to love? Oh, yeah, and he can totally make wishes for you on his “magic lamp”. Which is code for…“magic lamp”.
4. Alice in Wonderland (1951)
Since Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is one of my favorite books, it only makes sense that I love the Disney movie as well. And I do. A lot. The story itself doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but then again, it’s not supposed to (unless you’re on drugs, in which case it all seems perfectly normal to you). But that’s why the movie is so much fun. Anything can happen in Wonderland. Girls can shrink when they drink some unknown, most likely poisonous substance. They can grow taller when they eat a mysterious piece of cake. They can talk to a hooka-smoking caterpillar who can make freaking letters with his smoke, man! And she can totally crash a tea party being hosted by a Mad Hatter, even though to this day no one really knows what a “hatter” is. But I love all the songs, I love the animation (again, Mary Blair), and most of all I love Alice. Because even though she’s a little screwy and says things like “contrarywise”, she’s a girl like all the rest of us and just wants to go home and listen to her sister read her really boring books with no pictures in them.
3. Cinderella (1950)
Cinderella is probably the most famous princess of all time (excluding Diana), and that’s probably due to the whole underdog story she’s got going on. Poor and abused by her horrible witch stepmother and her ugly witch stepsisters, all we want for the little cinder girl is to find the happiness and true love she deserves. With the help of her “where-the-hell-did-you-come-from” Fairy Godmother, she ends up with a new ride and a new getup which takes her to the ball where she, of course, meets Prince Charming (no relation to Snow White’s Prince Charming…at least I don’t think so…maybe once removed?). She seems to like the guy, even though she’s only with him for a couple of hours, but apparently that’s enough time to want to marry him. And luckily Cinderella is the only one in the land to wear a size 5, or else she would have had some competition during that whole “if the shoe fits” fiasco. Anyway, the movie is wonderful and one of the most realistic-looking Disney animated movies, and the songs are some of the most memorable. Because who doesn’t love songs about dreams and wishes and hearts and nightingales and bibbity bobbity boos?
2. Beauty and the Beast (1991)
The one thing that Beauty and the Beast can say that no other animated movie can is that it has been nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. And you want to know why it was nominated for Best Picture? Because it’s flipping awesome, that’s why. In Belle, millions of brown-haired, book-reading girls found their heroine, an offbeat girl who’s devoted to her father and simply wanting more than her provincial life. She gives up her life to save her father from imprisonment and in turn has to be a prisoner herself at the castle of The Beast. And if you don’t think that Beast is even the tiniest bit of sexy, then you must be watching the wrong movie. He’s grouchy and kind of mean and, well, really hairy, but deep down he’s loving and caring and a blond-haired, blue-eyed Prince. This movie has some of the best characters – main and supporting (they’re dishes!) – and the best songs of any other animated movie. And the final scene? Ah-maze-ing. Seriously. Beautiful, magical, and tearful.
CAN YOU GUESS WHICH ONE IS LEFT???
1. Sleeping Beauty (1959)
After all the Disney animated movies I’ve seen in my 33 years, Sleeping Beauty is HANDS DOWN my favorite. Why? Well, let’s see. It’s gorgeous to look at. Each frame – frames that were hand-painted in letterbox (which was waaay ahead of it’s time) – is like a master work of art that should be hanging in a gallery. The music is beautiful, thanks to Tchaikovsky, who wrote the music for the ballet years before the movie was a blink in Disney’s beady eye. The three fairies are hilarious. Seriously, they’re like The Golden Girls minus the slutty one (Blanche?) The villain, Maleficent, is the most evil person in the history of the world (well, probably not as bad as Hitler). And Prince Phillip – yes, he actually has a name – is the best Disney prince that was ever created. He actually had a personality, which was a first as far as princes went, he rode a horse like a stud, he was funny, and he was uber romantic. Look at all the crap he had to go through just to get to the girl he loved! And then he kisses her even though she’s been sleeping for a hundred years and probably has the worse morning breath ever. So yeah, Prince Phillip – and Sleeping Beauty – are tops in my book.
Any thoughts? Am I cruelly leaving out any movies that are near and dear to your heart? I wanna hear it!