Saturday, September 29, 2012

Disney Animated Films In My Lifetime...

Since I was born in 1982, there have been 27 full length animated feature films released by Disney.  Actually, make that since 1985.  So in 27 years, there have been 27 films.  Conversely, there were *only* 24 released in the first 48 years of production, so Disney has been in overdrive since the mid-1980's.  Of course, technology helps now, as animation no longer has to be completely done by hand...

Anyway, digression aside, I wanted to give a look into some of my favorites during my lifetime.  There are some before I was even a thought in my parents' mind that I love (Cinderella, Lady and the Tramp, Robin Hood, The Aristocats, et cetera), but I do want to stick to those especially of my childhood, since some of these films left an indelible mark on me - so much that I even reference them in my classes, much to the horror of my students!

First, if you want the frame of reference, Wikipedia has a nicely organized list of Disney animated features.  You will not find craptacular direct-to-video sequels like The Return of Jafar on this list.  Sorry.

That being said, let's get the movies out of the way that I don't particularly like...

- Oliver & Company
- Pocahontas
- The Hunchback of Notre Dame
- Mulan
- Tarzan
- Lilo and Stitch
- The Little Mermaid (BLASPHEMY!)

Some of these are just downright crappy (Oliver & Company and Pocahontas), others, I just didn't care for. No rhyme or reason - just consider them to be irrational dislikes, especially The Little Mermaid.  I know, that makes me a blasphemer, especially in the eyes of every woman born between 1979 and 1985.  Nothing I can do about that one, though.

Underrated Films

These are the ones that I feel are very good, but don't get the appreciation they deserve because they are either ignored or completely overshadowed by more famous films that were released within some years of it.

1) The Great Mouse Detective - there is a case to be made that this is the most underrated Disney movie ever made.  It has a fantastic villain (Professor Ratigan) and a pretty good plot, to boot.  However, it was made during a down era of Disney (1977-1989), and so it got lost in the shuffle, especially once the major revival began in the late 1980's.

2) The Emperor's New Groove - a very fun and irreverent movie, and much unlike many others made.  It's pretty much the spiritual descendant of Hercules; a film that relies on pop-culture references and modern-day projections.  Kronk is the scene-stealer in my opinion, although Yzma turning into a cat is just about one of the funniest scenes ever.

3) The Rescuers Down Under - this is the only sequel that is on the list of feature films, and in a few ways, it is better than its 1977 predecessor.  George C. Scott as the villain McLeach is fantastic, although every time I watch this, I want McLeach to say "no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country!"

The Best

1) The Lion King - great music, great scenery, great symbolism.  A quotable film and one that I have continuously quoted to my students.  Even the villains are funny - the hyenas and Scar. My favorite song is "Be Prepared", although there isn't a single bad one in here.

2) Hercules - most would disagree with putting Hercules on this part of the list, but the way it works in the legends with modern day humor and pop-culture references is second to none. The writing for this one was fantastic.  The casting was fantastic too - James Woods as Hades is definitely the coolest villain in a Disney film.

3) Aladdin - home to one of the best characters ever (The Genie), and a never slowing set of songs and dialogue, with an indelible lesson of staying true to one's self and roots.

And finally, the best of all...

4) Beauty and the Beast - never underestimate the effect casting has on an animated film. James Woods elevated Hercules and Robin Williams as the Genie gave Aladdin a push that it wouldn't have gotten.  The absolutely perfect blend of the cast of Beauty and the Beast.  The score is amazing, and the animation itself was the pinnacle of Disney work.  Nothing before or after could top the work of this one.    


Brian said...
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Brian said...

I admit I have seen fewer than half of the 19 films on the canonical list to have come out since The Lion King in 1994. (Most of my attention has gone to Pixar since 1995.) However, there are two movies that I really, really love - Tarzan and Tangled. I also like Atlantis, which is really underrated, naturally because it didn't have any songs.