Ten Deep 10.0313: The Top 10 Disney Animated Classics
Posted by Mike Gorman on 10.03.2013
From Aladdin and The Lion King to Pinocchio, Dumbo, Sleeping Beauty and more, 411's Mike Gorman counts down the Top 10 classic Disney animated films!
" Top Ten Disney Animated Classics"
This week Disney is releasing The Little Mermaid on Blu Ray and it reminded me of a discussion I had recently with some friends about our favorite Disney films, which spurred a corollary discussion about the many categories the Disney animated films fall into. There's the classics with their flat animated style, the Pixar films, the stop motion animated films, the mixed live action/animated films and so on. I knew I wanted to try to delve into some of these categories over the next few months and I also knew I needed to start at the top.
Below you get to peruse my selections for the Top Ten Animated Disney Classics of all time. I focused on the traditional style animation saving the others for another time. So if you're ready, follow me down the rabbit hole…
10. Alice in Wonderland
Disney's animated take on Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland kicks off this week's countdown. While it is one of Disney's shorter films it certainly covers a lot of territory as Alice journeys through the patchwork world of Wonderland. The film exhibits Disney's ability to produce material that functions on more than one level as it provides an entertaining tale for children and a psychedelic adventure for a more grown up crowd.
9. The Little Mermaid
With the The Little Mermaid Disney took their traditional fairy tale adaptions off land and under the sea. The music and colorful characters resonated with audiences in this memorable film. It also featured one of Disney's most maniacal and "hands on" villains, the devious Ursula. Recently The Little Mermaid has been adapted into an old school dark ride at Disneyland and Disney World's Magic Kingdom. Ariel's Undersea Adventure features the latest in state of the art animatronics and is truly a wonder to behold.
The third film in Disney's animated feature repertoire, Fantasia, was a series of 8 shorts set to classical music pieces. One of the most easily recognized is Mickey Mouse's adventure as the "Sorcerer's Apprentice" and while that is a fantastic piece of work, there are other segments that are just strong if not stronger cinematically like the one below, Night on Bald Mountain which introduced the devil Chernabog into the Disney canon.
Dumbo tells the story of an outsider who is laughed at for being different and eventually turns his uniqueness into strength. What I really like is that the film does not accept conformity as a solution. Dumbo tries to hide those ears but it does not lead to success. The film is about confidence and loving yourself, a good lesson for us. Also for me, Dumbo is a great example of how you can look back now on an older film with a more critical eye and see an excellent snap shot of where society was at the time it was made. Children today probably have no context for the possibly (definitely?) racist stereotypical overtones of the film's "crows" but those of us of a more advanced age can identify what is being displayed.
6. Fox and the Hound
Fox and the Hound is one of my all-time childhood favorites from the Disney canon and possibly one of their more heartbreaking films. Tod, the fox, and Copper, the hound become friends in their youth and that friendship is tested as they grow up into the roles expected of them by nature and society. The film has an all-star cast for the time it was made, 1981, including Mickey Rooney, Kurt Russell, Sandy Duncan, and Corey Feldman.
Disney certainly has a thing for sending characters on journeys that end with them finding home is where they belonged the whole time. Pinocchio is certainly an excellent example of this on a pretty epic scale including trips to Pleasure Island where bad boys become donkeys and into the belly of a whale. At its core there is a morality tale about telling the truth and finding the truth within ourselves that I think still stands up well all of these years later.
4. Peter Pan
In Peter Pan we see every child's dream of being whisked away to a magical land full of adventures brought to life and then they layer in the consequences of those dreams. I like that the film walks a line between the camps of "never growing up" and "it's time to put away childish things" in a way that highlights the benefits of finding the balance between them. Peter Pan shows us that we can't stay young forever but we can certainly revisit those days when needed and it does this while showing us how to fly, fight pirates and evade a wiley crocodile.
My only concern including Aladdin on this list is that I will catch some heat for not listing it closer to the top! Aladdin features the same underlying life lessons most Disney films do but wraps them up in some pretty awesome packaging, which includes a truly legendary performance by Robin Williams as the Genie. Aladdin's popularity with fans is evident not only in the film's success but in the proliferation of Aladdin themed attractions at the Disney Parks, including a staged full length musical at Disney's California Adventure that rivals productions you would see on Broadway.
2. The Lion King
It is incredibly hard to find fault with Disney's The Lion King. It features well developed storylines, memorable characters, fantastic animation and award winning music. For me some of the most amazing moments in the film are the ones that show the characters in that exact moment they're living in, and not just in the overall story arc of the film. Examples of this for me are the "Just Can't Wait to Be King" and "Hakuna Matata" sequences. They illustrate the attention to detail the Disney storytellers had when they were crafting the script and humanize the characters taking part in what can only be described as an epic tale. And you're probably not human if you have never yelled the opening line to "Circle of Life" aloud, "Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba!" (Which is Zulu for "Here comes a lion, Father.")
1. Sleeping Beauty
I know full well that I might catch some heat in the comments here for picking one of the "Princess" movies as the best Disney animated classic of all time but I am truly sorry, Sleeping Beauty deserves the spot. The film features some truly breathtaking animated sequences that can't be denied, especially the battles between the Prince and the wicked Maleficent. Speaking of Maleficent, she is another reason I love this movie. She is in my opinion one of Disney's best villains; a true terror, not watered down in the least. This movie features some truly frightening scenes, like Maleficent luring Princess Aurora to the spinning wheel to enact the curse. Sleeping Beauty combines the best of Disney's animated films with a great love story at the core, awesome action sequences and a fair dose of humor.
Are you a fan of Disney animation? Check out this tribute video that takes you from their first to their most recent film in under 4 minutes! If you're not a fan, why are you still reading this??
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