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Okay I haven’t finished the list yet but good lord, how can you rank “Home on the Range” higher than “Atlantis”? Is it because Atlantis is more disappointing because it could have been better while Home on the Range doesn’t disappoint because it crosses the incredibly low bar that a cartoon with Roseanne Barr as the voice of a talking cow sets for itself? Those two should be flipped – I mean I’m not going to say that Atlantis is a great movie but at least it had a minor shred of ambition.

(You are correct in saying that Pocahontas is the worst though. It’s just so gawdawful.)

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Lion King, Chris? No. Stop, put down the keyboard and go get some sleep and write a list when you’re ready to listen to SENSE.

Tim Rice, and that’s all I can say. It’s like trying to watch a movie with a fly in your ear the whole time.

The words burn the ear. This sinks half of Aladdin as well — more memorably, even, since the rest of the songs are pure Ashman — but no.

Lion King is worse than Atlantis and I can say that in a second. Incoherent, cloying and awful.

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in my mind, lion king and mulan are kind of opposites.

lion king’s story has an indefensible message at its core, but there is just something about the movie that works. the excellent animation, soundtrack, and voice-acting definitely help; but ultimately, lion king just comes together beautifully for reasons i never could quite put my finger on. its movie magic.

mulan, on the other hand, has a beautiful message. but while i like the movie a lot, i have to say, there is something about it thats just a little off, a little lacking. again, i cant quite put my finger on why, but my gut tells me that mulan never quite works as well as my mind insists it should.

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I personally rank Pocahontas higher, but that came out when I was a wee lass, so it’s impossible for me to evaluate it with adult eyes.

I quite like the Hunchback score—enough Latin chanting to choke a horse? Oh, my latent Catholicism is kicking in quite nicely! Tom Hulce’s voice, in particular, is quite nice. The sound mixing in the film proper is really quite good, but that’s the sort of thing you pick up when you watch the film and listen to the soundtrack a lot. I do agree that the gargoyles are hard to take, but I’ve taken the approach of the stage musical: that they’re figments of Quasimodo’s imagination. (This doesn’t explain the climax, but might make them easier to take.)

I haven’t thought of Mulan that way before, in the context of the Disney heroes, since it was so aggressively marked to me, a small girl child in the nineties, as the next (totally radical) princess film.

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I really wouldn’t put Mulan that high, as it has an problem IMHO balancing between the slapstick and the serious.

Part of the problem with the modern era of the Disney movies has been the attempt to shoehorn in musical numbers to plots that don’t really need them. Which is where Lilo and Emperor’s New Groove were so fresh and alive and still relevant: they didn’t set up plot points for singing and dancing.

I’d also put Aladdin higher: yes the Robin Williams stuff did not age well, but considering how it broke the rules back in 1993 makes it seem unfunny nowadays when 80 percent of the other movies out there can thrive thanks to what that one movie opened up for them (could Tangled exist today if it didn’t have Aladdin as a template?). And the characters are not as two-dimensional as most of the characters that show up in the later canon, so I’d move Aladdin a bit higher.

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Mulan is also, sadly, likely the only time we’ll ever get Kitty Pryde and Lockheed in the same film.

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There are several instances here where my views on particular films are somewhat different, but the one case where I’d most strongly disagree is that of Hunchback of Notre Dame.

First, its critical-reception problem had nothing to do with order of release; it had to do with people expecting a much closer adaptation of the source novel — which simply wasn’t a reasonable expectation where Disney animation is concerned. Disney animated features always change the book (or the facts of history) where it fits their purposes — as they should. (See also the non-Disney films Secret of NIMH and The Iron Giant for animated features that strongly — and successfully –diverge from their source material.)

Second, I’d disagree about the music: both score and songs are excellent throughout; the “problem” is that one simply doesn’t expect this heavily operatic style of material in an animated movie. This was, beginning to end, the soundtrack to a big stage musical, and that feels very odd in a Disney animated feature. I would rate Hunchback several places higher; its chief difficulty is that it is, essentially, a mature adult drama packaged as a kids’ movie.

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Lion King is fairly awful, featuring an obnoxious chld lead who grows into an obnoxious manchild and then inexplicably matures in the last ten minutes of the movie for plot reasons. The almost-absent female characters are forgettable, most of the songs are like drills in your brain, and the plot doesn’t make any sense. Scar is king so there is a total environmental collapse… because.

Mulan, by contrast, is a brilliant movie scarred only by how obnoxious Mushu is. Every scene he is in is torture, as he plays a stereotype I like to call “sassy black man who doesn’t threaten white people” that was very popular from the nineties on – see also Donkey, the soul-destroying suit from My Favourite Martian, and that fucking car from Inspector Gadget.

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I am a little disappointed that you didn’t discuss Oliver and Company, not because it’s good but because it’s awfully interesting. That film does every single thing that anyone has ever laughed at Classic Disney for, and it does them all absolutely straight. It’s a weirdly pitiful nadir, and I doubt its status as the last pre-Renaissance film is coincidental.

Jer, Atlantis clearly hated itself. The first half was unutterably delightful; the second half methodically tore down every shred of respect it had earned in the first. I’ll take “competent” over that any day.

That said, I can find little to argue with in this ranking. Part of me is tempted to boost Hunchback purely on the strength of the “Hellfire” sequence, because it’s the best villain song Disney’s ever done and certainly the heaviest Disney’s ever gotten. If Beauty and the Beast has the most convincing sexual tension, “Hellfire” has the most convincing repression. If anything I find it more chilling now than I did as a kid. —But then I remember the rest of the film, so it’s fine where it is.

I enjoyed Hercules, despite its weaknesses. But holy shit, that movie is dated. Not because of pop-culture references, the way Aladdin is dated, or because it’s one of those films that practically smells of of its decade of origin, the way every 80s film is dated, or even because of its incredibly 90s CGI. It is politically dated. That movie could not possibly have been made post-Occupy. I suppose that’s not that remarkable, but I didn’t see it until 2012, so at the time it kind of blew my mind. Interestingly novel; weirdly foreign.

I am perpetually bewildered by the love for Lilo and Stitch, as I found it completely forgettable. Did I miss something? Should I watch it again? The premise sounds awfully stupid.

Mulan is best Disney forever no contest. I could say things about why it is good but what would the point be.

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Mulan is unique in creating a female character with agency, but it’s hard for me to get past the story it’s based on which was not about that at all. Yes, the daughter did go off and fight as a soldier, but she did it to be properly self-sacrificing for her family, staying firmly in her place by transgressing out of it–Mulan isn’t about that, it’s a change in the tale. A modern, western reading.

There’s a lot of legitimate discussion to be had about cultural appropriation and all that, and then there’s stuff like Mulan.

Also Ariel was basically a selfish brat whose lack of agency was the least of her flaws and I can still quote huge sections of that film.

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“this is the first non-sequel of the Renaissance era to have no princess in it! ”

Excuse me, but Kuzco is the most fabulous goddamn princess in the entire Disney Animated Canon.

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Mulan the character may be the best hero(ine) of the Renaissance, but Mulan the film is nowhere near number 1, it’s thoroughly B-tier fare otherwise. Personally I think Emperor’s New Groove deserves the top spot; Disney’s never done anything like before or since (and likely never again), it’s voice acting is pitch perfect, and it’s one of the most effortlessly hilarious animated films ever made. Honestly, it’s probably the closest we’ve come to recapturing the madcap spirit of the old Golden Age toons this side of the 90s Warner cartoon fare, and that’s somethign special.

Or Beauty and the Beast, for obvious reasons. But this is all largely beside the point anyway, as the best animated film to come out of the Renaissance era wasn’t even made by Disney; it’s The Prince of Egypt, bar none.

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Speaking as a completely insane Lilo & Stitch fan, I’m not going to argue with its placement. I completely acknowledge that it’s a bit of an odd bird and that not everyone is going to like it. Further, given this is a ranking of the the films as Disney films of the period, its misfit nature justifies dropping it a couple of ranks. I challenge you to rewatch it, though. Tell me if you find one thing in that movie that does not serve a purpose. I’ll grant that the final aerial chase is a bit wonky, but in light of what had to be done to that sequence, it’s forgivable.

The only problem with Mulan is it lacks a villain song.

People who bring up Kimba re: Lion King and don’t bring up Nadia re: Atlantis are probably just parroting something they heard someone else say.

The only ranking I really disagree with is putting Mermaid over Aladdin. Mermaid is probably the worst-paced of the big ones, and every single character is gratingly stupid. Williams’ Genie is not aging all that well, but it’s almost to the point where you have to approach it like those Warner caricature cartoons: if you have the referents in your head, it’s still funny.

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Rbx5: I’ll argue with you about Prince of Egypt; it’s well done, but I would rate Don Bluth’s Anastasia higher — it’s not quite as striking visually, but the script, music, and performances are all dead flat brilliant; the chemistry between the leads simply sparkles, and so do virtually all of the songs.

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Positronic Brain said on September 17th, 2013 at 12:37 pm

John C. Bunnell: The problem with Anastasia is Rasputin. That movie would have worked much better without a villain, let alone a supernatural one.

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Where would, say, A Goofy Movie and DuckTales the Movie fit in this list had you chosen to include them?

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Positronic Brain: Hmm. I can visualize an Anastasia without Rasputin; I can even visualize such a film being excellent. OTOH, that movie would’ve been even more a classic Tracy/Hepburn comedy than the one we actually have — and it would have been very, very hard to market that film as anything but a movie for adults.

I don’t think Bluth could have sold that version, and I’ll stand by the niftiness of the Anastasia we actually have.

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Didn’t like the message of Hunchback. Quasi is a total chump and Esmeralda goes for the pretty boy, as the disney way.

Pocahontas is just gross in every way to me as a Native American.

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I’d put Prince of Egypt over Anastasia. The leads’ relationship hits more adult-live-action-romcom notes than children’s-animated-storybook notes, which isn’t inherently bad but in context was confusing until I revised my expectations. Rasputin was… sheesh. And frankly, it was weirdly tsarist! Sure, a lot of kids’ stories are unexaminedly pro-monarchy, but usually those monarchies are fantasy neverlands as opposed to actual, historical regimes. Er, not that I’m demanding a nuanced examination of the fate of the Russian people after the Revolution from an animated musical… but if you’re gonna pick a politically charged story and then use it as pure backdrop, things are going to get awkward. I couldn’t quite get over it; maybe it would have been better if I’d seen it when I was younger.

(I liked The Road to El Dorado better than either of those though. So sue me. Speaking of overlooked Disney-competitors, why doesn’t anyone talk about Balto anymore?)

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Mulan the character may be the best hero(ine) of the Renaissance, but Mulan the film is nowhere near number 1, it’s thoroughly B-tier fare otherwise.

I thoroughly disagree. Practically every great Asian actor in Hollywood doing voice work (Ming-Na Wen, BD Wong, James Hong, George Takei, Pat Morita…). Several really great old-school Disney songs (“Reflection” and “I’ll Make A Man Out Of You” are excellent; “A Girl Worth Fighting For” and “Honor To Us All” are more than serviceable). A strong plot and good characters. I don’t think Mushu detracts from the overall story at all. Exciting battle scenes and climax. My only major criticism of the film is that Shan Yu doesn’t get enough screen time (especially when Miguel Ferrer is doing the voice work) and becomes more of a presence rather than a top-tier Disney villain, but at least it’s in keeping with the idea that the Mongols were more of a force of nature.

But this is all largely beside the point anyway, as the best animated film to come out of the Renaissance era wasn’t even made by Disney; it’s The Prince of Egypt, bar none.

I think Prince of Egypt is definitely solid on every technical level, but the sheer seriousness of the production (and really, you can’t do the story of Moses with wacky animal sidekicks, so that’s understandable) drags it down. It’s the Hunchback problem all over again: cartoon features work well for musical comedy and even musical dramedy, but straight musical drama falls flat.

I would rate Don Bluth’s Anastasia higher — it’s not quite as striking visually, but the script, music, and performances are all dead flat brilliant; the chemistry between the leads simply sparkles, and so do virtually all of the songs.

I like Anastasia quite a bit, but I think it has exactly two good songs (“There’s A Rumour In St. Petersburg” and “Once Upon A December”) and the whole Rasputin thing drags down the movie. I agree that better to have an Anastasia with Rasputin than no Anastasia at all, and I think it’s definitely Don Bluth’s crowning achievement, but it has its flaws.

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I left a tag open and I can’t get the editor to work; the box is blank. Same with deletion requests. I’d try another browser, but I guess it’s cookied? Whoops.

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William Kendall said on September 17th, 2013 at 3:03 pm

I’d rank Beauty and the Beast at the top, for so many reasons. It’s a film that transcends the genre, and has such a believable couple… one of whom has the occasional flea itch through most of the film.

Aladdin of course has the problem of Robin Williams, whose voice work in that film gets more dated by the year.

And while the basic story of Lion King works quite well, the damned songs drive me nuts. Hans Zimmer doing all score instead of Elton John and Tim Rice infesting it with songs would have worked better.

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@John C. Burnell: I adore Anastasia, and agree on all points, but Prince of Egypt is just on a whole other level; it’s got the scope and scale of The Ten Commandments but adds the emotional and spiritual depth that movie sorely lacked for all it’s bombast.

Having said that, MGK, I can totally understand your point on the musical aspect, a not uncommon issue people have with it. For my part, I think enough of the songs work, and work really fucking well, that it excuses the few that don’t (“Playing With the Big Boys” falls pretty flat even if the climax with the snakes is an awesome visual, “All I Ever Wanted” just takes up time and serves only to set up the motif for the plagues sequence later on, and “When You Believe” is just maudlin aside from the exodus sequence in the middle, which is one of the emotional high points of the film nonetheless). “Deliver Us” is, for my money, the best opening sequence of any animated musical ever.

…That said, goddamn did I forget how awesome a cast Mulan had. Maybe “B-tier fare” was uncharitable; that mountain battle sequence is one of the best such scenes in any Disney movie, and I am fond of the soundtrack. I dunno, it just never made nearly as much an impression on me as Tarzan (although my sister loves it to death); it’s been ages since I’ve seen it, so maybe I should go and give it another look. Also, you’re forgetting “In The Dark of the Night”, which justifies Rasputin on it’s own.

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Hunchback of Notre Dame really isn’t very good, but I’ll be damned (no pun intended) if Hellfire isn’t the best villain song ever. That it’s preceded by Heaven’s Light for contrast is just icing on the cake.

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Sean D. Martin said on September 17th, 2013 at 4:27 pm

If you plot Christopher’s rank by release date*, Disney is VERY inconsistent. Except for a steady climb from ’95 to ’98 (Pocahantas-Hunchback-Hercules-Mulan) it’s almost a perfect peak/valley/peak/valley pattern. And trending down hill.

* (What? I had time to kill.)

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Sean D. Martin said on September 17th, 2013 at 4:29 pm

And, yes, Mulan is AWEsome.

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Agreeing by and large with most of the comments above. Stating that, were we to do the same list with non-Disney animated films my top three would easily be Prince of Egypt, The Iron Giant, and The Road to El Dorado, in no particular order.

The latter follows the Disney formula much more than the other two, if we’re going to make comparisons, but all explore a different dimension than the Disney films because I think they acknowledge a little better [and in the case of El Dorado, a lot better] the varying age groups in their audience.

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I just re-watched The Lion King the other week with my wife (and mostly non-attentive 2 yr old), because she hadn’t actually seen it.

I have to say, I’m now more in agreement with the various commenters here. I loved it back in the 90s, but yeesh – it didn’t stand up well to a rewatch.

I guess because I was so familiar with all the great set-pieces I remembered (the opening, the aforementioned songs, the comedy bits, Jeremy Irons), the weaknesses were made all the more plain – the blandness of the hero, the generally awful implications of the whole “lions rule” setup, the completely tacked on romance…
Before the rewatch, I probably would have agreed with your placement. After, well, I actually think I’d now place it under Hercules. Definitely after Tarzan, anyway.

Also, while Beauty and the Beast is great, I think more than a couple of people on the scripting team had read Robin McKinley’s Beauty, and should have given her a nod for it (a theory she somewhat grumpily acknowledges awareness of in her FAQ).

And I guess I really should get around to watching The Emperor’s New Groove at some point.

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Anyone else these days not able to watch Beauty and the Beast without becoming really uncomfortable?

Because I just can’t. It’s full of a lot of gender essentialist bullshit, Belle comes down with a serious case of Stockholm Syndrome, and the Beast is just… just awful, despite the evilness of the fairy who curses him and his staff all up ins.

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The primary thing I learned from this list is that I like Alan Menken a lot more than MGK. For example, I think the score for Pocahontas blows the score for Mulan out of the water (plus, I’m still angry about Disney using Donny Osmond as BD Wong’s singing voice…ugh). I genuinely can’t fathom anyone liking the Tarzan score more than Hunchback.

Naturally, I consequently think all the Menken movies (well, all except for Hercules…motown Menken just doesn’t work for me without Ashman) are severely underrated on this list.

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I’m disappointed with the lack of proto-Renaissance films, because I feel like The Great Mouse Detective would be in the top 5 of this list.

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quirkygeekgirl said on September 17th, 2013 at 7:25 pm

Iron Giant wins over all, no contest!

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Hunchback is the most ambitious narrative film Disney ever attempted, in my opinion, in terms of subject-matter (indeed, Pixar, for all its talk of maturity in storytelling, never tried to grapple with issues of the weight that movie brings up). And, to an extent, you can see why, because the movie really struggles to reconcile the very well-done dark stuff with the comedy. I consider it a flawed masterwork — it has problems, but the stuff that works really works. Frollo, especially.

Hercules is just pure fun (the mythology is nonsense, of course, but it’s not like Greek mythology was ever known for its rock-solid continuity anyway), and with one of the more interesting female characters in Disney’s canon.

@Cespinare: Scar’s rule destroys the environment because he isn’t the rightful king, and so the land bleeds. That’s a notion at least as old of the story of the Fisher King. The Lion King is Disney operating on pure mythic resonance.

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Aussiesmurf said on September 17th, 2013 at 9:17 pm

Top 5 villains :

(1) Frollo
(2) Scar
(3) Jafar
(4) Hades
(5) Ursula

Top 5 songs :

(1) Under the Sea
(2) Hellfire
(3) A Whole New World
(4) Be Prepared
(5) Be Our Guest

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Something else about Mulan: it moves FAST. I rewatched it recently, and I expected it to take another 20 or 30 minutes than it did. And it’s always a good sign when you would be fine with spending another 20 minutes with a movie’s characters and settings.

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@Murc: You’re far from the first person to make that criticism, but I don’t think so. Other than “falls in love with captor”, Belle doesn’t fit any of the criteria for Stockholm’s, of which there are plenty. I’ve heard people say that, if anything, the Beast got afflicted with Lima Syndrome, but I don’t know enough about that.

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The ones I saw in theaters, and therefore the ones that come to my mind first when I think of the Disney animation renaissance, are The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King.

As far as I’m concerned, there are 5 categories that matter the most to these movies, in no particular order: hero, “princess,” villain, songs, and comedy.

I would give Beauty and the Beast the top spot in three of the categories: princess, songs, and comedy. Yes, Belle is basically a prisoner, but she has the strongest personality of this bunch. It’s songs are simply the best, from Belle and Gaston’s introductory songs (Gaston has a great villain song), to “Be Our Guest.” And Lumierre, Cogsworth, and the rest of the servants are great. Also, Gaston is a very good villain, despite being a bit non-standard.

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Lion King is way to high. Just so very overrated.

I’d probably drop Treasure Planet and raise Home On The Range, and I have some other minor quibbles, but mostly just… Lion King wouldn’t make my top 10,

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It’s a pity nobody bothered to tell the Disney marketing machine that Mulan is an active hero, not a passive princess. The cake deco kits, plates, and cups that came out with the movie all featured the exciting scene in which Mulan…dressed up pretty and sat on a bench under a magnolia tree. (Or was it a cherry tree?)

Also, even though she cuts her hair to join the army, every promo image of her had the much longer hair she started with. Guess she was just too butch with armor and shorter hair, eh?

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I can not watch Anastasia without seeing all the corner-cutting and careful avoidance of tricky shots in the animation. It is actually really interesting to see “New Groove” recently and see all these jokes and tone I expect from quicker, jokier TV animation being given all these facial animation grace notes and detail. Like, there really does not need to be this level of detail on Pacha’s eye droops, but it’s there and wonderful.

I think Lilo & Stitch actually suffers from being too close to reality. Seriously, Lilo is a very believable young child going through a stressful situation. Like I’ve had those screaming arguments with my younger sibling, and it’s a strange match for the goofy tone of the rest of the movie. Plus, by the end, Stitch is a catchphrase spouting jokester, but for the bulk of the movie he’s a growly destructive little monster and it’s REALLY INTERESTING but also doesn’t fit right with the jokey atmosphere- like it really feels like someone made a serious attempt at a family drama and then it was shoved into a cartoonish frame.

Mulan has the best cast, it’s got problems sure but it holds up as an adventure narrative while still hitting the “traditional Disney music checklist” thing. It’s just a good marriage of a new genre to the traditional form, unlike say Hercules and I think it’s super telling that Hercules was a much better animated serial than a movie. There is so many fun ideas in that movie that just don’t get used enough, and that are more suited to TV.

I owned the Aladdin soundtrack and enjoyed it much, much more then the movie. I’m actually kind of scared of watching it again cause I know it’s going to grate on me and feel dated. Lion King just…passed me by. The stampede scene is cool? I guess? It does nothing for me.

Beauty And The Beast is really the platonic ideal of that Animated Fairy Tale Musical ..thing. Like, we could play with the genre and tones and characters later on, but that’s pretty much the height of Disney-ness-osity as Disney-ness-osity.

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And yes “Hellfire” in Hunchback is a brief bit, but it’s almost good enough to justify the rest of the movie. It’s just out of nowhere “okay! Now let’s show off our stuff!” sequence that seems to come from a completely different movie.

And Tarzan is unfairly ignored. It’s totally fine and fun.

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DistantFred said on September 18th, 2013 at 2:44 am

Another question: How well would the various tv spin offs from all these shows fare against each other? Because a lot of them got not just the direct to video sequels, but also fairly sizable television runs, as well- Little Mermaid, Alladin, Tarzan, Lilo and Stitch, Emperor’s New Groove, Hercules, even the Lion King in the form of Timon and Pumbaa.

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The marriage of the phrase “Hakuna matata” with the tune used in the Lion King has got to be the clunkiest thing I’ve ever heard in any show tune.

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Nice to see some love for Treasure Planet. It’s not a great movie, but Emma Thompson as a kickass space captain alone makes it worth watching. Still ought to pick up the BR someday.

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Don’t know if you were aware of this, but many years ago Disney wanted to take over the US Civil War battlefield at Gettysburg and build a theme park with US history as its theme. When the park service resisted, Disney made “Pocahontas” to show that it could do history right. It, um, didn’t work.

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Oh man, people are praising Anastasia? The terrible integration of CGI ALONE takes that out of contention with most of the Disney flicks. That movie is a complete eyesore.

I loved Prince of Egypt when I first saw it, but watching it again on home video I realized that it’s a technical triumph but it suffers from the GIVE US AN OSCAR DAMMIT syndrome that sunk Pocahontas and Hunchback (and would have sunk Kingdom of the Sun), except even more so. Someone called it “the animated Schindler’s List”, and while that’s not really fair, it *is* a damn joyless, self-important movie. Dreamworks’ later 2D animated flicks were a lot more fun, particularly the completely, unfairly overlooked Sinbad.

I’m definitely on board with the “Mulan the character is great, Mulan the movie not so much” attitude. I mean, it’s certainly fun to watch, but it suffers from surprisingly half-assed visuals and a distinct lack of ambition in the story department, along with, sorry, pretty lousy songs (no idea where MGK is coming from here). Mulan is probably the Disney film that feels the most like the directors were going, “Aw, cripes, does this HAVE to be a musical?”

Tarzan, Atlantis, Treasure Planet. The troika that should have led the way for a new era of Disney but were sabotaged by the conservative corporate culture of Disney (conservative as in “resistant to change”, not politically). Tarzan’s obviously the best, but there are still compromises–Collins’ score IS surprisingly good, but it still feels like a sop to the people who wanted everything to be a musical, and “Trashing the Camp” along with Rosie O’Donnell really holds the movie back from what it’s trying to be. It’s not a coincidence that people came out to see this movie in droves, expecting something next-level, and then afterwards lost interest in Disney–this was the last really big 2D hit for them.

Atlantis, meanwhile, was something whose making I followed extensively, and it sounds like it suffered the most from executive meddling. Treasure planet, oddly, got through more intact, and I really like that one, despite the Poochie-esque Jim Hawkins. As MGK says, the relationship between him and Long John Silver is really well-handled, even if the crucial sequence is scored to Goo Goo Dolls.

I can’t help but notice that the later Disney films increasingly suffer from a certain hyperkineticism of tone that screams of a lack of confidence. It did start with Hercules to an extent, though I disagree with MGK that that movie’s too fast-paced; I think it really works. But compare it to “Home on the Range”, which is like being punched in the face with cotton candy for long stretches. “Atlantis” also suffers from this at points. Oddly, Lilo & Stitch and Emperor’s New Groove have a similar feel, yet they work, Lilo because it’s got a strong emotional base and TENG because it’s got a good handle on Looney Tunes zaniness, whereas the others feel like they had it forced onto them.

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In ‘Treasure Planet’ did you mean to type “Long John’ where it currently says ‘Blackbeard’? I’m asking because I am fairly sure the pirate did not have a beard.
Also Kronk was clearly the princess, not Kuzco.

yeah, I did. Fixed, thanks. — MGK

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Matthew – It was Bull Run, not Gettysburg, and the park was to be near it, not on it. Incidentally, there was a theme park right across from Gettysburg until 1980. The ’60s are not a time the National Parks Service is proud of.

Elijah – Esmeralda doesn’t ‘fall for the pretty boy’. Phoebus is respectful of her and willing to engage with her as an actual person. Quasi just puts her on a pedestal and is kind of weirdo about her.

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Oh, and as far as the “Kuzco is a princess” thing: To imply that vanity, conspicuous consumption, and theatricality are inherently girly, and therefore make a man into a woman, and give him not just a woman’s title, but one that carries far less power than his actual title, manages to be insulting to men, women, and trans* people all in one go.

He is an emperor, and if you disrespect his authority, that throws off his groove. And you know what happens when you throw off the emperor’s groove.

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As many problems as Home on the Range has, I think the greatest loss is that not enough people know that Alameda Slim is one of Disney’s most wonderfully ridiculous villains. They were playing his song in Frontierland last time I was in Disney World and it made me *so happy.*

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Mulan: Ick. Never liked it. I put Beauty and the Beast first, even if the story does have some uncomfortable overtones.

I absolutely ADORE The Emperor’s New Groove. It’s like, for a few months, the Disney animators channeled the spirit of Chuck Jones. Great, GREAT film, in my opinion.

Hercules: I agree that it’s too frenetic, but I like the way it’s a mashup of genres, basically a boxing flick with a gospel score.

Hunchback: Wow. I think this one is woefully underrated; the music is terrific and the songs are interesting and complex in a lot of ways. I always thought this one would translate very well to a Broadway stage.

Lion King: I’ve never understood the love for this movie, ever. It’s good, yeah, but…it’s not subtle, the music isn’t that great, and I find it hard, as always, to get past my innate dislike of Matthew Broderick.

I’ll take Atlantis over Treasure Planet any day. I find TP a mess.

Fantasia 2000: Yes, the musical selections are pretty safe (aside from the Shostakovich). But I find the animation a lot more delightful than you do, apparently; the “flying whales” sequence is pretty nifty, and the Gershwin segment, done in the style of Al Hirschfeld, fills me with all manner of happy.

Pocahontas? Bleeccchhh.

Tarzan: I love this movie, although on a personal experience note, this should NOT be the first movie that two young and not-quite-sure-what-to-do-with-themselves parents of a newborn should go see the first time they leave their baby in the care of someone else (even if it IS the grandparents). My wife and I did this. Our daughter was all of three weeks old, and we went out by ourselves for the first time. To see Tarzan. Where, in the first five minutes, a baby’s parents are killed and a set of parents’s baby is killed. Oy!

(Little Mermaid: I have personal history here, too. In college, on two different occasions about a year apart, I saw Little Mermaid with a girl I was dating. Both times I was dumped within days of seeing the movie. So the hell with Little Mermaid.)

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danielrandkai said on September 20th, 2013 at 10:08 am

Hi there chris, longtime/part time! Looking forward to reading all the comments, but I had to get my bit out first.

Mulan is disqualified from being in the running for one reason and one reason alone: Eddie Murphy’s abominable Mu-Shu. Just so so bad. Fuck that character.

Plus it made Dreamworks think that Donkey was a good idea, so no.

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billionsofthem said on September 20th, 2013 at 4:19 pm

I don’t like beauty and the beast because the actual villain, ie that jackass fairy who curses the fucking house staff because the prince is a jerk, never gets dealt with.

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The big question is how well the Aladdin TV show aged.

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DensityDuck said on September 21st, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Mulan first because girl? Seriously? The Nineties called, they want their pro-fem schtick back. (Although given that the majority of this list is from the Nineties, I guess that’s appropriate.)

*****

When I watched “Atlantis”, I kept wondering whether the projectionist had been playing silly buggers and put the Disney logo on a Dreamworks film.

*****

“Aladdin” still works, I think, because even though Williams’s references are dated, they come fast enough–and the animation does enough work–that they still have a zany energy. The Rodney Dangerfield and Jack Nicholson bits work as just “genie pulls a goofy face” even if you have no idea that the face is supposed to be an actual person.

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MGK, you missed one of the things that makes “Lilo and Stitch” work so well — Chris Sanders. It’s his artwork (or other people copying his artwork as best they can), his direction, and almost entirely his vision. Sanders isn’t perfect, but when he’s good he’s good, and Lilo & Stitch is one man’s vision in a way that few other Disney movies ever have been since Walt left the building. *Nothing* looks like Chris Sanders artwork; it’s fluid and curvy and the human figures all tend to be strangely bottom-heavy, like they’re from a planet where gravity is a little higher. (Look at Lilo’s sister. Now look at the lower half of her body. She’s attractive enough, but no other Disney female looks remotely like that.)

Several things worth noting about this movie. (1) There are only a few musical numbers, and they’re all set to pre-existing songs — several of them, to Elvis tunes. I don’t think Disney ever tried that again, which is a shame, because it worked really well here. (2) Watercolor backgrounds! This helped give the movie a “cartoony” feel that’s very distinct from the rest of the Renaissance era films. (3) Several absolutely perfect set-pieces… most notably the first ten minutes of the movie, from the “trial” scene to Stitch’s arrival on Hawaii. Stitch’s escape is absolutely note-perfect, from his Hannibal Lecter-like lockdown to the scrabbling sound in the air ducts to “…he took the red one”.

If you lack the Lilo & Stitch receptor, then you do. But here’s why I think this should be in the top three: it’s one of the very few Disney movies that really, truly does fulfill Walt’s old promise: it’s a movie you can watch with your kids. It works for three year olds, for ten year olds, and for forty year olds. That’s actually really hard, and deserves respect.

Doug M.

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MGK, I gotta point out, the gender stuff in Beauty and the Beast is actually really problematic. The Beast has *anger issues*. He never actually threatens Belle directly — this is a Disney movie — but he chases her out of his castle into the snow, and he smashes stuff in a tantrum, and he’s generally portrayed as a guy on the edge, just keeping it together. But… she can change him! If she’ll just go back! With the power of love!

There’s actually a whole corpus of criticism on this; google a bit and it will pop right up. Apparently there are people who find this movie seriously triggery, and while “some people find this triggery” is not a powerful criticism in and of itself, in this case I totally see their point.

Doug M.

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Oddly, if you extend the list past 2004 you don’t get a huge dropoff in quality. The next ones would be:

Chicken Little (meh)
Meet The Robinsons (very good)
Bolt (ambitious failure, Disney’s first and so far only attempt to do metafiction)
The Princess and the Frog (oh, dear)
Tangled (problematic in several ways, but good fun)
Winnie the Pooh (meh)
Wreck-it Ralph (hot mess / curate’s egg)

There’s one solid midlister in there and two others that are worth seeing. There is a drop in quality from the Renaissance, but it’s not actually all that big a difference.

Doug M.

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[…] Christopher Bird at MightyGodKing ranks the Disney Renaissance films, and puts Mulan in a context I’ve never thought of before. […]

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I dunno, I liked the Lion King too MGK, but I really have to disagree with your sentiments on Kimba the White Lion. The truth is, the film did start out as an Adaptation of Kimba the White Lion’s story, but somewhere along the line they decided they didn’t want to pay Osamu Tezuka’s family any royalties, so they changed the character’s name to Simba and moved on. True, a lot of Tezuka’s works were pretty corny and hamfisted, but so were a lot of Jack Kirby’s, and that didn’t negate Marvel screwing him over either. The whole situation was an awful clusterfuck made worse by the fact That Tezuka was a huge Disney fan when he was still alive.

So yes, The Lion King was a good film, but defending it by diminishing the Kimba controversy is not the right way to defend your point.

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My 9 year old daughter and I agree (and have agreed since she was about 4 years old), that the Lion King has to be the most over-rated Disney Movie of all time. There must have been something about the zeitgeist of the generation growing up when that movie came out in the early-to-mid-90’s (a time when I was in college). It has the most underwhelming hero (he just kind of quits being a bum, shows back up and, WHAMMO, everything is hunky-dory again), and a pretty bad message at its heart (the Lions are the rightfull rulers and to even question that pecking order leads to disastrous results). But it had the most dazzling animation anyone had seen at the time and hit the nineties faux-eco-groove where kids grew up with pro-environment messages encoded in everything from their cartoons to their breakfast cereal (though with very little tangible advice on how to be good stewards or minimize their impact on said environment). It’s one of those pop-culture phoenomena where you’re either in the zeitgeist (and loving it), or on the outside looking in and scratching your head over it.

And as far as the non-Disney movies from this time period – what, no love for Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron?

Oh, and, yes, the Iron Giant completely de-pants all of the competition. That is all.

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Cats Don’t Dance never gets any love. :(

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Who let you on the computer?

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Lion King is overrated. It’s not bad. It’s A FILM. I don’t care about it.
Why do people rip on the Hunchback songs. They’re fantastic! I enjoy them so much more then stuff from Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast.

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I think you have to have a kid to really get why people adore ‘Lilo and Stitch’ so damn much. Because Lilo, since she’s free of having to be a “normal” kid, actually behaves like a normal kid. Her opening monologue where she rambles about feeding peanut butter sandwiches to the fish is supposed to suggest that she’s “crazy” or “damaged” and unable to interact well with people outside her family…but it’s the most authentic piece of kid dialogue ever to appear in a motion picture. :) Watching ‘Lilo and Stitch’, I see my own daughter at that age, and I think that’s what makes it so special for me.

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