Every Walt Disney Animation Movie, Ranked

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Every Walt Disney Animation Movie, Ranked

Walt Disney took a massive risk with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The first American full-length animated feature—and the first full-length feature to use cel animation—was one of the most expensive movies ever made when it was released in 1937. Not even Disney’s wife or brother (who was also his business partner) believed in the idea; the company made shorts, not features, and that’s what American audiences expected, not just from Disney but from animation in general. If Snow White tanked, Disney’s entire company could have collapsed, and with absolutely no precedent for feature-length animation at the box office, there was no reason to think the film would succeed.

Well, it did. Phenomenally so. You probably guessed that, seeing as how roughly 50% of every article at every entertainment website today is about something Disney owns. During its original run in the ‘30s, Snow White took in over $7 million, more than four times its extravagant budget. That success kickstarted a series of films that continues to this day. The official name has changed over the years, from Walt Disney Productions, to Walt Disney Feature Animation, to today’s Walt Disney Animation Studios, but the same studio has produced 61 full-length animated features over the last 74 years. The latest, Strange World, came out earlier this month.

Some of these movies are among the most watched and beloved films ever made, inspiring books, toys, records, theme park attractions and all manner of tie-ins. Some were largely forgotten within months of leaving the theater. They may not all be important, but together they make up the most significant body of animation in America and perhaps the world—one that has been weaved into the fabric of American culture.

So hey, let’s rank ‘em.

First, though, a note: this list exclusively considers the 59 films produced by the studio currently known as Walt Disney Animation Studios. That means nothing by Pixar. That also means nothing by DisneyToons Studios, a now-shuttered second studio that existed from 1990 to 2018 and that generally focused on direct-to-video sequels like The Return of Jafar and Bambi II. DisneyToons also produced a few films based on Disney Afternoon TV shows, including A Goofy Movie and DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp. So, yes, Powerline fans, sorry to say but A Goofy Movie didn’t make this list. Although it was a Disney film, it wasn’t made by the Disney studio that gave us Pinocchio or The Jungle Book or Beauty and the Beast—the studio that the entire Disney brand was built on—so it’s not one of the 59 movies you’ll find below. Please keep this in mind before sending us angry Tweets or Facebook comments about our Goofy Movie oversight.

Okay. Here’s Paste’s official ranking of every feature film by Walt Disney Animation Studios, from 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, to 2022’s Strange World.—Garrett Martin

61. Chicken Little


Year: 2005
Director: Mark Dindal
Stars: Zach Braff, Joan Cusack, Dan Molina, Steve Zahn, Garry Marshall, Amy Sedaris, Mark Walton, Don Knotts
Runtime: 81 minutes

Watch on Disney+

Disney’s first fully CGI film, Chicken Little was supposed to usher the studio into the 21st century. Instead it made them look utterly adrift, as if they weren’t just inexperienced at computer animation, but had also completely forgotten the most basic concepts of storytelling and characterization. The characters are unlikable stock types and the plot witlessly inverts the moral of the fairy tale, while also spending way too much time on baseball. With its pop jukebox soundtrack, sitcom-level humor, and ugly character designs made even uglier by the rudimentary computer animation, it feels like Disney’s failed, incompetent attempt at a Dreamworks movie.—Garrett Martin

60. Home on the Range


Year: 2004
Director: Will Finn, John Sanford
Stars: Roseanne Barr, Judi Dench, Jennifer Tilly, Cuba Gooding Jr., Randy Quaid, Steve Buscemi
Runtime: 76 minutes

Watch on Disney+

Disney’s last hand-drawn movie for five years, it’s also one of their least essential—a cornpone, gag-laden Western that’s rarely inspired or funny enough to recommend. After years of story revisions, a pitch about a cowboy squaring off with a supernatural hustler in a ghost town somehow turned into a movie about three wise-cracking cows (voiced by Roseanne Barr, Judi Dench and Jennifer Tilly) trying to save their farm. Even for Disney Animation’s down era in the ‘00s, Home on the Range is forgettable.—Garrett Martin

59. Dinosaur


Year: 2000
Director: Eric Leighton, Ralph Zondag
Stars: D. B. Sweeney, Alfre Woodard, Ossie Davis, Max Casella, Hayden Panettiere, Samuel E. Wright, Julianna Margulies, Peter Siragusa, Joan Plowright, Della Reese
Runtime: 82 minutes

Watch on Disney+

Unlike Baby, production values aren’t the issue making these dinosaurs look stupid—it was Disney’s inability to decide what kind of movie they wanted this to be. Dinosaur was supposed to be a graphically stunning leap forward in animation that would focus on “realistic” dinosaur interactions and transport us to an ancient world. Rather than really commit to the concept, though, Disney still felt that the dinosaurs would need to, you know … speak English and tell jokes and have romances … in order to be relatable. What you end up with is this bizarre mental disconnect—visually, they tried to make the dinosaurs look as realistic as possible, but at the same time they’ve got them spewing one-liners. You can’t have both at the same time, it’s just confusing to everyone.—Jim Vorel

58. Bolt


Year: 2008
Director: Byron Howard, Chris Williams
Stars: John Travolta, Miley Cyrus, Malcolm McDowell, Diedrich Bader, Nick Swardson, Greg Germann, Susie Essman, Mark Walton
Runtime: 96 minutes

Watch on Disney+

In 2008, Disney Animation’s Bolt unmistakably bore the conflicting influence of Pixar’s innovation and Disney’s old ideals. The movie follows the title dog (voiced, enthusiastically, by John Travolta), a TV star who believes that the character he plays—a genetically enhanced dog destined to protect a scientist’s daughter, Penny (Miley Cyrus)—is very much who he is in real life. When he escapes from the set, it isn’t long before he stumbles onto some uncomfortable truths. It’s a forgivably predictable premise, and the movie’s decidedly clean-minded approach to comedy (not a single poop joke by our count) bestows the material with maturity unlikely for a film predicated on such a gimmick. If the plot never breaks from a perfunctory routine, the movie’s breezy narrative sensibility, enhanced by 3D in equipped locations, ensures a smooth and agreeable ride. What the movie fails to do is carve a place for itself in animation’s new creative paradigm. Bolt feels inescapably as if it was designed to fit the old Disney model and reluctantly dragged into its new traditions, a suspicion confirmed when the end credits revert to a classic 2D format that seems more fondly rendered than the actual movie. It’s a shame that an animated form that’s been around as long as film itself has been subjected to such fierce creative Darwinism, but the tenuous middle ground Bolt attempts to strike leaves it as a charming but undistinguished addition to a fast-evolving canon. —Jeffrey Bloomer

57. Saludos Amigos


Year: 1943
Director: Norm Ferguson, Wilfred Jackson, Jack Kinney, Hamilton Luske, Bill Roberts
Stars: Lee Blair, Mary Blair, Pinto Colvig, Walt Disney, Norman Ferguson, Frank Graham, Clarence Nash, José Oliveira, Frank Thomas
Runtime: 42 minutes

Watch on Disney+

You’re going to read the term “package film” a bunch over the next 10 or so entries on this list, so let’s cover the history right now. In early 1941, Disney was enlisted by the government to make a film aimed at the South American market, in part to battle Nazi influence and increase goodwill with the United States. Disney animators toured the continent early that year. When America entered World War II at the end of that year, Disney halted production on features and focused on making propaganda films for the war effort. The South American film was completed, though it was a compilation of four distinct segments instead of a true feature; also, at 42 minutes, it was the shortest animated “feature” Disney would ever make. Released as Saludos Amigos, this first package film basically foreshadowed all of Disney’s features for the rest of the decade. Instead of focusing on a single, feature-length story, Disney’s animators would be split into teams, some of which would work on government projects, others which would work on shorts for package films. Saludos Amigos is the slightest of the bunch, but it’s still a lot of fun, especially the two Donald Duck segments. This marks the debut of José Carioca, Donald’s Brazilian parrot friend, and one-third of the Three Caballeros.—Garrett Martin

56. Meet the Robinsons


Year: 2007
Director: Stephen J. Anderson
Stars: Daniel Hansen, Jordan Fry, Wesley Singerman, Angela Bassett, Tom Selleck, Harland Williams, Laurie Metcalf, Nicole Sullivan, Adam West, Ethan Sandler, Tom Kenny
Runtime: 94 minutes

Watch on Disney+

Here’s another example of ‘00s-era Disney struggling to find its way after the rise of Pixar and the success of Dreamworks. It’s not the disaster that Chicken Little is, but it’s not a success, either. It aims for a buzzy retro space age vibe, but doesn’t fully commit to it, resulting in a film that’s messy both aesthetically and tonally. It’s easy to overlook and easier to forget.—Garrett Martin

55. Fun and Fancy Free


Year: 1947
Director: Jack Kinney, Hamilton Luske, William Morgan, Bill Roberts
Stars: Cliff Edwards, Edgar Bergen, Luana Patten, Walt Disney, Clarence Nash, Pinto Colvig, Ruth Clifford, Billy Gilbert, Anita Gordon
Runtime: 73 minutes

Watch on Disney+

Yet another package film, Fun and Fancy Free changes the formula a bit by sticking to only two segments. The first, “Bongo,” is based on a Sinclair Lewis story, and features an introduction from Jiminy Cricket and narration by Dinah Shore. It’s about a circus bear who runs away to the wild, where he finds love and a rival, and struggles to adapt to his new surroundings. It’s totally fine. The much stronger half is “Mickey and the Beanstalk,” which, through various rereleases and TV broadcasts, is considerably better known than the film it was originally a part of. It’s a clever, funny, visually impressive take on “Jack and the Beanstalk,” with Mickey, Donald Duck and Goofy basically sharing the role of Jack. Like “Bongo,” it was originally conceived as a standalone feature; preproduction halted on both ideas when World War II broke out, and eventually they were reconceived as something between a short and a feature, with both running between 30 and 40 minutes. It lacks the variety of the other packages—one of their strengths is that if you don’t like a segment it’ll be done in just a few minutes—but “Mickey and the Beanstalk” is one of Disney’s best works of the ‘40s, and “Bongo” isn’t without its charms.—Garrett Martin

54. Oliver & Company


Year: 1988
Director: George Scribner
Stars: Joey Lawrence, Billy Joel, Natalie Gregory, Cheech Marin, Bette Midler, Robert Loggia, Richard Mulligan, Roscoe Lee Browne, Sheryl Lee Ralph
Runtime: 74 minutes

Watch on Disney+

1988’s Oliver & Company almost feels like a proto-Dreamworks feature. You’ve got a big name voice star (Billy Joel), a supposedly cool animal with attitude (Joel’s Dodger, based on the Artful Dodger, sports sunglasses and a permanent smirk), and pop songs by then-major stars (beyond Joel, you’ll hear Huey Lewis, Ruth Pointer of The Pointer Sisters, and Bette Midler, who also co-stars in the film). The studio deserves a bit of respect for trying to modernize its worldview a little bit—although it’s a Dickens adaptation, it’s set in then-contemporary 1980s New York—but it totally does that ‘80s thing where it makes the city look like the most dangerous, frightening place on Earth. Between that and the uncomfortable trope of Cheech Marin’s Chihuahua character—calling Tito “fiery” undersells how thoroughly he relies on well-worn racial stereotypes—makes this one a little awkward to watch today. It has some impressive animation, though, including some of Disney’s earliest examples of computer animation.—Garrett Martin

53. Melody Time


Year: 1948
Director: Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Jack Kinney, Hamilton Luske
Stars: Roy Rogers, Dennis Day, Buddy Clark, Bob Nolan, Bobby Driscoll, Luana Patten
Runtime: 75 minutes

Watch on Disney+

The fifth of Disney’s package films from the ‘40s has the same problems as the others—it’s a disjointed collection of shorts of varying artistic merit and with no thematic connections—but its success rate is a little bit higher. It’s a bit like a Fantasia Lite, combining animation with music, only here it’s popular music and without the orchestral bumpers between segments. Standouts include “Bumble Boogie,” where a bee is trapped in a surreal musical nightmare based around a jazz version of Flight of the Bumblebee; expect experimental flourishes like Dali-esque backgrounds and a treacherous snake made of piano keys. The opening segment “Once Upon a Wintertime” is a gorgeous piece of work, with striking use of color. Donald Duck and José Carioca encounter the Aracuan Bird again in “Blame It on the Samba,” which feels like an outtake from The Three Caballeros; like that film, this short is a beautifully surreal combo of animation and live-action, with unexpected psychedelic flourishes. Melody Time also includes two of Disney’s shorts based on American folklore. “Johnny Appleseed” is a soggy take on the legend that built up around John Chapman, with an unnecessary supernatural angle involving an angel. Much better is the hilarious show-closing short “Pecos Bill,” which features Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneer narrating a chaotic, ridiculous, and (of course, it’s a cartoon about the old west made in the ‘40s) momentarily racist look at Edward S. O’Reilly’s modern tall tales. Feel free to seek out the good bits and skip the rest.—Garrett Martin

52. Make Mine Music


Year: 1946
Director: Clyde Geronimi, Jack Kinney, Hamilton Luske, Joshua Meador
Stars: Nelson Eddy
Runtime: 75 minutes

The third package film from the ‘40s is also, curiously, the only film on this list that isn’t streaming on Disney+. Perhaps that’s because of the near-nudity in the Benny Goodman-soundtracked short “All the Cats Jump In,” or the gun violence in the hillbilly family feud tale “The Martins and the Coys.” The most well-known segments here are Disney’s versions of “Peter and the Wolf” and “Casey at the Bat,” which at this point are both better known as standalone shorts than as part of this package. “Peter and the Wolf” is a true classic, “Casey” is a well-realized version of the famous poem, the lyrical “Blue Bayou” has some emotional weight to it, and the final segment, “The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met,” is a goofy lark with a surprisingly sad end. The rest, though, is eminently missable.—Garrett Martin

51. The Fox and the Hound


Year: 1981
Director: Ted Berman, Richard Rich, Art Stevens
Stars: Mickey Rooney Kurt Russell, Pearl Bailey, Jack Albertson, Sandy Duncan, Jeanette Nolan, Pat Buttram, John Fiedler, John McIntire, Dick Bakalyan, Paul Winchell, Keith Mitchell, Corey Feldman
Runtime: 83 minutes

Watch on Disney+

When it comes to looking at Disney animation from a critical standpoint, it can be a little hard to work past your own nostalgia. Case in point: The Fox and the Hound is the first Disney movie I remember seeing. I loved it. I had the stuffed animals. I was all in. That was almost 40 years ago, though. Today I can barely finish it. It’s very sweet in spots—the scenes of young Tod and young Copper playing together are cute, if a little too saccharine—but overall it’s a maudlin, overly old-fashioned tearjerker that takes too long to get to its predictable conclusion. The movie was essentially a passing of the torch moment, the last picture worked on by any of Disney’s Nine Old Men, and the first for artists like John Musker, Ron Clements, John Lasseter and Glen Keane, who would help lead Disney (and Pixar) into the 21st century. You can feel that tension between old and new in the film.—Garrett Martin

50. The Black Cauldron


Year: 1985
Director: Ted Berman, Richard Rich
Stars: Grant Bardsley, Susan Sheridan, Freddie Jones, Nigel Hawthorne, Arthur Malet, John Byner, Phil Fondacaro, John Hurt
Runtime: 80 minutes

Watch on Disney+

Perhaps Disney’s most notorious failure, The Black Cauldron is better than its reputation. It’s not necessarily good, though. This adaptation of Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain series is simultaneously too ambitious and not ambitious enough, trying to squeeze two books into 80 minutes by simply skipping over large parts of the story. Whole chunks of narrative are clearly missing, making this one of those bad movies that maybe would’ve been better if there was more of it. Part of the problem is that Disney itself didn’t believe in it—Jeffrey Katzenberg, who joined the company under Michael Eisner and Frank Wells in 1984, when the film was basically done, infamously tried to edit it like a traditional film, something that really doesn’t work in animation. Despite its flaws, The Black Cauldron features some of Disney’s creepiest and most unforgettable images, from the design of the villain the Horned King, to the climactic scene when he raises an army of the undead with the titular Cauldron. It was such a failure at the box office that it took 13 years for it to eventually get released on VHS, and still has never been released on Blu-ray.—Garrett Martin

49. The Three Caballeros


Year: 1944
Director: Norman Ferguson
Stars: Clarence Nash, José Oliveira, Joaquin Garay
Runtime: 71 minutes

Watch on Disney+

The Three Caballeros was actually the first attempt by Disney to ever combine live action with animation, more than 40 years before Who Framed Roger Rabbit? would kick off the beginning of the company’s “renaissance” with its mastery of that particular technique. If the movie has any clear through-line at all, it’s that Latin America is a spicy and happening place with a lot of cute girls who don’t mind if you ogle them. There are a few moments that skirt the bounds of respectful portrayal of minorities by today’s standards, but it’s clear Disney’s animators and directors are trying their darnedest to make you think South and Central America are awesome (partly by leaning heavily into exoticizing them). The movie sort of meanders through musical numbers until it ends, and remains memorable mostly due to how weird it is and how unforgettable the individual songs are. What’s noteworthy is that Donald’s friends have continually popped up over the years to inject some Latin flavor into his life—the sharp-eyed will even note that José is lingering in the background of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. From the occasional cameo to recurring parts in TV shows and even a full season of The Legend of the Three Caballeros in which the trio fight mythical monsters, Disney’s animators have remained determined to revive the Pan-American trio and occasionally bust out their eponymous musical number. (They have quietly reworded the lyrics “We’re three caballeros/three gay caballeros,” sadly.)—Kenneth Lowe

48. The Aristocats


Year: 1970
Director: Wolfgang Reitherman
Stars: Phil Harris, Eva Gabor, Hermione Baddeley, Dean Clark, Sterling Holloway, Scatman Crothers, Roddy Maude-Roxby
Runtime: 79 minutes

Watch on Disney+

The best kids’ movies are the ones that entertain while simultaneously imparting some sort of lesson, and The Aristocats achieves both. Besides the inherent adorableness that comes with a family of animated cats and classic Disney musical numbers like “Ev’rybody Wants to Be a Cat” (courtesy of Scatman Crothers’ Scat Cat character), we get all the morals that come from watching a snobby, wealthy feline family rescued by an alley cat.—Bonnie Stiernberg

47. Pocahontas


Year: 1995
Director: Mike Gabriel, Eric Goldberg
Stars: Irene Bedard, Mel Gibson, David Ogden Stiers, Russell Means, Christian Bale, Billy Connolly, Linda Hunt
Runtime: 81 minutes

Watch on Disney+

On my seventh birthday, I got two identical Pocahontas Barbie dolls. My parents asked me if I wanted to return one of them and exchange it for something else. I opted to keep them both. That’s how obsessed with Pocahontas—or in my case, the two Pocahontii—I was. Of course, as with most Disney movies, as I got older I could recognize its whitewashing of history and the less-than-feminist ideals, but despite its problems, Pocahontas remains at the very least a conversation-starter, a jumping-off point from which to begin talking to your kids about race. Pop it in and then discuss it with them, warts and all. —Bonnie Stiernberg

46. Fantasia 2000


Year: 2000
Director: James Algar, Gaëtan, Paul Brizzi, Hendel Butoy, Francis Glebas, Eric Goldberg, Don Hahn, Pixote Hunt
Runtime: 74 minutes

Watch on Disney+

Walt Disney envisioned the original Fantasia as a modular film—one where new segments featuring different animation and music would be swapped in over time. With its long running time, chilly air of sophistication, and the extra costs incurred by its roadshow-style release, though, Fantasia lost the studio a lot of money, and Disney paused any plans for additional scenes. (It didn’t turn a profit until 1969, after multiple rereleases over almost 30 years.) By 1991, after a successful 50th anniversary run and the first home video release, then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner finally decided to make more Fantasia. And the results were… fine? Totally okay? Mostly unobjectionable? There’s one absolute must-see segment here, director Eric Goldberg’s take on Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, which is an ode to jazz age New York in the style of legendary caricaturist Al Hirschfield. It’s an ideal combination of music and animation that hums with the life of the city. The apocalyptic take on Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite evokes the terror of the original’s Night on Bald Mountain sequence, with vibrant and powerful animation. Those two represent Fantasia 2000 at its best; at its worst it’s just silly and unnecessary. Crucially it’s only 75 minutes long, making it a good 40 minutes shorter than the original—perfect for the kiddos.—Garrett Martin

45. Ralph Breaks the Internet


Year: 2018
Director: Phil Johnston, Rich Moore
Stars: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Gal Gadot, Taraji P. Henson, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk, Alfred Molina, Ed O’Neill.
Runtime: 112 minutes

Watch on Disney+

When it was released in 2012, Wreck-It Ralph hit theatergoers over the head with its incredible animation, videogame callbacks and moving story. Its success made a sequel inevitable, and Ralph Breaks the Internet picks up where the original film left off. Ralph (John C. Reilly) has come to terms with playing the villain in his “home” videogame, Fix-It Felix Jr., during the day, in large part because he gets to spend time with his best friend, Vanellope (Sarah Silverman), during their off-hours. Their lives together are routine, which is just how Ralph likes it. Vanellope, on the other hand, is itching for something more. Like any princess, she longs to escape her gilded tower. It’s hard to blame her—Vanellope’s game, Sugar Rush, only has three race tracks. Having memorized every twist and turn, she’s grown bored of the predictability—a real problem given racing is Vanellope’s passion. To his credit, Ralph tries to remedy her discontent, surprising his friend with an addition to one of the tracks. But when the arcade owner adds Wi-Fi, Miss Von Schweetz gets a taste of the freedom she desires. Bigger race tracks, new friends and the endless expanse of options offered on the ’net bring the kind of wish fulfillment Vanellope has been seeking. (Ralph just wants to go home.) As the title suggests, and as sequels tend to do, Ralph Breaks the Internet greatly expands the Wreck-It Ralph universe even as it further develops the tensions inherent in the relationship status quo present when the film begins. Wreck-It Ralph existed in a self-contained bubble—a villain longed to be a hero. A glitch longed to be fixed. Together, they help one another understand the beauty within and save one another. Instead of being just another manifestation of the “girl power/you can be anything” trope, it populates the screen with women in powerful positions—as an actual CEO, as the leader of a dope car crew, and as a little girl trying to find her place in the world. It’s a reminder that girl power exists naturally; it does not need to be forced. That’s a message worth building a franchise around.—Joelle Monique

44. The Rescuers


Year: 1977
Director: John Lounsbery, Wolfgang Reitherman, Art Stevens
Stars: Bob Newhart, Eva Gabor, Joe Flynn, Geraldine Page
Runtime: 77 minutes

Watch on Disney+

A bright spot between The Jungle Book, released in 1967 just after Walt Disney’s death, and his company’s renaissance with 1989’s The Little Mermaid, The Rescuers took four years and $8 million, time and money reflected in the quality of the production. Based on a pair of Margery Sharp fantasy novels, the story tracks a pair of mice, Bernard (Bob Newhart) and Miss Bianco (Eva Gabor) as they travel the Devil’s Bayou in search of a missing child. It’s a charming tale celebrating the little guys with big hearts.—Josh Jackson

43. Strange World

Year: 2022
Director: Don Hall
Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Dennis Quaid, Jaboukie Young-White, Gabrielle Union, Lucy Liu
Runtime: 102 minutes

Watch on Disney+

Strange World, Disney’s sole original animated feature this year, combines facets of Pixar’s pair of 2022 releases to a lesser effect. Looking both backwards to Lightyear’s loving homage to pulp fiction and forwards to Turning Red’s progressive and wholesome examination of specific family dynamics, Strange World is late to its own company’s trends. It wears its more talented siblings’ emotional honesty and retro homages like hand-me-downs. Like many of the flashy adventure stories it mimics, Strange World can be arresting—especially with its inventive setting and bulbous creatures—and its attempts at deconstructing the sweaty, macho-man ethos hawked by its inspiration are admirable. But with muddled themes and slight characters, remnants of the old dime magazines coordinate to bring Strange World down on the wrong side of familiar. Strange World’s embrace and rejection of both tradition and modernity can be confounding, despite the undeniable beauty it finds along the way. Like the wild, untamed, interconnected world lying underneath humanity’s Avalonia, there’s a complexity worth tangling with lurking beneath Strange World’s tired family conflict. But its desire to have its world and strange it too is irreconcilable with its top priority: Be a Disney movie. Sadly, the resulting confusion, of commentary stifled by corporate need and tradition, isn’t that strange at all.—Jacob Oller

42. Treasure Planet


Year: 2002
Director: Ron Clements, John Musker
Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Brian Murray, David Hyde Pierce, Martin Short, Roscoe Lee Browne, Emma Thompson, Michael Wincott, Laurie Metcalf, Patrick McGoohan
Runtime: 95 minutes

Watch on Disney+

Muppet Treasure Island proved that Treasure Island had plenty of room to go goofy, but it’s actually in Treasure Planet’s favor that it plays the pirate story mostly straight. Disney’s visually innovative take on the Robert Louis Stevenson classic finds its biggest strength in its unique spin on the adventure, full of creative designs that make the most of an inspired sci-fi premise stuffed with humans, aliens and steampunk technology. Solid voice acting, from Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s floppy-haired space-surfer Jim to Emma Thompson’s catlike captain, keep the familiar beats moving. The beautiful hand-drawn animation—expressed best in character designs that varies from excellent (Brian Murray’s wonderful take on a cyborg John Silver) to vaguely blobby and some stunning set design—is overlaid on wonky and experimental 3D, which never fails to look out of place. At least the bold move allows for some interesting and arresting “camera” movements that make the action all the more exciting and for Silver’s cybernetic arm, which actually looks pretty cool. And though an extremely annoying, constantly shouting robot (Martin Short) runs roughshod over a movie that’s already satisfied its need for cutesy comedic anarchy with its little shapeshifter sidekick, Treasure Planet’s eagerness for adventure and compelling world make it a worthy adaptation—and one that, surprisingly, is somehow even more wholesome than its Muppety companion.—Jacob Oller

41. Robin Hood


Year: 1973
Director: Wolfgang Reitherman
Stars: Brian Bedford, Phil Harris, Peter Ustinov, Pat Buttram, Monica Evans, Carole Shelley
Runtime: 83 minutes

Watch on Disney+

Robin Hood came along in what may be seen as one of Disney’s more fallow (or at least unremembered) periods in the early ‘70s, but it’s among their better efforts from the era, capturing much of the same charm as the earlier Sword and the Stone. It’s a somewhat simplistic retelling of the old Robin vs. King John story, but the voice acting is superb and the surprisingly mature story is suitable for both children and adults in equal measure. It’s the kind of straightforward adventure story that no longer gets made unless the film is meant to appeal as a full-fledged comedy at the same time. Robin is a great hero, though—enough that my childhood self always found great appeal in this movie and the imagined thrill of splitting an arrow down the middle with a spectacularly placed twang of my imaginary bow.—Jim Vorel

40. The Sword in the Stone


Year: 1963
Director: Wolfgang Reitherman
Stars: Rickie Sorensen, Karl Swenson, Junius Matthews, Sebastian Cabot, Norman Alden, Martha Wentworth.
Runtime: 79 minutes

Watch on Disney+

It’s a bit of a shame that Disney animated features of this period—your Robin Hoods and Sword in the Stones—haven’t quite maintained their classic status, often being relegated to the depths of the infamous Disney “vault,” unknown to younger generations whose exposure began with The Little Mermaid and the following Disney Renaissance of the 1990s. This Arthurian adaptation, loosely based on The Once and Future King, isn’t free from rough patches, but it has charm in spades despite a voice cast without any major stars. One might almost consider it a Harry Potter precursor, with a story that involves Arthur being transformed into various animals to learn life lessons from his tutor, Merlin. It certainly merits inclusion on a list of cinematic witches for the self-aggrandizing “Mad” Madam Mim, who Merlin eventually duels in one of animation’s best contests of magical shape-shifting. Although really, transforming into a virus to steal a win seems like a pretty cheap move. —Jim Vorel

39. The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad


Year: 1949
Director: James Algar, Clyde Geronimi, Jack Kinney
Stars: Eric Blore, J. Pat O’Malley, Colin Campbell, John McLeish, Campbell Grant, Claude Allister, Leslie Denison, Edmond Stevens
Runtime: 68 minutes

Watch on Disney+

Disney’s adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows is one half of a great film. After Bambi came out in 1942, Disney didn’t release a full-length animated film for almost eight years. Throughout the ‘40s they released a series of pictures that packaged together various shorter films, both animated and live-action, under names like Make Mine Music and Fun and Fancy Free. (This is also the era that brought us Song of the South, which is partially animated, partially live action, and almost entirely indefensible.) The last of these package films was called The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad and combined two half-hour short features based on The Wind in the Willows and Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. After that initial theatrical run Disney split the two featurettes, with Sleepy Hollow becoming a genuine Disney classic and Halloween staple, and The Wind in the Willows best being known for inspiring the Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride attraction at Disney parks and the evil weasels from Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. Despite the budgetary and staffing issues that persisted at Disney during and immediately after the war, it’s a beautiful example of classic Disney animation from Disney’s “Nine Old Men,” with a crazed lead character perfectly suited for cartoons. Neither a short nor a full-length film, the half-hour Wind in the Willows and its erstwhile companion helped prepare theaters and audiences for Disney’s triumphant feature-length return Cinderella just four months later.—Garrett Martin

38. Brother Bear


Year: 2003
Director: Aaron Blaise, Robert Walker
Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Jeremy Suarez, Rick Moranis, Dave Thomas, Jason Raize, D.B. Sweeney
Runtime: 85 minutes

Watch on Disney+

One thing I discovered over the last couple of years, while catching up on Disney’s generally unloved ‘00s-era movies that I skipped at the time: most of them are better than I expected. Only a couple were worse (seriously, Chicken Little deserved to have the sky fall on it). Brother Bear is solidly in that first category. This earnest, touching family drama, which takes place about 10,000 years ago in what is now Alaska, is a little too slight and rote to be anything more than second-tier Disney, but it’s extremely easy to watch, with some gorgeous landscapes, and comic turns by Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas (basically playing the McKenzie Brothers as a pair of moose) that aren’t as annoying as you might expect from Disney sidekicks of the era. It does do that thing where its person-of-color lead (Joaquin Phoenix voices Kenai, a young Inuit) spends most of the movie transformed into something else, in this case a bear; using that basic plot once might simply be naivety, but doing it over and over seems like planning. Besides that, Brother Bear is a modest success.—Garrett Martin

37. Frozen II


Year: 2019
Director: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee
Stars: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad, Jonathan Groff
Runtime: 103 minutes

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There’s a bit of diminishing returns with the sequel to Frozen, the aching feeling that this exists not for any compelling narrative or artistic reasons but because Disney didn’t feel like leaving an easy billion dollars on the table. To the studio’s credit, though, it didn’t have to be this good; almost anything with the name “Frozen II” and Anna and Elsa on the poster would’ve been an instant smash hit. Frozen II expands on the original in a way that makes sense, and doubles down on what made it work: extravagant showtunes and dazzling computer animation.—Garrett Martin

36. Encanto

Year: 2021
Director: Jared Bush, Byron Howard
Stars: Stephanie Beatriz, María Cecilia Botero, John Leguizamo, Mauro Castillo, Jessica Darrow, Angie Cepeda, Carolina Gaitán, Diane Guerrero, Wilmer Valderrama
Runtime: 102 minutes

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Both Disney and Lin-Manuel Miranda had better showings this year (Raya and the Last Dragon; In the Heights), but Encanto’s blessings—like those of Mirabel, the only member of the Madrigal family without magical abilities—are enjoyably subtle. Beneath the hyper-Miranda songs (“Surface Pressure” gives in most deeply to his writing tics, but “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” showcases just how good he is with catchy complexity) and the heightened realism of its characters lurks a lush fairy tale haunted not by evil witches or dastardly dragons but by the hardships of the past and fears for the future. Directors Jared Bush and Byron Howard craft a mature story of family strife that won’t scare off kids, packaging it all neatly and specifically into the Colombian jungle. A shockingly versatile lead performance from Stephanie Beatriz, who sings and charms and jokes like she’s been a Disney princess before, and a few great supporters (John Leguizamo’s put-down prognosticator steals every scene) keep the already light tale moving briskly along. Encanto isn’t the flashiest or most heartbreaking of the more traditional Disney musicals, but it’s crisp and smart—and its miracles might linger with you longer than you expect.—Jacob Oller

35. Hercules


Year: 1997
Director: Ron Clements, John Musker
Stars: Tate Donovan, Danny DeVito, James Woods, Susan Egan, Rip Torn
Runtime: 93 minutes

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Hercules is yet another staple to come out of Disney’s ’90s reign, stuck between 1996’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame and 1998’s Mulan. Featuring voice contributions from Tate Donovan, Danny DeVito and James Woods, the film follows the harrowing adventure of Greek demigod Hercules (Donovan), who, after he’s banished to Earth by his evil uncle Hades (Woods), must learn to become a “true hero” and go back home to Olympus to defeat his uncle once and for all. It’s not the most substantial of Disney films, but its quality and style is impressive, vaguely reminiscent of Greek art without feeling flat, given how many films Disney was churning out at that time. —Eric Gossett

34. The Rescuers Down Under


Year: 1990
Director: Hendel Butoy, Mike Gabriel
Stars: Bob Newhart, Eva Gabor, John Candy, George C. Scott
Runtime: 77 minutes

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Yes, the studio behind Frozen II and Ralph Wrecks the Internet used to not make sequels. 1990’s The Rescuers Down Under was the first, coming out over 50 years after Disney invented feature animation with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and if you think it’s weird that The Rescuers, of all movies, would be the first to get a follow-up, well, you aren’t alone. The original might be a little overlooked today, but in its time it was one of Disney’s highest grossing movies; combine that with the faddish popularity of Australia in the ‘80s, and you wind up with Rescuers Down Under. Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor return Bernard and Miss Bianca, the brave white mice devoted to, uh, rescuing people, with the action moving from the swamps of Louisiana to Australian Outback. Like the original, Newhart and Gabor are a charming duo, with Newhart’s trademark deadpan still an unusual contrast to what you typically expect from animation. It’s also packed with adventure, thrillingly created with Disney’s computerized CAPS system, which makes this the first fully digital feature film ever made.—Garrett Martin

33. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh


Year: 1977
Director: John Lounsbery, Wolfgang Reitherman
Stars: Larry Clemmons, Ralph Wright, Vance Gerry, Xavier Atencio, Ken Anderson, Julius Svendsen, Ted Berman, Eric Cleworth
Runtime: 74 minutes

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Bringing A.A. Milne’s classic 1920s series of books to the big screen, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh merges together a trio of short films, Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree (1966), Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day (1968) and Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too (1974), along with a new entry from Milne’s A House at Pooh Corner. The musical affair was full of delightful songs like “Rumbly in My Tumbly” and “The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers,” and the animation was true to the style of Milne’s original books. There are several Pooh movies available (Piglet’s Big Movie, Springtime with Roo, Poo’s Heffalump Movie), all keeping that innocent 100 Acres Wood style, but this one—the last animated feature that Mr. Walt Disney was involved with—remains one of the best.—Josh Jackson

32. Big Hero 6


Year: 2014
Director: Don Hall, Chris Williams
Stars: Scott Adsit, Ryan Potter, Daniel Henney, T.J. Miller, Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans Jr., Genesis Rodriguez, Alan Tudyk, James Cromwell, Maya Rudolph.
Runtime: 102 minutes

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Some superheroes fight evil in the name of justice. Some fight for revenge. Baymax, the incomparably huggy automaton in Disney’s Big Hero 6, fights to help his young ward, teen genius Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter), as he mourns a devastating personal tragedy. This makes Baymax an outlier of sorts in today’s crop of big screen good guys, who tend to answer the call to action for the sake of something bigger than themselves; there are no armored space worms with whom he must tangle, no volcanic sleeper agents working for a megalomaniacal terrorist that he must thwart. Instead, there’s just a sad, lonely kid who needs someone to lean on. Big Hero 6 features characters from the pages of a Marvel comic book, and there’s a lot here that feels familiar, particularly the origin story trappings and the assembly of the super team. But every single step that Big Hero 6 takes is carried on a genuine undercurrent of emotion. The film alternates between profound joy and the deepest heartbreak. Like the Tony Starks and Peter Parkers of the world, Hiro uses his gifts as a means of dealing with his trauma. But few among those films feel quite so refreshingly alive as Big Hero 6. There’s a beat here, a rhythm that the film follows from start to finish as it juggles adult themes through the lens of children’s fare. This is an immensely entertaining picture—bright, vivid and smartly constructed on tropes that show themselves a bit too much in its peers. Thrilling, well-crafted set pieces are only one aspect of what makes blockbusters like this tick. The bond between a boy and his android makes up the rest.—Andy Crump

31. Tarzan


Year: 1963
Director: Kevin Lima, Chris Buck
Stars: Marcello Mastroianni, Claudia Cardinale, Anouk Aimee
Runtime: 140 minutes

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With music from Phil Collins (mercifully, Tarzan doesn’t do the singing) and a cast that includes Minnie Driver, Glenn Close and Tony Goldwyn as the titular Lord of the Jungle, Disney’s Tarzan does justice to the Edgar Rice Burroughs source material with its expected anthropomorphic twist. Rosie O’Donnell plays his gorilla buddy and Wayne Knight (best known as Jerry Seinfeld nemesis Newman) provides comic relief as a meek elephant. The plot is tight, the action well-paced and the movie is an easy pick to please kids of all ages. If there’s a superlative to be handed out, it’s for the animation team, who walked the fine line of making the gorillas seem both true to nature and relatable to humans. —Josh Jackson

30. Tangled


Year: 2010
Director: Nathan Greno, Byron Howard
Stars: Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Donna Murphy
Runtime: 100 minutes

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After a rough stretch where Disney tried out 3D elements in its films—first with ambitious experiments that mixed the format with traditional animation (Treasure Planet, Atlantis) and then fully transitioning into some dismal 3D efforts (Chicken Little)—they finally showed what the technique could do for their traditional fare with Tangled. Coming right after The Princess and the Frog, which was rightly applauded for its return to traditional animation, Tangled utilized the rapidly increasing technology (and processing power) available to let its animation enhance its fairy tale rather than be a gimmick the story had to fight against. Your Rapunzel story better have some impressive hair, and Tangled’s still staggers. There’s some truly magical movement and depth on display, with Alan Menken’s songs papering over some of the Shrek-chasing humor and simple narrative. Tangled is a worthy film, though, if only for proving that Disney’s embrace of new tech doesn’t need to warp its aesthetic.—Jacob Oller

29. Alice in Wonderland


Year: 1951
Director: Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske
Stars: Kathryn Beaumont, Ed Wynn, Richard Haydn, Sterling Holloway, Jerry Colonna, Verna Felton, J. Pat O’Malley, Bill Thompson, Joseph Kearns, Dink Trout, James MacDonald
Runtime: 75 minutes

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Walt Disney brought Lewis Carroll’s beloved children’s tale to full technicolor life, and while the purest form of the story will always be in his vivid writing, this 1951 animated film has sent millions of viewers down the rabbit hole, keeping Carroll’s legacy alive. The Cheshire Cat, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, the Mad Hatter and the tyrannical Queen of Hearts have all become icons in the Disney canon of characters. Along with Dumbo, it’s one of the most surreal and psychedelic animated features—and one of the most unforgettable. —Josh Jackson

28. The Emperor’s New Groove


Year: 2000
Director: Mark Dindal
Stars: David Spade, John Goodman, Eartha Kitt, Patrick Warburton, Wendie Malick
Runtime: 78 minutes

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The lasting appeal of this 2000 animated buddy comedy from Disney can likely be attributed to some truly genius voice casting: there’s David Spade as a vain emperor-turned-llama, John Goodman as a lovable peasant, Patrick Warburton as a dim-witted and deep-voiced palace guard and, of course, the perfect Eartha Kitt as the deliciously evil usurper of the throne. The story is fairly predictable, but the fun Peruvian setting is visually appealing and the fast-paced story allows for moments of lighthearted comedy that welcome repeat viewings. Also, the fact that it’s a Disney movie with no hokey musical numbers is a plus. —John Riti

27. Lilo & Stitch


Year: 2002
Director: Dean DeBlois, Chris Sanders
Stars: Tia Carrere, David Ogden Stiers, Kevin McDonald, Ving Rhames, Jason Scott Lee, Kevin Michael Richardson
Runtime: 85 minutes

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Writer/directors Dean DeBois and Chris Sanders wrote Mulan and wrote/directed How to Train Your Dragon, and that same humor and originality is at play in Lilo & Stitch a story about a little girl who wants a dog and an alien who fulfills her wish and then some. The adorable prankster from outer space is at the heart of this film about accepting differences, and crash-landed his place in the Disney roster of iconic animated heroes. Funny, heartwarming and imaginative, it’s got an Elvis-led soundtrack to boot. —Josh Jackson

26. Atlantis: The Lost Empire


Year: 2001
Director: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise
Stars: Michael J. Fox, James Garner, Cree Summer, Don Novello, Phil Morris, Claudia Christian, Jacqueline Obradors, Florence Stanley, David Ogden Stiers, John Mahoney, Jim Varney, Corey Burton, Leonard Nimoy
Runtime: 96 minutes

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As if Mike Mignola designed an Indiana Jones adventure to the bottom of the sea, Atlantis: The Lost Empire is an epic and pulpy quest with characters that are better to look at than to know about. Though the colorful group is led by an able performance by Michael J. Fox as the outrageously nerdy linguist Milo (props for the over-eager hero being almost grotesquely scrawny), they’re pretty thinly sketched—which is unfortunate because the expedition’s crew, like the whole film, has such an intriguing surface. Jim Varney, in his final performance, totally sells a weird old prospector-style chef. The quasi-religious/magic/high-tech mythology backing up Disney’s version of Atlantis begs plenty of questions with its invested architecture and language, but the movie’s ultimately more interested in hitting the right quest beats and beating the bad guys. Speaking of, James Garner turns in a commanding and underrated turn as a military Disney villain. Atlantis is refreshingly anti-imperialism and anti-capitalist in its advocation for the pure pursuit of knowledge, but it doesn’t have the courage of its convictions to stick the landing. The endearing deadpan demolition man still ends up with treasure—along with the rest of the crew—after their consciences pulled them away from outright plundering another civilization. But from the screen wipes to the sheer quantity of undersea action, Atlantis is still one of Disney’s most exciting endeavors.—Jacob Oller

25. Wreck-It Ralph


Year: 2012
Director: Rich Moore
Stars: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch
Runtime: 101 minutes

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After Disney’s purchase of Pixar, Wreck-It Ralph was the parent company’s closest attempt at finding real heart within its many plot points, delightfully realized setting, and handful of thrilling set pieces. Wreck-It Ralph introduces audiences to a video arcade that houses a fictitious game, Fix-It Felix, Jr., in which the titular character (voiced by John C. Reilly) is the Donkey Kong-esque villain. Decades of playing the same role while being spurned by the “good guy” inhabitants of both his game and those of the others in the arcade, have finally compelled Ralph to “Go Turbo.” Despite the warnings, he game-hops to earn a medal and, thus, the respect of the good guys. His single-mindedness in pursuit of his goal leads to chaos that threatens certain doom to any sprite unlucky enough to be stuck in their cabinet when it’s shut off. The plot reaches dizzying momentum fairly early, introducing myriad world-building rules, character threads, and a slew of in-jokes for the parents whose children are too young to remember the many classic games referenced. The casting of Silverman proves a particular stroke of genius; the character synchronizes perfectly with the comedienne’s brand of childish humor. More impressively, she (and Reilly) really hit their marks in character building, instilling their toons with the deep-seated sorrow wrought by their respective isolation. The world of Sugar Rush itself merits some mention, too. Deliriously inventive and pulsing with life, it almost seems a shame a real videogame wasn’t developed from its blueprints; it’s a world in which one wants to linger. —Scott Wold

24. Raya and the Last Dragon


Year: 2021
Director: Don Hall, Carlos López Estrada
Stars: Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina, Izaac Wang, Gemma Chan, Daniel Dae Kim, Benedict Wong, Sandra Oh, Thalia Tran, Lucille Soong
Runtime: 107 minutes

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From its intricate and exciting swordplay to its detailed depiction of styles and cultures underutilized by the House of Mouse, Raya and the Last Dragon is one of Disney’s better action-adventures. Its first foray into a Southeast Asian environment blends its traditional “princess” movies with a trial-hopping quest like Kubo and the Two Strings. Raya (Kelly Marie Tran), after a youthful tragedy leaves her father (Daniel Dae Kim) turned to stone and her land fractured, must hop from community to community—gathering up the pieces of a magical gem and new quirky team members—so that Sisu (Awkwafina), the last dragon, can depetrify everyone and put the world right. There’s a well-meaning but sloppily implemented lesson from writers Qui Nguyen and Adele Lim about trust at the film’s heart, explained almost like an argument for nuclear disarmament—basically, mutual animosity won’t improve if nobody’s willing to take the first step. But it’s all just an excuse really, to take us through some of the best environmental work of Disney’s 3D era and some of its best fight sequences ever. A muddled but bold finale keeps Raya from being a tour de force, but it’s still worth taking a tour through Kumandra.—Jacob Oller

23. The Great Mouse Detective


Year: 1986
Director: Ron Clements, Burny Mattinson, David Michener, John Musker
Stars: Vincent Price, Barrie Ingham, Val Bettin, Susanne Pollatschek, Candy Candido, Diana Chesney, Eve Brenner, Alan Young
Runtime: 74 minutes

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The Little Mermaid gets the credit for kicking off the Disney Renaissance, but its directors John Musker and Ron Clements had already co-directed (with David Michener and Disney legend Burny Mattinson) a modern Disney classic three years earlier. The Great Mouse Detective came during a down stretch for Disney’s animated features—the studio fared so poorly in the late ’70s and early ‘80s that the entire animation department was almost scrapped when Michael Eisner took over the company in 1984. The movie was only a modest success at the box office, but critics took note of its quality at the time; this animated twist on Sherlock Holmes combines beautiful animation and memorable characters in a story that has real stakes and emotion. It has not one but two unforgettable villains, Vincent Price’s theatrical Professor Ratigan and his crippled bat minion, Fidget. If you’ve never seen this one—or haven’t seen it since you were a kid—it’s worth watching again. —Garrett Martin

22. Frozen


Year: 2013
Director: Jennifer Lee, Chris Buck
Stars: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Santino Fontana
Runtime: 102 minutes

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I’m just going to go ahead and say it: Frozen was a game changer in the Disney princess canon. Not only does it belie the idea that a woman is a damsel in distress needing to be rescued by a man but it openly mocks that anyone would marry someone they just met—something that has happened in nearly every Disney princess movie since the dawn of time. If you think this is something trivial, it isn’t. This kind of pop culture seeps into the psyche of young children and helps to shape the way they view the world. Walk away from Frozen and you know that Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel) are perfectly capable of saving themselves, thank you very much. But Frozen is more than an empowering movie for all ages. It features a standout performance from Josh Gad as the loveable snowman Olaf, a powerhouse ballad that doesn’t grow old no matter how many times you hear it and terrific songs throughout. Whether you’re seeing it for the first time in forever or for the one thousandth time, Frozen will warm your heart. —Amy Amatangelo

21. Zootopia


Year: 2016
Director: Byron Howard, Rich Moore
Stars: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Jenny Slate, Nate Torrence, Bonnie Hunt, Don Lake, Tommy Chong, J. K. Simmons, Octavia Spencer, Alan Tudyk, Shakira
Runtime: 108 minutes

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It says a lot about the state of America’s cultural dialogues on acceptance and discrimination that a Disney movie feels this urgent, but maybe a movie about animals living under the impression of harmony is a long-term solution for our short-term failures. Then again, we’re talking about a cartoon where TV’s Snow White teams up with Michael Bluth in a sort-of riff on 48 Hours that expands to include references to The Godfather and Breaking Bad. Zootopia is smart in the way it approaches race relations, if unsophisticated and childish. But there are worse things a children’s movie can be than childish, and in Zootopia that word sheds its pejorative implications and instead feels befitting in its innocence. The story takes place in the sprawling zoological metropolis of the title, a place where beasts of all makes and models—large and small, meek and ferocious—somehow manage to coexist in an approximation of civilized society. This is a movie that’s all about big, heartfelt honesty between its principals and its audience. Simple though its politics may be, the film is effective—and coming from a mainstream studio, it is even just daring enough to make a difference. —Andy Crump

20. The Hunchback of Notre Dame


Year: 1996
Director: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise
Stars: Tom Hulce, Demi Moore, Tony Jay, Kevin Kline, Paul Kandel, Jason Alexander, Charles Kimbrough, Mary Wickes, David Ogden Stiers
Runtime: 91 minutes

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Based on the gothic French novel of the same name, this film comes to us in Disney animated musical drama format. Definitely one of Disney’s darker animated classics, the film follows Quasimodo, the somber, deformed bell-ringer of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, who lives hidden from the exterior world. The score, composed by Alan Menken and written by Stephen Schwartz, makes the film’s lessons against superficiality a bit more uplifting than they would be otherwise.—Alexa Carrasco

19. Winnie the Pooh


Year: 2011
Director: Stephen J. Anderson, Don Hall
Stars: Jim Cummings, Travis Oates, Tom Kenny, Craig Ferguson, Bud Luckey, Kristen Anderson-Lopez
Runtime: 69 minutes

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Sometimes the old things are the best things, and the best thing about this new Winnie the Pooh is that its spirit is very much like the films that came before it—timeless and wholesome. Based on the classic series of books by A. A. Milne dating back to the 1920s, Winnie the Pooh is a welcome and unique animated entry into a marketplace crowded by 3D and computer generated offerings. Ever since Shrek turned the kid’s film genre on its head by mixing more mature and edgy elements with childlike ones, animated films have walked a fine line, coming ever so close to being too adult for the youngest audience members (and sometimes crossing that line). But Pooh steps far away from such a trend, giving family audiences an entertaining and harmless yarn featuring some of the most beloved cartoon characters of all time.—Jonathan Hickman

18. One Hundred and One Dalmatians


Year: 1961
Director: Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske, Wolfgang Reitherman
Stars: Rod Taylor, Cate Bauer, Betty Lou Gerson, Ben Wright, Bill Lee, Lisa Davis, Martha Wentworth
Runtime: 79 minutes

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Despite ushering in a few new cost-cutting techniques to keep budgets down, One Hundred and One Dalmatians has style. A lot of that comes down to Cruella De Vil, of course; her alabaster skin, skunk hair, and love of big fluffy coats makes her one of the most strikingly designed characters in the Disney canon. It’s more than just her, though; the way the movie uses bright splashes of color to both make its characters pop against the background but also to reflect their emotional states is inspired. Some of the dynamics feel off today, as happens with almost any movie from 60 years ago—it portrays a motivated, outspoken, unmarried woman as an almost literal devil who wants to murder puppies, in contrast to Roger’s wife Anita, who is pretty and docile and a complete non-character. It also has surprisingly sly humor you might not expect from an old Disney animated feature, like the TV game show where a panel has to guess a criminal’s crime, or the shrill, saccharine, unending jingle in a dog treat commercial. There’s so much to recommend here, from De Vil’s fantastic theme song, to the legitimately hilarious banter of her lackeys, to the exciting Twilight Bark sequence. It earns its rep as a true Disney classic.—Garrett Martin

17. Peter Pan


Year: 1953
Director: Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske
Stars: Bobby Driscoll, Kathryn Beaumont, Hans Conried, Paul Collins, Heather Angel, Bill Thompson
Runtime: 77 minutes

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There’s so much magic in Peter Pan—the spritely pirate-filled adventure through the wonders and foibles of childhood (including selfishness, jealousy, ignorance, violence)—that the off-putting, extensive racism and subpar songs that hold it back from being in the upper echelon of Disney classics are stumbling blocks that’s result is worth working through. It’s got some top-tier slapstick and endearing animation, not to mention the personality bursting out of Peter, Wendy, Tinker, Hook, and Smee—heck, even the silent crocodile’s tick-tock walk worms its way into our hearts. A step forward for Disney’s evocative facial animations and entertaining baddies, Peter Pan is a film of high highs and rock-bottom lows. The songs peak early with “The Second Star to the Right,” but “What Made the Red Man Red?” (not to mention the long, terrible scene that contains it, which may be the single most racist thing Disney’s ever done) threatens to sink the whole film. But when the Darling children take flight, or their parents recall the flawed excitement and imaginative possibility of youth…well, it’s easy to see why people rush to forget the movie’s most troubling elements. Assessed with a modern eye, it’s easy to pick apart J. M. Barrie’s early 1900s racism that Disney perpetuated into the middle of the century. It’s also easy to use its presence in the film as a teaching moment that goes hand-in-hand with the rest of the foolish and damaging things that its immature characters must abandon.—Jacob Oller

16. Moana


Year: 2016
Director: Ron Clements, John Musker
Stars: Auli?i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, Temuera Morrison, Jemaine Clement, Nicole Scherzinger, Alan Tudyk
Runtime: 107 minutes

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During the initial meeting between the title character and the demi-god Maui (Dwayne Johnson), Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) protests that she is not a princess. His response? “If you wear a dress and you have an animal sidekick, you’re a princess.” By the time the closing credits roll, the audience has the answer to this particular dispute—they are both right. Moana both embraces and transcends the traditional—and by that, I mean, Disney-fied—“princess film.” After all, dress and sidekick aside, as the daughter and heir of a tribal chief, Moana is, inescapably, a princess. But that does not mean she’s a “Disney princess.” Moana may not be the first film from the House of Mouse to celebrate the grit, will and perseverance of a female lead, but it is the first to fully shed the less inspiring baggage of the traditional princess crew. This particular Hero’s Journey comes refreshingly free of male love interest, and Moana’s success or failure rests squarely on her shoulders. The visual rendering is as lush and rich as its subtext, and the music is everything one hopes from Lin-Manuel Miranda. But ultimately, it’s the blend of character and quest—infused throughout with an overriding warmth—that makes Moana impossible to resist. —Andy Crump

15. Fantasia

Year: 1940
Director: Samuel Armstrong, James Algar, Bill Roberts, Paul Satterfield, Ben Sharpsteen, David D. Hand, Hamilton Luske, Jim Handley, Ford Beebe, T. Hee, Norman Ferguson, Wilfred Jackson
Runtime: 126 minutes

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The first commercial film—animated or live-action—ever to be shown in stereophonic sound and a collection of eight short pieces intercut with live-action intros by Deems Taylor, Fantasia is set to classical music conducted by Leopold Stokowski, mostly with the Philadelphia Orchestra. While the origin of the film’s concept was fairly mundane (Walt Disney wanted a star vehicle for Mickey Mouse, whose ratings were flagging), what ended up happening, though, was a really interesting investigation into how music could be represented visually in the animated medium. Rather than writing storyboards and creating a soundtrack, the production team sat in meetings listening to Paganini and Stravinsky and Mussorgsky until Disney connected the sounds with images and built on it from there. Disney, who wasn’t much of a classical music buff, found his famously boundless curiosity piqued by the concept of using animation to support music rather than the other way around, and plunged into the project with enthusiasm, believing it would open people’s ears (like his own) to classical music they had previously ignored. An amazing collection of experts and performers were assembled to consult on science, animal movement and different types of dance. (Disney scrapped a portion of the Rite of Spring sequence that showed the discovery of fire out of concern that it would provoke angry Creationists; but biologists, paleontologists and astronomers, for example, were consulted.) Similarly, animators were given tickets to the Ballet Russe, and reptiles were brought into the studio to be studied. Fantasia ran at New York’s Broadway Theatre for 49 consecutive weeks, the longest film run ever at the time. Shows sold out across the country, yet Fantasia initially ran at a loss due to the expense of the state-of-the-art Fantasound systems along with theater lease and other production costs. RKO cut the film from two hours, five minutes to one hour, twenty minutes and showed it in mono to trim costs. It was restored partially in 1946 and to its original condition in 1990. Weird, beautiful, orgiastic, abstracted, wildly colored and meticulously recorded, the film was a critical darling and considered to be an incredibly bold move on Disney’s part, though many in the classical music community nitpicked Stokowski’s arrangements. (Everyone’s a critic.) Overall, the film is more a distance runner than a sprinter and a brilliant example of Disney’s strange, maverick, expansive imagination. —Amy Glynn

14. Cinderella


Year: 1950
Director: Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske
Stars: Ilene Woods, Eleanor Audley, Verna Felton, Rhoda Williams, James MacDonald, Luis van Rooten, Don Barclay, Mike Douglas, William Phipps, Lucille Bliss
Runtime: 74 minutes

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Disney Studios was $4M in debt when they made this adaptation of the well-known fairy tale “Cendrillon” by Charles Perrault. I know, hard to believe, but they’d had a string of costly flops, including Fantasia and had lost their European market to the war. The film opened in 1950 to thunderous critical applause and put the studio well on its way back to being in the pink—by which I mean health, though it’s worth noting that this film is a direct ancestor of the Pink Sparkly Princess Syndrome that has become pandemic in three-to-seven-year-olds. While there might be no excuse for the merch-floods for which Disney is famous, this film is the real deal, one of the best animated features ever made. Disney pioneered the use of overdubbed vocals for the song “Sing, Sweet Nightingale,” creating the effect of the character singing harmony with herself. Salvador Dali and Christian Dior are said to have been direct influences on the clothes worn by the characters. The plot’s been with us for centuries, so I’ll forego the recap and say that the film takes full advantage of Disney’s fathomless imagination, mixing fantasy and humor and music in a way that captivates children more than sixty years later. And even though adults know “happily ever after” is a mixed bag at best, this film will probably still make you believe in it too. At least for a couple of hours. —Amy Glynn

13. The Lady and the Tramp


Year: 1955
Director: Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske
Stars: Barbara Luddy, Larry Roberts, Bill Thompson, Bill Baucom, Verna Felton, Peggy Lee
Runtime: 76 minutes

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Before we talk about that which must be talked about, let’s reiterate that, one scene aside, The Lady and the Tramp is a beautiful movie and one of Disney’s best. There’s more life and personality in these animated dogs than in most human actors, and their long, rambling date through their hometown is like one of Linklater’s Before movies without the pretension. Unfortunately classic mid-century racism rears its head once again, with the dreadful stereotypes and embarrassing song of the Siamese cats. Nobody can complain if that one infamously racist scene (and song) ruins the whole movie for you, but outside of that one sequence you’ll find Lady and the Tramp to be one of Disney’s most charming and romantic pictures.—Garrett Martin

12. Aladdin


Year: 1992
Director: Ron Clements, John Musker
Stars: Scott Weinger, Robin Williams, Linda Larkin, Jonathan Freeman, Frank Welker, Gilbert Gottfried, Douglas Seale
Runtime: 90 minutes

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Aladdin, along with The Lion King following it in immediate succession, certainly feels like the zenith of the 1990s Disney Renaissance, pushing the company’s animated features to daring new heights of artistic achievement and box office dominance. It was, in many ways, a genesis point for the structure of modern animated features, beginning a period of increased reliance on recognizable voice actors (in this case, a heavily promoted Robin Williams) as an audience selling point, rather than the casts of unknowns that had previously been the norm. Genie, on the other hand, became a character almost bigger and more valuable than Aladdin itself; a pop-cultural watershed moment that also served to make Williams beloved to an entire generation of 1990s kids who hadn’t exactly been the target audience for the likes of Mork & Mindy or Good Morning, Vietnam. More than anything, though, Aladdin thrives on a witty, rapid-fire screenplay, earworm musical numbers and lush animation that expertly mined the deep well of captivating mythology already present in One Thousand and One Nights, so rarely brought to life in the western world. —Jim Vorel

11. The Jungle Book


Year: 1967
Director: Wolfgang Reitherman
Stars: Phil Harris, Sebastian Cabot, George Sanders, Sterling Holloway, John Abbott, Louis Prima, Bruce Reitherman
Runtime: 78 minutes

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The last animated feature produced during Walt Disney’s lifetime, The Jungle Book premiered in theaters 10 months after his death. It was also the last universally acclaimed Disney classic until The Little Mermaid, over 20 years later. It’s easy to see why: this might be the breeziest, most purely fun of all the Disney features. Between the fantastic voice cast, the unforgettable music, and the intoxicating charisma of Phil Harris’s Baloo, The Jungle Book trades in the solemn imperialism of Rudyard Kipling’s original stories for a jazzy, freewheeling joie de vivre. There’s absolutely a discussion to be had about children’s entertainment downplaying the toll of colonialism, but taken on its own, The Jungle Book is a lively, deeply entertaining treat.—Garrett Martin

10. The Lion King


Year: 1994
Director: Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff
Stars: Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Moira Kelly, Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, Rowan Atkinson, Robert Guillaume, Madge Sinclair, Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin
Runtime: 88 minutes

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Animated films often overreach for gravitas and fail miserably. The Lion King takes a mishmash of the stories of Hamlet, Henry IV, and some African folktales—and pulls it off. Simba&#8217 hearing his father’s ghost tell him “You are more than what you have become” resonates as deeply as anything in Shakespeare’s account of Young Hal. Somehow, even Elton John’s drippy soundtrack sounds majestic. This is a film that ennobles and the only version of it you ever need (except maybe the Broadway production). ——Michael Dunaway

9. Mulan


Year: 1998
Director: Tony Bancroft, Barry Cook
Stars: Ming-Na Wen, Eddie Murphy, BD Wong, Miguel Ferrer, June Foray, James Hong, Pat Morita, George Takei
Runtime: 87 minutes

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It seems like all of Eddie Murphy’s best comedic performances since Coming to America are animated. His little dragon Mushu is a sharp source of humor in this otherwise touching retelling of a Chinese folktale—a wonderful move by Disney to give its target market a strong heroine, whose bravery and sense of duty is admirable. Gorgeously animated with rich, saturated colors, the 2D film is populated by three-dimensional characters, and in a story about honor, the studio brings just the right specified touches to pay due respect to China’s history. —Josh Jackson

8. The Princess and the Frog


Year: 2009
Director: Ron Clements, John Musker
Stars: Anika Noni Rose, Bruno Campos, Michael-Leon Wooley, Jim Cummings, Jennifer Cody, John Goodman, Keith David, Peter Bartlett, Jenifer Lewis, Oprah Winfrey, Terrence Howard
Runtime: 97 minutes

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The classic fairytale about a princess who kisses a frog and becomes an amphibian herself gets a jazzy remake in this beloved 2009 Disney animated film. Anika Noni Rose voices the character of Princess Tiana, a struggling New Orleans waitress who vows to help a frog turn back into his rightful state as a human prince. However, she herself transforms into a frog, and the pair must tear through the Louisiana bayous as they try to become human again. This is the first Disney princess film that features a Black woman as the main character, and it has in the last decade solidified itself among the ranks of the Disney vaults as a classic musical romp. Ballads like “Almost There” and “When We’re Human” bring lots of color to the soundtrack, which also features an appearance by the late NOLA icon Dr. John. —Ellen Johnson

7. Dumbo


Year: 1941
Director: Ben Sharpsteen
Stars: Edward Brophy, Verna Felton, Cliff Edwards, Herman Bing, Sterling Holloway, Margaret Wright
Runtime: 64 minutes

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Featuring everybody’s favorite lovable misfit, Dumbo was one of Disney’s earlier animated successes. Although it’s filled with creepy, psychedelic elephant trips, it’s a classic feel-good film that teaches lessons of acceptance and the celebration of people’s differences. Every kid should see it at least once.—Eric Gossett

6. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs


Year: 1937
Director: David Hand
Stars: Adriana Caselotti, Lucille La Verne, Harry Stockwell, Roy Atwell, Pinto Colvig, Otis Harlan, Scotty Mattraw, Billy Gilbert, Eddie Collins, Moroni Olsen,Stuart Buchanan
Runtime: 83 minutes

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Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was by no means the first major animated film, but it was the first full-length cel animated feature, and every animated feature afterward is its scion. Before Snow White, “cartoons” were simply part of the filler and previews one might see before an actual feature. Disney’s animation team showed what could be accomplished with an entire staff of talented artists working for an extended period on a united goal, and the film’s massive box office success proved that animated features were a valid and potentially lucrative business. Regardless, “animated film” implied an entirely different meaning in the post Snow White film industry.—Jim Vorel

5. The Little Mermaid


Year: 1989
Director: Ron Clements, John Musker
Stars: Jodi Benson, Christopher Daniel Barnes, Pat Carroll, Samuel E. Wright, Jason Marin, Kenneth Mars, Buddy Hackett, René Auberjonois
Runtime: 83 minutes

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Crucially, The Little Mermaid serves as the exact inflection point in which Disney Princesses’ goals changed from wanting a cute guy to wanting to be her own person—even though a woman who wants that has historically been viewed as somehow deficient. It’s all right there in Mermaid, in a way it absolutely was not in Sleeping Beauty, whose Princess Aurora didn’t have much agency in her own narrative. Besides the story of the mermaid princess Ariel actually being about Ariel and what she wants, it doesn’t hurt that The Little Mermaid is uplifted by some of the best musical numbers the studio had produced in at least a decade. Disney hired composer Alan Menken and playwright Howard Ashman off the back of the success of the Little Shop of Horrors film in 1986, based on their 1982 musical. How on Earth they thought guys who wrote a black comedy about a man-eating plant would be the perfect duo to revive the most kid-friendly of studios is puzzling, but it worked. Those memorable melodies were backed up by Ashman’s lyrics, which chiseled themselves directly into the brain stems of every child who heard them. In the The Little Mermaid, Ariel is indeed mooning over a cute boy. But she made the first move and she had to defy a controlling father and literally win back her voice and her damn legs too. Lots of heroines have followed in those footsteps. —Kenneth Lowe

4. Sleeping Beauty


Year: 1959
Director: Clyde Geronimi
Stars: Mary Costa, Bill Shirley, Eleanor Audley, Verna Felton, Barbara Luddy, Barbara Jo Allen, Taylor Holmes, Bill Thompson
Runtime: 75 minutes

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Disney’s animated feature draws heavily from the Tchaikovsky ballet for a film that has the loveliness of a medieval tapestry, but not a lot of narrative punch. This changes at the end when Prince Philip comes to Sleeping Beauty’s rescue and the evil sorceress Maleficent transforms into a splendidly-designed dragon with a nifty black, purple and yellow color scheme and horns that match the witch’s headdress. Maleficent the dragon proved to be Disney’s scariest big-screen creation since the devil Chernabog in the “Night on Bald Mountain” segment of 1940’s Fantasia. —Curt Holman

3. Bambi


Year: 1942
Director: David Hand
Stars: Hardie Albright, Stan Alexander, Bobette Audrey
Runtime: 70 minutes

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Yeah, Bambi is sad. It’s also funny, and scary, and uplifting, and joyous and mundane. Bambi isn’t about a young deer whose mother is killed by a hunter; it’s about the first year of that deer’s life, and about all our lives in general. Everybody can see a bit of their own experience in Bambi’s growth to young adulthood. There’s so much depth and beauty in this movie, both before and after that fateful scene, and despite starring cute talking animals it’s still the most naturalistic and realistic of all Disney animated features. Its gorgeous, tender art style was driven by lead artist Tyrus Wong, a Chinese immigrant who was fired from Disney shortly after Bambi was completed due to the 1941 artists strike, and who was 106 when he passed away in 2016. Like the movie itself, Wong’s art is heartfelt and sublime. —Garrett Martin

2. Beauty and the Beast


Year: 1991
Director: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise
Stars: Paige O’Hara, Robby Benson, Richard White, Jerry Orbach, David Ogden Stiers, Angela Lansbury, Rex Everhart, Jesse Corti
Runtime: 84 minutes

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The first animated film to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, Beauty and the Beast, along with The Little Mermaid in 1989 and The Lion King in 1994, composed the last push of classic hand-drawn cartoons before Toy Story tipped the form definitively toward computer animation. As with so many Disney princesses, the role of Beauty (voiced by Paige O’Hara) is to find her prince, but she’s got a little feminist kick to her, constantly burying her nose in a book, dreaming of escaping her provincial life and rejecting the advances of the handsome oaf Gaston (Richard White). When her father, an idiosyncratic inventor whose character design smacks of Albert Einstein, gets lost in the woods and stumbles upon an enchanted castle, its inhabitant—a horrible Beast (Robby Benson)—takes him prisoner. Belle discovers her father’s captivity and offers to take his place. Her arrival is fortuitous, as time is running out to reverse the curse that has rendered Beast so, well, beastly and his staff a raft of household items, including a candelabra named Lumiere (Jerry Orbach), a mantel clock named Cogsworth (David Ogden Stiers), and a teapot named Mrs. Potts (Angela Lansbury). These charmed servants conspire to tame the Beast so that he’ll fall in love with Belle, and she with him, thus breaking the spell that has trapped them in bric-a-brac. The film’s major set pieces are thrilling, especially the Broadway-infused “Be Our Guest” number by Howard Ashman, whose jaunty lyrics seem as familiar today as they did in 1991, and Alan Menken, whose score won an Academy Award. If you like your rom-coms animated and musically inclined, the House of Mouse provides. —Annlee Ellingson

1. Pinocchio


Year: 1940
Directors: Hamilton Luske, Ben Sharpsteen
Stars: Cliff Edwards, Dickie Jones, Christian Rub, Walter Catlett, Charles Judels, Evelyn Venable, Frankie Darro, Clarence Nash
Runtime: 88 minutes

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In 2014 a panel of animators, filmmakers, critics and historians voted on the greatest animated film of all time. Pinocchio won. That shouldn’t be a surprise: Disney’s second feature set a bar for artistry and storytelling that animators have been chasing ever since. It’s not just a gorgeous film with some of the best songs in movie history, but one with legitimate depth and emotion and a lesson that every person should learn. Disney still had its best roster of animators, before some of the best left or were fired after the 1941 strike, and the studio was still spending lavishly on production, before the war and the underperformance of Bambi and, uh, Pinocchio led to tighter budgets. Animated movies haven’t gotten better than this. —Garrett Martin