Nostalgia can be a fairly tricky thing. It gives us such a slanted view of life sometimes that we become completely blinded to reality, dismissive of alternatives and outraged at any stupid naysayers who may cross our rose-tinted path. With this disclaimer of sorts, I will write the rest of this article with the totally one-sided view that there has never been a better era of children’s cinema than the Golden Age of Disney from the late 1980s until the mid to late 1990s.
Having said that, Disney has always been the one true colossus of film animation, and it would be remiss of me not to pay credit to their earlier masterpieces as well. So, without further ado here are the top ten classically animated Disney films OF ALL TIME!
10. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
The one that started them all, if you don’t count Steamboat Willie (1928), which I hope nobody does. Walt Disney was a fairly ambitious guy and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was the first full-length cel animated film in history. It also kickstarted the Disney tradition of giving kids nightmares because of a ridiculously scary villain. It’s amazing how little the film has dated considering it’s over 70 years old and now, thanks to good ol’ YouTube, it’s free to watch!
9. Pocahontas (1995)
I’m a little apprehensive about putting Pocahontas on this list, as it’s actually my least favourite of the 90s Disney films. I think the normally amazing Alan Menkin’s score is a little flat (yes, fuck Colours of The Wind) and there’s just something about Mel Gibson in a Disney film that just doesn’t feel right. Having said that, Pocahontas is extremely popular and at the end of the day it’s still a pretty solid flick. Also Christian Bale plays the voice of Thomas in this and then played John Rolfe in Terrence Malick’s version of the same story The New World (2005). That’s trivia for you, baby.
8. Fantasia (1940)
I hope this is true – apparently Walt Disney originally had the ridiculously ambitious plan of re-releasing Fantasia every year with new musical segments. Then the film flopped and Disney’s plans were dropped. Decades later during the 1960s, Fantasia suddenly became incredible popular amongst the LSD-taking, weed-smoking crowd, who flocked to the cinemas to trip balls. Pretty much any kid growing up in the 1990s has seen Fantasia. If you do the maths that means that our parents must love drugs. There are some pretty boring bits, but it’s pretty hard to ignore those awesome dancing mushrooms and the iconic Sorcerer’s Apprentice sequence
7. Pinocchio/Dumbo (1940/41)
It’s a tie between these two because they remind me of one another, they’re from the same era, I wanted to put them both on the list but didn’t have room and I can do what I like because it’s my list. Shit gets pretty real for the protagonists in these two films. This is classic Disney at its dark best.
6. The Little Mermaid (1989)
The Little Mermaid holds an extremely important spot on this list because it’s the film that kickstarted the Disney golden years during the 1990s. The Little Mermaid has everything; cool story, great songs, scary villain and a Jamaican crab. Animation legend Hayao Miyazake’s recent film Ponyo (2008) was based on the same Hans Christian Anderson tale. Disney superstar Alan Menkin wrote the score for most of the Disney films during this era (the notable exception being The Lion King) and won 8 Academy Awards over a six year period. Sheeeeeeeeeeeeeet.
5. The Jungle Book (1967)
The coolest of all the Disney films, The Jungle Book has swag. There’s a certain relaxed quality to the Disney films of this era, including Robin Hood (1973), where a lot of the characters just seem like they’d be awesome to chill out with and the plots meander along in an amiable kind of way. Also the elephants are awesome.
Did you know that the animators on Aladdin based the appearance of their protagonist on Tom Cruise circa early 90s? Neither did I until I read the trivia on IMDB and I’ll be honest, it’s kind of ruined the film a bit. Having said that it’s extremely difficult to go past the badass tiger-shaped sand cave. “Seek out the diamond in the diamond in the diamond in the rooooooouuuugggghhh.” Nice.
3. The Lion King (1994)
This is the big one, isn’t it? I think The Lion King would take the top spot on most people’s list, and deservedly so. It has one of the coolest openings in cinema history (shamelessly copied four years later by Dreamworks’ The Prince of Egypt) and Mufasa is everybody’s dream dad. I can’t remember the last time my dad took me to a top of a rock, pointed at the horizon and told me that it would all be mine – asshole.
2. Sleeping Beauty
The very first time I watched this I went to bed and had a nightmare about the evil queen. The next day I woke up and I had chickenpox.
1. Beauty and The Beast
I mean come on, this is a no brainer. This is in my top ten films of all time. Until the Academy somehow decided that there should be 10 Best Picture nominees, this was the only animated film ever nominated for that award. There is nothing that I don’t like about this film. Also, Belle is easily the hottest Disney princess, all you Jasmine lovers can jog on.