Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Top 10 Disney Animated Films

After seeing Frozen, it got my interest rekindled in animated Disney movies. For the past several years, I've slowly been becoming more and more interested in Disney movies and the sense of wonder and enchantment that each of them can bring. From having a great array of songs, to memorable villains, to even Oscar caliber production levels, Disney movies have their own sense of identity to them that anyone can enjoy. So, I started to think, what are my favorite Disney movies? Out of the 53 movies released by Walt Disney Animation Studios, which movies stand the test of time and are the best that Disney has to offer.

When it comes to this list, I'm only counting the 53 movies that were made by Walt Disney Animation Studios. Unfortunately, that means I can't put other Disney movies like The Nightmare Before Christmas on this list for that exact reason. Consider it my unofficial number 11 I suppose. With that all said, here are my personal Top 10 Disney animated films!

Number 10) The Jungle Book
I saw this movie a ton as a kid. Like, there was no other Disney movie that I saw more than The Jungle Book. But when I started growing up, I forgot about this movie and that it even existed. Now though, I think that this movie is a ton of fun. I actually saw this movie for the first time in years over the summer, and I forgot at just how much fun the movie was. The animation style to this movie is unlike most other Disney movies and has a much more sketchy kind of look to it. For this movie, it actually works. Normally I don't like it when animation looks very sketch based, but this movie works for some reason. 

That, and the characters are just a ton of fun to watch. That sequence where Kaa the snake is hypnotizing Mowgli and Mowgli is walking along his insanely long body is a great moment that this movie offers. Honestly, the songs don't really stand out to me overall. I'm not really a fan of the more simplistic songs (though the King Louie song is incredible), so it doesn't really affect me that much. This is a simpler Disney movie, but sometimes the simpler movie is the better movie. 

Number 9) Peter Pan
Peter Pan is such an institution, I have to put it on the list simply because it's one of my favorite kids stories. Everyone knows who Peter Pan is, what Neverland is, and about Tinkerbell, Captain Hook, Smee, Tiger Lily, and everything about the story. But what makes this version of the story one of the most endearing? Well, in my opinion at least, it's because this is an animated movie. Sure there are live action adaptations of Peter Pan, but when it comes to portraying a movie filled with this much fantasy and imagination, sometimes live action works don't cut it. That's not to discredit movies like Hook or plays like Peter and the Starcatcher, which are both fantastic, but the reason those movies are well remembered aren't the same reasons why this movie is so much endearing. It captures the imagination of exactly what Neverland would look like, and the people that live in the world are full of life and energy and can do things that no other human, animated or not, can do. That sense of wonder and imagination is what I find so charming, and enough to have it be my ninth favorite Disney movie. But can we please cut back on the Tinkerbell movies... please? Those are starting to get a bit excessive...

Number 8) Fantasia
This and one other movie don't really require explanation for why it's one of my favorite Disney movies. Fantasia is one of the few Disney movies that everyone can say they've seen in one form or another. Whether it's actually watching the whole movie, or even just select shorts like the classic Sorcerer's Apprentice, everyone knows about Fantasia and what makes it great. It's a beautiful mash-up of music and imagery, combining some of the best animation in the world with some of the best music in the world. How can you go wrong? Well, by being Fantasia 2000, but that's beside the point! 

I I was to pick a sequence that I would say is the best part of the movie, because everyone has a favorite part, it would have to be the combination of The Devil on Bald Mountain and Ave Maria. I can't really say what makes them work, but if I was to venture a guess, it would have to be how both numbers play off each other with the darkest of imagery turning into something serene and calming. Seeing the devil himself (and yes it's the devil and not Chernabog or whatever Disney calls him. They say in the opening that the devil rises from Bald Mountain, so it's the devil) rise from the top of the mountain to spew darkness, destroy life, and bring hell on earth, only to be defeated by the dawning of a new day and church bells is a powerful scene, and to close out the movie with it is even better. There's no better way to end a Disney movie than how they did it with Fantasia.

Number 7) Sleeping Beauty

If you know anything about Disney, you know who she is. Hell, I saw this movie for the first time last year, and I knew who Maleficent was years before even that. She is the pinnacle Disney villain. She represents the brand. No one can really remember Princess Aurora or the Prince in this movie because they really aren't the central characters. The real central characters are the three fairies that watch over Aurora, and Maleficent. Hell, they're making a movie solely based on Maleficent, and I can tell you that's going to be a fantastic movie just based on how rich the source material is for her. It's hard to love a movie based on a single character, but that's the case for this movie. In fact, this entire explanation for why the movie is on here is pointless in a sense. 

Maleficent. That is all. 

Number 6) Tangled
I didn't see Tangled when it was first released. By that point I wasn't back into Disney and I was more focused on seeing other movies that came out that year (Scott Pilgrim FTW). But when I saw this movie back in 2012, I realized just what I was missing out on. The animation of this movie is just breathtaking, almost as good as Frozen. While Frozen focused on cold and lonely environments, this movie was all about nature and vast arrays of scenery. This is by far the prettiest Disney movie to watch, and much better than previous 3D animated Disney movies like Bolt or Meet the Robinsons

Actually, that's really all the movie has going for it besides reinvigorating the Rapunzel fairy tale, which they did brilliantly by the way. The actual characters are fun, but not that memorable. The villain is decent, but not that threatening or memorable. Even the songs are, you guessed it, not that memorable. But they're just memorable enough for me to look back on them and think "That was pretty fun". Upon reflection it may not be the best story Disney has ever done (that's to come later), but it's the best looking and uses its source material the best, which is good enough to make it my number six. 

Number 5) Beauty and the Beast
I know, I know, I know. "Number 5? The hell? Everyone knows this is one of the best, if not THE best Disney movie ever made!" Why yes, yes it is one of the best Disney movies ever made. Doesn't mean that I have a significant emotional connection to it. When it comes to a list that's about my personal favorite Disney movies, that's exactly what it is, what I personally think the best Disney movies are. I can acknowledge that this movie is phenomenal and is the best love story that Disney ever made and that it deserved to be nominated for est picture at the Oscars, the animated film to do so, but it doesn't hold an emotional interest for me. 

I acted in a production of it, and while I can appreciate all of the music, the characters, the beautiful imagery, that still can't get over the fact that this movie just doesn't do it for me. If I'm ever in a mood for a love story, I'll always choose this movie over any other Disney movie, but just because it's called "The Best Disney Movie Ever", doesn't mean it's my favorite Disney movie ever. Still damned good in every regard, but just not number one worthy for me. 

Number 4) The Great Mouse Detective
I love this movie with a passion. This movie is sold by just how creative it is and how it uses its concept brilliantly. I love the idea of a Sherlock Holmes mouse, solving mysteries around London and going into varied and fun locations. Exploring toy shops, a mouse bordello, and even Big Ben are just a few of the highlights this movie has to offer. Visually, this movie still impressed me to this day, and the Clock Tower climax is probably my favorite traditional Disney climax, unlike Bald Mountain's nontraditional one. 

But what really sells this movie is the relationship between the antagonist and the main character; Detective Basil versus the evil Professor Ratigan. Seeing these two converse with each other is a joy, especially seeing as how Ratigan is voiced by the legendary Vincent Price. He just brings such a delicious performance to the Professor that makes every line he says into a masterpiece. Whenever Ratigan and Basil are on screen, it just fills me with so much joy to see them react to each other and shoot off witty banter. Plus the aforementioned climax has Ratigan showing his true colors as the rat he is, and it's a great moment to be sure. I just love this movie so much that it has to be my number 4. 

Number 3) Frozen
The film that got me to start this list in the first place is now becoming one of my favorite Disney movies of all time. I can go on forever about how great this movie is, but I think everything is summed up much nicer in my original review. Bottom line, this is a fantastic movie that has great character depth, some fantastic songs, and a spin on traditional Disney formulas. See it, love it, and have fun.

Number 2) The Emperor's New Groove
This movie i just plain awesome! Looking back on it, this is the one Disney movie that has held up in my mind from when I was a child. This might be pure nostalgia talking, but there's just something about the high energy in this movie that's infectious. Not only that, but this is really the first time that Disney went all out in making a comedy. As in, no songs, no princesses, but a pure blooded comedy. And it pays of momentously. There are too many moments to name that are just plain hilarious; the opening scene, the dinner party, the diner, Yzma's secret lab, just so many moments that are hilarious. 

Every single character in this movie is a riot to watch, with particular praise going to the duo of Yzma and Kronk. Those two are the sole reason anyone should see this movie, though that's not to say that everyone else isn't funny. Kuzco and Pacha and a great duo as well and elevate this movie beyond just being a simple Disney movie. While I do recognize its flaws, like how the 2nd half can drag a bit, the entire journey is repeated close towards the end, and how some characters can come off as annoying instead of funny, but it's all worth it just to experience those moments that do work. However, while I may love this move the most, there's one more movie that I think is Disney at its best and proves why they're so well respected to this day.

Number 1) The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Putting all nostalgia aside and my love for movies despite their flaws, I can't not say that this is the best Disney movie ever made. Yes, even better than The Lion King. What Hunchback has is some of the best drama and character development out of any Disney movie. This is the most serious that Disney has ever gotten with its movies, and by god does it show. Judge Claude Frollo is one of the most popular Disney villains because of how mature and serious he is. He's a man that justifies all of his actions as correct and holy, despite how he persecutes gypsies and anyone that opposes him. He has an entire sequence dedicated to how he lusts for a women and how it psychologically destroys him. 

But outside of Frollo, we have an interesting story that's far from traditional Disney, with pure Gothic choirs as the main musical motif that adds such a grandeur to everything. Everything just seems so much bigger and important here than in any other Disney movie, and it shows. While there are comedic moments in this movie (with the biggest problem of the movie being summed up as the 3 gargoyles), this movie is all about the drama of the characters and the trials they have to go through. Hell, Quasimodo is probably the most unconventional Disney protagonist because he doesn't get the girl in the end. She goes for another man, but he's fine with that and chooses to support them and be there for them. 

I could go on and on about how amazing this movie is. Every musical number is enjoyable, and the choir adds that much more to how the movie sounds. I love the use of religion in the movie to give it a more philosophical backdrop to the movie, and I love how everything just looks beautiful. While the forced comedy is, well, forced, I still think that this movie is completely worth the time invested into it. This isn't just my favorite Disney movie. It's one of my favorite movies of all time period. 

With that all said and done, I'm going to lament on how Wreck It Ralph didn't make this list. Sigh..............

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