Top Ten Animated Disney Movies for non-Disney People
I’ve never considered myself a Disney person. For me, spending a week at Disney World as an adult would be my equivalent to water boarding. As a general rule, if I find myself watching an animated Disney movie I’m most likely babysitting someone’s kid. At the same time, no matter how much I may want to deny it, you really can’t deny that Disney turns out some seriously fine movies. The following are my top ten favorites based not on viewer ratings, box office sales, or any other standard beyond my personal nonsensical preferences. I like to call this list the top ten animated Disney movies for non-Disney people.
#10 – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Snow White should be on everyone’s top ten Disney movies list simply because if it hadn’t been a success chances are there wouldn’t have been any others made. The amount of time and money that Disney invested in creating their first full length feature film in the late 1930’s was staggering. Sure the dwarfs are cute and the queen is evil but personally I find Snow White’s voice so annoying it is distracting and I have a hard time finding anything romantic about necrophilia, which is essentially what this is all about in the end. Still, even I can watch Snow White and just be amazed by all of those hand drawn cells coming together so perfectly to make a movie that set a standard for all animated movies (Disney or otherwise) to follow.
#9 – Meet the Robinsons
On the whole this gem was a bit of a sleeper for Disney because while it was computer animated it wasn’t a Pixar project. For those of you who haven’t seen it, it is the story of an orphan named Lewis who grows up to become the father of a new modern world full of flying cars and time machines, all of his own design. We meet Lewis as a boy who is working day and night trying to get his first real invention, a Memory Scanner, to work much to the dismay of his sleep deprived roommate Goob. Things heat up when a guy in a bowler hat steals the scanner and a boy from the future appears in his time machine to help Lewis get it back. I love this film because Bowler Hat Guy is the worst super villain ever; his evil plans are repeatedly foiled simply because he didn’t think things through. Life lessons like taking responsibility for your own happiness and the importance of family make this a winner.
#8 – Toy Story 2
Toy Story the original makes a lot of Disney top ten lists. In fairness, it was the first full length Pixar movie and I understand why people like to talk about how it was this monumental movie, etc. I thought it was cute. The reason why Toy Story 2 is on my list and the original is not is because it picks up where the cute original left off and almost immediately becomes a tale of struggling with mortality. Woody rips and instead of taking him to Cowboy Camp as planned, Andy immediately puts him up on a shelf where he is essentially forgotten. In a society that places so much value on youth and beauty, you can’t help but identify with how Woody feels because you two fear getting shelved. To this day the flashback featuring Jessie the Cowgirl’s own story of abandonment by her former owner set to Sarah McLaughlin is to me one of the most devastatingly sad and beautiful scenes in a movie ever.
#7 – Pinocchio
The essential idea behind Pinocchio is that our humanity isn’t defined by the fact that we are alive, but rather by our ability to abide by a moral code. Thanks to a magical blue fairy and a wish made by an elderly and childless puppet master, Pinocchio goes from puppet to living puppet with the promise of becoming a real boy if he can be good. My favorite thing about Pinocchio is the fact that it was clearly not made for the children of today’s world. Pinocchio was made at a time where parents weren’t afraid to scare the crap out of their children in order to get them to behave and there are some seriously creepy scenes and characters in this movie. The scene where Pinocchio and his supposed friends go to Pleasure Island to booze, smoke and gamble only to be turned into jackasses by the evil guy in charge that still haunts me to this day.
#6 – Sleeping Beauty
I suppose everyone has a favorite Disney princess but the reason why I love this movie is that it gave me my favorite villain. I thought there was something so supremely evil and at the same time so glamorous about Maleficent. I think that I should say now that I was the kind of kid that got left out a lot. Nothing about my glasses, buck teeth and messy hair screamed princess, so it was hard for me to identify with Aurora. Maleficent on the other hand curses and subsequently spends 16 years hunting down the pretty girl simply because she wasn’t invited to her party and that was awesome to me. The awkward six year old in me yearned to become a dragon too just to let everyone know I wasn’t to be messed with. When “true love conquers all” in the end I was disappointed but this film remains a favorite of mine.
#5 – Up
I’m going to go out on a limb here and call Up the greatest love story ever told. The tale of Carl and Ellie, childhood sweethearts with big plans for a life full of adventure, is so gut wrenchingly devastating due to the fact that it is real. Like so many people, Carl and Ellie find that life gets in the way of their dreams. Trip money gets spent on things like busted tires and home repairs and before they know it they are too old and, in Ellie’s case, too sick to do anything they wanted to do as kids. After Ellie’s death, Carl decides the best way to keep his love for her alive is to go on her adventures for her. Lots of balloons tied to his house and two stowaways later, Carl realizes that a love like he had for Ellie is too substantial to simply die with a person. Carl’s willingness to love again and his refusal to let life get the better of him help him to become the hero that Ellie always saw in him. This movie will make even the most heartbroken and cynical want to love again. Oh, and there are talking dogs.
#4 – Aladdin
As the follow up to the previous year’s Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin had some seriously high standards to live up to and Disney clearly pulled out all the stops to make sure Aladdin didn’t disappoint. Sure the movie had a great sound track, Robin Williams at his most manic genius and the imagination provoking storyline of wish granting. But if we are honest about it, what Aladdin really brings to the table is a whole lot of animated eye candy. Instead of going with a female lead, Disney gave us a street thief whose prolific pectoral muscles were assumedly the reason why he chose to wear a vest instead of a proper shirt. His love interest, Princess Jasmine, was the first fully human Disney female to proudly display her midriff. Thousands of viewers with crushes on cartoon characters later, this is a classic.
#3 – The Lion King
In my opinion, The Lion King ended Disney’s run of quality movies that spanned from the late 80’s early 90’s. The Lion King came directly on the heels of the Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin and despite the success of those films, the Lion King stood on its own. Unlike its predecessors, there was an all animal cast but the wonderful voice acting and depth of the characters almost make you forget that you were watching lions not people. In fact I have a friend who insists Nala is the hottest Disney princess of all time, despite the fact that she is a lion. The film also gave us some wonderful pop culture moments from the presentation of Simba at the beginning to the catchy Hakuna Matata motto and the music from Elton John and Tim Rice made this film truly unforgettable.
#2 – Beauty and the Beast
I’m no animation expert so I can’t tell you exactly how or why, but true to its title, Beauty and the Beast is a stunningly beautiful film. I remember watching it on the big screen as a kid and getting the chills as we were swooped into the grand ballroom where Beast twirled Belle around and around in her big yellow dress. Looking at the film as an adult, you realize that the beauty of the film isn’t just skin deep. Belle struggling with the sacrifice she is willing to make to save her father, the transformation the Beast is able to make to save himself and his friends, and the lessons we learn about what makes someone beautiful make this an incredibly well crafted film. My only criticism is that is that you become so attached to the Beast that it is actually unsettling when he goes back to his human form because he really isn’t that hot.
#1 – Toy Story 3
Rarely is there a third installment of a movie trilogy that makes you completely forget how much you liked the first two. Much like the previous two films, we are treated to a film that is full of cute and quirky toys. This time it is the story of finding their place among a new set of kids at a local daycare center. The reason why this film earned the top spot on my list is that it embodies all that makes a true Disney movie genius. A child who sits down to watch Toy Story 3 walks away laughing great remembering the funny toys and all of their goofy mishaps. Adults walk away from the film laughing from the adult jokes that were just tasteful enough for the kids to totally miss while also asking themselves some pretty serious questions about life and the relentless series of endings and transitions it brings. If this is any indication of what lies ahead for the animated Disney movie then we have so much to look forward to.