Dina Reviews: The Disney Animated Canon

From Snow White to Wish!

Disney Animation


I’ve been meaning to do this for a while. I’ve actually seen all the movies of the Disney Animated Canon… several of the movies I’ve seen more than once. Disney gets a lot of flak, I know, but most of their animated movies are actually pretty good… except Chicken Little. Chicken Little sucks.

So I spent a few hours writing down my brief thoughts of all of them. This isn’t a “ranking” thing because while some movies ARE a lot better than others I wouldn’t be able to decide on where to rank them… again, apart from Chicken Little, which is the absolute worst. 

I probably won’t touch too much on behind the scenes stuff, or controversies, or bad adaptation ideas. I’m just going to briefly state my opinion on each of the movies, and if I have something to say, I’ll say it. Okay? Okay. Let’s begin then!


This is the classic area, the first five movies the studios produced. This was back when full-length feature animation was just starting out and Disney was staking out the grounds…  and though everyone kept saying that feature length animation was a bad idea, no expenses were spared. Pretty much everyone agrees that these five movies belong to the Golden Age; this was before World War II and before economical difficulties forced the studio into cheaper solutions.

There’s a definite charm to the Golden Age movies, but also it kind of shows that Disney was trying things out and had no idea what actually worked and what didn’t. The movies were highly experimental for their time (and they still have some of the best animation ever done!), but compared to later movies they’re… kind of rather simplistic, not very sophisticated, and a little more concerned with funny gags than telling a good story.

  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
    The first of them all, and it kind of shows that they hadn’t quite figured out how to pace and stage a full-length movie yet. The pacing and timing is all over the place and there’s frequent moments that would work better as animated shorts. Snow White herself is a little anonymous and it would take some time before anyone found out how to really do “realistic” humans in animation. Still, the dwarfs steal the show, and the movie scores high on music, visuals and mood… ESPECIALLY when it goes for the dark and scary.
  • Pinocchio (1940)
    A marked improvement on Snow White in almost every way. The animation and character designs are better, the characters themselves more interesting, and the pacing is that of an actual movie… even if the plot is kind of all over the place, at least there is a clear red thread with Pinocchio’s development as a person. Granted, the heavy-handed black and white preachiness gets a little much (Jiminy Cricket especially comes across as a major hypocrite who’s less concerned about Pinocchio’s actual well-being than he is about preaching morals), but it’s nowhere NEAR as bad as the original book by Carlo Collodi was in that regard. Really, it’s hard to see this as anything but an improvement on the book. 
  • Fantasia (1940)
    It’s less a movie and more an animated concert. And… I don’t know. I’m not that fond of concerts. Now this is definitely a visual spectacle. The animation’s not as good as that of Pinocchio, but the effects and the generak visuals are still absolutely amazing… this is a BEAUTIFUL movie. And the music is of course great, but that’s only to be expected when the entire score are some of the most well known pieces pf classical music ever. But… eh. I’m not a fan of this, to be honest. It’s a little longwinded and drawn-out, and I got mildly bored by it. It’s Artistic, sure, but if I’m to be honest much of it was a bit of a chore to sit through.
  • Dumbo (1941)
    Um… looking at how this movie is discussed online, you’d think it consisted of nothing but racist caricatures of crows, with one scene involving trippy pink elephants. I’ll say this: Yeah, the crows are obviously caricatures of black people, and the portrayal wouldn’t fly (hee) today, but for the time it was made it’s downright progressive. In a movie where 99% of the characters are total assholes, the crows are at least sympathetic and helpful. When it comes to the pink elephants scene, I honestly found it a little dull. It’s just weirdness for weirdness’s sake, and it drags on too long.  As for the movie itself? It’s fine. It’s short, uncomplicated and mostly entertaining.
  • Bambi (1942)
    It’s the visuals rather than the story or characters that makes this movie so spectacular. I’m not quite sure why Bambi keeps switching from a silent character in one scene to a fully-voiced one in the next, and back again, but whatever. The comically exaggerated but still “realistic” animals were a result of intense study in animal anatomy and behaviour by the Disney people, and it paid off. 


After five movies, the war was raging, the European market was lost, and the country was facing economic difficulties. Disney couldn’t afford doing feature animation anymore… instead they did a lot of war propaganda cartoons and movies, and even after the war ended in 1945 it took quite a few years before they had the money to continue with the features. As Walt himself put it: “We’re through with caviar. From now on it’s mashed potatoes and gravy.”

There is a certain… cheapness to several of the movies in this area, The animation still looks great, but it’s much simpler and cartoonier, not the sort to make you sit up and go “WOW!” They’re mostly on par with the Disney shorts of the time… though some of them are a little more ambitious. Storytelling’s still not the main point though.  

  • Saludos Amigos (1942)
    It’s… a collection of shorts, mostly centered around Latin American culture, made as a part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Good Neighbour Policy” to create goodwill between the US and Central America during World War II. It’s fine, and of course Donald and Goofy appear in some of the shorts and they’re always entertaining… and of course this movie also introduced José Carioca. So there’s quite a lot to like here. Still… it’s kind of obvious that this was made mostly because the Disney studio needed money (and for the above-mentioned goodwill effort), and not because this was a movie they wanted to make.
  • The Three Caballeros (1944)
    Or Saludos Amigos Part 2. Same deal as the first one, but this one centers more on Donald and his friends José and Panchito. Well, any movie starring Donald Duck is bound to be worth watching at least once, but the movie kind of suffers from the fact that… it’s not a movie. It’s not REALLY a series of shorts either, thouth it does include a couple of shorts. No, this is more a series of song and dance numbers that get increasingly frantic and loud. Sure, the music is catchy, the visuals are stunning, and Donald’s antics MOSTLY land… but most of the segments go on for MUCH too long and at the end you just sit there wondering what the POINT of the movie even was.
  • Make Mine Music (1946)
    It’s “Fantasia for the masses.” It’s the same structure with shorts based on music, but with less interesting visuals and more contemporary music. Well, 1940s contemporary music. There’s nothing WRONG with it, and some of the segments are even quite inspired (though I kind of think The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Opera is overrated), and overall I think I kinda found it more entertaining overall than Fantasia… but it’s nowhere near as memorable either artistically or as a movie. It’s okay, but no more than okay.
  • Fun and Fancy Free (1947)
    I’m still not sure why Jiminy Cricket was even in this movie but… this is two featurettes, combined to make one feature. The first featurette, Bongo, is kind of cute but honestly rather boring. The second featurette, Mickey and the Beanstalk, however, is really good. It has Mickey, Donald and Goofy in great shape and some fun narration by Edgar Bergen. It was later re-released as a standalone featurette, with a different narrator (Edgar Bergen in the original was replaced with Ludwig von Drake). You know what, that version is superior. Ludwig’s just as good as Edgar, and you don’t have to sit through Bongo and Jiminy Cricket before you get to the good stuff.
  • Melody Time (1948)
    It’s Make Mine Music, but duller and less interesting. I can barely remember any of the shorts, except Bumble Boogie and Blame it On the Samba… but only one of those are memorable in a GOOD way. Bumble Boogie was a discarded segment from Fantasia and YEAH, I see why it didn’t make it into that film. It’s essentially just another  “Weird for weirdness’s sake” surreal nighmare like that “Pink Elephants On Parade” song. Howevers… Blame it on the Samba is this movie’s big saving grace. Featuring Donald Duck, José Carioca and the Aracuan bird, as well as some impressive visual effects and blend of animation and live-action, it’s essentially The Three Caballeros crammed into one short segment, and honestly it works a lot better that way. The movie’s worth seeing for that segment alone.
  • The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)
    Another “two featurettes” deal, but this time both of them are about the same in entertainment value. The Wind in the Willows section is usually the one people find the weakest, but I kinda really like it; it’s fun and unpretentious with some nice cartoony animation. The Headless Horseman is also good, with some swingin’ music and a good blend of comedy and horror… but honestly I don’t find it as charming, mostly because none of the characters are all that likeable. It’s still worth seeing though because the music is REALLY GOOD. Overall, this is a solid movie that stands up to repeat watching… but it’s still a relief to know that this is the last “Package Era” film and we’re going to get some proper features again.


Come the 50s, and the studio had money again. The Silver Age saw a return to classic feature animation… not only that, but now the classic features were actually starting to make money for the studio, something which the Golden Age movie (apart from Snow White, natch) had struggled with.

I have to say, the movies in this area are a lot more stylistically certain and even notably more sophisticated than the Golden Age ones were. We’re starting to see some more nuanced characterizations and more clever dialogue, plus more focus on storytelling… even if we still often have to pause the story completely for some slapstick.

  • Cinderella (1950)
    Whether or not you like this movie pretty much boils down to whether you like the mice. Let’s be real, this movie BELONGS to the mice, particularly Jaq and Gus. I like the mice, so I like the movie… I also think Cindy herself has gotten a lot of undeserved flak. How many times have we heard SOME variant of the “look at pathetic Cinderella, she never does anything except cry and have others solve her problems”? If you actually WATCH the movie, that’s not Cinderella at all. She’s not an action heroine, but the girl’s got a backbone. (Also, watch the Twist in Time sequel, where she DOES become an action heroine without actually changing much as a character. It’s awesome.) 
  • Alice in Wonderland (1951)
    I think I see what they were GOING for with this, but, well, the movie has the same problem as most adaptations of this book: There’s no actual story here and Alice only moves from one absurd situation to the next. Any adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s surreal masterpiece stand and fall SOLELY on the performances and whether or not the characters manage to be funny… Disney’s version is horribly uneven. Some parts, lie the Mad Tea Party, are AWESOME… other parts, like the Cheshire Cat, are just underwhelming. In the end, it’s kind of an unsatisfying movie, 
  • Peter Pan (1953)
    Okay. What Makes A Red Man Red is a terrible song and easily more racist than the crows in Dumbo, can we agree on that? Otherwise the movie is MOSTLY a really good adaptation of the story of Peter Pan… Captain Hook has become a buffoon, but he’s an entertaining buffoon. And this version of Tinker Bell is iconic. I do kind of wish they would have done more with characters like the Lost Boys, but it’s fine.
  • Lady and the Tramp (1955)
    Spaghetti scene. Siamese cats. He’s a Tramp. Scamp the puppy. There, I summed up everything anyone remembers of this movie. Which is kind of a shame because the movie’s actually really good. It’s got a pretty solid story, and really it’s the first romance story in this canon that’s actually believable and engaging as a romance because both participants are actual characters with personalities that don’t revolve solely around their romance.
  • Sleeping Beauty (1959)
    It’s a bit of a thing with the early princess movies that… they’re less about the princesses themselves and more about the side characters. Snow White was more about the dwarfs, Cinderella was more about the mice, and Sleeping Beauty is pretty much ALL about the fairies. Aurora and Prince Phillip are mostly just pawns in the battle between the fairies, and the other humans are mostly comic relief. Luckily the fairies are strong enough characters that they easily carry the movie. Maleficent is one of the most iconic Disney villains ever and the three good fairies all burst with personality and charm.


This started the “Xerox” or “Scratchy line” era. Whereas before the animation drawing had been done on paper, and then traced by hand over to transparent cels, the new technology allowed the animators to Xerox the drawings directly onto the cels, ready for colouring. It was a much quicker and cheaper process, but it resulted in a different look. This era was the last one that Walt Disney himself was personally involved in.

This is kind of a harbinger for the fact that we’re entering the infamous Dark Age. The movies are starting to look cheaper and less polished. There’s still a lot of solid animation from the Nine Old Men who were masters at their craft by now, but budgets were lower… and I can’t deny that the movies lost something when it went from the smooth coloured lines of the Golden and Silver Age and to the black, rough outlines that would dominate the movies for some time. Still, one good thing happened: Now that the visuals couldn’t carry the story to the same degree, they HAD to focus more on story and voice work to compensate. This meant we started getting more complex stories and some REALLY COOL characters.

  • One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)
    This may not be the best MOVIE of the bunch, but it’s probably the best ADAPTATION. It takes Dodie Smith’s original book, streamlines it, ramps up everything that was good about it and leaves out all the unnecessary filler. The result is a story that’s in many ways very different from the original book but is still unquestioningly the same story. While I do lament the loss of some of my fave chars from the books (the Staffordshire terrier and Cruella’s cat), pretty much everything about this movie WORKS.
  • The Sword in the Stone (1963)
    Once again, nobody seems to remember anything about this other than that female squirrel. But this movie has more going for it. True, it’s one of the less memorable movies from when Walt was still alive; the story isn’t that engaging and the main character Wart is blander than bland… but the character animation is SO GOOD here, and if Wart leaves a lot to be desired, Merlin and Archimedes are AWESOME and I’d grandly see a whole movie with nothing but those two interacting.
  • The Jungle Book (1967)
    Great characters, great performances, great animation, even greater music… and the voice of Phil Harris. Too bad that the story is barely even there. This movie aces absolutely everything except story, because there isn’t one. It’s mostly just a series of loosely connected skits and song numbers. They’re GOOD skits and song numbers, mind, but as a story it doesn’t really hold up, and character motivations are all over the place. 


Walt Disney died in 1966, meaning that The Jungle Book was the last move he had a direct hand in. Without him, the Disney company kind of lost its direction for a while… you could say a lot of things about Walt (and many people have!) but he was an innovator and he had an uncanny ability to not only think outside the box but predict just what would be successful.  Without him, the animation department struggled.

I think it might be a little harsh to call this “the Dark Age.” There are some good movies to be found here, but they play it safe a lot more. Lots of animal stories, lots of low-key moments. The energy doesn’t seem to be quite there.

  • The Aristocats (1970)
    It’s One Hundred and One Dalmatians, but with cats.., and a far less interesting villain… and a less interesting story… and the animation, while still solid, isn’t quite as good… and I’m not quite sure what the point was of that mouse character… but at least we get Phil Harris doing Cat Baloo, and Everybody Wants to Be a Cat is a good song. 
  • Robin Hood (1973)
    Yes, the dance scene is recycled animation. I know. That’s not the only part of this movie. It’s more important that Phil Harris is back, doing Baloo with Clothes And A Dye Job. They REALLY got a lot of milage out of his voice and charisma, didn’t they? The movie itself has pretty much the same strengths and weaknesses as The Jungle Book… well, the music is nowhere near as good, but it has some awesome characters and dialogue while the story isn’t all there. Again, the loosely connected skits are all really good, but they don’t add up to a properly engaging movie.
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)
    This is actually not a movie, it’s three featurettes smushed together to make a movie. Ironically, even if it’s deliberately episodic it actually works far better as a movie than either Robin Hood or The Jungle Book… maybe because it leans so much into its episodic nature. It’s mostly just cute and funny. It also has the one “weird for weirdness’s sake” nightmare sequence that actually WORKS; the “Heffalumps and Woozles” segment. See, unlike the pink elephants or the boogying bumbles, the heffs and woozles feel like they have a purpose beyond being weird and threatening: they have a set goal and that is to steal Pooh’s honey. The addition of that simple motivation gives the segment a purpose and a bit of an emotional core. The rest of the movie is just as good, with charming characters and fun moments.
  • The Rescuers (1977)
    I have to admit… this movie bored me. In fact, I fell asleep watching it. I don’t have anything else to say about it. Sorry.
  • The Fox and the Hound (1981) 
    Well, I didn’t fall asleep watching this one, but it’s not all that interesting either. I do like the attempt at nuance in the friendship between Todd and Copper, but somehow the movie never really engages. Can’t really think of much to say here either.
  • The Black Cauldron (1985)
    What a shame. This movie was supposed to be the Big Comeback for Disney, the great new movie and return to the grandness and spectacle of the old days… but thanks to all the upheavals and behind the scenes turmoil at Disney, the finished product is just a mess. The first half is actually really good, but everything falls apart in the second half… problem is that this movie is based on two separate books and doesn’t do a very good job of combining them. For all that though… I’ll take it over The Rescuers or The Fox and the Hound.
  • The Great Mouse Detective (1986)
  • Now this is better. While I don’t think this movie QUITE deserves all the praise it seems to be getting online (it has some parts that I just don’t like), it IS the most solid Disney movie since… well, since One Hundred and One Dalmatians, to be honest. And much of it is thanks to the mouse detective himself, who manages to be one of the better incarnations of Sherlock Holmes, despite not actually BEING Sherlock Holmes.
  • Oliver & Company (1988)
    I’m… a bit in two minds about this movie. It’s definitely cute, and the idea of doing Oliver Twist in modern day New York with stray animals instead of orphans actually works really well… even if there isn’t much left of the original Dickens story. But it feels more like a transition work than anything… it’s Disney STARTING to haul themselves out of their Dark Ages but not quite having everything there yet.


In the late 1980s, when the animation industry had gone through a sorry couple of decades, we started to see a change. For one thing, Don Bluth began producing his movies, meaning that for the first time Disney had a serious competitor. For another thing, interest in animation was rising, and one movie in particular has to be credited with really kicking off the Disney Renaissance…

Who Framed Roger Rabbit from 1988! Okay, it’s not part of the animated canon, and not a pure animated movie, but it did show that it was still possible to make animation that looked just as good, if not better than the Golden and Silver Age stuff. Changes in the higher-ups at Disney gave the company a serious energy boost, and digital ink and paint mean they could get back the smooth coloured lines of yesteryear… more computer animation also meant that we began getting more visual spectacle, and Disney started producing the best movies they had in ages.

  • The Little Mermaid (1989)
    If Oliver & Company initiated the Disney Renaissance, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit started it, The Little Mermaid solidified it. This is the grand return to form that The Black Cauldron wasn’t… and it also pretty much starts the Disney Princess franchise, by being the first “Princess” movie that actually focused heavily on the princess as a character. It’s a really good movie, with great songs and visuals, and it really gets things going.
  • The Rescuers Down Under (1990)
    Okay, so there’s a hiccup in the Renaissance, since we get a sequel to the most boring Disney movie so far… but I did like this a lot better than the first Rescuers movie. It’s a lot more action-oriented and lively, it’s got some marvelous animated sequences (especially the flying eagle sequences!) and Joanna the goanna. I wouldn’t call it a classic, but it’s a movie I might be talked into watching again.
  • Beauty and the Beast (1991)
    It’s good. Yeah. For some reason I can’t really think of anything else to say. It’s probably an even better movie than The Little Mermaid, but I don’t have anything else to add.
  • Aladdin (1992)
    Robin Williams as the Genie is what people remember of this… but while Robin Williams IS hilarious here (and even if several references are dated by this point they’re usually funny enough in and of themselves that you laugh even if you don’t get what’s being parodied), he’s not the only good thing about it. In fact, this is just a GOOD movie. It also got some pretty good spinoffs and sequels, but let’s not get into that right now. It’s a good movie, and it’s one I have watched a lot of times.
  • The Lion King (1994)
    Kimba the White Lion? Nah. I’ve seen some of that, and really the similarities are superfluous at best. Hamlet? Well, that comparison is a lot more solid but really there aren’t THAT many similarities here either. But… This has kind of emerged as the crown jewel of Disney movies, hasn’t it? Like the king of them all, the one that no others can top. It’s even pretty much deserved, This is an amazing movie. A little heavy-handed on the sentimentality and moralization, and Simba is honestly not a particularly interesting protagonist, but the visuals, the songs, the side characters and the story more than make up for it.
  • Pocahontas (1995)
    They thought that this would be bigger than The Lion King. They were wrong. Let’s leave it at that.
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
    It’s not a bad movie, but it’s kind of tonally inconsistent. And no, I’m not talking about the gargoyles. The gargoyles aren’t the problem. The problem is that the ENTIRE MOVIE can’t make up it’s mind about whether it’s a fast paced, actionized cavalcade of slapstick and zaniness OR a dark and heavy ponderous piece with real evil and religious overtones. As a result it falls between two chairs and just ends up loud and chaotic…. But, it must be said, NOT as loud and chaotic as the next movie.
  • Hercules (1997)
    This is ALL fast-paced action and cartoony slapstick zaniness. It’s often really funny, but it NEVER SLOWS DOWN. It’s just too much. The characters don’t get any room to breathe; they just run from one plot point to the next, with the result that the only one who’s really a standout character is Hades… I mean, James Woods is an asshole, but Hades is still the best part of the movie.
  • Mulan (1998)
    THANKFULLY Disney learned its lesson from the previous two movies, because Mulan has dropped the chaotic pacing and is a lot better at allowing the story and characters to get some elbow room. For once, the villain is the most underwhelming thing about it… but he hardly has any screen time, so that’s okay.
  • Tarzan (1999)
    It’s Tarzan. It’s not the best Tarzan, it’s not the worst Tarzan. It’s just Tarzan. And with Phil Collins songs. Yeah, I get that they wanted to ease away from the musical a bit, but… I’m not sure this was the way to go.


Hard to say when the Renaissance era REALLY ended, but end it did. Partly it was because Disney were trying to break away from the formula that they’d started slipping into in the Renaissance, partly it was the success of Pixar, Dreamworks and the new 3D animation. The classic 2D movies earned less and less, and Disney began shifting over to 3D more and more themselves… though not without a few serious hiccups along the way.

The Post-Renaissance era is probably the most mixed bag here… it contains both some of the best AND some of the worst Disney films ever.

  • Fantasia 2000 (1999)
    It’s Fantasia, except… actually, no “excepts” this time. It’s Fantasia. There’s more dialogue and more comedy this time around. The visuals feel less experimental and the movie less “artistic,” but… well… it’s fine. It’s about on par with the previous one. I wouldn’t cry if they DIDN’T make another one, though.
  • Dinosaur (2000)
    …did I even watch this one? I don’t remember a thing about it.
  • The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)
    Now THIS is a zany slapstick movie done RIGHT. It may be the funniest movie on this entire list. Everything works; the four main characters have a great interaction with each other, the timing and delivery of the jokes are supreme, and… this may just be one of my fave movies on the list. It’s not the most ambitious or pretentious movie here, but it’s got SO MUCH CHARM.
  • Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
    You can tell that Disney really wanted to branch out and go away from their formula a little. Atlantis isn’t a completely successful attempt at this, but as a movie it’s pretty good. Not GREAT, but good. I think what I like the most about it is the character designs; they look very distinct and not quite like anything else you’ve seen at Disney, but they’re pleasant to look at.
  • Lilo & Stitch (2002)
    People who watch this movie seem to like EITHER the family drama with Lilo and Nani, OR the alien sci-fi action with Stitch, Jumba and Pleakley. Personally, I like them both… I also really like how there’s no real “good guys” or “bad guys” here; nobody’s a saint but nobody’s completely without redeeming qualities. Even Gantu is just doing his job, even if he’s needlessly brutal about it. Like Aladdin, this ended up getting a lot of good sequels and spinoffs.
  • Treasure Planet (2002)
    A space opera version of Treasure Island? Okay. People seem to point to this movie as the moment when Disney’s 2D animation began failing. They’d really tried giving it their all with this one, and it underperformed. As a movie, it’s… a little uneven, really, Once again, the visuals are great, and the cyborg version of Long John Silver is one of the better, more nuanced Disney villains. But the other characters are… underwhelming. You kinda see the potential in them, but they never quite reach it. Pity, because the good parts are REALLY good.
  • Brother Bear (2003)        
    Huh. It’s as if they tried to take Pocahontas and make it more interesting by smushing it together with The Lion King. The result… feels like a rather pointless movie. Not offensive or enraging or anything, just… pointless. It was clear that Disney’s days of spectacular 2D animated movies was at an end.
  • Home on the Range (2004)
    People seem to hate this movie for ending the 2D Disney movies… but really, this movie is just the sad epilogue to what was solidified with Treasure Planet and Brother Bear. Mind you, for the movie that ended the 2D streak it’s kind of underwhelming… it feels more like it should have been a direct to video movie or a TV special, not a full-fledged theatrical feature. I don’t actually think it’s that bad, though, long as you don’t take it seriously at all. Come on, the idea of a villain who hypnotizes cows with yodeling is funny.
  • Chicken Little (2005)
    Disney’s first venture into 3D, and OH MY GOD THIS MOVIE IS TERRIBLE. Everything sucks. The animation, the characters, the fact that they tried and failed to copy the Shrek formula. The only halfway decent thing about the movie is the fish, who at least has some mildly amusing silent comedy going on. Everything else is just awful.
  • Meet the Robinsons (2007)
    Well… it’s better than Chicken Little, but that’s not exactly an accomplishment. It took some time before Disney got the hang if this 3D animation stuff. I don’t really think this movie is all that good, to be honest… it’s all wacky and zany, but doesn’t have any real fun or charm to it.
  • Bolt (2008)
    This movie is kind of like the Oliver & Company of 3D Disney animated movies; it’s a marked improvement on what’s gone before… and you can see the people at Disney are starting to get a grip on things again. The 3D animation is more pleasing to look at, the tone and story is much better, the characters more appealing. We’re not quite there yet, but at least this is fun to watch.


Well… though they did half-heartedly try 2D-animation again, it was getting clear that Disney were going 3D. But they were actually starting to get good at it. Like the Renaissance before it, the Revival era started a long series where the movies went from strength to strength. Mind you, they DID start pushing the “Princess” angle a lot more here…

The Revival movies returned to a time where Disney movies were an event. 

  • The Princess and the Frog (2009)
    Well, they tried to make another 2D Princess movie, and… they mostly pulled it off. I don’t know, while this has a lot going for it, and that includes some gorgeous animation, I can’t help but feel like something is missing… something that would REALLY push it into “great” territory. I still don’t know just what.
  • Tangled (2010)
    This was the movie where Disney cracked the 3D formula and really kicked in their revival. Tangled is absolutely amazing. It has a REALLY great dynamic between the two leads, a surprisingly and chillingly realistic depiction of an emotionally abusive parent, and a great balance between the silly and the serious.
  • Winnie the Pooh (2011)
    Seriously, Disney? You release this movie on the same day as a Harry Potter movie? Did you WANT it to fail? …actually, they might have. It would be an excuse for not making any more 2D movies. But it’s a shame that this movie did so poorly in the box office, because it’s just so charming and funny. Seriously, this may be the funniest Disney movie since The Emperor’s New Groove. It also has the most creative closing credits of any Disney movie. The credits are almost as fun as the movie itself. How often does THAT happen?
  • Wreck-It Ralph (2012)
    It’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but with video game characters instead of cartoon characters, and a disappointing lack of murder mysteries and noir parodies. Still, this is a solid movie all around; if anything this movie actually does what Chicken Little failed to do in that it manages to take some of the Shrek energy and SUCCESSFULLY convert it to something that’s identifiably Disney and, you know, doesn’t suck,
  • Frozen (2013)
    If The Lion King was the crown jewel of the 2D animated movies, Frozen is the crown jewel of the 3D animated ones. It’s both a very classic Princess movie AND a total subversion of classic Princess movies, I know a lot of people are sick of it and think it’s overhyped, but honestly… I think the hype is deserved. Let it go.
  • Big Hero 6 (2014)
    After Disney acquired Marvel and started making the MCU, I suppose it was only a matter of time before the animated canon included a superhero movie. It’s not a bad one either… though let’s be honest: 80% of this movie’s charm and success is all Baymax.
  • Zootopia (2016)
    Bit of a surprise to realize that this is only the third all-anthro movie on this list… and it’s BY FAR the best. Robin Hood was entertaining but didn’t really hang together as a movie, and Chicken Little was garbage. Zootopia, though, is not only a surprisingly effective allegory for discrimination and prejudices, but also a pretty damn good police procedural. Okay, it’s not that hard to guess whodunnit (I knew who the villain was pretty much straight away) but the real mystery isn’t WHO, but HOW. Also, the buddy-movie dynamics between Nick and Judy is awesome.
  • Moana (2016)
    Two really good Disney movies in one year! I think Moana isn’t QUITE as good as Zootopia, but it’s still a very good movie. Also, good on Moana for being a Disney Princess who doesn’t even think about romance.
  • Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)
    Mmm… as a sequel it’s fine, and some of the Internet jokes are funny, but it’s not as good as the original. The highlight of the movie is the Disney Princesses, Really, I kinda wish the entire movie had been about them.
  • Frozen II (2019)
    The second sequel in a row, and once again it’s not as good as the original. Though in this case, the main problem is that the movie tries to do TOO MUCH. It seems like it is trying to juggle fifty different plot threads all at once, which means that most of those plot threads don’t get any real resolution. Anna and Elsa’s storylines are satisfying, but everything else kind of doesn’t get enough time to breathe. I’ve said it before, but this should have been a three hour musical… or maybe even just two movies. Imagine if this had been the first Disney movie to end on a cliffhanger!


And this is the era we’re in now. Just entered it , in fact. This is the era of Disney Plus and Covid-19, an era where more people see movies through streaming services than in theatres. 

  • Raya and the Last Dragon (2021)
    What? No, I’m not going to whine about Avatar the Last Airbender. There are some similarities, sure, but it’s really just because it shares a similar fantasy quest structure and inspiration from Asian cultures. What I AM going to say is that this movie has the same problem as Frozen II; there’s just too much story, too many characters and too much worldbuilding for one movie. This would DEFINITELY have made a better trilogy than one movie.
  • Encanto (2021)
    I think I’m sensing a new trend here. The newest movies are all so packed with cool ideas and fascinating characters that you can’t really fit it all into one single movie. This is a visual and musical delight, and hugely entertaining to watch… but with twelve characters who are all supposed to go through serious development during the story? Forget a trilogy, this should have been at LEAST a 13-episode TV series. 
  • Strange World (2022)
    Um. I… see where they were going with it, and all the strange landscapes should have made it more memorable than it really is. Some nice scenes and I GUESS a gay main character (even if his sexuality barely comes up and the love interest is a very minor character), but this is just kind of forgettable. Not offensive, just not very memorable. I’m kind of getting similar vibes that I did from Atlantis or Treasure Planet, with Disney really wanting to try something different and just not managing very well. But Atlantis had charming side characters and Treasure Planet an engaging villain… Strange World doesn’t really manage either. Instead we get a rather lackluster “dysfunctional family” story with extremely predictable beats. But the movie did break the trend of having too much content for one movie… this movie barely has ENOUGH content for one movie.
  • Wish (2023)
    So… this movie was supposed to be the celebration of 100 years of Disney. Um. Quite accidentally I think it became a perfect metaphor for post-Covid-19 Disney (especially the Disney who keeps doing live-action remakes); desperately trying to recapture the magic of old because they REALLY need a win again, but only managing something half-hearted with only a fraction of the charm. Yes, guys, I see all the references to old Disney movies, they’re not exactly subtle. But they too feel half-hearted, like the movie’s too scared to commit to either stand on its own or embrace the legacy. I say they should just have had the actual characters of old show up. …though one thing I have to commend them for: the villain king was like a PERFECT metaphor for billionaires like Elon Musk or JKR or Donald Trump; all smiles and pleasantries as long as everything goes their way and they get what they want, but the moment someone dares to do something they don’t quite like they go off the deep end and become raving tyrants.

And that’s it for now. I added Encanto, Strange World and Wish after having seen them, and I think Wish is a good stopping point

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