The best and worst Disney movies
From Snow White to Frozen, we explore the brilliant best and woeful worst of Disney animated films
Thu Jun 26 2014
Are Disney films wise, funny and visually stunning—perfect for the entire family? Or are they sappy and sentimental, brainwashing kids with antiquated values? Everyone has an opinion of the 53 animations released over the years by the Walt Disney Company, beginning in 1937 with Snow White and hitting new heights with last year’s box-office bonanza Frozen. What cannot be denied is how loved these films are in every corner of the globe. But which Disney movies deserve a place on your DVD shelf, and which are best forgotten? We count down the best and worst Disney animated movies.
Do you agree with our list? Have your say. Vote your favorite movies up and down the list right here.
Disney raids its back catalog for a mousy sequel.
This is the odd film out in the Disney Renaissance that began with 1989’s The Little Mermaid. A perfectly acceptable sequel to 1977’s The Rescuers, it finds mouse heroes Bernard and Miss Bianca traveling to Australia to battle a villainous poacher. Although mostly a time-passer, it does boast some compelling early CGI animation.—Keith Uhlich
Disney and dinosaurs—what could go wrong? Um…
In the wake of 1993’s colossal Jurassic Park, no studio could be blamed for wanting to get in on the prehistoric act. Dinosaur goes for realism with its richly textured lizard skins and humid, swampy vistas—making it, at the time, one of the most expensive films ever. What a shame Disney didn’t put as much effort into the story line.—Joshua Rothkopf
- Rated as: 3/5
Disney goes back to the future.
Meet the Robinsons is likable and has a few aces up its sleeve, but it's hardly inspiring stuff. Every character is an archetype—from the lonely science whiz kid to the nerve-racked robot—and the script merely supplies jovial quips where there should be jokes. The film was made just as Disney merged with Pixar, and suffers by comparison with the latter studio's catalog. Still, the time-traveling plot has enough twists and neat gags to charm the kids.—Alex Dudok de Wit
The jazz Fantasia
Created over several years after most of the Disney staff had been drafted to fight in Word War II, Make Mine Music is a compilation consisting of ten shorts set to music by popular artists of the day. It’s inevitably a mixed bag, but the highlights—including controversially violent "The Martins and the Coys" and experimental freakout "All the Cats Join In"—are terrific.—Tom Huddleston
Oliver with a kitten twist. No catastrophe.
Oliver & Company was the last film made before the Disney Renaissance, a decade of solid-gold winners that began with The Little Mermaid. And it shows. This is Disney still believing that a dog in sunglasses is cool. The retelling of Charles Dickens’s tale of little orphan Oliver Twist stars a stray kitten in 1980s New York.—Cath Clarke
The end of an era
Fun fact: Fun & Fancy Free was the last time Uncle Walt himself voiced Mickey. Two short segments make up this enjoyable film: "Bongo," the tale of a circus bear who wants to roam free, and "Mickey and the Beanstalk," in which everyone’s favorite mouse stars in a riff on the classic boy-versus-giant fairy tale.—Keith Uhlich
Wacky shenanigans in pre-Columbian America
Some of the plotting feels a little strained—Incan royals and slapstick aren’t natural bedfellows—but this tale of llamas and landgrabs has a unique vibe that eventually settles into something close to fun. The production was troubled; it’s enough that Disney got a coherent movie out of it (if not a smash). And—whisper it—Sting’s musical number, "My Funny Friend and Me," isn’t half bad.—Joshua Rothkopf
- Rated as: 4/5
A CGI adventure nipping at Pixar’s heels
It must have been frustrating for Disney when their junior partners at Pixar (not to mention those upstarts at DreamWorks and Blue Sky) began to surpass them at the box office. The response was Bolt, a witty, enjoyable but ever-so-slightly trying-too-hard digital adventure about a movie-star dog. Still, the geeky hamster, Rhino, is an absolute treat.—Tom Huddleston
Tricks and a treat from a 1940s double bill
WWII put the brakes on Walt Disney’s plan for a full-length The Wind in the Willows. A short version, Mr. Toad, was eventually released as a double bill with another short—an adaptation of Washington Irving’s spooky "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." Mr. Toad is a treat, trotting along at a breakneck pace. The final scene of Ichabod, as horsemen terrorize the lanky schoolmaster, is a master class in family-friendly scares.—Cath Clarke
Disney rifles through yet another beloved British kids’ novel (Basil of Baker Street by Eve Titus) for this tale of a mouse who resides in the cellar of 221B Baker Street. It’s not quite up to classic standards, but the characters are lively, the vocal talent (including Vincent Price) is well chosen, and the film’s representation of foggy Victorian London is surprisingly atmospheric.—Tom Huddleston
Do you love furry forest creatures, fairy princesses and wicked witches? Or do you think Disney’s animated films are sentimental tripe? We’ve watched all 53 Disney cartoons, from Fantasia through to Frozen, and sorted them into a list from worst to best. But do you agree with our choices? Take a look at the list below and vote for your favorite.
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