Okay, this time I’m getting right to the list. I don’t have any supplementary list ot go on time first. At the end, after people have read the my top 6, I have some small amount of analysis comparing my list to other take on these films. Grand Finale time.
6. Dumbo is unquestionably the simplest film of Disney’s Golden Age (Pre WWII), both in animation and story. The animation doesn’t have the splendor of Pinocchio or Bambi, and the story is about as simple as it can get. Still, Dumbo is also completely charming and wholly tender. It is the story of a mother’s love for her child and a child’s love of its mother. It also features flying elephants, because why not?
5. Wreck it Ralph. This feels somewhat like Disney made a Pixar movie, a feeling heightened by the fact that the Pixar movie of the same year, Brave, felt more like a Disney movie. Wreck-it Ralph is enjoyably original. There really aren’t any movies quite like it. It is often compared to Toy Story, but with video games, but other than the conceit that they both come to life when people aren’t looking the two don’t have much in common. Its got a wholly likeable protagonist, who is justified in his displeasure just as much as he is unable to correct the problems, a great supporting cast and a villain that starts silly and manages to become truly menacing.
4. The Little Mermaid. This movie does everything right, except that the only truly memorable character in the thing is the villain Ursula. Still, it has some great songs and is just generally enjoyable. This is the films that kickstarted what is known as the Disney Renaissance, and if it weren’t for the films that immediately followed it, The Little Mermaid would also be just about the best the company has ever produced.
3. Aladdin. I love this movie. The Genie is one of the few times I’ve found Robin Williams truly delightful rather than a touch overbearing. He is funny and shows off some fun animation. Aladdin, Jafar and Jasmine are all really interesting. Jafar believes he is so much better, so much smarter than everyone else. Jasmine may be the first Disney Princess™ to suggest that maybe being a princess isn’t all that great. And Aladdin is just a poor boy who wants a better life. It is some compelling drama. And for my money, this film has the best songs.
2. Beauty and the Beast. I didn’t expect to put this one so high. It came out when I was the perfect age for it, along with other childhood favorites like Aladdin and the Lion King, but I never really cared for Beauty and the Beast. Then I watched it again on DVD for this list. I was shocked at how much I enjoyed it. It is a great movie. All the things to other Renaissance movies do well, like songs and animation, are done well here. I guess I could go on and on layering superlatives in Beauty and the Beast, but all that needs to be said is that this film is nearly perfect.
1. The Sword in the Stone. When I started this, I had hoped to not let nostalgia cloud my judgement. I managed to force Robin Hood, a childhood favorite, down to 17. Then I watched The Sword in the Stone, and realized that I truly think this is a great film. I can’t possibly discount the idea that nostalgia has blinded me; many, even most, lists have this one near the bottom or just floating somewhere in the lower half, but the more I watched this movie, the more I decided it was simply great. The look is the best of that era of scratchy looking movies. Merlin is electric. Wart is a solidly sympathetic protagonist, a boy whose present day wants do not really lead him to the future that Merlin knows is coming. Plus, he turns into all kinds of animals. It is the best.
Using Rotten Tomatoes, not a perfect source but a highly convenient aggregator, I’ve compared my rankings to the both the critical and audience takes on these movies. There were some surprises. I knew I had Atlantis and Sword in the Stone higher than normal, but 35 and 31 places respectively? I didn’t expect that. I did expect a big difference with Cinderella, which I had 33 spots lower than the critics did. The biggest surprise was that I placed Bolt 19 spots lower than both the critics and the audience. From word of mouth I thought I was being rather generous with it. Other than that it was what I expected. I rated the Silver Age (Cinderella to The Jungle Book) higher at the expense of the Golden Age (Snow White to Bambi), which I knew I did. I simply like those Silver Age movies better.
I had a lot of fun watching these movies and making this list. For a company that has been constantly putting out movies for more than 75 years, it is amazing how few misses they have. There are only a handful of movies that I would call bad, and only one which I would say is irredeemably bad.
Links to the rest of the list:
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4