Well I might as well start with an actual blog post. This is relevant to my YouTube channel only because it is a scrapped idea for a video that I was planning on releasing later this year or early 2017. Of course I haven't even covered one Disney game on the channel and the channel is mostly about video games, so there was absolutely no point to finish this as a video. But now that I have this blog, I can do literally anything... within the confines of text!
All of the movies on this list (with the exception of maybe two of them) I have seen in the past 2 weeks to 2 years, which I think is a close enough time frame to know what I'm talking about. In other words, movies like Toy Story 2, The Little Mermaid, and A Bug's Life are probably great, I just haven't seen them recently enough to have a solid opinion on them.
Then of course there are the ones I have not seen (Ratatouille, Big Hero 6, Toy Story 3), so maybe I haven't seen your favorite Disney movie. Whoops. Then there were three that came close to the list but didn't quite make it (Pinocchio, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Up), so just because it isn't on this list, doesn't mean I despise the movie, it just doesn't quite make it into my top 10 favorites of all time.
Also I'm not going to explain what the movie is because I think that's annoying to the reader. If you want to know the plot, go watch it yourself. The 10 in this list are actually pretty popular so I'm making this assuming you at least know what the movie is and I'm going to try not to use any spoilers.
In any case, these are my top 10 favorite Animated Disney movies (NOT the top 10 best animated Disney movies):
#10: The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Yes of course; what distraught teenage outcast born in the 90's could be a complete human being without falling into the stereotype of liking the gothic creep-fest that is The Nightmare Before Christmas. Watching it a few times again as an adult and being old enough to understand who Danny Elfman is and what he does really put into perspective the unique charm and allure this movie has. The movie was never really being dark to be dark. It has scary characters that aren't really scary but aren't cute enough to be corny. This is important because even something as simple as character design can talk down to its audience. The Nightmare Before Christmas had a dark atmosphere because of its tasteful color palette and ground-breaking use of stop-motion animation. I'm a sucker for stop-motion when it's done right.
None of the characters needed a brooding backstory about their dead children and wife to have the viewers identify, and none of the characters are even intrinsically human-looking enough to be easily identifiable. The Nightmare Before Christmas beautifully sets up the plot exposition, the main character, the setting, and the unique and otherwise hard to grasp world all within one short and iconic music number. It's gorgeous. Don't get me wrong either, you side with the main cast, because Jack Skellington longs to understand something that he was not raised to understand, which a lot of people can get behind, and Sally doesn't know how to help Jack without seeming like she is trying to interfere with his happiness; showing she cares from a distance in fear of smothering him and losing him.
The score is superb and dynamic, the voice acting is incredible, and the animation not only broke new ground as to what could be done with stop-motion, but still holds up to today's standards as a good movie, which would be saying a lot for a Halloween movie, a Christmas movie, a stop-motion movie, or a musical alone, and The Nightmare Before Christmas astoundingly pulls off all four.
#09: Aladdin (1992)
Aladdin is a movie that, in my personal opinion, is mostly carried by its aesthetics. It looks and sounds gorgeous and that alone is why it's so high on the list. Even then the adaption of the classic story is not necessarily bad, it's just Hollywooded into an over-the-top romcom. Fortunately the characters all have charming voice actors who give amazing performances and the musical numbers are superb and impossible to forget after just one viewing of the film. There are three main reasons that Aladdin is this high on the list (I mean there must be something about it I find enjoyable if I put it above The Nightmare Before Christmas): the score, the Robin Williams, and the animation. The score doesn't just include musical numbers, this also includes interlude sections behind combat and dialogue. It all tells the story right along with the visuals... if that makes any sense to anyone. Good for you if it does. Robin Williams: I don't need to explain. Then the animation. It just never stops. It lulls you back and forth from intense, captivating action in which you notice something different every time you watch it, and then the other extreme of cute dialogue and showing emotions that voice actors can't give off (because they are voices in the end). A lot of modern animation misses out on this opportunity and this movie really shows the difference between digital and hand-drawn.
#08: Toy Story (1995)
The first ever full-length 3D-animated movie, not just from Disney but in history. It shouldn't hold up. It should look like trash in comparison to its successors. It doesn't. It still looks great. Toy Story still has an amazing cast of voice actors, incredible visuals, and a fun story that is portrayed with equal parts stupid-humor and heart-string-tugging. That was a lot of hyphenation. See, "realistic" doesn't have to necessarily mean "good" when it comes to 3D graphics. Name one thing in the game "Journey" that you thought actually looked realistic. That's rhetorical by the way; none. Nothing in that game looks realistic, but it looks amazing. That's how I feel about Toy Story, even if you try to watch it without its history in mind. The lighting effects put some modern animated films to shame and there isn't a scene where it looks lazy or cheap. And this was 1995, when everything in that field of media looked lazy and cheap by default. The story in itself between two protagonists going towards a similar goal but still end up being enemies for the majority of the movie is done incredibly well and oh my Jesus that fight scene underneath the Pizza Planet truck. Oops. I gushed. I showed that I have a heart on the internet. That can't be healthy.
#07: Monsters, Inc. (2001)
Yes I know it is complete blasphemy for anyone to ever consider Monsters, Inc. to be better than Toy Story but screw it, here I go. Monsters, Inc. has more down to Earth humor, and I don't really know how to explain it beyond that. Toy Story's funniest moments are toy puns or something family-friendly to the point of brainless, slapstick, or child-pandering. Monsters, Inc. feels more like an actual comedy than a kid's movie with jokes. Monsters, Inc. is an actual "family-friendly" movie. Corporations use this term a lot so allow me to explain what I mean by this.
A lot of companies can get away with copy and paste animation, boring stories, and just all around lazy decisions altogether because "it's just a kid's movie". This is a garbage excuse for a garbage movie. Those movies are something no one should ever have to watch, but at least on the higher tier of those they are movies that you can tolerate watching with your children. Like... um.... the Digimon Movie or Cars? Sure it isn't really mind-blowing and arguably not even that entertaining but your kid likes watching it and you can't be bothered to give the kid your full attention right now anyways. Then just above those movies is "family-friendly" aka every movie on this list. Monsters, Inc. has adult humor that never goes too far but is still accessible to an adult audience, but the story is written in a way that is easy enough for children to follow as well.
Also let's go back to aesthetics for just a quick moment: Monsters, Inc. is a powerhouse. Maybe by today's standards all of the effects and motion in this movie don't seem that impressive, but emotive faces like that were nearly impossible in 2001. Even beyond emotion; just the realism of moving objects, physics, and other effects took the company days JUST TO RENDER THE VIDEO FILES! This movie... I know I probably haven't really explained as well as I wanted to why I like this more than Toy Story, but I think having read both paragraphs you can make an assessment yourself. I hope.
Basically I feel that Monsters, Inc. brought the new standard of CGI as Toy Story did six years prior, but even if you know nothing about that, Monsters, Inc. is just a well done movie.
#06: The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
Hunchback is crazy. They dumbed down a story about an evil rich guy who everyone in town is forced to respect and he holds a guy with a horrible disease captive and tells him that he should not go out into the world. When Quasimodo does that anyways he meets a pretty lady friend, then evil rich guy wants to rape that lady friend. *breathes* into a movie targeted at children! Honestly I don't think this works as a kid's movie, but it's an animated masterpiece. It's disturbing Aladdin on crack in this sense. The animation makes you feel for the characters, which is something a lot of the top tier Disney movies do, but Hunchback is different because of the context. See in Aladdin, you feel happy because Aladdin is your main character and he's doing cool stuff. Then you feel sad because he can't get laid. Then happy because he might get laid. Then mad because Jafar. Now happy because no more Jafar. Then happy because Genie and happy because Aladdin is totally getting laid. That's how that movie works right? Maybe I missed a detail or two.
Alladin is very emotive, but on very vague and accessible emotions. Quasimodo gets hit with the highest point of his life and the lowest point of his life at the same time and that whole scene is legitimately disturbing. It didn't have to goth out to make this happen either. If anything, the fact that a lot of the scenery stays intact makes it more heartbreaking to sit through, and since you were rooting for the guy the whole time, only to watch everything in the world go wrong, it feels like you kind of disappointed yourself too... oh wait... yeah just like Quasimodo.
It's genius. Also the lighting effects and everything are gorgeous in this movie. Such an underrated Disney Animated "Classic".
#05: Lilo and Stitch (2002)
A lot of people consider Lilo and Stitch to be the turning point in Disney's animated features. I don't see it as a direct nosedive but a ceremonious outing, albeit unintended. I watched Lilo and Stitch a lot as a kid and really enjoyed it but on the other hand I was also a big fan of the Digimon anime so I didn't really have an early eye for fine art or anything crazy. Because of this, I watched Lilo and Stitch again recently for the first time in a decade with extremely low expectations. Lilo and Stitch blew me away.
The visuals may not be what most would consider the best or the most arthouse and scenic, but the visuals work for the source material and something about the animation and overall imagery pulls me in. The voice cast is incredible and the writing is smart. There was never a moment where I felt lost or on the other hand talked down to. The key to a children's film is to make the movie mostly timeless (aka not full of referential humor) and to have a plot that a kid can grasp on his/her own, so the kid feels like he/she is along for the ride, not being read a storybook.
Even then, Lilo and Stitch is so absurd that it hops around on the fence between what is too suggestive or out there for a children's movie, especially with the science fiction premise. My only complaint is that Jumba and Stitch are two characters that beg for more sci-fi exposition, and it focuses too much on the family mechanic, which in its own right is great in this movie, but I felt that if the movie were only fifteen to thirty minutes longer, there could have been more insight into the weaknesses and strengths of Stitch, or the galactic federation's history with Jumba (doesn't it seem a little bizarre that Stitch is the 626nd experiment and the government of an entire galaxy is just now finding out about this?).
I was pleasantly surprised with Lilo and Stitch though, and actually found myself laughing at a lot of the jokes, even the more infantile antics of Stitch. If Disney really did take a tumble after this movie, it's a very good way to go out.
#04: Tarzan (1999)
I watched Tarzan about the same time I watched Lilo and Stitch, and Tarzan blew me away even more. Tarzan really doesn't seem like a kid's movie. It deals with a lot of violence and themes of acceptance that go that extra step beyond "ohhh I'm young and weird". It touches on the edge of real daddy issues and sexual acceptance. Just touches though. I mean strip away the fact that most of the cast are animals and Tarzan kills the murderer of his parents without even knowing it. Oof.
Tarzan has incredible visuals. There is so much ridiculous stuff flying around the screen and the shading and the colors and ughhhh!!!
Also if you like Phil Collins, I guess there's plenty of that...
I was honestly scared of the whole "most of the soundtrack is done by Phil Collins" thing when I revisited this one, but it actually works. The songs are so good that it doesn't really matter. There was only one scene (the "Son of Man" montage) where I was kind of like "really?" Other than that I really felt this movie to the heart.
And before I move on, I just want to say that Jane is one of my new favorite Disney Princesses... does she count? Do we count Jane? I mean [spoiler alert] at the end, Tarzan is pretty much king of the apes and Jane is the only human girl character so like... maybe? Queen of the apes? Before all that though, they have an actual bonding moment or two when Jane is introduced. Jane has actual humorous lines and isn't just a ditsy, needy bitch. She even shows from the beginning that she tries to hold her own in combat or at the very least doesn't just cower in the corner waiting for her prince to come rescue her. She's actually charming. Why was this not a trend?
#03: Hercules (1997)
Hercules and Tarzan to be honest are pretty much on the same tier for me in terms of overall enjoyment, but I think Hercules in its more goofy and Greek-themed art style make me appreciate it just a little bit more. There are things I like that Tarzan does more than that of Hercules and vice versa, but all in all as an endearing movie, I lean a little bit more towards Hercules. Also the musical format was a really fun way to tell such an old tale. Meg is another great female lead by the way.
Have you noticed that even media directed towards adults have a theme to be learned? I mean, I guess porn doesn't, but prime time shows and rated R movies. Even adults need to be reminded of a life lesson to take away from what they consume. Tarzan is like "you belong" but in the grand scheme of things, adults learn that after they graduate high school one way or another. Hercules still reminds its audience of relationship advice in an ironically more realistic light and even that of certain family values and basic life direction. Wow, Hercules has it all. Which is why Number 2 on this list still doesn't really make sense... even to me.
#02: Mulan (1998)
Yep. I don't really know what it is about Mulan that makes me so attached to it, but I can't shake the feeling. Maybe it's just so unique that I just can't knock it for its faults, or at least its faults in comparisons to other animated films I've seen. I will say the score has a big part to do with it, and when it comes to music, there isn't much objective merit to liking it more or less than other music. I will listen to Mulan's soundtrack while working on other things or shaving my face. Something about it simultaneously relaxes me and excites me. Usually this would be stupid, but take into consideration that most of the movies I'm comparing Mulan to are primarily musicals, so saying that the songs and their organization within the movie makes me like it more than others isn't completely far fetched.
If it came to my favorite ten movies of all time, Mulan wouldn't even come close, but when it comes to Disney movies, Mulan has a special place with me. Not a nostalgic place, because I only saw it once in theaters when I was a kid until watching it again a few months ago and not being able to look away. It doesn't star a girl trying to fit in; it stars a girl disguising herself to be a better person in her father's eyes and in turn finding her own self-worth. Maybe that's why it speaks to me more than the other movies. Maybe in my early adult years I thought I was trying to belong somewhere, or thought I was trying to get the princess to notice me, or... well I guess I wasn't trying to resurrect Christmas in a town absorbed by Halloween so no... I think I was trying to do crazy things to seek approval from my family and peers, only to later find out that I have to kill my own personal Shan Yu for myself, not for anyone else, otherwise it has no meaning and I just end up where I started.
Yuck. Too deep. It's time for you to hate me now. Here is my Number 1.
#01: The Emperor's New Groove (2000)
After that big emotional and conclusive spiel I just gave about why I like Mulan more than Disney titans such as Toy Story and Fantasia, my number one is cheeky The Emperor's New Groove from the end of the 90's Disney era. At least I had good reasoning for Mulan, and although I think I have good reasoning for Emperor's New Groove, I probably don't. Remember that thing I said earlier about family friendly movies? This is that to a tee. I love its Aztec-ish art style. I love its idiotic and snarky humor (if you have watched my channel, this is probably no surprise). I love its music. Don't even get me started on its voice cast!
The Emperor's New Groove still makes me laugh about as hard as I did when I watched it as a kid and I still feel for all of the characters that the movie wants me to feel for, even if it seems like I shouldn't. An asshole trying to grab his bearings after its no longer warranted for him to be an asshole and still has to kind of rehabilitate himself from being an asshole in the process is great. I also notice that Cuzco isn't even really the main character. It's either him and Pacha, or just Pacha. The main conflict revolves around Pacha, because objectively, no matter what happens, Cuzco will be fine. Cuzco's only important conflict in the story is internal, and it wouldn't unfold without Pacha in his life. Am I looking too deep into a Disney movie? Hmmm.
The Emperor's New Groove is just a good comedy, and the script is incredibly witty, which is kind of my thing. So hopefully you can at least see where I'm coming from when I say it's my favorite. I'm not saying it is the absolute most breath-taking thing that Disney has ever produced, but you can't argue that this movie is my favorite Disney movie, so I guess I don't have to fully justify it.
I hope this gave some more personal insight into the game reviewing, music producing phantom that I have advertised myself as thus far on the internet. More blog thingies to come soon. They won't all be lists and scrapped video ideas I swear. This was just something that I was working towards recently before deciding that it wouldn't fit on my channel even if I did make it into a video.
What's your favorite Animated Disney movie? Let me know in the comments. I'm curious to see where other people stand on this.