Top 10 Disney Films


So, with cinemas on lockdown at this point, it means I am not going get my review of The Hunt out since I actually got a stomach bug before I was meant to review it properly, and by the time I got to see it the cinemas were shut down the next day so it made no sense publishing a review for a film that no one could see anyway (and, for the record, no one should see because The Hunt is an inept script with some of the worst stereotyped characters I’ve seen in recent memory and is so inane as a parody I never wish to see it again). But with that in mind, I decided to keep the film society going by creating a series of top 10 best and worst lists, so when you’ve got your Netflix, your Amazon Prime all out, you know which films are the ones to now finally get round to spending your time watching and which of the ones you should say,

“No, this situation is bad enough as it is; I don’t need to add a rubbish film onto it while we’re at it.”

Now, I decided to do this list for the reason that I’ve been so wholly negative about Disney on the last few reviews I’ve done that I’ve come off as someone who really hates the brand and what they’re doing, and while I am definitely growing more and more concerned about Disney’s stranglehold on the cinema industry and their rather lazy and, to a certain extent, very cynical commentary on its own audience as a weird sense of justification for itself, at the end of day, I mainly say that because I want Disney to make great films. They have done in the past and they could do again.

Now, for this list, I kept it very secure in what would go on or off the list. This would be a list purely for in-house-made Disney films. Films that have their own identity that were made by studios which Disney own will not count, so no Pixar, no Marvel films and no Star Wars; they really should have their own list. This would also not be restricted to between animation and live action. When I was going over the list of Disney films, I actually found myself really not remembering many of the live action films that they had apparently produced. But this is to say, only two live action films were even considered, and both made the list. While one of them made the list whole-heartedly, the other one just missed out, that being the Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson film Saving Mr. Banks, which is great as a think-piece and I actually really enjoy the film in all, but it did drag out a little too long and I also decided that I thought that it would be a rather controversial pick, even though this is going to be my list and feel free to do your own top 10 lists in the comments below at the bottom.

Speaking of which, just to go over it, films I was considering that just missed out on the list were: Zootopia, Sky High, Lilo and Stitch, The Lion King, 101 Dalmatians, A Goofy Movie and Tarzan. All could have been on the list, but I just didn’t quite have room for them.

So, here is my 10 I would be most excited to watch if I got a Disney Plus account this week:

10. A Christmas Carol (2009)

Yeah, I know this is a weird one to be putting on the list since no one’s going to watch this until December, but if you have a Disney Plus account by then, this should be on your list. And even if you don’t, it is still available on Amazon Prime at this point in time. It was casting Jim Carey as both Scrooge and the 4 ghosts. There is a genuine interest in this film directed by Robert Zemeckis around the time he was really hitting that motion-capture fascination. This is actually one of the better films that he did. Sure, the slapstick is quite distracting, but the motion-capture does allow Jim Carey to merge into the role and fans of the book will be really surprised to find how loyal the film is to the book in certain areas. Honestly, I’ve seen a lot of other Christmas Carols that go off in way weirder tangents that they had no place to compared to this film. It keeps the heart and spirit really there. Carey does an excellent performance as well as excellent secondary performances from actors like Colin Firth and Gary Oldman, as well as the late, great Bob Hoskins. It’s a great one at Christmas; I’d highly recommend checking it out.

9. Recess: School’s Out

Disney’s had a rather weird and troubled history of trying to take their animated series and turning them into films. And honestly, after Doug’s first movie tanked at the box office, I’m genuinely shocked Recess: School’s Out was even considered. But unlike that film, Recess: School’s Out was definitely going to more successful because it was based on a good TV series. Yes, come at me Doug fans. Recess: School’s Out is the perfect epilogue to the series. It acts as an excellent ending to the show. Okay, it jumps the shark royally, with an over-the-top plot about a former secretary of education that wants to get rid of summer vacation by moving the moon using some sort of weird beam coming out of a massive satellite thing… Honestly, I think they explain it better in the show. The fact they got the cast of the villain to be played by James Woods was a genius choice since he can hit that perfect balance of menacing and comedic which is needed for a role like this. This is going to prove it’s my list because this list doesn’t really do anything by itself; it’s really made just for the fanbase. But there’s also a lot of nice homages to sixties culture, which must have great for some of the people dragged along to see the film with their kids. Recess: School’s Out at the end of the day is really just a nice film. It kind of tackles the idea of worrying about growing up and being apart from your friends, and its message is more to just live life to the full and actually is kind of critical about educational standards being placed as a burden on children. See this one if you can. I’m not sure if it’s actually going to Disney Plus since Disney have seemed to kind of ignore Recess’s existence for quite some time. In fact, the last thing I saw them do with it was that weird Lilo and Stitch crossover.

8. The Emperor’s New Groove

Yes, I know this film is really short, but this is one of the funniest films I’ve ever seen in my life. David Spade is actually – for once in his life – properly cast and directed. John Goodman makes for an excellent straight man to boost Spade’s comedic role and the combination of Patrick Warburton and Eartha Kitt is a match made in heaven. I could have watched the whole film bout those two but then I remember Kronk’s New Groove exists and shows that yes, you can have too much of a good thing. It does feel like a weird idea for Disney to do a buddy road-trip film but the animation really pulls it off, and I think it was a lot more of an interesting film than what the filmmakers were originally going for when the project was called Kingdom of The Sun. It’s a really nice and surreal film, but it knows that comedy is short, sharp and to the point. The film is fortunately short, so it doesn’t overstay its welcome. If you haven’t seen this one, you really should – you’ll laugh your ass off.

7. The Hunchback of Notre Dame

I’ve had so many complaints about this film in the sense that it’s so off-kilter from the book, but as a film in its own right, it’s actually really awesome, and I’m quite glad it’s starting to now gain a cult following. You have probably one of Disney’s best villains of all time with Judge Frolo, as well as a really excellent portrayal of Quasimodo whose inspiration seems to have come from various previous adaptations prior to this one, something that’s very indicative of the film itself. And if there’s one thing holding the film back, it’s the gargoyles; they honestly are not great comic relief. I haven’t talked a lot about music at this point, and music is something I actually really like about Hunchback of Notre Dame. I actually have to reflect Lindsay Ellis’s view that this is one of Alan Menken’s best soundtracks to date. The song ‘The Bells of Notre Dame’ is the best opening to any Disney film I’ve ever seen; it nails the film in a nutshell brilliantly. Now, I will say The Hunchback of Notre Dame is not the easiest watch but it’s not exactly a hard watch either, and its biggest issue which stops it getting higher on the list is, yes, there is a tone dissonance problem and the film can never quite make up its mind of what it wants to be. You can definitely feel the Disney executives in the background saying, “Make this more marketable!” but as a whole, this is a film you seriously should have checked out if you haven’t by now, although don’t too many people check up on it because I don’t want Disney doing a live action one of this movie.

6. Wreck-It Ralph

Yeah, it does feel weird putting Wreck-It Ralph above Hunchback of Notre Dame but I’m a videogame player and this film felt like it was made for me. It might be a bit distracting having all the videogame references but most of the copyrighted videogame characters disappear by the time the first quarter of the film is done, and the film’s allowed to be its own thing. It’s a nice story about learning to be happy with yourself and to basically try and learn to rely on people that you would previously have just looked over in the past or taken for granted. At the end of the day, it’s a nice film and it’s again capped off with some excellent performances from actors like John C Reilly, Sarah Silverman and, of course, an excellent scene-stealing performance by Alan Tudyk as King Candy. A lot of people at the time were saying this was essentially Toy Story for people that played 80s and 90s arcade games, and they’re absolutely right, which of course is why I had to see this film several times in the year it came out. If you haven’t seen it, go check it out – Wreck-It Ralph is awesome.

5. The Great Mouse Detective

This is another film that seemed to have gained a cult following in recent memory, but I still don’t hear anyone talking about it. Honestly, any time a discussion about Disney’s past comes up, I rarely if ever hear anyone bring up this film. I think it was because it was just shy of Disney Renaissance really kicking off, so it was at a time when Disney didn’t have the best reputation in the world but they were also about to hit some of their best and most financially successful films. But man, why has Basil been so far out of the discussion? It’s a really great take on Sherlock-done-by-Disney. You have an excellent lead character – if a bit pompous – who’s a nice stand-in for Sherlock in this world, and Dr Dawson who’s an excellent replacement for Watson. You also have some really cool animation sequences for the time, including some brilliant background designs for a toyshop as well as a hot air balloon chase which must have cost Disney studio a ton at the time just to animate. The thing that people most remember about this is the Moriarty stand-in Professor Ratigan, who’s played by the late and always great Vincent Price, and this was well before Robin Williams’s performance in Aladdin made it standard for celebrities to appear in animated films. Price is just loving every aspect of this performance; he just revels in every aspect of it, delivering one of his best performances of his career. This film is rarely seen and has rarely been talked about, but I would really recommend joining the cult. This is a real childhood favourite of mine, and I kind of wish Disney had actually expanded upon it to give us a whole series of Great Mouse Detective stories like Sherlock Holmes got.

4. Beauty and The Beast

Yes, this on every technical level was an excellent film and has been probably one of the best films Disney has ever produced, which is why I really hate the 2017 remake because it missed the point about what made this one so good! This film is amazing, becoming the first animated film to ever be nominated for Best Picture, which it would lose to Silence of The Lambs (which would be a genuinely tough call for me to make because I love both of those films). The acting’s great; the characters are great; the film really takes time to build up every character piece. I think this is probably the primary example of a Disney film that’s been kind of spoiled by people trying to overanalyze and find problems where they don’t really exist. I know I complain a lot about plot holes and inconsistencies but some of these things are kind of like, guys, you know there’s got to be some suspension of disbelief? Beauty and The Beast is still excellent – the animation is brilliant and the performances are all great. It’s actually genuinely timeless and I would really recommend checking it out.

3. Treasure Planet

Treasure Planet didn’t do very well when it first came out, but it also seems to have gained a bit of a following in that time. It is kind of a product of its time in some areas but in other areas it’s a decent, new take on Treasure Planet. Sure, it’s really quite far-fetched in a lot of ways but I actually think that from a visual aesthetic the world design is really awesome and unique. Let’s face it, if you showed an image of this film, I think you would identify it from the start. And the animation is just superb. Plus, despite the fact that this film did receive an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Film – which it rightfully lost to Spirited Away – I’m really disappointed that the John Rzeznik song ‘I’m Still Here’ didn’t get a nomination. It’s the perfect song for this film. And the other thing I like most about this film is the relationship between Jim and John Silver. It’s genuinely very heartfelt and I actually really like these versions of the characters. I have heard some criticism in the past that the dynamic kind of misses the point but considering this was never aiming to be a very straight adaptation of Treasure Island, I’m kind of willing to let it slide. Not that it isn’t a valid criticism for people that read the book. This might be a really good time to get into this film because Disney are already looking into the possibility of making a live action remake of this film, so if you haven’t seen it, good chance to check it out.

2. Aladdin (1992)

Aladdin is just a personal favourite of mine on several levels. It’s my personal favourite of the Disney Renaissance films and I find myself being able to quote that film on numerous occasions. It’s Robin Williams’s best performance and should have earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. It’s also a prime example of where an actor and an animator blend perfectly together. The leads are great, the animation is fantastic and still kind of holds up, and it’s an interesting film about appreciating who you are and trying not to be someone else as well as taking responsibility for your actions. I will still constantly enjoy Aladdin and it’s one of the few films where I didn’t mind the sequels. It’s awesome, though I wouldn’t recommend watching it back-to-back with the remake because it will sour your opinion of the remake. And that’s coming from someone who just thought the Disney Aladdin remake was okay, not terrible.

1. Pirates of The Caribbean: The Curse of The Black Pearl

I think between the sheer abundance of Pirates of The Caribbean sequels, we forget just how ground-breaking and brilliant that first film was. It’s the film that earned Johnny Depp an Oscar nomination which he would ultimately lose, which is a shame because it’s also one of the few examples of a perfect blend between actor and character. He just disappears into the role, and there’s so much to like about it – the excellent location shots, the brilliant action scenes, the great swashbuckling story. It’s amazing that Disney revived what was thought a dead franchise and that Gore Verbinski kept this thing going in spite of the fact that the Head of Disney Michael Eisner was constantly trying to shut the film down. It’s a prime example that with a lot of hard work, you can take a film that’s destined to be a flop and make it a major success. This film has an excellent cast, including brilliant performances from Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Jonathon Price and especially Geoffrey Rush whose dedication to the role should have earned him a Best Supporting Actor nomination. I’m certain most people have seen all the Pirates of The Caribbean films but I think if you went back and watched the first one, you’d be surprised how good of a script it really was and how well-made it is overall. It’s the prime example I have of how to make a blockbuster that everyone can enjoy. It’s a brilliant film, my personal favourite Disney movie, highly recommended.

Well, I will keep making these lists, but I can’t guarantee when they’re coming out or at what frequency. Until this whole thing blows over, I can’t make any guarantees. But I will see you next time.
Calvin – Nerd Consultant

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Posted in Film Society
2 comments on “Top 10 Disney Films
  1. Linda Buchan says:

    Would be good to hear from you as to whether you found this helpful
    Did you agree?

    • Helen Jones says:

      This has inspired me to watch two or three films from the list
      ( Netflix or amazon permitting I think)
      This will add to the distraction techniques that I am gathering.
      Thank you very much Calvin

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