Monday, 15 January 2018

Musical Monday #160

Having finally completed my ranking of all the Disney 'classics', I thought that Musical Monday should celebrate just what I had to sit through.  So here's how even in one of Disney's WORST films, they can still bring a tear to the eye with clever use of a manipulative song.

Will The Sun Ever Shine Again from Home On The Range
Performed by Bonnie Raitt
Written by Alan Menken, and Glenn Slater

According to Wikipedia, Alan Menken wrote this song as a reaction to 9/11.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

All The Disney Studio Animated Movies Ranked Worst To Best

Remember when you were a kid, and you’d see a trailer for ‘Walt Disney’s thirty-third animated motion picture classic’ and you’d think, wow that’s a lot of classics, I wonder what they all are?

I thought I knew my Disney cartoons pretty well, until I played Disney trivial pursuit and was convinced the game was making the films up.  What the hell is a caballero and why should I care?

So I decided to watch all of Disney Studio’s Animated Movies, starting with Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs and finishing with whatever the latest one is by now (currently Moana, but when I first came up with the idea it was either Wreck-It Ralph or Frozen, and I’ll try to update the list every time a new one comes out).  At first I was just doing it for fun, and later I decided to start again with a more critical eye.  So I watched all the movies (mostly twice, some of them I’ve seen a thousand times before and some of the really obscure ones that took a long time to track down, just once), mostly in chronological order, and then I ranked them in order of worst to best.

Now, firstly, this is just my opinion and Disney cartoons are strangely personal things, so don’t fret when we disagree.  Pretty much whichever movie you grew up with on video is going to be impervious to criticism for you.  That doesn’t make it a good movie, but it makes it something that can genuinely affect your emotions, and that’s pretty important.  I know different people who would swear blind that Aladdin, Beauty And The Beast, Peter Pan, Robin Hood, Sleeping Beauty, The Aristo Cats and Wreck-It Ralph is the undisputed greatest cartoon ever made.  I happen to think that some of those movies are complete turds, but it doesn’t matter, so long as it makes you happy.

And secondly, I didn’t use any scientific criticism to rank these movies.  I just rated them based on how they made me feel after I watched them and how much I could bear to have to sit through them again.

And so I give you all fifty-six Disney Studio Animated Movies in order of worst to best:

56. The Three Caballeros [1945]

All pictures on this post belong to Walt Disney Studios

During the 40s, (coming between Bambi and Cinderella) Disney made six ‘package’ films, which is basically a bunch of shorts rammed together into an incoherent and often boring mess.  They’re pretty obscure now, often only seen when their shorts are released separately.  They stick out starkly from Disney’s other movies because, along with the Fantasia movies, they’re the only ones that don’t have a central plot and hero and are therefore the hardest to sit through.  But this is the worst one.

Strung together with the loose ‘plot’ of Donald Duck opening presents from his friends in Latin America, this is a weird and boring film.  First Donald watches a documentary on funny birds, then he shrinks down to join his friend José in a book of Brazil, in which they dance with live action humans.  Then they meet a loud and annoying cockerel from Mexico, suddenly become the three caballeros despite having only just met the third guy this second and enter various live action photographs of Mexico in which Donald tries to get it off with any human woman he spies.  It ends up in a lurid trippy dream sequence.

55. Saludos Amigos [1943]

This movie took me the longest to track down.  It’s similar to The Three Caballeros in that they were both made as a goodwill gesture to Latin America, but as the first of the two, while less trippy than its ‘sequel’, this one contains no plot at all.  It’s basically an hour long advert for South America, handled with a bunch of animated shorts which you couldn’t even call cartoons.  It’s the kind of thing that these days would be a blu-ray extra showing how the animators on a real movie visited the country where they wanted to set their film to do some cultural research.  Donald Duck and Goofy appear, and fail to raise any laughs.  It’s the first introduction of José Carioca (who I really liked in The Three Caballeros), confusingly called ‘Joe’ even though we see his business card clearly says ‘José’ (surely that’s a direct lack of goodwill?) but he barely speaks and does nothing.  Its saving grace is this film is unbelievably short.

54. Melody Time [1948]

This is basically Fantasia without classical music.  So Fantasia without the only thing that made it any good.

53. Make Mine Music [1946]

Similar to Melody Time in that it’s a bunch of musical shorts strung together.  Ten in total, and the first eight are all awful.  I would’ve turned this off after five minutes if I wasn’t dedicated to this research.  Bored out of my mind, the only entertainment I could glean was from following the pattern of ‘serious’ and ‘fun’ shorts.  If one short is particularly dull then at least you know the next will be zany.  However, the final two shorts were actually watchable (one a love story between two hats and one an operatic tragedy about a whale), so the overall feeling of mind-numbing boredom was relieved.

52. Fun And Fancy Free [1947]

Inspired by the short story Little Bear Bongo by Sinclair Lewis and the fairy tale Jack and the Beanstalk, this is basically two shorts, one of Bongo the bear and one of Mickey and the Beanstalk, stuck together with Jiminy Cricket in live-action Hollywood, firstly playing a talking record about domestic abuse to cheer up some toys and then party-crashing a ventriloquist who has invited a little girl alone to his house at night.  Creepy stuff, but at least there are narratives here and the narration in both stories is kind of entertaining.

51. Fantasia 2000 [1999]

It’s very short and the new stories really aren’t worth having to sit through another Fantasia.  None of them add an interesting enough spin to the music: the music itself conjures more interesting and dramatic ideas.  And silent cartoons in which things happen because the music got louder and not because of narrative drive all stuck together just doesn’t make a particularly fascinating film, while the in-between segments of ‘current’ celebrities talking to camera are a little skin-crawly.

50. Fantasia [1940]

Fantasia is a bunch of shorts, some with plots, some just with characters dancing to the music and some entirely abstract using different animation techniques, set to classical music.  While it’s entertaining enough, especially for younger children who don’t need much more than colour, sound and movement for stimulation, it can also be rather dull and frankly adds little enjoyment that couldn’t be derived from just listening to the classical music.

49. The Fox And The Hound [1981]

Inspired by the novel The Fox and the Hound by Daniel P. Mannix but by all accounts not bearing much relation to that bleak tale, this is the story of a fox cub and a puppy who become friends only to learn they’re supposed to be enemies.  Moral: Don’t kill your friends.

This story really doesn’t work, not least because the ‘best friends’ of fox cub and hound puppy only know each other for three days.  It also feels like really bad taste to show the villains from Bambi (HUNTERS) in comedy scenes.  Apart from that, it’s boring and has no likeable characters.

48. Bambi [1942]

Inspired by the novel Bambi, A Life in the Woods by Felix Salten, this is the story of a fawn who grows up in a forest where hunters keep killing everyone.  Moral: Hunting animals is evil.

This film is slow and mostly devoid of plot.

47. Alice In Wonderland [1951]

Disney’s second attempt at adapting a novel, this film is based on Lewis Carrol’s The Adventures Of Alice In Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass.  It’s the story of a little girl who falls asleep during her lessons and chases a rabbit down a hole into a nightmare dream nonsense world.  Moral: Don’t be curious.

It’s very imaginative and bouncy, so there’s a basic level of enjoyment to be had, but the lack of narrative drive and the fact that Alice is trapped in a nightmare world (it’s actually quite a good depiction of what dreaming is like) filled with characters who are always mean or angry certainly disturbed me as a child and makes it one I’d rather avoid now. 

Side note: the Walrus is reminiscent of Honest John from Pinocchio.

46. Peter Pan [1953]

Supposedly an adaptation of the play Peter Pan by ‘Sir James M. Barrie’, this is the story of three children who follow a magic boy to a magic island and fight some pirates.  Moral: Children are selfish so growing up isn’t the end of the world, although don’t rush into it either.  Rather a mixed message actually.

Probably enjoyable enough for the younger viewer, but it’s severely lacking in any identifiable characters and while it portrays the heartlessness of children and Wendy’s distance from them as she grows up rather well, Captain Hook isn’t a patch on Barrie’s version, which is very disappointing, while all the really good bits of the original tale have been completely neutered, even going so far as to switch the roles of Hook and Pan in the final fight to portray Peter in a positive light.

45. Home On The Range [2004]

The story of a show cow who loses her home so moves to a dairy farm only to face losing that too, so goes on an adventure with two other cows to catch a cattle rustler and claim the reward.  Moral: You can achieve great feats no matter who you are; heroes don’t come in traditional shapes.

The animation is ugly and jagged.  The humour is terrible, with jokes such as protracted belching, chickens laying eggs in shock and references to breast implants.  The cows, especially Maggie, aren’t interesting leads.  Thankfully the villains are entertaining and the songs, though rare, are nice. 

44. Frozen [2013]

Inspired by the fairy tale The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen, but bearing almost no resemblance to it any more, this is the story of two sisters who are pulled apart because one of them has magic ice powers.  Moral: Love is better than fear and don’t repress your emotions.

This movie makes me so mad!  Hans doesn’t convince remotely as the villain until well over an hour into the film and his plot doesn’t really make sense.  The ‘true love is a myth’ joke is really mean and the whole thing teaches some shoddy morals.  It’s wrong to fall in love with someone you just met, despite the fact that that’s exactly what Anna does with someone else.  Also Elsa is horrible to Anna and that song everyone’s obsessed with is dumb.  The characters are really bland.  The idea that Elsa just needs love to control her powers is stupid because that’s the one thing she’s had consistently all along.

43. Winnie The Pooh [2011]

Based on the Winnie the Pooh books by A. A. Milne and E. H. Shepard, this is the story of a teddy bear who thinks his boy has been abducted by a monster.  Moral: Put your friends before yourself (and you’ll get rewarded even more).

Not sure why we needed another Winnie The Pooh movie.  Its greatest strength is in using the narrated book format from the first film.  Otherwise it’s fairly boring and occasionally creepy.  The plot meanders about pointlessly and Pooh is surprisingly selfish.  Even the ending in which he puts Eeyore before his hunger results in him getting even more honey, which he knew would happen.  Christopher Robin’s voice is too young for the animation.  Rabbit’s voice sounds too much like Spongebob Squarepants (same actor) but for some reason the animation reflects this.

42. Chicken Little [2005]

Inspired by the nursery rhyme Henny Penny (or Chicken Licken), but only so far as the ‘sky is falling’ line, this is the story of a chick who realises aliens are invading but no one believes him.  Moral: Parents should be there for their kids no matter what and you should talk about your feelings or nothing will get resolved.

Disney’s first full 3D animated feature.  It’s really naff and not very funny, and the alien invasion plot, which is at least exciting, doesn’t get going until halfway through and they almost immediately realise it’s a misunderstanding.  The ‘dad doesn’t pay attention to him’ plot is stirring at least but it’s far too much the text rather than the subtext with Abby endlessly going on about how they need to talk.

41. The Aristo Cats [1970]

The story of some spoilt cats who are left money in a will so get abducted by a greedy butler and have to make their way home with the help of an alley cat.  Moral: Friendship and loyalty are more important than money.

Back in these days, most Disney films were more episodic than reliant on plot or character.  This is yet another one that isn’t exactly dripping in plot.  It’s all right, but there isn’t really a main character, and if it’s Duchess, she has almost no personality or action in her.

40. The Black Cauldron [1985]

Inspired by The Chronicles Of Prydain series by Lloyd Alexander, but mostly coming across as a rip off of The Lord of The Rings.  I don’t know if that’s the book or the movie’s fault.  Probably the movie.  It’s the story of a boy who has to look after a psychic pig and stop evil taking over the land.  Moral: Friendship is more important than your dreams and true bravery isn’t glamourous.

Despite the exciting fantasy plot, this is strangely dull, mostly hindered by the flat characters, poor child voice acting and the infuriating overuse of names in the dialogue. 

Side note: this is the first Disney cartoon to actually show blood.  Taran has a cut lip after a dragon pins him.  There’s also residue blood on the chopping block and possibly blood comes out of the cauldron.  Also the first of these movies not to have starting credits.

39. Brother Bear [2003]

The story of a guy who kills a bear out of revenge and is magically transformed into a bear as punishment.  Moral: Love is very powerful.

The comedy moose are unbearable and aren’t even plot relevant.  Kenai isn’t a remotely likeable hero.  The point is that he’s on a personal journey and will learn the error of his ways, but I don’t want to spend time with him, and his getting to like Koda feels totally unearned.  Plus, the whole plot revolves around the fact that Kenai murdered Koda’s mother, which is incredibly uncomfortable viewing.  Also the scene in which Kenai realises that bears are super great and living beings aren’t there to be killed by man and he’s happier with them than humans involves the bears massacring fish who are trying to get to where they procreate, not taking into account that fish are alive too.  This is topped by the after-credit sequence making a joke out of a fish screaming for mercy and being killed by bears.

38. Dinosaur [2000]

The story of a dinosaur who was raised by lemurs trying to save a bunch of migrating dinosaurs from death.  Moral: Challenge the way things are if they’re wrong and compassion is the true survival.

At the start there’s some breath-taking scenery, but the characters are unbelievably bland and considering what you could do with a story about dinosaurs, what they come up with is uneventful and dull.  It’s way too dark; starting with a mother’s nest being destroyed, and then all the lemurs are obliterated.  What future do these creatures have with meteor strikes happening around them and the fact that we know their species will go extinct?  The closing narration seems desperate to make up for it.  Also lemurs weren’t around at the same time as dinosaurs.

37. Beauty And The Beast [1991]

Based on the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast by Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont, this is the story of a girl who agrees to be taken prisoner by a monster in return for her father’s life.  Moral: Real beauty is on the inside.

It’s actually kind of boring.  Belle’s supposed to be intelligent and brave, but the books she reads are romances, she does nothing during the finale and she comes across as a snob.  Beast is just a complete jerk, and his relationship with Belle, apart from being a hostage situation, involves her having to teach him to read and how to feed birds.  It’s not something that should become romantic.  While Gaston, though repulsive, has an utterly lame villain motive.  Scenes involving any of them are dull, the songs aren’t very interesting and it all comes down to this spell which makes no sense: Was Beast’s rudeness really worth corrupting an entire kingdom?  How has everyone outside it forgotten about it within ten years when it’s in walking distance?  Why would the enchantress punish a child anyway, because he would have been eleven at the time, which explains why he acts like a child throughout?  And was Chip born a cup, because he’s clearly under ten? 

Side note: this is the first Disney movie to have one of those ghastly nineties pop ballads on the end, presumably to drive you screaming out of the cinema as quickly as possible.

36. Treasure Planet [2002]

Inspired by the novel Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, except in space, so actually nothing like Treasure Island whatsoever.  This is the story of a juvenile delinquent who gets a magic map and travels across the universe to find treasure.  Moral: Stick to it and believe in yourself.

While it has some pretty cool visuals and can on occasion be exciting and even, when it comes to David Hyde Piece and Emma Thompson, funny, it relies on the hokey schmaltz of the relationship between Silver and Jim, which never rings true (this poop isn’t in the original Treasure Island novel).  It’s trying way too hard with the ‘bad boy makes good’ stuff and it’s full of bad jokes like ‘Flatula’ being a language of farts. 

Side note: for an emotionally disturbed child, Lilo of Lilo & Stitch had a lot more depth.  The repulsive animation of Silver harkens back to Fagin of Oliver & Company.

35. The Adventures Of Ichabod and Mr Toad [1949]

Supposedly telling the stories of The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving, this is another one where they just made two non-feature-length cartoons and nailed them together to make a movie.  We start in a library, where Basil Rathbone introduces his favourite literary character, Mr Toad.  Considering we’re in a library and what follows is the contents of a book, it’s hilarious that the cartoon bears almost zero relation to the novel of The Wind In The Willows.  It’s a bizarre adaptation with random new characters and plot devices and Angus McBadger.  Occasionally amusing, but so little like the book in any form that you wonder why they bothered.  Then we go back to the library where Bing Crosby introduces Ichabod Crane.  This one goes a lot better because Sleepy Hollow is a short story and far better suited to adaptation, and Bing is an entertaining narrator.

34. The Many Adventures Of Winnie-The-Pooh [1977]

Based on the books written by A. A. Milne and illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard, this is the story of a bunch of toys doing stuff.  Moral: Be nice to your friends even when they’re jerks.

The ‘book’ setting is by far the most interesting part of this film.  Unfortunately the episodic nature caused by this originally being three shorts stuck together and the fact that it takes numerous ideas from the already-episodic books but cuts all of the conclusions and punchlines leaves this as a very busy but plot-less and progression-less blob.  Also casting an actor who has previously played creepy villains (Cheshire Cat and Kaa) as the teddy bear is just odd.

33. Oliver & Company [1988]

Inspired by Charles Dickens’ novel Oliver Twist, but if they were all animals!  Yeah, actually not surprisingly nothing like it at all.  It’s what they advertised as a ‘Disney Twist’.  It’s the story of an abandoned kitten, who falls in with a bum and his dogs, then gets adopted by a rich but neglected little girl, and then is used as bait in a hostage situation.  Moral: Family is more important than money.

While the Jenny and Oliver stuff packs an emotional kick, and the dogs and their odd-for-a-Disney-film style of music are fun, the main problem with this film is a) that Fagin, a good guy, is repulsive and b) some of the plot is so ridiculous that it’s impossible to swallow.  See the entire finale culminating in Sykes driving his car into a subway and along the train tracks (WHY?!) and the good guys escaping getting hit by the oncoming train by their scooter just magically jumping on to the suspension wires above.  It’s just stupid. 

Side note: in Dodger’s number we see some dogs who may or may not be from Lady And the Tramp and One Hundred And One Dalmatians.  If it is them, then these dogs are between thirty and seventy years old and looking good.

32. One Hundred And One Dalmatians [1961]

Inspired by the novel The Hundred And One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith, this is the story of a nasty woman who abducts a bunch of puppies to turn them into a fur coat.  Moral: …None really.  If someone steals something from you, go and find it and steal it back yourself?

On its own, this film isn’t that bad, but it’s hard for me to rationally think about it, because The Hundred And One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith is one of my favourite books of all time, and this is a disappointing adaptation, which cuts nearly all the humour, plot, character development and several great characters, not to mention randomly changing a few into male characters for no good reason.  In fact, when you consider that the white cat and Perdita have been cut, that Missis (now renamed Perdita), who is the most vibrant character in the book, is now completely bland, that Cadpig has been replaced with a personality-devoid Lucky and that Sergeant Tibbs has been changed to a male character, all the great female characters have been destroyed!  With the inclusion of lines like ‘better get on your make-up’ and ‘crazy woman driver’ there’s a real sexist feel to this whole sorry affair.  This film has always represented for me bad adaptations because it was the first case of book-to-movie that I was aware of and it drove me nuts as a child that other children were only familiar with the film version, having no idea that the novel existed at all and no interest in reading it.  So for all novels everywhere, POO to this film. 

Side note: some of the dogs from Lady And The Tramp are seen, despite it being set in a different era.

31. The Lion King [1994]

Supposedly Disney’s first original movie, although everyone now says it’s inspired by Hamlet and possibly rips off some anime cartoon.  It’s the story, as if anyone doesn’t know, of a lion cub who thinks he’s responsible for his father’s death and runs off to live with a meerkat and warthog.  Moral: Face your responsibility and learn from your past.

The main thing this movie has going for it is the amazing animation.  Kind of distracts you from the disturbing opening ritual of prey bowing to their executors.  The dark parts of the film are unbelievable.  Trying to add humour to child-murdering characters is misplaced.  Simba’s psychological trauma is way too much and he never really gets over it, he's just forced to take on responsibility he doesn’t want.

30. The Rescuers [1977]

‘Suggested’ by The Rescuers and Miss Bianca by Margery Sharp; it certainly bears little resemblance to the first of those books.  It’s the story of a rescue agency of mice, who send a woman (I know, can you believe it?) and a janitor to rescue an abducted child from a riverboat.  Moral: Faith makes things turn out right.

An unremarkable film, with weird animation that looks like cut-outs, dreary music and an uncomfortable sexist vibe, but you gotta love adorable orphan Penny.

29. Cinderella [1950]

Disney’s second full fairy tale adaptation, based on Charles Perrault’s Cinderella, it’s the story of a nice young woman who likes animals who is forced to work as a servant for her family instead of going to royal balls.  Moral: Never lose hope.

Although Cinderella herself is a decent hero, her mice sidekicks, who get just as much, if not more, screen time as her, are infuriating, while the Prince has one line the whole film, his entire story being told through the device of his father and the Grand Duke, and the villains get no comeuppance, other than the cat who never did anything other than be a cat.

28. Pocahontas [1995]

Inspired by the historical figure Pocahontas, though one must remember that the story of Pocahontas and John Smith was likely a fabrication by Smith anyway who was trying to cash in on her popularity at the time.  It’s the story of a Native American woman who falls in love with an English explorer, and is willing to sacrifice her life to stop bloodshed.  Moral: Don’t kill people just because they’re different to you and small actions have big consequences.

Excluding Colors Of The Wind, the songs are rather short and never really build.  While Pocahontas is a good lead, she still feels like a composite of Ariel (impetuous and curious of a new race), Belle (desiring adventure) and Jasmine (not wanting to be forced into a marriage).  Young women who want freedom was clearly a bit of a theme in the nineties.  Unfortunately, like her heroine predecessors, she is once again almost entirely defined by her romantic attachment.  The other characters aren’t very interesting.  There isn’t much plot or variance in setting.  Pocahontas and John seem to like each other due to no other reason than destiny.  And perhaps due to the ‘based on a true story’ nature, it’s all rather deflating, coz this stuff didn’t turn out well.  There’s an overuse of magic wind (her mother?) which is boringly reminiscent of The Lion King.

Side note: we see no blood at all in this film which actually makes it really confusing.  Kokoum is shot by Thomas and killed, falling into a pool of water, yet there’s no blood or wound, the same as when John takes a bullet later, so you keep thinking that they aren’t really hurt and don’t get what all the fuss is about.

27. Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs [1937]

The first fairy tale Disney movie, based on Grimms’ Snow White, but actually taking a lot of inspiration from Sleeping Beauty; it’s the story of a princess whose stepmother wants to murder her, so she takes refuge with some dwarfs.  Moral: Be good and nice even in the face of hardship and your dreams will come true.

Famous for being the first full-length animated film, the animation is certainly impressive and it’s entertaining, but there’s very little plot, most of the length being stuffed with comedy dwarf scenes that actually take place in the course of one evening.

26. The Sword In The Stone [1963]

Inspired by the novel The Sword in the Stone by T. H. White, this is the tale of Wart, a boy who wants to be a squire and is taken under the wing of the sorcerer Merlin for some mysterious unknown destiny.  Moral: Get an education and don’t accept your fate: you make your own. 

Fairly enjoyable but there isn’t much plot.  The brief scenes of Wart emoting are good, but the rest is just an excuse for some magic lessons.  Also it’s irritating how certain shots and sounds are repeated, making this feel rather cheap.

25. The Emperor’s New Groove [2000]

The story of a selfish ruler who gets cursed and turned into a llama and learns some humility.  Moral: If you’re selfish, no one will care if you die.

There are lots of almost looney-tune-esque jokes, in a direct turn away from traditional Disney, but they don’t quite land.  It lacks something genuine.  Yzma and Kronk are more entertaining than Kuzco and Pacha, who spend most of the film in awkward pauses.

24. The Rescuers Down Under [1990]

The story of Bernard and Miss Bianca going to Australia to rescue a boy from a psycho poacher.  Moral: Don’t let size and personality deceive you, greatness and bravery come in all forms.

I’m not sure why The Rescuers got a cinematic sequel, but this is fairly enjoyable.  Cody is much less interesting than Penny, both in helplessness and wiliness, but now the sexism of Miss Bianca needing a man to look after her has been swept under the rug, it’s more enjoyable to spend time with Bernard, who is practically superhuman by the finale.  However the ending leaves a lot to be desired because A) we never see the animals from McLeach’s lair freed, B) we never see Marahute reunite with her eggs (who are hatching without her by the end) and C) we never see Cody’s strangely faceless mother learn he isn’t dead.  McLeach says ‘the last you’ll ever see of them’ and he’s right.

23. The Hunchback Of Notre Dame [1996]

Loosely inspired by Victor Hugo’s novel Notre Dame De Paris, but that’s not a children’s book, so this story probably isn’t very reminiscent.  It’s the tale of a disfigured young man who’s enslaved in a bell tower by a total loon and falls in love with a gypsy.  Moral: Don’t persecute people for being different.

The music’s incredibly melodramatic and big and the film works okay as a dark and dramatic tale, but the comedy is awful, particularly the gargoyle number while Paris is burning and Phoebus is dying.  There are a surprising number of balls jokes and the comic gargoyles feel like they were inserted later to lighten the incredibly dark tale.  Frollo has ‘unholy thoughts’ about Esmeralda which is totally inappropriate for a children’s film.  Having Quasimodo lose out in love to a non-deformed heroic man isn’t exactly a great ending and he needed to be in it a lot more.

22. Hercules [1997]

Inspired by the myths of Hercules, this is the story of a boy who doesn’t know he’s actually a god, who has to prove himself a hero in order to go live with the other gods on Mount Olympus.  Moral: A true hero isn’t measured by his physical strength but by the strength of his heart.

I think the clichéd casting of Zeus as heroic and Hades as villainous despite what they actually got up to in legends always annoyed me.  Hercules saving the gods is way too easy: how did they all get captured in the first place?  It’s just tough not to side with Hades when the other gods lie around in the clouds all day having fun, plus he’s fairly entertaining.

Side note: Hercules is wearing Scar(from The Lion King)’s skin when he poses for a painting. 

21. Atlantis The Lost Empire [2001]

The story of a man who believes Atlantis is a real place, who goes on an expedition with what turns out to be a bunch of mercenaries.  Moral: Do the right thing, to help others, for adventure and knowledge, and you’ll be rewarded and have a clear conscience.  Do the wrong thing for money and you’ll get killed.

One of the more plot-driven films (these tend to be competent and exciting while on, but forgettable once over).  Once it gets to all the mystic crystal stuff, it’s fairly confusing.  A lot of people die. 

Side note: This is the first ‘twist’ villain, i.e. the first time we don’t know openly from the start who the bad guy is (these twist villains have become a tired trope of modern Disney movies).  This is also one of the rare Disney cartoons to contain blood: Milo is injured and when he puts his hand to the cut, it comes away bloody and when Rourke punches him, his lip bleeds.

20. Big Hero 6 [2014]

Disney’s first cartoon based on a comic book, this is inspired by Big Hero 6 Team and characters created by Man Of Action but probably not much like the comic.  It’s the story of an orphan whose beloved brother is killed and finds support in the robot his brother built before he died.  Moral: Help don’t harm.

Very well made, but so plot driven and relentlessly heart-breaking, it’s actually a bit dull.

19. Pinocchio [1940]

The first novel adaptation Disney movie, inspired by Collodi’s The Adventures of Pinocchio, it’s the story of a wooden puppet who is brought to life and has to prove he deserves to become a real boy.  Moral: Be honest, brave and unselfish and always let your conscience be your guide.

This film is a non-stop onslaught of incidents happening to Pinocchio, who’s a slightly irritating lead.  It’s exciting, scary and sad, but it’s pretty dark a lot of the time.  There’s no real plot thread or comeuppances.

18. The Jungle Book [1967]

Inspired (not very closely) by the Rudyard Kipling Mowgli stories, this is the tale of a boy who was raised by wolves in the jungle who has to return to the man village and doesn’t want to.  Moral: People belong with their own kind. :/

Another fairly enjoyable film with very little plot.  What makes it really good is the music, but the weakest point is that Mowgli himself is an irritating sulky little brat.  In Kipling’s stories, Mowgli spends most of his time with his four wolf brothers or with his best friends Bagheera and Kaa, so a film in which he spends no time with wolves whatsoever (for the boy raised by wolves he sure shows no regret on never seeing them again), Bagheera is a stern authoritarian and Kaa is a villain doesn’t really encapsulate the original ideas.

17. Tangled [2010]

Based on the fairy tale Rapunzel by Brothers Grimm, this is the story of a girl imprisoned in a tower by her ‘mother’ who escapes with the help of a rogue to find out why lights appear in the sky on her birthday.  Moral: …Don’t kidnap children?  Everyone has a dream that’s worth fighting for?

Although the villain plot is one of the most evil and the comeuppance is one of the most gruesome, otherwise this is fairly bland, mainly because Rapunzel and Eugene have hardly any personality between them.  Why did Gothel tell Rapunzel her real birthday?  That was only ever going to lead to all this coming out. 

Side note: the relationship between ‘mother’ and daughter is reminiscent of that between Frollo and Quasimodo in The Hunchback Of Notre Dame.  This is another bloody one.  Eugene’s shirt is soaked with blood after he’s stabbed.

16. Tarzan [1999]

Inspired by the novel Tazan Of The Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs, this is the story of a boy raised by apes who meets humans for the first time.  Moral: It isn’t what you look like that defines who you are.

The music’s crap and the plot’s rushed, and the comedy sidekicks are unbelievably boring, but Tarzan is actually a really likeable lead, which makes a change from the whiney or stupid leads of most other male-lead Disney films, and Jane is believably intelligent without needing to be rebellious.  It’s a bit too sad though, with Tarzan’s parents surviving only to die, and a baby being killed, and Tarzan never getting to see the world. 

Side note: although we don’t see anyone bleed, we do see bloodied footprints.  The English party have a teapot and cup that look like a lifeless Mrs Potts and Chip from Beauty And The Beast.

15. Mulan [1998]

Presumably based on the Hua Mulan legend, this is the story of a young woman who pretends to be a man in order to go to war in her sick father’s place.  Moral: Don’t persecute women.

The songs are disappointing but it’s a good story.  Finally a direct address on the sexism suffered by all previous Disney female leads.  There isn’t much plot though and the characters are a bit flat. 

Side note: this is the second Disney film to feature blood – when Mulan is struck by Shan Yu’s sword after the battle she realises she’s wounded, which is how she’s found out.

15. Moana [2016]

Inspired by the Māui myths, this is the story of a girl from an island-bound society who travels the sea to find a demi god to save her island from a darkness that’s corrupting it.  Moral: Everything you do shapes who you are and what others think doesn’t define you, only you know who you truly are.

Nice story of self-affirmation and female empowerment, but it’s not very eventful and too simple while the humour is really off (other than the chicken), it tries way too hard to be cool and the dialogue is often uninspired.  Because we’re dealing with myth, the timeframe is confusing: everything Maui has done is over a thousand years ago, while everything Moana sees of her ancestors is from presumably before and not long after that, in which case those boats are sure in good condition, sitting in a cave for hundreds of years, and has Maui really been sitting on that island doing nothing for that long?  The darkness is only just reaching the island after a thousand years but it gets cured as soon as Moana comes back, which is presumably a matter of weeks.  For a whole ocean of monsters they sure don’t meet any; they only have one dangerous encounter on the open sea.  Maui and Moana never really bond, perhaps briefly in montage but they fall out afterwards immediately, then he comes back for no reason.

Side note: Maui turns into the reindeer from Frozen and Tamatoa references Sebastian from The Little Mermaid after the credits.

13. Aladdin [1992]

Based on the fairy tale Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp, this is the story of a goodhearted homeless boy who uses a genii to turn him into a prince.  Moral: Be yourself and don’t lie.

The strengths are clearly in the songs, animation and the comedy sidekicks.  Unfortunately Aladdin himself, despite being brave, noble and sly, is actually fairly wet and difficult to like (maybe it’s the sulking and lying like a baby all the time) while Jasmine, possibly the strongest female character to appear in a Disney film at the time, strong, brave, defiant and intelligent, is reduced to someone whose entire plot revolves around getting married (she won’t marry someone she doesn’t love, so lucky she manages to fall in love before the end of the movie and during the finale she’s left to suffocate and await rescue; note that her father changes the law that forces her to marry to allow her to choose whomever she wishes, not to allow her the freedom of not marrying at all).  There are also way too many ‘poignant’ moments, where characters sit down and think about their feelings.  We get it already, don’t lie and let people be free.  Jeez. 

Side note: Genie has a Pinocchio head to demonstrate lying and possibly Sebastian from The Little Mermaid comes out of a spell book.

12. Wreck-It Ralph [2012]

The story of a computer game villain who wants to prove he can be a hero.  Moral: You can’t change who you are, so be proud of yourself.

The computer game jokes are funny and generally it’s quite emotional, although the plot is a bit meh, but it’s too much of a contrivance that the bugs don’t know it’s a game and there’s far too much exposition. 

11. Bolt [2008]

The story of a dog who thinks he’s a superhero, but actually he’s in a TV show, who thinks his owner has been abducted so goes out into the world to rescue her.  Moral: The impossible can become possible.

The characters are likeable, the plot enjoyable, it’s funny and any story about a little girl losing her puppy is going to be touching, but you can’t get away from the utterly ludicrous premise that the dog doesn’t know he’s on a TV show or that the huge action set piece at the start could ever be made with the dog doing exactly what they need.  Even people in the film don’t care about this idea.  Also, Bolt thinking he’s a superhero when he isn’t and Mittens not understanding how someone could trust a human because she was abandoned by hers are painfully derivative of Buzz in Toy Story and Jesse in Toy Story 2.

10. Sleeping Beauty [1959]

Apparently based on the Charles Perrault version of the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty, this is the story of some fairies who have to protect a princess from a curse on her life.  Moral: Good triumphs over evil.

Although the stylistic, angular flat animation is rather off-putting, by making a little bit of effort with the relationship between Aurora/Rose and Phillip and having a very exciting finale, this is a lot more interesting than the previous fairy tale films.  Unfortunately there isn’t much to the title character at all, mainly because her story is told from the point of view of the fairies.

9. The Adventures Of The Great Mouse Detective [1986]

Inspired by the Basil Of Baker Street book series by Eve Titus and Paul Galdone, this is the story of a little girl mouse whose father is abducted, so goes to a famous mouse detective for help.  Moral: Don’t be a criminal.

Due to being a detective story, it’s relentlessly plot-driven and as such you never really have time to sit down with these characters and get to know them.  That said, Basil is such fun that you can’t come away from the film without enjoying yourself.  Unfortunately Dawson is completely cuttable.  There are dark and dramatic elements that are really exciting, and Basil is probably the only Disney hero who smokes (not including José the parrot), but some more heart would be welcome; there isn’t a single teary-eyed moment in the film. 

“Miss Flamhammer.”  “Flavisham!”  “Whatever.”

8. Robin Hood [1973]

Inspired by the legend of Robin Hood, but if they were animals, except they all act like humans so it’s irrelevant that they’re animals, this is the story of an outlaw who steals from Prince John in order to give money to the poor, so then Prince John taxes them into poverty and prison, where Robin has to rescue them, it’s all a bit of a circle really.  Moral: Help those in need.

An action-packed story full of heroic intentions, the animation is a little poor, and it doesn’t really focus on Robin Hood as a person, but for a romp, it’s good entertainment. 

Side note: Sir Hiss is reminiscent of the Grand Duke from Cinderella.

7. Lilo & Stitch [2002]

The story of two orphan sisters, one being raised by the other fairly unsuccessfully, and then the little girl adopts what she thinks is a dog but is actually a dangerous alien facing execution.  Moral: In a family, no one gets left behind or forgotten.

One of the more emotional films (as in, I cried throughout). [2019 EDIT: actually last time I watched this, it was so emotionally draining, I'm not sure I enjoyed it at all!]  By exploring behavioural problems and a broken home and social worker involvement, this is the most interesting film they’ve done.  It’s also cute and funny too. 

Side note: it’s about the love between two sisters, predating and a million times better than Frozen.

6. Zootropolis [2016]

The story of a rabbit who becomes a cop, only to be met by prejudice against her species, who has to team up with a con artist fox, who has also suffered prejudice against his species, to solve a case of animals going berserk.  Moral: You can be whatever you want to be.

Relentlessly plot driven which makes it weaker for repeat viewings, but having animals as the main characters is cool (it’s been too long!), it’s funny and smart and emotional and has an awesome anti-racism pro-vegan moral message.  Course, it would make a lot more sense if it was called by the American title ‘Zootopia’.  There was a lot of ballyhoo about this film practically inventing ‘anthropomorphism’ and doing animated animals like no one ever had before, and while that may be a bit over the top, you can see what they’re getting at; the whole premise revolves around how evolved animals from all over the world and totally different habitats really would function in one society.

5. Meet The Robinsons [2007]

(Vaguely) inspired by the picture book A Day with Wilbur Robinson by William Joyce, this is the story of an orphan boy genius who is passed over for adoption so many times that he decides to build a machine that will allow him to remember who his mother is and find her, except then a boy from the future arrives to tell him a villain from the future has come to sabotage his plans.  Moral: KEEP MOVING FORWARD (they’re not subtle about it).

All the orphan stuff is suitably tear-jerking, and there’s some fairly deep stuff here while the villain is absolutely hilarious.  However Todayland may be entirely the brainchild of Cornelius Robinson but the ludicrous advancements in technology that appear to be magic happening within Lewis’s lifetime and the complete insanity and cartoon-logic of the Robinsons are utterly impossible to believe.

4. The Princess And The Frog [2009]

Inspired by the book The Frog Princess by E. D. Baker, but as far as I can tell bearing no relation to it other than setting, this is the story of a poor hardworking girl who gets turned into a frog after reluctantly kissing a selfish prince who was already turned into a frog earlier.  Moral: What you give is what you get AND what you want isn’t the same as what you need AND love is what’s really important.

The plot doesn’t have a huge amount of steam and the sidekicks aren’t particularly likeable, BUT Tiana and Naveen are such wonderful leads that they carry the film. 

Side note: there are some similarities to The Little Mermaid but that’s not a bad thing. 

3. Lady And The Tramp [1955]

Supposedly inspired by the story Happy Dan, the Whistling Dog by Ward Greene but actually this element was added later, and the real inspiration was that the guy who wanted to make the film had a dog called Lady.  It’s the story of a dog who feels rejected when her owners have a baby.  Moral: Be nice to dogs.

I’m surprised by how much I apparently like this film compared to all the others.  I had it on video as a kid and never really paid it much attention.  But funny and emotional, it really works due to the consistent use of the dogs’ point of view.  It’s just an all-round well-made film.

2. Dumbo [1941]

Apparently inspired by Dumbo, the Flying Elephant by Helen Aberson & Harold Pearl, which is some kind of gimmick picture book thing, this is the story of a baby elephant who is bullied for having big ears and cruelly taken away from his mother and ostracized, until a mouse makes friends with him and they discover he has a wonderful ability.  Moral: The things that make you different are what make you special.

Despite being very short, this film tells a decent story (apart from the trippy drinking sequence).  Simple but effective.

1. The Little Mermaid [1989]

Based on the fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, except Disney made it nice instead of horrible, it’s the story of a teenage mermaid who’s obsessed with humans, and after she saves the life of one and is punished by her own kind, makes a dubious deal with a witch to become a human.  Moral: Love conquers all.

This movie made a huge change from its predecessors and ushered Disney into a brief but new era of excellence.  It’s a continuous flow of awing moments, wonderful music and lots of laughs, unlike anything that came before it, and apparently anything after either.

So there you are.  You’re welcome.  Which are your favourite and least favourite Disney Animated Motion Pictures?