Almost a century ago, a bankrupt pioneer with no more than $40 to his name hopped on a train from Kansas City to Los Angeles with the dream of re-inventing the world of animation. That pioneer’s name was Walt Disney. He created an empire and a brand that would become synonymous with quality and innovation.
In admiration of all that Disney Animation Studios has achieved in its nearly ten decades of studious work and expert detail, we’ve collected the very best pictures that helped build our childhoods. With so many features to choose from, we’ve narrowed down our list by excluding everything from the Disney-owned Pixar. Instead, our list will focus solely on the cartoon wonders created by Disney’s own personally established studio.
Before we get into our countdown, it’s important to acknowledge that not every film could be included. While some exclusions are sure to get a scoff out of our readers, that doesn’t mean they don’t hold a place of their own in the history of animated cinema. So without further ado, these are some Best Animated Disney Movies Of All Time.
If the world of Disney animation has taught us anything, it’s that time often brings a renewed sense of appreciation for movies from our past. As it stands, perhaps no animated feature has shaken the world in the past few years more than Frozen. Apart from the sing-along songs like “Let It Go,” which is a powerhouse in its own right, the film brought a female-led tale to the table that refused to put a second-rate love story before the protagonists’ own feats of heroism or sisterly bond.
Coming in after the golden age of Disney animations, Cinderella had the unfortunate honor of kicking off the studio’s less critically esteemed 1950s era. But despite what many of the critics may have said about the ’50s features, this adaptation of Charles Perrault’s Cendrillon is still a standout. Every bit a rags-to-riches story, Cinderella reflects Walt Disney’s personal connection to the full-hearted princess, which is why it’s suiting that the fairy tale would be the one to lift the company out of near bankruptcy following the end of World War II.
Perhaps more than any other movie on our list, Dumbo is a product of its time. Due to the financial difficulties brought on by World War II, no one was really going to the movies to spend money. After Pinocchio and Fantasia turned in little profit at the box office, Disney decided to move quickly ahead with their next feature. Shortened to only 64 minutes in runtime, Dumbo may have felt like a practice in budget cutbacks, but its strong pathos rang true for so many viewers that it remains one of the finest Disney pictures to date.
SLEEPING BEAUTY (1959)
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Never has a withheld invitation caused more of a stir than it did in the 1959 classic Sleeping Beauty. After the critical and commercial success of Cinderella, Disney was anxious to keep the creative ball rolling on their next big princes’ fairy tale. The first film to be shot in the Super Technirama 70 process took a full four years to capture all the luscious backgrounds and hand-drawn details, resulting in an unheard of $6 million budget that would ultimately put Disney in a financial crisis.
101 DALMATIANS (1961)
It’s been said time and again that dogs are man’s best friends. Whether or not it’s true, Walt Disney has plenty of gratitude towards his canine companions. After the large investment in Sleeping Beauty left the studio in utter turmoil, there were rumblings that the animation department might be shut down for good. Rather than surrender, however, Disney decided to move forward on his next project, a much cheaper and less risky talking animal picture based on Dodie Smith’s 1956 novel.
By the late 1930s, Disney was heading in a new direction. Animated feature films were just on the horizon and short cartoon segments were soon to be a thing of the past. With technological innovations promising to bring a cavalcade of new and imaginative characters into the fold, it was none other than Walt Disney’s most beloved creation, Mickey Mouse, who was falling by the wayside. So, in 1936, early production ideas began floating around for a way to reinvigorate the famed mouse. What began as a deluxe cartoon short intended to match animations to the sounds of classical music soon turned into a full-length musical feature.
By the time Aladdin made its way to theaters, Disney was already in the middle of a successful run that included such hits as The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Best. It would, therefore, be dishonest to say that the Arabian Nights tale was the cornerstone of the studios 1990s renaissance. What we can say, however, is that the film helped to revolutionize marketing for animated movies as a whole, not just by targeting children and asking them to drag their parents to the movies, but by actually pitching an entertaining time to the adults as well.
Bambi Disney The 25 Best Animated Disney Movies Of All Time
Tragic, intimate, fearless– few films have built a reputation around bringing a tear to your eye more than Bambi. Episodic in its narrative, the adaptation of Felix Salten’s novel has the distinct honor of being Walt Disney’s favorite film he ever produced. Depicting man as the enemy hunter, the survivalist story was perceived as too grim a task at first, but in time Bambi would prove to be a rewarding experience for those who could bear to watch.
THE JUNGLE BOOK (1967)
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Earlier this year, we were treated to a live-action adaptation of The Jungle Book courtesy of director Jon Favreau. No offense to the team behind that version of the story, but we can’t help feeling more emotionally connected to the 1967 film. Not only was the cartoon version a top-notch romp which remains as lively and funny today as it did then, but it’s the swan song of one man’s lasting legacy, the last film that Walt Disney would ever put his personal touch on before finally passing away before the year of its release.