Blog: Ashley’s top 5 Disney animated films

The Story Geeks blogger Ashley Pauls responds with an additional perspective to the same topic discussed in this week’s podcast – ranking our top 5 favorite Disney animated films. Want to share your own take? Join the conversation in The Story Geeks Facebook group!

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There’s something magically timeless about Disney’s greatest animated films. Even though I love the work studios like Pixar are doing with computer animation, it always makes me a little sad that we don’t see as much hand-drawn animation anymore.

The Disney animated films were a special part of my childhood; I remember going to see some of the “Disney renaissance” era movies in theaters in the ’90s, or begging my parents to let me watch them at home on VHS again…and again…and again. (I’m still apologizing to my Grandma for that one time she was babysitting me as a kid and I wanted to do nothing but watch “The Little Mermaid” on repeat.)

While it’s difficult to narrow down my list of favorites to just five, here are the Disney animated movies that have meant the most to me:

5. Treasure Planet

So I feel like this is really the only “outside the box” pick on my list (all the others are pretty much the main films that came out of the Disney renaissance, my favorite era of Disney films). 😉

“Treasure Planet” wasn’t exactly a box office success, and it has a different feel than some of the other Disney animated films. It doesn’t immediately feel like a Disney film in the same way that, say “The Little Mermaid” or “The Lion King” do.

However, I loved the boldness of this sci-fi retelling of Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island” — and the novelty of seeing old-fashioned pirate ships in space. The animation is gorgeous, and it’s a fun, quirky adventure story that also has some deeper emotional moments (such as Jim looking to Long John Silver as a father figure and then being crushed by the pirate’s betrayal).

If this movie had been more successful, perhaps we could have seen more sci-fi/steampunk retellings of classic stories.

4. Beauty and the Beast

Tale as old as time… While I did very much enjoy the recent live action version, there’s no surpassing the original animated classic “Beauty and the Beast.” This movie is amazing just based on its soundtrack alone, from Gaston’s self-promotional pub anthem to Belle’s sweeping solo, where she longs for adventure in the “great, wide somewhere.”

What I love most about this movie, though, is its themes of compassion, forgiveness, and second chances. The Beast used to be a pretty terrible person, and one could argue that he deserves to be cursed. Yet Belle — with her strength, patience, and kindness — shows him that there is a better way to live. She sees past the “monster” and has faith that he can become a better man.

I love a good redemption story, and “Beauty and the Beast” is one of my favorites.

3. The Lion King

Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” — but with lions! — sounds like a weird idea for a children’s animated movie. However, it works incredibly well, and “The Lion King” is arguably one of the best films in Disney’s entire repertoire.

It’s a fun movie with insanely catchy songs. Who hasn’t caught themselves humming “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” after watching this movie, or laughed at Timon and Pumbaa’s antics in “Hakuna Matata”?

However, this movie also really hits you in the feels, and its authentic emotional core is what elevates it from an entertaining film to a great one. It doesn’t shy away from genuine tragedy — such as when Simba watches his father die and then flees due to guilt, believing the accident was his fault.

I’m curious to see how the live action adaptation turns out, which is scheduled for release next summer.

2. Aladdin

Disney’s “Aladdin” will always hold a special place in my heart, since it’s the first movie I remember watching in theaters as a little kid. Although I was too young to remember much about the movie-going experience itself, I do remember that I REALLY loved it, and I was so excited about the film that my dad stopped on his way home from work to buy me a Jasmine toy. 🙂

I re-watched this film a couple months ago, and I love it just as much now as I did when I was a kid. The music in this film is also amazing, with songs like “A Whole New World” and “Friend Like Me.” It’s a bit bittersweet to re-watch the film now, after the passing of Robin Williams; the Genie remains one of my favorite performances of his.

This movie is also getting a live action adaptation next year, directed by Guy Ritchie. I’ve heard mixed responses to some of Disney’s live action remakes, but personally, I enjoy them. I think Ritchie could bring a fun new perspective to the story, and I’m excited to see a live action take on one of my Disney favorites.

1. Mulan

“Aladdin” and “Mulan” are very close to tying for the No. 1 spot on my list, but “Mulan” edges ahead.

I feel like I’m starting to repeat myself in these blurbs, because I keep mentioning how much I love the animation and the music in these movies. But I really do love the animation and the music in “Mulan”! (I still catch myself singing “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” at random times.)

Mulan is probably my favorite Disney animated character. I can relate to her struggle to be true to herself; she feels like she doesn’t fit in, and she isn’t sure what her place is in society. Her sacrificial love for her family is inspiring, and she risks everything to protect them (she’s even willing to die for them). I love watching her become a hero, and eventually she wins the respect and gratitude of everyone in China.


  1. Pretty classic films! I think I’m the only one who had Mulan on a list (from the podcast). Treasure Planet is the most unique one. I’m not even sure I’ve seen Treasure Planet…

    1. Treasure Planet is definitely more of an “off the beaten path” one, but I really enjoy it! 🙂

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