The Story Geeks blogger Anthony Holdier 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!
Growing up as a somewhat-sheltered “Harry Potter’s probably evil, but you can still read it, but only if you get the books from the library and don’t tell anyone” household (check out our recent Fantastic Beasts episode for more on that), Disney movies were a staple of my childhood. I can’t remember if it was on the VHS copy of Aladdin or Beauty and the Beast, but I can clearly recall the oh-so-exciting preview for the “ground-breaking, upcoming new feature…The Lion King” that was soon to be released.
Did anyone else have a drawer full of Disney VHS tapes? Because we sure did.
So, now that I look at my list, it occurs to me that most of my choices (with two clear exceptions) are actually from the post-VHS era. I’m not sure what that says about me – but maybe you can let me know in the comments. Anyway, here’s my list!
(And, if you’re reading this on Turkey Day – Happy Thanksgiving!!)
5) Big Hero 6
Folks may not recall that this one actually took home the Best Animated Feature Oscar in 2014, but it was completely well-deserved. I love this realistic(ish) take on a superhero story that, despite not really diverging from standard comic book tropes, shines at combining them with the standard Disney atmosphere. Big Hero 6 has probably my favorite Stan Lee cameo of all time and I identify with Fred probably more than I should.
Long-time listeners of The Story Cauldron might already know that I have two young daughters; obviously, that comes with a deep-seated resentment towards a certain frosty “I have ice powers, but also can apparently create clothing and, somehow, life” Disney princess. At least some of that attitude comes because, in my mind, the Disney Princess live peaked with the story just before it: Rapunzel’s naivety, Flynn Rider’s bravado, Maximus’ heroism, and Mother Gothel’s absolutely petty evil is one of the best presentations of a classical fairy tale in the modern day. I’ve argued elsewhere that Tangled actually offers a downright theological meditation on the nature of faith and love, but, even if you’re not into that, it’s still a thoroughly entertaining film with a genuinely enjoyable soundtrack (much better than, again, than anything that involved “letting go”).
3) The Emperor’s New Groove
This film exactly captures my preferred sense of humor: it’s self-referential, takes nothing seriously, with just enough of the absurd to really make me laugh. I know that it’s coming from the Post-Renaissance era (when the Mouse had more misses than hits), but I find myself quoting this movie more than most Disney flicks. Is it possible to pull a lever without telling Kronk to do it with you? (“WRONG LEVEEEEEERRRRRR!”) And I know that people love Deadpool and friends for their fourth-wall-breaking antics, but I’ve never seen a movie do it better than when Kronk tries to figure out how he and Yzma make it back to the palace before Kuzco and Pacha. “BOOM, BABY!”
2) Robin Hood
For some reason, movie studios keep making new Robin Hood movies, despite the fact that this one was perfect forty-five years ago. My family never had HBO growing up, but, for some reason, we did have a recorded copy of this film from an HBO showing – and my brother and I watched it until the tape ran thin. It’s peak Disney: a classic story with overly-goofy villains and extra musical numbers (you can imagine my surprise when I read some actual Robin Hood stories later in life and discovered how much more depressing they end). Part of me still daydreams about running into the forest to live with my friends as outlaws!
1) Atlantis: The Lost Empire
When brainstorming this list, my process went like this: “Obviously, Atlantis is number one…so, what’s after that?”
It’s hard for me to really put my finger on just one reason why I love this film so much; it’s a thrilling adventure story (with darker edges than we often find in Disney fare) that completely lacks musical narration. Don’t get me wrong – I appreciate a good musical – but I love that the filmmakers told this story straight. The ensemble cast feels original without falling prey to stereotypes, the animation style is captivating, and it manages to tell an almost-wholly original story that’s still rooted in older folklore. And if you want to talk about quotable movies, this one again takes the cake (“I GOT YER FOUR BASIC FOOD GROUPS!”) Plus, come on, Leonard Nimoy!
Big surprise: I’m a sucker for any story where a humanities nerd is the hero because he’s read a lot of books!