Top 10 Favourite Disney Films

Disney Top 10 Title Card

Ah, Disney. There are so many things to make fun of. From the princess stereotype that you helped to engrave on the public consciousness. The formula for the ‘perfect’ kid’s film that you created, and you and your copycats appear content to inflict upon us until the end of time itself. The fact that source material is clearly something you glance through once, then lose down the back of the sofa. And yet, you own most of our childhoods, and therefore own our very souls.

There is a lot I can rip into Disney for, but none of that will ever abate my love for them. Disney is one of the most well-known and long-running animation studios in history. They are pioneers of the animation medium. They have had a huge influence on not only cinema, but on popular culture too. When you think of snow white, or the little mermaid, its Disney’s version you think of first, isn’t it? More than that though, Disney was my introduction to animation. They are masters of the art form, and there are so many times watching their films when all of a sudden I’m that little kid again, sat on the carpet in front of the TV, utterly captivated by the dancing images in front of me.

In celebration of Disney’s continued presence in my life, the Infallible Fish (which is I) present my Top 10 Favourite Disney Films. Now, a few rules. First, I’m picking these ten films from the Disney canon, the approved list of Disney’s best animated features (wait, why is Black Cauldron in here? I thought Disney agreed no one was ever allowed to mention that pile of pig’s manure ever again? Hold on, Dinosaur is in here too? You know I’m beginning to think this is less an approved list and more a marketing gimmick. Nah, that doesn’t sound like Disney at all). Second, this is a list of my FAVOURITE Disney films. This is not a ‘Best of’ list, it’s a list of the films I enjoy watching the most. My heart rules here, not my head. Anyway, enough stalling, on with the list!

  1. Sleeping Beauty

I would argue that this is one of the most beautiful Disney films in existence. It breaks from the usual Disney house style and instead goes for a style similar to the concept art of Mary Blair. The backgrounds are some of the most gorgeous I have ever seen. This film is art. Yes, our two leads are as boring as cardboard, but this was back in the old days of Disney when the leads were the least important characters. The villain and the comedy sidekicks are clearly more worthy of attention, and my god those characters are glorious. The three good fairies are brilliant in every single scene, both good natured and hilarious. Then there’s our villain, Maleficent, the greatest of all the Disney villains (I don’t care what kind of propaganda film you’ve seen, she’s pure evil and that’s that). The scene where she gloats to the Prince while showing him what his future holds is a stunningly twisted scene that just oozes evil.

  1. Mulan

Ok, I have to be honest here. I do love Mulan (the film), but not so much Mulan (the character). Don’t get me wrong, she’s a good character, and a great progressive female lead for Disney, but she wasn’t that interesting for me. She’s kind of, well… bland. I think this is mostly because her personality is kind of generic, and she generally plays the straight man (you know what I mean) to everyone else. Luckily she makes up for any flaws by being a total badass. And I do love everybody else in the film. The guys in the army are hilarious and I could happily spend 90 minutes in their company. The action scenes are great, especially in the finale. I adore Mulan’s fight with Shan Yu. I also like the little touch of how the smoke curls like it does in Chinese paintings. Then there’s Shan Yu. I know he’s not the greatest villain. He’s not the gleefully evil villain we’re used to. He’s doesn’t have the charm of the best villains. But this guy is a threat, he is a wall for Mulan to climb, and as that he is perfect. Every time he’s on screen you feel like it’ll take a bazooka to just slow him down (and it kind of does).

  1. Pinocchio

Who says Disney can’t do dark films? This film is utterly terrifying. Not only does this film have more villains than therapy sessions you’ll need after watching it, but none of them ever get any comeuppance. Evil people doing evil things, and getting away with it? Now that’s scary. This film is also a marvel of animation, from Geppetto’s workshop to the sea floor, each frame is crammed full of detail and movement. And it’s a very mature story, about a boy learning to choose between right and wrong, and not in the usual fluffy Disney way we’ve come to expect. Pinocchio isn’t a goody two-shoes. He makes mistakes, gets seduced by the lure of an easy life, you know, like an actual kid would! Disney writing a child character like he’s a normal, fallible person? What black magic is this?

  1. The Jungle Book

The nostalgia is strong with this one. The memories are a bit hazy, but it’s either this or Bambi that was the first Disney film I ever saw (And I’ll tell you now that Bambi ain’t on this list so you can guess which one had the biggest impact on me). I love this film. I regard the characters as old friends who occasionally pop in on me. I can still hum all the songs when the mood takes me (it is an agreement with my neighbours that if I try to ‘sing’ again, they will shoot me). Yeah the story isn’t the most action-packed. Yeah the animation is a little scratchy, and not the prettiest. But this film is just so funny, and charming, that it carries me away every time. I should probably comment on the fact that some people think the monkeys are racist. Honestly, I don’t see it, and never have. Not once in all the times I’ve watched this film have I ever thought the monkeys were a representation of, well, anyone. They were just funny monkeys who knew how to really ‘swing’ (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

  1. Tangled

This was the film that brought me back to Disney. I left somewhere around about Treasure Planet, Disney had lost its steam and I was under the mistaken impression that Disney wasn’t cool (I can only claim that I was a misguided youth at the time and throw myself upon the mercy of our mouse-eared overlord). Tangled won be back though. I’d heard some good reviews, and when I saw it staring at me from a shelf in HMV, I thought to myself “Eh, we’ll give a go”. 90 minutes later and I was in love. Firstly, this is a gorgeous film, the textures, the colours. I’d say, in terms of CGI animation, this is just as good as any Pixar film (Yes, you heard me!). The side-characters are hilarious. The villain is creepy and manipulative. The leads are full of personality, managing to run the full range from funny to sympathetic. I even like the songs and will happily sing along to them (as long as I’ve checked my neighbours our out first). I know this isn’t the greatest film, or ground-breaking in any way, but I adore this film. It’s just a brilliant ride from beginning to end.

  1. Lilo and Stitch

Oh God. The tears. They just won’t stop. Honestly, there isn’t a Disney film that makes me cry like a baby more than Lilo and Stitch. There are so many scenes that are just heart-breaking. The characters in this film feel like actual living, breathing people. They’re not perfect, they’re a little bit broken, and they have a lot to learn. Our two leads are just fantastic. Lilo is just a bundle of crazy wrapped in insanity. You can see she is severely damaged inside, struggling to cope with the loss of her parents, and honestly I don’t think there’s a better representation of the effects of loss on a child outside of Land Before Time. Then there’s Stitch. He starts off as just a destructive monster, but as he starts to look for more meaning in his life, and realises just what he’s missing, you can’t help but feel sorry for the little guy. That scene where he takes the copy of the Ugly Duckling and goes out to sit in the woods, waiting for his family to show…dammit the tears are back! Honestly the other aliens are the weakest part of this film. They have nice designs and all, but none of them have the depth or heart of our human characters. All in all, if you’ll allow me to borrow from Stitch a little bit, this film is small and broken, but still good. Yeah. Still good.

  1. Wreck-It Ralph

In all honesty, I’m not much a gamer these days. What with writing, anime, books, and my job (in that order of priority), I’m fairly busy most days. So, yeah, I admit it, games have kind of fallen by the wayside a little bit. Thankfully Wreck-It Ralph isn’t just a great video game film, it’s a great film. Period. I love all of the characters. They are all great, funny and loveable in equal measure, with the perfect voice cast for all of them. Even what are supposed to be the comedy sidekicks feel like they have a little more depth and personality than normal. I really care about all of these guys and want to see them all make it to the finish line happy. Speaking of happy, that brings me to the scene. The scene that made me realise I love this film. It’s the scene where Ralph has to stop Vanelloppe from racing, and so has to smash up the cart they built together. I know, it sounds terribly cliché, but words cannot do it justice, you just have to watch the film to understand it. It feels so emotional, and Sarah Silverman’s performance is so pitch perfect it’s disturbing. It literally made me sit up and take notice. I love Wreck-It Ralph down to its very last pixel.

  1. Hunchback of Notre Dame

There is no doubt that this was a daring undertaking for Disney, and not all of it pays off. I give Disney credit for having the balls to take this film on, but in its misguided attempts to keep this film ‘kid-friendly’, they created a horrible monster. The Gargoyles (the one time I wish the comic relief had been left out of Disney). And really, they’re the only glaring flaw with this movie. Well there are a couple of little ones, but I don’t mind them. The rest of the film is wonderful. It has so many great characters. Quasimodo, a leading man who doesn’t get the girl, but wins our hearts. Esmeralda, one of (if not the) best female leads in a Disney film. It features some of my favourite songs in ‘The Bells of Notre Dame’ and ‘Hellfire’. Speaking of Hellfire, that brings us to the second best Disney villain of all time, Frollo. He is such a rarity among Disney villains, he’s a complex villain. Disney mostly operates on an evil is evil morality, never really looking into why our villains do what they do outside of basic motives, but with Frollo we actually get a look into his mind. He believes that he is a hero, that what he is doing is right, and will rationalise any evil act away. If it wasn’t for the supreme evil that is Maleficent, then Frollo would be my favourite villain.

  1. Aladdin

Arabian nights, Las Vegas style! All the pop culture references, the celebrity voices, this is DreamWorks before DreamWorks. Yet it still manages to hold on to its heart and make you care about all the characters. Our lead couple are one of the best couples in Disney. You feel the chemistry between them, and they play off of one another wonderfully. Aladdin and Abu are both funny and sweet all at the same time. Jasmine is smart and quick on the uptake, always managing to figure out what Aladdin’s up to and play along. Then there’s Genie. I don’t care how many people try to copy the Genie; they’ll never be as good as the original. Because the late, great Robin Williams wasn’t just there for comedy, he filled the Genie with so much warmth and emotion. You really do want to see him set free at the end, and it’s so satisfying when he is. The Genie is a master class in how to pull off the comedy sidekick. Also, on the character front, how they managed to get so much emotion out of a carpet I’ll never know. This film might have a lot of glitz and glamour to it, and some great animation and songs, but it’s the characters that make it worth watching again and again.

  1. Lion King

Do I even need to explain this one? You’ve all seen it. You know the characters, the songs. Everything about this is great. I’d go so far as to call it a perfect film. The animation is gorgeous, capturing the wild beauty of Africa. The songs are some of the best Disney has ever released. The characters are so memorable and loveable. I still believe the stampede scene is one of the greatest moments in animation history. The way it builds from Simba noticing the pebbles starting to shake all the way through to Mufasa’s tragic death. It’s exciting, dramatic, hopeful and then tragic all in one go, with some of the best animation and musical backing I have ever witnessed. For those five minutes the stars align and everything is perfect. Even to this day I still get goosebumps watching it. And Mufasa’s death has to be the hardest hitting in all of cinema, by that point in the film we’ve come to love the big guy, and when he passes it feels like a genuine loss. Then things get even worse as Scar digs the emotional knife into Simba and sets the Hyenas on him. Honestly there is not a single frame I would change with this movie. What else can I say? This is the king.

12 comments

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  4. ospreyshire · November 3, 2019

    Of movies you mentioned on this list, I would say I like Lilo & Stitch the most even though I haven’t seen it in a while. In hindsight, I thought it was more progressive than even Disney gave it credit for since it treated minority characters with dignity, the plot was surprisingly decent, and the characters acted realistic even with the sci-fi elements. If I’m not mistaken, I think it might be one of the very few Disney movies where it passed both the Bechdel and Deggans test. It’s good that they were respectful to Native Hawaiian culture with that movie and the main characters were certainly relatable which I do applaud. One could argue that it’s an underrated mainstream animated film which I wouldn’t disagree with that statement.

    The Lion King is the most tainted Disney film in hindsight for me. I used to love it as a kid, but I despise it as an adult. That movie is a work of plagiarism since it ripped off scenes, plot points, and most of it’s characters (everyone who isn’t Timon & Pumbaa) from the 60s anime Kimba the White Lion. They also trademarked the phrase “Hakuna Matata” which is blatant cultural appropriation against 90 million Swahili speakers and 5 different African nations where it’s spoken: Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC for short). Disney also helped in screwing over the Linda family by not crediting or giving royalties to Solomon Linda’s song “Mbube” which was plagiarized into “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”. Check out the documentary The Lion’s Share about that issue. Besides that, I couldn’t stand the hyenas with their racist implications and the fact that the Elephant Graveyard was low-key genocide against them especially when researching the Congolese Genocide (over 15 million people died) and the Namibian Genocide with Shark Island where the Namibians were starved out by Germans in a valley of bones. I hate how Africa is misrepresented in this movie and Tarzan and not just because there aren’t any Black characters in both movies. Sorry, I’m passionate about this subject and I can’t stand how that continent is portrayed in mainstream media in addition to putting a buck on multiple cultures or stealing things and never owning up to it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • neverarguewithafish · November 3, 2019

      I always have to split Disney up in my head. On the one hand, when it comes to the animation department, I love them, I’ve watched these films since I was a child and they are a big part of who I am now, part of the reason I have such passion and admiration for animation is thanks to Disney.

      Yet, on the other side Disney is this big, all-consuming mega corruption and some of the s**t they’ve done over the decades can’t be forgotten.

      I can both love and hate Disney, depends on which side I’m looking at.

      Also Lilo & Stitch is definitely underrated.

      Liked by 1 person

      • ospreyshire · November 3, 2019

        Gotcha. I used to like some of their films during my childhood, too. However, I’ve been so disillusioned by their business practices and unfortunate implications in their movies.

        I’m glad you don’t ignore the monolithic corporate side that’s done bad things for decades.

        I assume you separate the art from the artist(s), then?

        For me, I couldn’t stand the double standards and hurtful presentations with TLK. If this movie came out before Kimba then everyone would call that anime a cheap Japanese ripoff, but because it’s Disney, that movie gets a pass from the fans. Researching Africa has been great with so many things, but it can also be depressing with the stories of colonization against them. I found out I’m part Congolese late last year, so the trademark and genocide aspects affected me much more. I even wondered if there were Caucasian Disney fans who thought I was like the hyenas without knowing about me. Just have to be honest because I don’t want people disrespecting my culture. There are multiple African cities that are just as luxurious and clean as those in America and Europe, but you never see that on TV or the movies. The continent either looks like a giant slum, war zone, mud huts, jungles, or the Pride Lands where it’s a “utopia” (sarcasm) without humans in the creators’ eyes.

        Hope you can try to see where I am coming from.

        Sure thing. I’m not a Disney fan, but I’m not going to freak out if Lilo and Stitch happens to be playing.

        Liked by 1 person

      • neverarguewithafish · November 3, 2019

        I completely see where you’re coming from.
        I do always try to separate art from artist, because, for me, art is about what you take out of it. Doesn’t matter what an author’s intentions are, they cannot control what you take from their work. What is a throwaway line to them can mean the world to someone else or be utterly reprehensible.
        No one’s opinions are invalid, it’s just what they’ve taken from said art.

        Liked by 1 person

      • ospreyshire · November 3, 2019

        Thank you. I’m glad you were able to see why I have issues with that Disney movie. I actually had a post not too long ago where I asked people if they separated art from the artists. For me, it’s tough especially when the artist does something horrific like Nobuhiro Watsuki (creator of Rurouni Kenshin) and Roman Polanski for example. When the art is involved with something bad like plagiarism, then it’s really tough for me to separate that, too. When Disney denied knowing about Kimba despite the evidence, my intelligence was insulted. I do agree that art can be open to interpretation and how no two people can see it the same even if they like it (I guess that’s what happens when you critique media, right?). Artists certainly can’t control the interpretation even if they spell it out. I know because I’m also an author and musician. What I do wish is that Disney let alone other media companies would be more respectful of other cultures and in this case…the African diaspora. Out of curiosity, did you feel uncomfortable when I mention those truths and opinions even though I respectfully disagree with certain things?

        Liked by 1 person

      • neverarguewithafish · November 3, 2019

        I’m white and British so I naturally feel awkward when it comes to these sort of topics, because I automatically start thinking about all the c**p my country has done in its long history.
        Doesn’t mean I won’t talk about it. These things have happened and we can’t ever forget that.

        Liked by 1 person

      • ospreyshire · November 3, 2019

        I can see why you would feel awkward. This conversation wasn’t about you nor was I blaming every white person on the planet. I’m actually from an interracial family (white dad/black mom), and I’ve had serious but meaningful talks about racial issues before with them or even some friends. Sure, my paternal side is of British and Welsh descent, but I certainly wanted to know about my maternal side with the DNA test where I found out most of the African DNA came from the Congo and Cameroon among other nations across the continent (the others were in West Africa which unfortunately makes sense due to the slave trade). Being of African descent in America is certainly rough and many of us wouldn’t know where our ancestors came from unless we did genealogical research.

        I’m certainly aware of what the British empire has done for centuries and all the colonization that has happened. It’s not your fault having the ethnicity and nationality, but I will be honest and say that you benefit in ways I certainly can’t. What I do appreciate is that you are aware of these things and I never felt judged by you even when I mentioned part of my ethnicity and my own research pertaining to the culture that’s part of me. There have been times when people have freaked out when I mention racist aspects in movies or talk about my own experiences being discriminated against online and in real life. We can’t forget or ignore the past, and I hope we (the collective we) can do better to make sure these atrocities let alone stereotypes don’t happen again as hopelessly optimistic as I sound.

        Whew…I didn’t expect to be this profound in a conversation involving an article with Disney movies. Hahaha!

        Liked by 1 person

      • neverarguewithafish · November 3, 2019

        Same, but it’s been good.

        Liked by 1 person

      • ospreyshire · November 4, 2019

        Definitely and thank you. I’m very passionate about these kind of issues whether it’s with originality, world cinema, and/or respecting cultures. It’s actually great that we can have a healthy dialogue about these topics.

        Liked by 1 person

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