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Ten Of The Best Animated Disney Movies

Updated on September 13, 2012
Walt Disney logo
Walt Disney logo | Source

Walt Disney’s animated movies have long been great escapes into fantasy, childhood delight and our timeless imaginations.

The Animated Disney movie is a staple of 20th century cinema. Many of the films are rarely released on DVD, Blu-ray, VHS or any home media (and when they are they are limited released).

There have been many of these kinds of movies that are wonderful entertainment and leave strong, lasting memories that continue into adulthood.

Despite the large amount of animated films made by Disney Studios throughout the decades, there are a few very special ones that stand out, more than others, that continue to entertain us throughout the years.

The following list includes some of the great ones (in no particular order); although we all have our own personal favorites, these are the most well-known classics.

I've included some information and trivia about each of the films, including the year in which they were released, their running time and their star talents.

Fantasia
Fantasia | Source

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Fantasia (1940)

Based on multiple classical operas and imaginative visual imagery

Released: 1940

Running time: 124 minutes

Starring the talents of: Leopold Stokowski and Deems Taylor

Simply one of the greatest visual films ever created. This movie is filled with fantastic images and highlights the masterwork of creative artists of the time that has rarely been matched.

Every film cell is hand drawn and painted in vivid colors and when shown along with the beautiful 19th century classical music it’s like watching a surreal waking dream.

The centerpiece of the film is Disney's mascot, Mickey Mouse, as the Sorcerer's Apprentice is the highlight of the film and a classical scene that has been copied, parodied and lampooned through the decades.

Other pieces in the film are clever and exquisite; such as the dancing mushrooms and the Centaurs during the “Pastoral” sequence.

The "Night On Bald Mountain" scene is one of the scariest scene in any animated film. (Dracula actor Bela Lugosi was a live-action model for the demon, Chernabog.)

Despite its initial box-office failure this film has become a highly regarded family classic and a true example of masterful animated filmmaking.

Robin Hood
Robin Hood | Source

Robin Hood (1973)

Based on the English folk hero of the Middle Ages

Released: 1973

Running time: 83 minutes

Starring the Talents of: Brian Bedford and Phil Harris

Ridley Scott, the director of the 2010 “Robin Hood” film, stated that he felt that the last “good” Robin Hood movie made was Mel Brookes’ “Robin Hood: Men In Tights”.

That may be true for the live action films, but the Disney animal-character-filled version is one of the greatest Robin Hood movies ever made. The characters are passionate and lively; the emotions and affections of the main character towards his friends and Maid Marian have never been matched by any live action reversion of the tale.

The songs are memorable, of course, and the film’s strong story of good versus evil is timeless. Despite the fact that the characters in the film are animal’s caricatures, each of them emote a wide range of passion, emotion, and personality (even more than some real-live actors): Robin Hood and Little John are the best of friends. The Sheriff of Nottingham and the Prince John are sniveling and conniving in a way that has barely been matched.

Beauty and the beast
Beauty and the beast | Source

Beauty And The Beast (1991)

Based on the French 1740 fairytale by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve and also La Belle et la Bête by Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont

Released: 1991

Running time: 84 minutes

Starring the Talents of: Paige O’Hara and Robby Benson

This film took only two years to make instead of the standard four; it was nominated for best picture, but it lost out to “Silence of the lambs”.

It was the first movie to win an Annie award (for best animation).

It was the first full length animated movie to win a Golden Globe award and the first Best Picture Nominee from Disney since Mary Poppins.

It was one of the first animated films to use digital technology (for the ballroom waltz scene) using Pixar’s CAPS technology.

It employed seamless transition and combination of the hand-drawn art with the computer-created art.

It was the third most success summer film of 1991 (behind Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Terminator 2).

Although there had been countless different versions of the story both on the big screen and the small screen and on the stage, this film captured the imagination of both adults and children alike.

Aladdin
Aladdin | Source

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Aladdin (1992)

Based on the Middle-Eastern folk tale from “1001 Arabian Nights”

Released: 1992

Running time: 90 minutes

Starring the talents of: Robin Williams and Scott Weinger

The first animated film that was strongly marketing using the voice actor (Robin Williams) as the star and main draw for the audience to the film. (This has since become common place for animated films.)

Actor Robin Williams (voice of the Genie) stated to James Lipton on his appearance on Bravo's "Inside the Actor's Studio” that he felt that "Aladdin" the “greatest Looney Tunes Movie” despite it being a Disney Movie.

He based this opinion on the irreverent silliness and wild off-the-cuff personality that the Genie possessed throughout the movie.

There was actually a huge amount of ad-libbing done by Williams during the recording of the film and much of his improvisations were deemed “inappropriate” for a Disney film and had to be discarded.

Cinderella
Cinderella | Source

Cinderella (1950)

Based on the folk tale of the same name; also known as “The Glass Slipper”

Released: 1950

Running time: 74 minutes

Starring the Talents of: Ilene Woods, and James MacDonald

This is the first of Disney’s animated film to be a full-length production after their funds were cut during World War 2.

This movie was actually filmed as live-action for a large amount of the film (something like 90 %) and then re-animated into a normal animation movie. (This was done to cut costs.)

The “pumpkin” carriage was a real carriage painted white with black line painted on it.

The songs in this film were the first to be released under the new Walt Disney Music Company.

Walt Disney thought that the transformation of Cinderella from her dirty maid rags into the princess-like gown was one of the best animations at the time.

Snow White And The Seven Dwarves
Snow White And The Seven Dwarves | Source

Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs (1937)

Based on the 1812 folk tale “Snow White” collected by the Brothers Grimm

Released: 1937

Running time: 83 minutes

Starring the Talents of: Harry Stockwell, and Adriana Caselotti

This movie was a huge hit despite the studio executives believing it would fail, leading some of the execs to dub it "Walt Disney's Folly".

The Dwarves names in the film were not from the original fairytale, but were original to this film; thus creating difficulty for any other non-Disney film made about the Snow White and the Dwarves; forcing the writers to have create new names for the dwarves.

This was the highest grossing film until “Gone With The Wind” was released; the profits from “Snow White” were used to building the Burbank Disney Studios.

Alice in wonderland
Alice in wonderland | Source

Alice In Wonderland (1951)

Based on the 1865 novel “Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll

Released: 1951

Running time: 75 minutes

Starring the talents of: Kathryn Beaumont and Ed Wynn

No less than six versions of this story have been filmed in the last 80 years (including the recent Tim Burton / Johnny Depp one).

However; it is hard to come close to this original psychedelic film. A mix of childlike innocence and twisted dark images bring Lewis Carroll children book (and its companion book, “Through The Looking Glass”) eerily to life.

In the vein of cult classics, this film did poorly during its first run in theaters but became more popular in the 1960’s during hippie year and was considered a “head movie” (The 1960’s Flower Power group Jefferson Airplane even recorded a song inspired by the tale, “White Rabbit”).

Pinnochio
Pinnochio | Source

Pinnochio (1940)

Based on the 1883 novel, “The Adventures of Pinocchio” by Carlo Collodi

Released: 1940

Running time: 88 minutes

Starring the talents of: Dickie Jones, Christian Rub (and a very tiny cameo by Mel Blanc)

Walt Disney had wanted Mel Blanc, the voice actor known mostly for Warner Brothers characters such as Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, to do some work for his film.

Mel Blanc was originally to do the voice for the character of Gideon, but the character was made mute (even though Blanc had already recorded his lines). Blanc’s parts were cut, save for a single hiccup.

This film, along with other Disney films, was successfully re-released throughout the decades introducing new generations of viewers to the film, making the movie a consistent classic.

Bambi
Bambi | Source

Bambi (1942)

Based on 1923 novel “Bambi, A Life In The Woods “by Felix Salten

Released: 1942

Running time: 70 minutes

Starring the talents of: Hardie Albright, and Stan Alexander

The twisted mix of happiness and heartbreak as Bambi, a young deer, known as the "Prince of the Forest", must learn to live in the wild after his mother is shot by deer hunters and a massive wild forest fire ravages his homeland.

The scene where Bambi’s mother dies is one of the most heartbreaking scenes in any movie (animated or live-action).

This is one of the first Disney films to take place in the 20th century as compared to their usual period piece movies.

This film actually used children to do the voices instead of the normal use of adults imitating young voices.

The Lion King
The Lion King | Source

The Lion King (1994)

Based on an original screenplay by Irene Mecchi, Jonathan Roberts and Linda Woolverton

Released: 1994

Running time: 89 minutes

Starring the Talents of: Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Moira Kelly, Nathan Lane and a host of others

A slew of Hollywood Heavyweights, like Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones and Jeremy Irons, lend their well-known voices to this grand tale of betrayal, loss, revenge and redemption.

Many people have noticed the strong storyline that is comparable to Shakespeare's immortal play “Hamlet”, from the exile prince and murder father who speaks from beyond the grave.This simply helps garner this film an even great following.

With an awarding-winning soundtrack, writing and performed by Elton John, this film is a timeless, modern classic.

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    • Edgar Arkham profile image
      Author

      Edgar Arkham 5 years ago from Modesto, CA

      Thank you for reading. I know everyone has their own favorites (maybe I should've included The Little Mermaid...). My personal Favorites are Robin Hood and Fantasia.

    • Oscortega profile image

      Oscortega 5 years ago from California

      I have to say that I personally love them all. However, for my daughters their favorite would have to be The Little Mermaid, hands down. At ages 15 and 18, they can still follow the dialogue verbatim.

    • Edgar Arkham profile image
      Author

      Edgar Arkham 5 years ago from Modesto, CA

      Thanks for reading. I wasn't a huge fan of The Little Mermaid, but that's not way I didn't include it. I didn't because Iwas trying to get a good "encompassing" group of films from all the eras. I personally think the older ones (pre-digital) are best ones.

    • Edgar Arkham profile image
      Author

      Edgar Arkham 5 years ago from Modesto, CA

      Thank you for reading. I know there's a huge amount of cult classics from Disney (black hole, 1979 and tron 1982 are two of my favorites) out there.

    • Billy Hicks profile image

      Billy Hicks 5 years ago

      I'm one of the few that loved "The Black Cauldron" (blasphemy, I know). I wore a Taran shirt one day to work at MGM (now Disney's Hollywood Studios) and I thought some of the guys in the animation trailers/portables were gonna throw things at me.

    • profile image

      Domenick Dicce 5 years ago

      The classic Disney Animation films are so amazing. There is something to be said for films that can be enjoyed by children and adults.

      I would like to give a nod to The Little Mermaid. I love the story and thought it had some of the best music numbers.