There are a lot of Walt Disney Animation Studios feature films – 56 of them, to be exact. But we here at the Baron have taken it upon ourselves to provide you with a list of the ten best animated features, as voted by our staff as the result of a *lot* of inner-office conflict. Read on to find out which ones made the cut!
Disney’s 37th animated feature, Tarzan flew into theatres (and our hearts) in 1999. It was the final film in the Disney Renaissance and, stunning visual art and phenomenal cast aside, the movie’s soundtrack alone could earn it a spot on this list. With smash hits composed by the renowned Phil Collins, such as “You’ll Be In My Heart” and “Son of Man”, it gave Disney’s take on the classic story of the King of the Apes the soul that it needed. Full of heart and humor, the film is everything that a ‘90s kid could have asked for.
Best Quote: “Mooooom! Are you sure this water is sanitary? It looks questionable to me.” – Tantor
#9: The Little Mermaid
Admit it; at some point during your childhood, you wanted to be a mermaid. Everybody wanted to be a mermaid and it was entirely The Little Mermaid’s fault. She had awesome hair, a killer singing voice, and she could talk underwater! What could possibly be cooler than that? Well, evidently eight other movies, but Ariel was still pretty badass.
Best Quote: “The human world – it’s a mess.” – Sebastian
#8: The Emperor’s New Groove
Essentially, it was Beauty and the Beast but for people who don’t want to admit that they like a Disney princess movie plot. It also features the bromance to end all bromances between Kuzco and Pacha. Only flaw: not enough of Pacha’s family. Honestly, they should’ve given his wife her own movie. Kronk is great and all, but HIS WIFE, GUYS.
Best Quote: “Pull the lever, Kronk! …WRONG LEVERRRRRRR!” – Yzma
#7: Atlantis: The Lost Empire
Atlantis has everything that you could ever want from a Disney movie: great animation; myths brought to life; and one of the greatest group of characters ever written, led by the most relatable one of them all, the wonderfully awkward Milo Thatch. If you need a break and a throwback to your childhood, then Atlantis is a perfect pick.
Milo: “This is an illustration of the Leviathan, the creature guarding the entrance to Atlantis.”
Vinny: “With something like that I would have white wine, I think.”
Pocahontas is a favourite for so many reasons. When the film was released in 1995, it represented Natives as strong-as-hell, independent, and honourable… but it didn’t shy away from making them seem just as faulted and self-serving as the Europeans who were fighting to take their land. At any given point in the movie, you are welcomed to hate how both sides are acting, but encouraged by the unconditional love shared between Pocahontas and John Smith. I have a feeling that we’ll never see a Disney movie quite like Pocahontas again, but perhaps we can all gather around ye old VHS player and pop in a copy so we can learn some valuable lessons in culture exchange and fair representation.
Best Quote: “Listen; all around you are spirits. They live in the earth, water, and stars. If you listen, they will guide you.” – Grandmother Willow
#5: The Lion King
The Lion King is nothing short of a masterpiece. From the jaw-dropping opening to the powerful final act, it remains a perfectly-paced, masterfully animated motion picture through its tight 89-minute running time. Each and every frame is exquisitely animated with the cinematography bringing gorgeous colour palettes to the surface as the characters are fully realized in the script, their design, their performances, and their direction. A timeless classic that is all at once moving, witty, emotional, and uplifting, The Lion King holds up over two decades later and should not only be considered one of Disney’s best, but as one of the all-time best films – period.
Best Quote: “You have forgotten who you are and so have forgotten me. Look inside yourself, Simba. You are more than what you have become.” – Mufasa
#4: Lilo & Stitch
A heartwarming story about family and acceptance, Lilo & Stitch was an instant classic. Contrary to the current popular belief, Moana WASN’T the first Disney animated picture to represent Hawaiian culture – Lilo & Stitch was. Instead of telling another story about a princess or a girl with powers, this campy 2002 Disney hit told the story of Nani and Lilo, an ordinary pair of sisters trying to get by after the tragic death of their parents, and fighting against all odds to stick together. It was an important step forward in showing children that real-life stories are special, too – even if they do sometimes involve befriending cuddly blue alien experiments along the way.
Best Line: “Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.” – Stitch
Often underrated, Hercules was one of the better films to come out of the Disney Renaissance. Premiering in 1997, it’s a clever take on the Greek myth of the demi-god Hercules and his labours – with less brutal death and more catchy musical numbers. “Zero to Hero” and “I Won’t Say I’m in Love” still make it onto just about every Disney music oriented playlist ever (just check Spotify), and they’re always fun to sing in the shower. With beautifully vivid, colourful animation and the combined sass of Megara and the Muses, Disney’s 35th classic will always reside atop Mount Olympus in our hearts.