Talking Disney films to me has always been interesting. Although they were the first to break new ground technologically they have really fallen short on consistent originality. They have made themselves a mold and despite the odd detour from tradition they are stuck in a rut. But they have made some amazing films. I will work from present day backwards.
5) Meet the Robinsons
When I first watched it I had to check the label, that it wasn’t Pixar or another CG group. This film really stands apart because of its truly eccentric and quirky characters and their celebration of eccentric and quirky people. People who are really different and don’t fit in. This film is equally as touching as it is funny. It deals with a strong subject matter and has a very emotionally powerful ending. Its that perfect balance of all the elements that make a film great.
4) The Lion King
This is sheer magic. I wish Disney made more movies like this one but if they did it wouldnt be special anymore. Its scope, artwork, music, voice acting, and balance between light and comedy is great. You can really feel the love and passion for the project by all the hundreds of artists. I think you can tell when something is a labor of love. It is a real adult story with many painful truths about life and adulthood. This is one of the few films Disney has made with adult conversations like Nala confronting Simba about leaving and not coming back, aswell as Sarabi’s confrontation of Scar when they are hungry.
3) 101 Dalmations
This is the last great film Walt made before he died (sorry Jungle Book fans). And the ironic thing is he never liked the final product much because of its edgy, heavily inked look, which is exactly why so many animators and artists love it. This film is contemporary but classic, Roger and Anita are a young and zany British couple which is very different for Disney. They are adults and act like adults (unlike many of the Mouses films). I also love British humor, dry and witty and subtle. This film has it in bounds.
2) Sleeping Beauty
I know I am not whistling Dixie when I say almost every animator alive gushes over this movie, its nearly flawless in terms of visuals, and animation. It has major presence. Characters are colorful and uniquely shaped and it has some of the best character voices ever. Credit is given to Eyvind Earle and Marc Davis for this films fine backgrounds and design (Earle) and animation of both the heroine and villain (Davis). To this day no animated film rivals its beauty and artwork. Every frame is beautiful and it sounds just as beautiful with Mary Costa’s angelic voice.
1) Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
Yes, it is! Yes it was the first feature but this film has three things the others didn’t. Vladimir Tytla, Freddie Moore and Ham Luske. Three legendary animators whose skills and natural abilities at the art of animation leave them untouchable in the field. They were supervising animators on this film and the Nine Old Men worked as assistants to them. With Tytla’a conviction, Moore’s fluid lines and Luske’s understanding of character the film remains my favourite. And with that, this first film was approached with the naiveté and spilkis that most first big ambitious projects are. Because of that these guys put everything they had into it. There was no next project for them as far as they thought. This was it. All the chips were down, all odds against them. Thats why I love it.