Disney. Just saying the word makes you feel good inside. Or at least me. Whenever I go to our nation’s fair capital, no matter what kind of time constraints I’m under, the Disney store is getting visited. And something’s going to be bought. I have jigsaws of the character’s on my wall, lot’s of homeware, figurines and soft toys. Yet until very recently, it was something of a miracle to meet other adults who shared my enthusiasm for Mickey Mouse and Co.
Heres’ the thing. I went to see Zootropolis(Zootopia for you American readers) last week, and the screen was full of adults. Like seriously. I walked in, fully expecting it to be parents and children for the most part. In my brief first glimpse and subsequent lookarounds, I did not see a single child in the place. And it was busy.
So what is it about these animated marvels that appeals to so wide an audience? It’s long been known that they sneak in the adult humour as a little nod of appreciation to those parents who are “forced” to go see these movies with their young ones. But that’s not enough to pull adults into a movie of their own volition. Is it then that they can veer into darker territory on occasion, even if the horror of what happens remains off scene? Think of Clayton’s hanging in Tarzan, Mufasa being trampled in The Lion King?
But these are all extremely dark. Nobody goes to see a Disney movie if they want something gritty. I go to Disney movies because they make me smile. It’s not nostalgia either, as their new properties appeal to me just as much.
You know what, I’m going to stop myself. I’m way the fuck off track here. I sat down to write what my favourite Disney movies are, but wanted to prelude it with some reason for why I love them so much. And they make me happy and good, and I haven’t quite figured out why. I am about to write about my favourite ones below though, so maybe a little reason will be uncovered along the way! Short note, for the sake of not spending all day at a whiteboard doing pros and cons lists, I’m limiting myself to the core Disney movies – no Pixar, no Star Wars, no Marvel, and no live action. Let’s go!
5. The Emperor’s New Groove
Certainly the most shallow entry on the list, but deserving of it’s place here nonetheless. The Emperor’s New Groove doesn’t have some deep meaning. It doesn’t have a sympathetic hero who’s facing impossible odds or making hard decisions or working hard to achieve something. It has a selfish emperor turned llama by a disgruntled employee who wants the throne for herself, who makes the peasant he was about to evict bring him back home so that he can continue to be a selfish emperor. That’s it. That is the plot in it’s entireity. Pretty thin for Disney.
And yet, it’s absolutely bloody brilliant. And I think it’s for exactly this reason. The movie was more concerned with it’s running jokes and humor, using the plot and the setting as a playground for these devices. This is something I would usually rant about, condemning the state of modern storytelling. But it’s hard to do that when you’re short of breath from laughing, so it makes the cut.
This one is here for so many reasons! It’s amazing soundtrack(“One Last Hope” and “I won’t say I’m in Love” are the two best of an amazing lot), it’s very Disney-esqu take on Greek mythology(quite a far cry from Kratos’ foray into the same area), it’s awesome Pegausus sidekick. As rich as Greek mythology is, it’s the last place you’d expect Disney to go with it’s stories involving eating babies and being gored by minotaurs, but Disney really knocked it out of the park. It’s a movie where the villains kind of make it – Pain, Panic, and Hades are incredible here. It’s got a really uplifting message of striving to find yourself and stay true to yourself. And it’s got Danny DeVito as a personal trainer/satyr.
It’s also got a real emotional blow when Meg dies. Hercules is so heartbroken, arriving just after she dies as Phil turns and gives that little head shake as he lands, and a slow mournful version of Go The Distance plays in the background. True, she comes back, but it doesn’t lessen the impact when we see it happen.
This one’s a no brainer. It made a very complex and cool area of storytelling, and made it completely it’s own. Ask any Disney fan for their top five list, and I’d confidently say that you’ll see this one show up again and again.
I mean this definitely has my favourite soundtrack of any Disney movie. Hands down. If this was a list of best soundtracks, this would be entries 1 through 5. But this movie also has what I personally think is one of the most outstanding morals of any Disney movie. That we must not be guided by what society and the world at large dictates we must behave like. Tarzan was pressured into going to England to be human, only finding out just how evil humans could be through Clayton. That scene is also definitely oe of the reasons this movie is on the list – scenes wherein a group of people come to each other’s aid like that are a huge Achilles heel with me, and almost guaranteed to have me punching the air.
Tarzan returns to his family, and does not try to repress himself any further. Jane realises that love and happiness are far more important than what we are supposed to do. Not to mention his goodnye scene with Kala being emotionally devestating (“No matter where I go, you will always be my mother”. “And you will always be in my heart.”)
The point is later reinforced when Jane and the Professor decide that they don’t want to return to so-called civilisation and find a much happier life among the trees with Tarzan.
It’s also on the darker side of the Disney spectrum, with a baby gorilla and Tarzan’s parents both being mauled to death early on, Tarzan killing Sabor with a pointed spear, and Clayton being hanged to death towards the climax.
I really can’t say enough good things about this movie. I absolutely adore Tarzan and will always be down for a rewatch of this Disney classic.
2. Treasure Planet
This has long been one of my favourite Disney movies. It’s spectacular. It seems to slip under the radar a lot, and performed very poorly at the box office, losing money for the studio. It did recevie generally good reviews though and with good reason.
The cast here are again top notch, with a very catchy song(“I’m Still Here”) as part of the soundtrack to boot. The visuals are spectacular, the characters were interesting. But the heart of the movie is the relationship between Jim and John Silver. Both characters are conflicted and uncertain about how they feel towards one another.
Jim, having had an absent father for his childhood and always resenting it. He finds a father figure in John, who though initially harsh, becomes a mentor and proud father-figure to Jim. We, like Jim, immediately suspect him as being the bad guy, but as time goes on and their relationship becomes solid, we come to let our guard down like Jim. And that’s when we find we never hsoudl have, as John is in fact the villain of the piece.
Though not to be a plot synopsis, that leads me to what has to be the most ambiguous Disney ending. Jim lets John away after his crimes, helping him to stage the escape. Mostly spurred on, I suspect, by the fact that John did choose Jim over the treasure at the climax of the movie. It’s hard to say whether this was the right decision or not. John undoubtedly cared about Jim, but he did fight him and his friends in favor of money, only making the right decision at the last second. And he’s not a good person. Yet he did help to make Jim the captain that he is at the end of the movie.
This ending will always leave me pondering, and I think that’s perhaps why it has always remined so high on my list. Not that it’s actually one of the studio’s better movies, but that it was one of the very few that made me leave the cinema thinking.
Yep. It’s only just out but it’s already made it to the list. This movie was awesome! It was so so so good!
Where to begin with this. I mean right off the bat, thisis worldbuilding as it is meant to be done. There’s no character to relate to the audience here, to ask the questions we might have. Yet the rules of the world are quickly established – there’s more prey than predators, prejudice exists between prey and predators, there are set roles based on the type of animal you are, the town is divided into various environments to accommodate the different animals. All of this is delivered indirently, through what we see or the characters mention in passing.
The gags are also plenty and inventive here – there is a nudist colony which disgusts Judy, a DMV run by sloths, and though I won’t spoil it here, a very scary mob boss by the name of Mr. Big.
There’s an incredible sequence where Judy gives chase to a weasel through a part of the town inhabited by mice, where the small rabbit gets to play the part of a giant.
The movie is full of charm as it is primarily about the relationship between rabbit Judy Hopps and fox Nick Wilde. This is familiar buddy cop territory, and it’s executed flawlessly here. There is a bit of extra depth here however, as to work together these two characters have to overcome their prejudices. The blossoming of their relationship feels organic and heartwarming to the extreme to get there. And prejudice is right at the heart of this movie – showing that people are not what they must be perceived as, sometimes in funny ways as with the effeminate and lovable cheetah Clawhauser, but more serious at times as we see Nick as a child wanting to join the scouts but being bullied and muzzled by the so-called “prey” inside.
When the two characters fall out in the middle of the movie it is entirely justified. But some of the moments between the two that show how far they’ve come are what really makes their relationship bloom – the most important one being the one wherein Judy is being forced to hand over her badge, and Nick, having got what he wanted at the start of their misadventures, immediately comes to her aid and saunters of with her suavely.
The movie completely drives home the message that we can be anything we want to be, no matter what the world tells us. That we have to pursue or dreams. And that it’s ok to fly. Which is only further reinforced by the ridiculously catchy and upbeat song “Try Everything” that was written for the movie.
And all of this is without even mentioning the stellar cast – Idris Elba, Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Alan Tudyk, and more.
If I have to make one complaint, it’s that the case itself was a little underwhelming. Once a clue was incovered about halfway through the movie it was blatantly obvious who the killer was. Though in fairness, I feel that if I go into a Disney move expecting a case with Sherlock level complexity, that’s on me.
Basically, if you haven’t seen this movie, get yourself to the cinema ASAP.
About the Author:
Rumored to have been born with a games controller in his hand, Noel Gleeson works as a Java Developer in Ireland and loves all things pop culture.