11th February 2022

With Disney currently in process of live-action remaking their back catalgoue, so what better time to revisit the classics that started it all. Rachel Wagner lists her Top 9 Disney Animation Studios movies.

I think everyone has an idea what their favorite Walt Disney Animated Studios films are. Making a top 10 list sounds like a simple task…until you start doing it and you realize how hard it actually is. Disney has made so many outstanding films and I like them all for different reasons that narrowing down the 10 best is a very difficult task. Nevertheless, I am up for the challenge and ready to go!

9. The Lion King (1994)

I know for many having The Lion King at 10 is a crime against humanity. Let me start out by saying I love this film as I do all films in my top 10. I love the animation, themes of forgiveness and redemption, and one of the coldest most sociopathic villains in Scar. This film will make you laugh, cry and everything in between. The only reason it is at 10 is because I don’ t love how they turn ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight’ into a joke and spoil the big love song. That’s it. Otherwise it’s an epic classic.


8. Sleeping Beauty (1959)

For most of my childhood Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella were my princess movies until The Little Mermaid came out in 1989. Sleeping Beauty has a lot going for it. Prince Phillip is a kickbutt prince with spunk and personality. Aurora doesn’t get tons to do but is graceful and elegant. The fairies are hilarious and smart and Maleficent is one of the best villains in all of Disney. She’s petty and angry and loves seeing people suffer. That’s what you want in a great villain! The animation is some of the best ever with stunning backgrounds and and the music is appropriately operatic. ‘Once Upon a Dream’ may be the only song but it’s a fantastic one.


7. Cinderella (1950)

Speaking of princess movies my next choice is my other childhood princess favorite, Cinderella. A lot of people are quick to dismiss Cinderella as a character that has to be rescued by a man. Far from it. She is actually rescued by a woman, the Fairy Godmother! Cinderella is a character who never gives up dreaming despite terrible circumstances. Lady Tremaine is wickedly evil and I love Anastasia and Drizella as the stepsisters. The animation is beautiful with a lot of hidden gem sequences like ‘Sing Sweet Nightingale’ with Cinderella singing to the bubbles. There is also no more devastating moment in Disney than when Cinderella’s dress gets torn to shreds.


6. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)

Many might be quick to dismiss this film as a mere lark for kids. However, I see it as more than that. Pooh Bear is actually my favorite single Disney character. I love how thoughtful and kind he is. I love the humor the film uses breaking the 4th wall and talking to the narrator. I love the heart at the end of the film when Christopher makes Pooh, “promise you won’t forget me,” and Pooh says, “I won’t Christopher. Not even when I’m 100.”


5. 101 Dalmatians (1961)

There are a lot of reasons I love 101 Dalmatians. First of all Cruella is insane and that is so much fun. Plus, the script uses her just enough. Most of the time the puppies are with Jasper and Horace, which allows Cruella to come in and make maximum impact. I love Roger and Anita. I love all the voice cast. I love the cat Sgt Tibbs- the true hero of the film! I love how the xerox style of animation fits perfectly with a movie about dalmatian puppies. The few songs are quite catchy as well.


4. Tangled (2010)

My one modern addition to this list might come as a surprise to some. I absolutely adore Tangled. It’s Disney’s first real romantic comedy, a genre I’m a big fan of so it’s a natural choice. I love the banter between Flynn Ryder and Rapunzel. Mother Gothel is an incredible villain who uses motherhood to manipulate and control. The songs are catchy and fun, and the animation especially with the lanterns is gorgeous. I love nearly everything Disney has produced in the last decade but Tangled is my personal favorite.


3. Fantasia (1940)

I know some people will roll their eyes at this choice but Fantasia is a legitimate masterpiece. I saw it at a rerelease as a little girl and was mesmerized by the beautiful animation. Every piece is so unique and matches the music so well that I wasn’t ever bored like some are. Of course, Sorcerer’s Apprentice is the highlight but I also love On Bald Mountain with the Devil and his minions and the contrast with ‘Ave Maria’ at the end. They are all stunning and a completely unique movie-going experience.


2. Beauty and the Beast (1991)

I feel like I hardly need to defend Beauty and the Beast as one of the best Disney animated films. The music from Alan Menken and Howard Ashman is unforgettable- funny, singable and full of heart. The characters are easy to relate with, the animation is stunning and the overall message of looking at the inside of a person more than the outside is the best. I was not a fan of the recent remake but this is perfection.


1. The Little Mermaid (1989)

I admit my number one choice is partly nostalgia driven but isn’t that the case with everyone and Disney animated films? The ones we grow up with are always going to be a little more close to the heart than others. However, it’s not just nostalgia. Once again the Menken/Ashman music is so great. Every song is a gem and performed with flash and panache. I love Ursula as a villain. I love Ariel and her refusal to settle for a life she doesn’t feel at home in. I love all the side characters and the animation throughout is stunning. Jodi Benson delivers my favorite vocal performance in all of Disney as Ariel. It’s a film I could watch every day and never get tired of.