25/ 10/ 2013
My new obsession lately has been the Smule Sing! karaoke app. Obsession may even be putting it too lightly–I’ve been losing sleep over this thing.
The app lets you record yourself singing part or all of a song, then combines your voice with someone else in the world singing the same thing. Other karaoke apps (like Glee) have done this before, but somehow this works better. There are hundreds of songs on it, enough people to make a fairly large community of karaoke geeks, and it’s cool to visualize yourself singing with someone across the globe.
One of the coolest features might be that they’ve got a bunch of Disney songs on it. It was on one of these Disney songs (“Under the Sea” from The Little Mermaid) that I met my new friend, a fellow grownup who loves Disney. We bonded over Hakuna Matata and everything.
Unfortunately, my new friend’s love for Disney goes a little too deep. He likes almost every single Disney movie especially the ones from the 90s, and I can’t get with that–as with all things, I reward real quality by acknowledging that it is above and beyond the mediocre. I’m not saying I didn’t have fun watching Lilo & Stitch, it just wasn’t amazing.
Realizing the special love I harbor for certain movies like The Little Mermaid and Aladdin vs. my friend’s love for the Lion King and Mulan are more a symptom of age difference than quality, I have decided to try and step away from my age bias and really evaluate the best animated features that I was exposed to as a child including old Disney classics and non-Disney films. I haven’t seen a fair number of films from the past decade, but I feel like I’ve seen the most significant ones. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.
Interestingly, in making this list I must concede to Lion King’s merit as a true classic. I also learned how old some of my childhood favorites are, and I am more in awe of them now because of it. Looking at this list, I think most will find that the majority of Disney features from the 1990s really have nothing on the storytelling of their true classics from decades before. So the only great thing, really, about Disney animated features in the 90s was probably that they discovered kids could actually like non-white heroes and heroines.
The below lists were made purely from the perspective of an average viewer. I am not an animation or film expert. The films within each category are listed in chronological order. Sequels, spinoffs and TV cartoons turned into movies are not included in this debate, also random other things that did not seem to belong, like Fantasia (1940) and Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983), though some of them are classics, too. So without further ado:
These films are films we will all go back to again and again, sing along with and remember lines to, at any age. They are films we will save to show our children. They were great ideas that were perfectly executed whether they were meant to be make you laugh yourself to tears, warm your heart, teach you morals, spark your imagination, or wake you up to something. They’re films you can grow up with, watch again and realize the clever little things that you missed as a child but can enjoy all the more as an adult. Some were so good they spawned more movies and TV shows that were also hugely successful years later. They either had original themes, or gave an original twist to classic themes and stories. In short, they’re undisputedly awesome.
Dumbo (1941); Lady and the Tramp (1955); The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977); All Dogs Go To Heaven (1989); Lion King (1994); Toy Story (1995); Finding Nemo (2003); WALL-E (2008)
These films are awesome, too, but somehow just a little less memorable and resonate less into adulthood than the true classics because they’re either catered too much to younger children, or to one gender, they may have been too fantastical to have life-long relevance, or they may just have been too two-demensional to have that extra umph needed to make it into the classics category. They’re films we have fond memories of, and will go back to watch again and again. They have some of the best characters and most memorable moments ever in animated film history. We will sing along to some of them forever because they remind us of good times.
Peter Pan (1953); 101 Dalmatians (1961); An American Tail (1986); The Land Before Time (1988); The Little Mermaid (1989); The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993); Monsters Inc (2001); Shrek (2001); Ratatouille (2007)
These films have at least one outstanding aspect to them that makes them special, whether it’s a wonderful story, great characters, hilarious dialogue, or memorable music. But there just isn’t enough of it to launch them into the “outstanding” category. We may not be jumping at the chance to buy them on blu-ray, but we love them, anyway.
Pinocchio (1940); Bambi (1942); Cinderella (1950); Alice in Wonderland (1951); Sleeping Beauty (1959); Sword in the Stone (1963); Jungle Book (1967); Aristocats (1970); Robin Hood (1973); The Fox and the Hound (1981); Aladdin (1992); Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005); Bee Movie (2007)
These films were so much fun, and some are amazing story ideas, just not executed in a special enough way to make it to higher categories. Most actually had a lot of promise, but in the end were just fun movies that didn’t have a lot of layers. They sell box office tickets to people of all ages, but once we’ve seen them we didn’t have to see them again, unless with a young child or someone who’s really into talking bugs and unconventional superheroes.
Oliver & Company (1988); A Bug’s Life (1998); Antz (1998); Bolt (2008); Tangled (2010); Wreck-It Ralph (2012); The Incredibles (2004); Kung-Fu Panda (2008)
Fun but not quite winners
These movies just weren’t that great, but they do have redeeming qualities, like a song or character here and there. They were still fun to watch but are firmly in the rent, not buy, category. I would have been satisfied watching most of them on an airplane, except Pocahontas because the music was a step above the rest in this category. But here, I must note how–while other Disney movies tend to be G-rated happy versions of darker tales, Pocahontas distorts and romanticizes not a fictional story but a part of American history. That takes it down a couple of notches for me.
Snow White (1937); Beauty & the Beast (1991); Pocahontas (1995); The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996); Hercules (1997); Mulan (1998); Tarzan (1999); Lilo & Stitch (2002); Madagascar (2005); The Princess and the Frog (2009)
What do you guys think? Agree, disagree? Anyone familiar with the newer movies who have more to add to this list?