I am a HUGE fan of Disney movies. It is credit to Walt Disney’s genius that after 70 years, his animated masterpieces are still beloved by people of all ages. With almost 50 released to date, there are plenty to choose from for a Top 10 list. I am going to exclude Pixar, because their they’re own category of excellence. The film’s position is based on RottenTomatoes Tomatometer rating, IMDB rating, AFI’s 10 Top 10, public opinion, and personal preference. Your favorite not on the list? Say so in the comments!
Released in 1961, this was the first animated movie released by the studio to use the Xerox process of transferring the animator’s drawings directly to the cells. It was a major success for the studio, after the failure of Sleeping Beauty which lost the studio a lot of money. The best part of this movie is Cruella De Vil, one of the greatest Disney villains of all time.
Some people may be surprised by this movie’s place on this list, but I believe it is under-appreciated and definitely underrated. The Rescuers was successful upon its original theatrical release earning $48 million at the box office and becoming Disney’s most successful film to that date. The film broke a record for the largest financial amount made for an animated film on opening weekend, a record it kept until 1986, when An American Tail, an animated film directed by Rescuers animator Don Bluth, broke the record. The Rescuers was Disney’s first significant success since The Jungle Book and the last until The Little Mermaid.
The profits from the film’s release, with the additional profits from record sales, music publishing, publications and other merchandise gave Disney the cash flow to finance a slate of productions (animated and live action), establish his own distribution company, enter television production and begin building Disneyland during the decade. Walt Disney had not had a huge hit since Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The production of this film was regarded as a major gamble on his part. At a cost of nearly $3,000,000, Disney insiders claimed that if this movie had failed at the box office, then Disney studio would have closed (given that the studio was already heavily in debt). The film was a huge box office success and allowed Disney to carry on producing films throughout the 1950s. This is clearly one of Disney’s most successful films.
Dumbo is one of the Disney’s shortest films, clocking in at about 64 minutes. After its October 23 release, Dumbo proved to be a financial miracle compared to other Disney films. The simple film only cost $813,000 to produce, half the cost of Snow White, less than a third of the cost of Pinocchio, and certainly less than the expensive Fantasia. Dumbo eventually grossed $1.6 million during its original release; it and Snow White were the only two pre-1943 Disney features to turn a profit.
Bambi lost money at the box office for its first release, but recouped its considerable cost during the 1947 re-release. Although the film received good reviews, the timing of the release, during World War II, hurt the film’s box office numbers. The film didn’t do so well at the box office in America, and the studio no longer had access to many European markets that provided a large portion of its profits. Despite this, today, the film is viewed as a classic. Critics Mick Martin and Marsha Porter call the film “…the crowning achievement of Walt Disney’s animation studio.” In June 2008, the American Film Institute revealed its “Ten top Ten”—the best ten films in ten “classic” American film genres. Bambi was acknowledged as the third best film in the animation genre.
Fantasia has mixed reviews at the time of it’s release, and was a commercial failure, which is sad because Walt Disney spent a lot of time developing the movie. Not only was Fantasia ambitious in it’s animation, it was also ambitious in it’s use of sound. It was the first movie to be made in a form of stereophonic sound, or when sound is heard from more then one direction. Today it is regarded as a masterpiece.
The Lion King is truly a modern classic. The most successful traditionally-animated film of all time, it held the record for most successful animated film for 9 years. With an epic story, great songs, and groundbreaking use of computer animation, The Lion King is one of the past decade’s best movies.
Pinocchio, Walt Disney’s second full length feature, had a lot to live up to. Walt Disney was “king of the world” after Snow White, and expectations were high for his followup. Fortunately, expectations were met. Pinocchio was highly acclaimed at the time of it’s release and was a success in the United States. (Although it was a failure in Europe due to World War 2). Pinocchio is considered to be the most technically perfect Disney film. The “Monstro” scene is breathtaking (part I shown above).
I was very tempted to put this as number 1 and number 1 as number 2, since this is my favorite animated film ever. For good reason too. It was nominated for 6 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, which to date no other animated film has ever been able to duplicate. It was the third most successful film of 1991.
Could it be anything else? Hailed by many as the greatest animated film of all time, it has not aged and it still just as good 72 years after it’s original release date. It was a HUGE success and was at one point the most successful film of all time. It was the first full length color animated movie ever and it left a huge impact on it’s audience. It won Walt Disney a Special Achievement Oscar at the 1938 Academy Awards. Shirley Temple presented him with one regular size statue, and 7 “mini” ones.