John’s Disney Movie Countdown: Part 3

We come now to the third and final part of John’s Disney Movie Countdown. Previously I counted down from dinosaurs and lemurs at #54 to an awesome superhero squad at #31 in Part 1, while Part 2 took us from #30 to #13, beginning with a mouse tale in The Rescuers and ending with the dogs of Lady and the Tramp.

The final dozen films has plenty of animals, its fair share of beautiful princesses, as well as cuddly friends and some of the most menacing villains ever animated. What we have left are what I believe to be the finest twelve animated feature length films the Disney Canon has to offer. With these twelve films, we are now entering ‘deserted island’ territory.

(Side note: If you read the first two parts of the countdown and wondered if I’ve caught the Hollywood bug of splitting things up unnecessarily – a la Hobbit and Hunger Games – I’m sorry about that. But I figured this piece would be better broken down into more digestible portions, because let’s be honest, in our internet browsing age, after writing or reading a 1000+ word essay, people start to get antsy.)

So here they are: my Top 12 Disney animated classics.

Group #5: The Best of the Best: Ten True Consensus Masterpieces, and a Couple that Should Be Soon

This group was exceedingly difficult to order from 1 through 12. I mean, even 18 films of the previous group were basically 10 out of 10, 4-star efforts. So when you have ten masterpieces (and a couple that should be soon) and are trying to position them against each other, it makes for tough work, especially with #2-#7, which are almost interchangeable rank-wise. But, like I said before in part 1, I believe I pulled it off, and I am satisfied with where everything shakes out. 

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

The film (okay, films) that made Pooh Bear popular in the U.S. is as charming as they come. Pooh is an engrained part of our culture now, and I’m convinced that the world is better for it. It is a great film for little ones, yet it has some sharp wit and enough humor for adults to be pleased with repeat viewings as well.


11. Tarzan (1999)

Alright, if I had things my way, Tarzan would be classified as a true masterpiece as the closing bookend of the Disney Renaissance, and Disney would be giving it a Diamond Edition release and then throwing it in the vault like the other top-tier canon films. Apparently the rest of the world isn’t in agreement with that notion just yet. But I love this film and cannot think of any flaws to mention. I loved it in 1999, and I loved it just as much, if not more, when I watched it during my project. Tarzan has incredible animation, incredible action, excellent characters, and more. I’m hoping it eventually gets this status generally, but that doesn’t stop it from cracking my personal top tier of Disney animation.Tarzan meets Jane

10. Tangled (2010)

Disney’s 50th feature film also claims a spot in the top 10. Unlike with Tarzan, which I can only hope will achieve true “masterpiece” status, I’m pretty sure that in a few more years from now, Tangled will be making the Disney vault/release/vault rounds. Tangled is terrific fun.

Tangled meaningful music

9. Dumbo (1941) 

Dumbo may be a short film, clocking in at only 64 minutes, but it packs one of the strongest emotional punches of any Disney canon film. It also has one of the best Disney mice not named Mickey.


8. The Little Mermaid (1989)

I was a bit surprised when I finalized my list and The Little Mermaid cracked the top ten. But the more I think about it, the more I agree with my placement. The music is fantastic, the animation (in and out of the water) is excellent, and the characters are all great. Additionally, The Little Mermaid stands as a very important film for Disney. It is the one that truly brought Disney back. It brought back the Princess, it brought back the fairy tale, and brought back the magic. It is really a magical piece of work.


7. Bambi (1942)

I think I said it best in my original post for Bambi: 

“Bambi offers a little of everything: drama, suspense, character growth, romance, and even a little action. Above all, it is a tale about life, and particularly learning how to deal with the curve balls life can throw at you.”

Bambi is a triumph of storytelling, art, and animation. It expertly teaches one of the most basic and important life’s lessons as well. So much so, that basically, if you tell me you don’t like Bambi, then I will start to question A) whether you have actually seen it, or B) whether you actually have a soul.


Do not be deceived, there is much, MUCH more to Bambi than cute and cuddly animals.

6. Cinderella (1950)

It’s Cinderella, for crying out loud. Your grandparents loved it, your mother and father loved it, and you most likely love it too. This film began the Silver Age of the 1950’s, helped fund Disneyland, and deserves every bit of praise it has garnered throughout the past three generations. This is an easy top-10 choice.


5. Pinocchio (1940) 

I’m not sure any other film in the Disney Canon is quite as effective at letting the viewer delve into the mind of three main characters like Pinocchio does. Be it the titular marionette, his conscience  Jiminy Cricket, or Geppetto, we know what they are going through, and we know how they feel.

I also don’t know if there is any other Disney film out there that so effectively teaches good, true morals like Pinocchio does. Pinocchio is a standard-bearer in more ways than one.

Pinocchio and Fairy

4. Fantasia (1940) 

They call it the Golden Age of Disney animation for a reason. Four out of the first five Disney Canon films have a place in my top 10, and the fifth isn’t far behind. Fantasia is my favorite of the bunch, and is one of the most unique viewing experiences a person is going to have. While it does require the viewer to forget about traditional 3-act storytelling that he or she is so used to and to delve a little into more abstract and artistic planes, this small sacrifice is well worth it on the other end. As I said in my original post about Fantasia, it is like having your favorite song and favorite painting blended into one synergistic, triumphant whole.


3. Sleeping Beauty (1959)

“Number 3? Really? No! It has to be number 2! But number 2 should be number 2, too! But what about Sleeping Beauty?”

That’s kind of what goes on in my head with my #2 and #3 favorite Disney films. The debate rages on, and switches depending on which film I saw most recently. I love the Tchaikovsky music in Sleeping Beauty. I love the color. The stunning detail of the backgrounds. The Fairies. Maleficent. The Dragon fight at the end. The overall feel of the film. It is all incredible.


2. The Lion King (1994)

Even if The Lion King was just 89 minutes of black screen accompanied by its score and songs, it would still probably be in my top 10. I just get the bonus of having a brilliantly animated, powerful and moving tale of responsibility and redemption as well. And to think this was accomplished by Disney’s “B-team” at the time of its creation! I’d say they earned their paycheck on this one.

Hakuna Matata

1. Beauty and the Beast (1991)

I know I’m not alone in saying that Beauty and the Beast is my favorite animated film. I also know I’m not alone in saying that Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite movies, period. This film hits all the right notes and is a supreme accomplishment by the team that created it. It may have been very difficult to order the rest of the top 12, but even though the other 11 come close, making Beauty and the Beast my #1 film was not that hard of a decision at all. Quite simply, it is that good.



Well, that’s a wrap! I hope you enjoyed reading this countdown as much as I have enjoyed creating it. And, as always, your comments are welcome. I’d love to hear what your top Disney film is, as well. Thanks for reading!

John’s Disney Movie Countdown: Part 1

I have reached the end of my journey. It took an extra year, but I managed to view all 54 films in the Disney Canon, soak in hours and hours of bonus features, snap tons of screenshots, listen to soundtracks, and write a short (or sometimes quite lengthy) post with my thoughts on each film. It has been at times daunting and at times stressful, but always worthwhile and fun.

In the end, I came away with a new appreciation for the genius of Walt Disney, the tireless effort of the animators and other filmmakers, and the dedication of everyone involved in making the Disney Canon one of the surest bets you can find in family entertainment.

As a bit of a farewell to this project, and since we are at the close of another year, I thought it would be fun to give you my own top 54 list and count down the entire Disney Canon, from my least favorite to my #1 favorite Disney film. It was quite difficult to do so, because if you read my blog, you saw that I have something to like about almost all of the films. To say that one is unequivocally better than the next is near impossible. But somehow I managed, and I am satisfied with my placement of each film (for now, anyway).

To help break things up, I created five categories to sort the films. This made things simpler by allowing me to compare 10-15 films rather than 54. Also, it helped clarify my position on relative likability of each film.

I realize that many of you will no doubt question my judgement on some choices I made. I understand completely. One thing I learned from the many comments I received (which I really enjoyed reading, by the way) is that each person finds magic in different Disney films, and what may be one person’s #30 may be another’s #1. So feel free to disagree with me and let me know where you’d rank them! I’d love to hear your opinions.

So without further ado, here is John’s Disney Movie Countdown!

Group 1: Shame on You, Disney! Legitimately Bad Films

 I am only willing to put three movies in this group. If you think about it, that is a stunning track record for Disney. They have completed 54 films so far, and only three are largely considered gross failures by me and the general public. Even so, this category was pretty difficult, because all three are pretty darn awful.

54. Dinosaur (2000)

You knew this was coming. If you read my post, you knew I hated this film. It was generic, tired, uninspired, etc., etc.


53. Chicken Little (2005)

Chicken Little stinks. Save for a few okay-ish gags, there’s not much to like about this film.

Chicken Pow

52. Home on the Range (2004)

The only thing that gives Home on the Range a leg up on the other two in this group is that fact that I’m partial to 2D animation. That’s about it. Let’s add another picture of imminent destruction.

do this to the vault

That concludes the worst of the worst. Let’s move along!

Group 2: It’s not that I don’t like you. It’s just that SOMEBODY’s gotta fill up the bottom of this list!

This category contains films with things I rather enjoyed about them, but that also contained some glaring flaws. Other films in this group may not be so obviously hit-n-miss, but like I said in my category title, I had to put every film somewhere on the list. So Aristocats, just because you are #44, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are bad. It’s just that other films are better.

51. Hercules (1997)

Hercules is bordering on legitimately bad for me. Thank goodness for James Woods and Susan Egan.

50. Brother Bear (2003)

bears and landscapes 04

Beautiful landscapes keep this film out of the utter depths of my rankings. Just “bear”-ly.

49. Oliver & Company (1988)

48. Saludos Amigos (1942)

It kind of pains me to see Saludos Amigos so low on this list. But alas, nostalgia and memories of my time in South America only gets a film so far. I had fun watching Saludos Amigos, but I had more fun with many others.

Churrasco. So, so good.

47. Pocahontas (1995)

Some people hate Pocahontas. I don’t. I love the music and other things. But there are definitely many other Disney movies I’d recommend above this one.

46. Melody Time (1948)

Melody Time was by far the most hit-and-miss of the package films of the 1940’s. Sure, there were a couple of gems in the package. But there was a stinker or two, as well.

45. The Princess and the Frog (2009)

I warned of this happening in my blog post for The Princess and the Frog. “I’m gonna take ya down, gonna take ya down, I’m gonna take ya all the way down.” Ok, so I didn’t take it all the way down, but #45 is pretty far to fall.

44. The Aristocats (1970)

In Disney lore, Dogs>Cats, and Mice>Cats. No hard feelings. It’s just the way it is.

43. Make Mine Music (1946)

42. The Fox and the Hound (1981)

If it weren’t for the dadgum bird vs. the worm scenes, I would have included The Fox and the Hound in my next category of films. I like many things about this film, but those birds just really get to me.

When I praised thoughtful inclusions in the The Fox and the Hound, I didn't mean these clowns.

Congratulations! You caused your movie to drop a few spots in the ranking!

And speaking of the next category, let’s move on to it now.

Group 3: Solidly Entertaining Disney. If I were handing out stars, I’d probably give these films at least 3 or 3 1/2 stars

Once again, I need to make mention of the strength of the Disney Canon overall. Here we are at #41 on my list, and already we are in the “3-star” range of films. 

41. Fantasia 2000 (2000)

I like it. The music is great. The animation is great. But I will watch the original Fantasia – multiple times – before I would get the urge to revisit this one.

40. The Black Cauldron (1985)

Shocker, I know. I actually quite enjoyed The Black Cauldron. My theory is that The Black Cauldron was ahead of its time and would fit right in to today’s culture and people’s taste in films – with a tweak or two.

Taran and Princess Eilonwy get help from a magic sword. The film has some cool sequences.

39. The three Caballeros (1944)

Unlike with Saludos Amigos, nostalgia and memories of the past was enough to bump The Three Caballeros into the “Solidly Entertaining” group. I enjoy this movie – abstract scene, quirks and all.

Pretty g-- now that's just plain weird!

38. Fun and Fancy Free (1947)

Ok, I just really like this picture of Donald.


37. The Rescuers Down Under (1990)

As an animation fan, the technological leap made from 1989 to 1990 with Disney’s CAPS technology makes this film an important one and worth revisiting. It’s also a fun movie, overall.

36. Bolt (2008)

35. Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)

34. Treasure Planet (2002)

Treasure Planet and Atlantis: The Lost Empire are so close together on this ranking, I’d almost just make them be a tie. But since I’ve decided not to do that, I give the superior animation of Treasure Planet the win.

33. The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)

By now, we can really start to see the overall strength of the Disney Canon films. I really like The Emperor’s New Groove. It is unique and it is hilarious. Yet somehow it can’t work its way higher than #33 on my list. That’s quite impressive for Disney.

Yes, I think I can relate to poor Kuzco in this picture - minus the whole bump on the head, of course.

32. The Sword in the Stone (1963)

31. Big Hero 6 (2014)

best robot ever

You are an awesome character, Baymax, and you star in an Solidly Entertaining Disney movie. Nice work.

This concludes the “Solidly Entertaining” Group of Disney films, and also concludes Part 1 of my countdown. You’ll notice that just about every era of Disney animation was represented so far in the countdown, with one or two exceptions. No doubt you know what eras I am talking about. We’ll save those eras, those films, and more, for John’s Disney Countdown, Part 2. Stay tuned!