For over eight decades, Walt Disney Animation Studios has been delivering films for an audience both young and old. It’s a studio of storytellers, artists and creative minds coming to a goal to deliver the best stories to their audience to enjoy. Disney has been apart of our lives to make us feel safe and push the limits of animation to inspire a number of generations. With the release of their 56th feature Moana and wanting to end the year just right, I decided to take a look back at their canon up to this point and determine once and for all what is the best of the best for the next few days up until Christmas (slightly stealing that idea from Doug Walker’s Disneycember series).
These 25 picks are not just my personal opinions, yet those will pop up, but through the countless lists and reviews of these films both past and present. What triumphs are better than the others and what film will reign as the best of the canon at large. This list may have some controversial choices and might be loaded with a film or two that have received backlash as of late. The only rule is that they must be officially in the animated canon as in no direct-to-video sequels and films produced or released by another animation studio within the Disney company. That means The Nightmare Before Christmas, any Lion King sequel and A Goofy Movie do not qualify. Other than that, everything from 1937 to 2016 is fair game (that includes Zootopia & Moana). Let’s not waste any of the mouse’s time because we have 25 films to get through, here are the 25 Best Disney Animated Canon Films.
All photos courtesy of DisneyScreencaps.com
25. The Jungle Book (1967)
A controversial pick at 25 right off the bat, The Jungle Book is no doubt a classic of animation. The film is known for its lush and rich background work that creates the beauty of the jungles of India. The characters leave an impression with the lovable Baloo, voiced by the fantastic Phil Harris, the villainous Shere Khan, voiced by George Sanders, the jazzy King Louie, voiced by jazz legend Louis Prima, and the rebel curious nature of Mowgli, voiced by Bruce Ritherman, all coming into their own. The songs by the Sherman Brothers are delightful from “The Bare Necessities” and “I Wanna Be Like You,” on which Prima shines through every line.
With all that said, the film is all over the place with its story. The plot is very simple with Bagheera, voiced by Sebastian Cabot, given the task of taking Mowgli back to the man village. The execution of this story, however, jumps from one place to the other without smooth transitions. One minute Mowgli is hanging with elephants, the next he is suddenly with Baloo because one song shows Mowgli he is trustworthy. The other problem is that for its short run time, it feels slow at times. The film overstays its welcome. It also happens to be the final animated movie produced while Walt Disney was alive and that fact alone is probably why this film gets a pass from most people. For all its fault in the storytelling, however, the positives outweigh the negatives. The Jungle Book is at a perfect spot to start the list as it is a classic, just not one of the ones most consider in the top.
Also, about that remake earlier this year, every personal complaint I have with the story was quickly solved with perfect storytelling and taking advantage of its CGI setting. Seriously, if you want to see a remake done right, definitely watch the 2016 adaptation.
Critic’s Quote: “This glowing little picture should be grand fun for all ages, for in spirit, flavor and superb personification of animals, the old Disney specialty, the new film suggests that bygone Disney masterpiece, “Dumbo.”- New York Times, Dec. 23, 1967
Signature Moment: “I Wanna Be Like You” is fantastic from the animation of Baloo and King Louie dancing to the wonderful jazz styling of Prima and the Sherman Brothers’ clever lyric work.