Underrated Disney Movies

I love me my underrated Disney movies. In some ways, a lot of these have found their way to the top of my personal list. But I guess before I delve into my list of underrated Disney movies, what exactly constitutes one?

Well first off, an underrated movie doesn’t make the entire world go see it. You won’t see any Frozen or Lion King on this list. These are movies that are extremely good but maybe didn’t do too well at the Box office. They might have still made a profit (or maybe they didn’t). These are movies that have gotten pushed to the wayside for differing reasons. They’re the movies that when you say them, people go “wait, what movie now? Disney did that?” or maybe people know about them, but thought they’d be bad, so they never went to go see them.

These are movies that I think are gems. They are movies that might teach a unique lesson. I actually LIKE the fact that half of these movies never garnered a huge audience and got hugely popular. These movies I think are deeper than your typical Disney flare: they have something about them that makes them incredibly special that maybe not everyone saw.

Some of these movies were easy to come up with, and others weren’t. t do have to say that a lot of these are prone to ME thinking they’re underrated. Especially the newer ones on the list. It’s possible I didn’t see them as popular as they really were at the time. Some of the newer ones are ones I believe will possibly fall to the wayside in years to come. If they have a question mark (?) by their entry, I was hesitant in adding them but will try my hardest to explain why I think they are underrated.

You will also notice this is not a “Disney movies people forget exist” list. I didn’t include The rescuers, Oliver & Co, or even The Sword and the Stone. While these are good movies, they don’t have that special something that I think these other movies have.

These are in chronological order…. not in any other type of order…

Let’s go!

1. The Fox and the Hound (1981)

the-fox-and-the-hound-image-2

I think everyone in the world should watch this movie right now. It teaches tolerance in a way kids can understand. It’s from Disney’s “Dark Ages” but it really is a gem. It preaches its lesson by not preaching, but instead getting viewers to fall in love with two adorable characters and then watch them grow up and we see the first hand effect on what cultural norms can do to change a person (or in this case, animal). It has some incredibly memorable moments, action, adventure, and laughs. I’m not going to justify why this is underrated. It just is because movies that can teach the lesson that it does in the way that it does are few and far between. And I bet the only people who really love this movie and know about it nowadays are the people who were a) kids when it came out, or b) kids when it came out on VHS for the first time. I’m the latter.

2. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

quasimodo-the-hunchback-of-notre-dame-capturas-captures-screencaps-fotogramas-el-jorobado-de-notre-dame-disney-principes-heroes-18664

My personal favorite Disney movie is also one that people (and the studio – where’s my blu-ray diamond edition special release??) not only forget about, but don’t seem to want to watch. It’s “too dark” or “too adult” for kids. I’m sorry, but this movie came out when I was a kid (11 years old to be exact), and I’m here to tell you it has always been a favorite of mine. It takes a hard story and makes it reachable for kids to understand. It takes incredibly complex ideas such as hatred and damnation and lusts and intolerance and somehow spells it out so that kids understand. It doesn’t patronize them. Instead, it admits that kids CAN understand this stuff, and should. It treats its viewers like adults. It has amazing music, animation, and characters that are some of the best (minus the gargoyles…).

3. Treasure Planet (2002)

treasure-planet-(2002)-large-picture

You can blame the advertising and styling for this one. No one saw it because it was “different” for Disney. And it is, and you know what, I think you do have to just kinda go with the flow a bit with this movie and say “ok, that’s an anthropomorphic cat-human-thing.” But this movie is superb and way underrated because it’s a) the best adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, and b) We get some of the best relationships in a disney movie EVER in this one between Jim and Silver. Plus, it’s a Disney movie where the bad guy turns out good(ish). Whether you like it or not is up to you, but it’s on my list because I would watch it over and over just to see the characters.

4. Lilo & Stitch (2002)

LiloAndStitch

Ok, this might be my first stretch. Because I know there was a TV show and direct to movie sequels, but I still didn’t feel like people went to see this movie. I feel like no one ever talks about it except to say how cute Stitch is. If that’s all they took away from this movie, those people need to watch it again. I was in High school when this came out, so maybe that’s why I get the feeling this wasn’t a huge movie for Disney. I wasn’t the age when all my friends might have been obsessed with it. (although I did have huge Disney fan friends…).

Again this movie suffered from what I’m going to call the “strangeness” factor. It has Aliens and Hawaii. Not typical fanfare for Disney. But this movie is SO much more. It’s about belonging and family and what constitutes a family and that family is important and you’d do anything for them. It’s letting kids know that ALL types of families are good, and we have almost REAL people and REAL situations (except the alien part). Sister trying to scramble and provide and grow up after parents die? Check. Messed up little girl suffering from something after her parents die? check. realistic sister relationship? check. This movie has so much heart. It just chose to explore it in a strange way.

5. Brother Bear (2003)

brother_bear

I know a LOT of people that don’t like this movie, and i know I’m in the minority of people that actually might possibly call it a favorite. BUT… let me explain why it’s here on the list (it’s not because it’s strictly a favorite, I promise!!)

Yes, it’s a body swapping story. Yes, there are lessons that come along with that. Disney had never done an animated story like this before, and this one gets deeper than you think. Not only does our main character Kenai learn that bears aren’t the horrible monsters he thinks they are, but he learns that his past actions have affected someone he genuinely cares about. Coming to terms with that and telling the truth about it is why I have this on my underrated list. That’s deep for Disney. It’s about learning that what you used to believe actually hurt someone you love and dealing with the outcomes. You can’t take back your choices. You’re stuck with what you did and what you thought in the past. But that doesn’t mean you can’t change and be a better person (er, bear) and make up for in in the future.

6. Meet the Robinsons (2007)

47

I would attempt to name them all L to R, but I can’t…

If you had told me 10 years ago I was going to put this on this list I would have laughed at you. Because the trailer looked ridiculous. Because this movie seemed ridiculous. And in a lot of ways, it is. In a lot of ways, it’s messy, and weird, and disjointed. But if you look past all that and get to the heart of this movie, you’re left going “whoa.” I talk about it in my review, but the lesson in this movie of not dwelling on the past and to “keep moving forward” is unique in a Disney movie. That’s why it’s on this list. The idea is so great, and in some ways it’s done well. Lewis is great as is our villain (with regards to the lesson). They don’t bash it over people’s heads, but it’s not super subtle either. This movie COULD be better, but it’s underrated in my mind because I think this is a movie no one went to see. And they really should just give it a chance.

7. The Princess and the Frog (2009)

Naveen-Tiana-Princess-and-the-Frog-Wallpaper

Ok this one IS selfish. And it’s different than the others on here. But this movie SHOULD HAVE BEEN bigger than it was. It SHOULD HAVE BEEN Disney’s rise back into the Revival. Because it’s good. It has everything that is so “classic” Disney and so much more. It has an amazing protagonist. Great side characters. A good Villain. Good songs. But did it get much mention? no! Ugh. I wish this movie had done better. Because it’s awesome and does not deserve to get forgotten (which I feel like it already has!). It teaches that hard work and perseverance are good, and you need them to get ahead in life, but they aren’t everything. You need to strike a balance between work and play and love.

Rant over.

————————————————-

I was going to add Tarzan (1999) and Mulan (1998), because I think they’ve fallen to the wayside now, but eh, I can’t bring myself to do it. I think they were somewhat popular when they came out. But I do think they are movies that everyone should see for differing reasons (see my reviews for more info)

So there you have it. 6 movies I think everyone who is a true Disney fan shouldn’t skip. Movies I think that deserve more credit than they got, even if just a little. Movies that make me think or might have a profound effect on a child’s thinking. Or an adult’s for that matter.

Next up: Enchanted, then on to Pixar!

 

Advertisements

Ranking my favorite Disney Songs

Alright y’all. I don’t know about you guys, but with the state of the country and the world today, I need an escape. What better way to do it than with Animation and Disney! Not just the movies, but how about the songs? humming your favorite tune has been known to lower stress. I know when I’m annoyed or having a bad or stressful day, music can definitely help.

Disney has ALWAYS been about the music. Although it occasionally goes through periods where they apparently think they’re “too good” for songs, the majority of Disney animated movies are known not only for their stories and characters, but their songs. That is why I am going to List my favorite Disney songs (I’m not limiting it to 10, because personally I think that would be impossible). These are sort of in order? It’s hard to do the higher up ones. At least the top 3 are probably right… Here we go!!

A Whole New World (Aladdin)

I WOULD have this further up on the list, except that every time I listen to it compared to the others it seems sort of… blah. There’s really nothing that sets it apart. But it is still a good song.

 

Colors of the Wind (Pocahontas)

As much as I really dislike what Disney did to this movie, this song is spectacular. the lyrics are thought-provoking, the animation is lovely, and it almost makes us forget we’re in a movie where they aged Pocahontas 10 years and made her fall in love with that white guy

 

Someday (Hunchback of Notre Dame)

Ok, I think I’m kinda cheating with this one and the next, but I don’t care. These are the songs that appear in the credits and are *not* sung by Disney characters. They were singles on the radio.

Someday is an All-4-One song, and if you don’t know who that is it means you’re too young and you should go educate yourself on awesome soul/R&B/whatever the heck they were – boy bands of the 90s. This song is still one of my favorites even 20 years later. It’s the “imagine” of the Disney world. Here, take a listen:

 

Little Wonders (Meet the Robinsons)

Little Wonders is a perfect song for a movie that is unique and underrated for Disney. Sung by Rob Thomas (who is a personal favorite of mine), this song perfectly sums up the feelings of our protagonist Lewis while at the same time somehow digging deep into each of us and touching each of us in the chest. We’ve felt this before, or might at some points in our life. It’s a song I still listen to constantly.

 

Best of Friends (The Fox & The Hound)

There’s nothing really special about this song. It just comes at a time in a movie when our two main characters meet and are playing and having fun. But at the same time it somehow epitomizes childhood. We don’t care who we play with when we’re really young, because we’re just having fun. It’s not until adults and the world “gets in the way” that our mindsets change. I’m starting to think everyone in the world should watch this movie right about now…

 

Why Should I Worry? (Oliver & Co)

This one is a bit of a personal favorite. There’s nothing amazing about this song. It’s not on top Disney song lists. But I love it because 1) It’s Billy Joel, 2) it’s rock, so it’s different than normal disney songs (seriously, you could see this playing on the radio in the 80s), and 3) it kinda sums up the character of Dodger perfectly.

 

Almost There (The Princess and the Frog)

I’ve talked about how much I love this movie. I’ve talked about how I love the atmosphere and what they did with the songs in this movie. To be honest I could pick any of the songs in this movie and throw them here. I love “Down in New Orleans” as well, but if I had to pick one this would be it. This is the classic “I want” song from Disney (on par with “Part of this world” and “When will my life begin?”), but I love this one more than those simply because it’s done in the jazz style, the animation goes back to the 20s posters, and it sums up our character of Tiana so well. She’s worked so hard. she IS almost there.

 

Kiss the Girl (The Little Mermaid)

I made a rule that I couldn’t put more than one song from a movie on here. It was a real toss up between this and “part of your world.” I’m still deciding if I picked the right one. But I love this song. Fun story: In college my friend found a techno version of this song. My life has never been the same since.

 

Let it Go (Frozen)

Yeah, go ahead and shoot me now. Any parents reading this are going “what? how can you stand that song anymore?” It’s true. Frozen is the movie that refused to die in our culture. For the 3rd year in a row, 3/4 of the trick-or-treaters that came to our door were dressed as Elsa. But you can’t ignore just HOW GOOD this song is. After a long hiatus of truly GOOD Disney songs, we finally got a ringer. I mean, the emotion, the words, the message. It’s all there. I love this song, and I’m not sorry.

 

Something There (Beauty and the Beast)

I know, I know. I should have picked the titular song. And I DO love that song. I actually almost picked “Gaston” simply because that song is hilarious. But if I really had to pick one from Beauty and the Beast (and I do because well, it’s Beauty and the Beast), it would have to be this one. They start to understand each other. Belle starts to see past the exterior, and the Beast allows himself to soften. I love the way this one plays out, and the way it sounds.

 

I Won’t Say I’m in Love (Hercules)

Again, I seriously could have picked any song from this movie, which is weird because I know a lot of people could take or leave them. I personally LOVE the music in this movie. If I listed ALL the Disney songs, the ones from Hercules would probably be in the top 20. They’re all just so peppy, zany, etc. But this is the one that I love the most. It’s the one I listen to on my iTunes over and over. And honestly I have no idea why. Maybe it doesn’t sound like any other Disney song. Maybe I like the vulnerability a seemingly tough character is showing.

 

I See the Light (Tangled)

Ok, I’m sort of cheating with this one too. Half of the reason I love this song is because of the animation during it. But it is a pretty good song. It’s our love song but it’s almost like that’s not the main focus. It’s about seeing that there’s more to life than each character previously thought. Plus, it’s pretty!!!

 

You’ll be in My Heart (Tarzan)

I could be cheating with this one too because although this song IS in the movie, I actually mean the one sung by Phil Collins during the credits. But I don’t care. This song is amazing. It perfectly sums up our movie. It’s beautiful when sung by Glenn Close (voice of Kala). It’s sweet and serene in the movie and during the credits has our typical Phil Collins flare. When my son was super young, I sung it to him to get him to sleep. This song has a lot of personal memories attached to it. A list without this song would be incomplete.

 

Circle of Life (The Lion King)

How could I not? I remember seeing this movie in the theater when I was 8 and even then knowing that I was already watching something special. This song is beautiful. It’s the perfect way to open this movie, and again, we have the entire idea of the movie in one song. This is the story about the life of this lion cub. It also has the distinction of setting the atmosphere in the movie, and transports us to Africa. It’s beautiful, it’s epic, and if you ever see the broadway show, it can make you downright cry.

For fun here’s the Broadway version. Revel in the Amazing-ness:

 

He’s a Tramp (Lady & The Tramp)

huh? I bet a lot of people are wondering where this one came from. To be honest, this is one that has only grown on me as I’ve gotten older. Part of that could be because I understand it now (this actually is an incredibly “grown up” song). But I love Peg’s voice, I love the style, I love the sad atmosphere of the pound. It’s a one of a kind Disney song.

 

Out There (The Hunchback of Notre Dame)

This is already my favorite Disney movie. While it doesn’t have the majority of my favorite Disney songs, most of them in this movie are quite good (as I talked about in my review). I really SHOULD have put “heaven’s light/Hellfire” on here from a technical standpoint. That song is unbelievable. Or I should have put “The Bells of Notre Dame” on here, because of the musical and storytelling ability. Or even “God Help the Outcasts.” But this one is a bit more of a personal favorite. It’s another “I want” song, and it’s not only beautifully sung and written, it’s beautifully animated. It lets you see what our main character is really about, and it’s great.

 

I’ll Make a Man Out of You (Mulan)

There really was no question when I started making this list what would be number one. Which is kinda funny, because honestly I would have put my money one of the other songs on here myself. But the more I thought about it, this really is one of the BEST Disney songs out there. It’s a montage song, but it’s a well done montage song. It’s catchy and upbeat, Donny Osmond’s voice fits perfectly, and I DARE you not to sing along.

The Fox and the Hound (1981)

the-fox-and-the-hound-image-2

Tod: Copper, you’re my very best friend.

Copper: And you’re mine too, Tod.

Tod: And we’ll always be friends forever. Won’t we?

Copper: Yeah, forever.

Confession: I cry like a baby when I watch this movie. This movie will break your heart if you let it. But it will also teach you an amazing lesson. I saw this movie for the first time when I was probably about 7 or 8 (younger? I don’t really remember). What I do remember is that this was the first Disney movie that really stuck with me after I watched it. It stuck with me because it taught such a simple but such a profound lesson: enemies are a result of learned prejudices.

Seriously, think about it. As a small child, you don’t care who you play with, as long as you’re having a good time. Adults might tell kids to not play with someone, or that that person isn’t worth your friendship. Maybe it’s a girl (you don’t learn till 1st or 2nd grade that girls have cooties). Maybe it’s someone of a different religion or race. As a kid, you don’t care! Why should you? You’re having fun, and that’s what matters.

Then you grow up, and that innocence disappears. You learn about the differences between people. You learn about religion, race, and other affiliations. You learn about history, and about the hatred that burned in people’s hearts (and still does) for certain “different” people. From there, you can choose to believe those mantras, perhaps become like your parents and the generation before you, or you can choose to remember what it was like playing with that one kid who was “different.” To quote the Broadway Musical Kinky Boots (yeah i know that’s an odd choice, but it came to me) “You change the world when you change your mind.”

This is exactly the type of thing that goes on in this movie. We have Tod, a baby fox who has just been orphaned and taken in by an old widow, and we have Copper, a foxhound pup who was just purchased to be a hunting dog. They live next to each other, and one day meet. Copper has no reason to want to kill Tod, and Tod has no experiences that tell him he should be afraid of Copper. A friendship blossoms as the two go swimming and play all sorts of games. It’s only after the other dog with Copper, Chief, chases him that he understands dogs can be dangerous. The other animals around the farm try to educate Todd about hunters and hunting dogs. The Owl, Big Mama, tells Tod that one day Copper will be trained to hunt down animals like him, but Todd never believes that Copper could do that.

Winter comes, and Copper’s owner Amos Slade takes him and Chief on a long hunting trip, where Copper can learn the ropes. They return in the spring, all grown up, and the night Todd sneaks out to say hi to Copper, Chief wakes up and sees him, and soon all three are after him with a gun. After allowing Tod one chance to get away, Copper watches as Tod leads Chief up a railroad bridge and the dog falls off, almost dying. Hatred burns in Copper’s heart for what his old “friend” did to his mentor, and he can’t believe he let Tod go.

Realizing that her beloved Todd is in danger, the widow takes Tod to a game preserve where he’ll be safe and lets him go. Tod adjusts, meets a beautiful girl fox Vixie, and all seems happy ever after. But Amos Slade and Copper are out for vengeance. They break into the game preserve and hunt down Tod using all means necessary, including fire and those awful foot traps. The two friends now seem as if they were never friends, fighting and drawing blood. At one point, Amos and Copper anger a bear, and it seems the foxes are home free. But a yelp from Copper causes Tod to pause. He returns and saves both Amos and Copper from the bear before almost dying himself. Laying almost unconscious in the water, Amos loads his gun, ready to get revenge, when Copper stands in the way. Realizing perhaps that they can just let this one go, Amos drops his gun and he and Copper leave.

So epic. Cue crying here...

So epic. Cue crying here…

Phew! I don’t go into detail that much on summaries any more, but this one deserves it. This film was considered a financial success when it was released, but it wasn’t a hit. Reviews were mixed. Many critics (including Ebert) praised the message of the film, loving that it was more than just a cute film about animals. Yet the majority of critics seemed to think the movie was just “so-so.” They believed the characters and humor were formulaic. Some people argued it was too dark for kids, when it was obviously aimed at them.

I think this movie does have a following, but I believe audiences are just as split as critics, even now. To me, this movie is one of the first real “underrated” Disney movies. Is it dark? yes. Is it violent? yes, at times. Is it scary? yes. Are the characters a bit formulaic? I’ll be one of the first to say yes. Despite all of that, this movie, at its core, teaches a lesson so profound for kids AND adults that I’m willing to forgo extremely good characters. That, to me, is the definition of MY “Underrated” Disney movies.

So the characters are formulaic? That doesn’t mean they’re bad. Tod and Copper are very enjoyable. Tod’s a little imp and incredibly smart, and Copper always reminded me of that easy going quiet kid who was really a genius but you’d never know it (at certain topics). They did keep their personalities in tact as they grew up, which is nice.

Chief and Amos aren’t really villains to me as they are just… adults. They’re angry and were brought up a certain way. Does that make them evil? no. It just makes them stuck in their ways. But even Amos shows that he can change at the end.

Our three bird characters are enjoyable. Big Mama acts as Tod’s authority figure out in the woods, while the widow (who seems like such a sweet woman!) is one indoors. Big Mama tries to teach Tod about the world and the harsh realities. Our other two birds, Dinky (a sparrow…?) and Boomer (a woodpecker) are honestly just there for the kids, and the inclusion of their storyline in trying to get this caterpillar, I admit, does get on my nerves. It’s clear it was put there for humor to go between the seriousness, and it does detract a bit.

Vixie is Tod’s love interest and eventual mate. She’s boring and just kinda… there. That’s all I’ll be saying about her (although she isn’t afraid to speak her mind, which is a bit refreshing.)

There are… 3? songs in this movie. Two of them are voice over songs, and one is actually sung at the present moment. I enjoy these songs more than the ones in The Rescuers by far. If you’re a Disney fan, you know the song “Best of Friends.” How can you not get a smile on your face? So cute. The song sung by Big Mama about the hunters (Lack of Education? I have no idea what it’s called) is kinda bizarre, but it tries to teach a (good? arguable) lesson. Then there’s the song the widow sings when she’s driving to drop Tod off at the game preserve. DEAR SWEET LORD DISNEY MADE ME CRY. I never cried when Bambi’s mom got shot. I never cried when Trusty got hit by the cart. I never cried when Baloo almost died. Not since “Baby Mine” in Dumbo have I bawled like a baby when watching a Disney movie for these reviews. She’s saying goodbye to the only friend she’s had in a while, and she’s doing it because it will keep him safe.

I also cry at the end after Copper stands in front of Tod. They walk away and just smile at each other. They know that they may never see each other again, but there’s an understanding there. They were always friends, and they will always be friends. UGH DISNEY. WAY TO MAKE ME CRY!

Despite all the problems with this movie that critics and that I have, it’s a movie I can’t shake. I don’t watch it all the time, but it is always one that goes through my head as I stare at my movies and wonder what to watch. Like all my movies that I claim are “underrated,” a lot of it is formulaic. But a big part is NOT. When was the last time Disney taught us a really profound lesson as a kid that kids could understand?

Don Bluth was an uncredited animator on this movie, but I like to think he was involved in a lot more than that (although I know he wasn’t…). I’ve reviewed this man’s work. His early work always had a knack for taking hard topics and making them easy for kids to understand. This movie reeks of that, and I LOVE it. He’d leave during the production of this movie to go off and make The Secret of Nimh. He didn’t like the way the company was being run and wanted to return to the classic style of Disney (which is bizarre to think about giving he made some really dark movies, same as Disney…).

Ok… I’m not going to go off on a tangent. I’m going to wrap up. The Fox and the Hound isn’t Disney’s best movie. It splits a lot of people, and I understand why. To me, it’s a good one. Not in my top 10, but still good. Like I said, it’s a movie you can’t shake. As a kid you watch it and you realize that friendships really can last forever if you fight for them. As an adult, you watch it and go “wow… how much has my life been influenced by things other people believe?” Why can’t we just talk and play as adults and not care? Why should we let things like religion, politics, race, orientation, or even geography get in the way if we really care about someone? I like to think seeing this movie at a young age made me part of who I am today (and my parents – they obviously were influences of course!).

It does have scary moments, but you can bet I’ll be showing it to my kids. I’ll be watching it with them to hide their faces or talk to them afterwards about what they got from the movie, and I can’t wait to hear what they have to say.

I’m really torn how to rate this. I have to be impartial and judge on the MOVIE…

I give The Fox and the Hound (1981) a 3.2 out of 5. Ah that kills me, but it does have a lot of issues. It’s much higher on my personal list….

Next up: The Black Cauldron (1985): aka – the movie Disney wants you to forget… (along with Song of the South).