These animated Disney films deserve more love

In the past five years or so, the internet has exploded with Disney fandom tributes in the form of essays, musical parody videos, quizzes, hilarious renderings of characters, and more – usually starring the Disney Princesses, and to the point where we’ve started parodying the parodies. Disney has gotten in the game with things like the new ‘Aladdin’ prequel, with new, just-announced details of what they’ll do to tackle the origins of the animated classic. Disney is just everywhere.

I’m an Orlando-dwelling 30-year-old woman who also happens to be a Disney freak, and believe me when I say you can take my Disney Princesses when you pry them from my cold, dead hands. So I get it. A little girl came up to me at the World of Disney store in Downtown Disney a few years ago and asked me where my daughter was, only to take a few very deliberate steps back when I told her I didn’t have one. But even I, the childless adult woman in the Disney Princess section debating whether my head is small enough to wear a child-sized Belle crown, can take a step back for a minute and say the hype has become a little bit much. Except for the velociraptor thing, because that was inarguably epic.

I’m not over the Disney love in general, though. I never will be (sorry, husband). My point is that the Disney love has simply been too concentrated in so few areas lately, and there is so much more of this fandom to explore and appreciate – namely, a few Disney animated films that simply don’t get the credit they deserve. Sprinkled among The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King – Disney Renaissance films that are completely validly well-loved in their own right – are some real gems we just don’t give the attention they should, like the following.

Lady and the Tramp

This is my favorite Disney animated film of all time, and the only—ONLY—thing that almost swayed me to being a dog person over a cat person. This movie has ensured that if I ever do get a dog, he will be a Scottish Terrier and he will be named Jock and he will have a mustache. There is no alternative dog-owning future for me.

Aside from adorable dogs and gorgeous scenery, Lady and the Tramp has some great songs that are truly under-appreciated – my favorite being “He’s a Tramp,” a super jazzy number sung by the street-smart Peg.

The movie also explores the complexity of the relationship between (wo)man and pet, and the importance of said pets in their owners’ lives. A few other Disney films followed suit (e.g., 101 Dalmatians, Oliver and Company), but Lady was the first.

It also made spaghetti a romantic food, which is good news for first-daters all around.

The Sword in the Stone 

The plot of this movie is kind of all over the place. Here’s a summary:

1. A squire boy goes to retrieve an arrow and lands in a wizard stranger’s house.

2. The wizard stranger decides he’s going to teach the squire boy everything he knows.

3. The squire boy’s legal guardians are like LOL OK SURE.

4. The wizard and the squire boy go on adventures including but not limited to washing dishes with magic, transforming themselves into fish and squirrels, singing songs, and wearing Bermuda shorts.

5. The squire boy pulls a sword out of a stone and becomes king of England.

But the characters make up for it—particularly Merlin and his sassy talking owl, Archimedes. Merlin is hilarious and kooky—the original Doc Brown, but with a wand instead of a DeLorean. The best scene in the movie is the showdown between him and Madam Mim who, as far as I know, is just some random witch in the woods who may or may not have dated Merlin at some point before the events of the movie? I don’t know. I made that last part up, but IT COULD’VE HAPPENED.

Fun fact: In Harry Potter canon, Merlin was a Slytherin.

Robin Hood 

Robin Hood stands out in my mind for the very bragworthy reason that he was the first animated character I remember having a crush on. Yep, not even human. Maybe I was confused because he stood on two legs like a human and could speak? No. No, I’m old enough now to know better and even in my mind I’m still like, “I get it, young Jen. I get it.”

ANYWAY, the music is the standout gem of this movie from the opening credits until the very end. Through songs like “Oo-de-lally,” “Not in Nottingham,” and of course the unforgettable “The Phony King of England.”

Through great music paired with an all-animal cast of pretty relatable characters, Disney took a well-known story that had already been done many times and spun it into something insanely original to introduce to a new generation of kids. Robin Hood taught me to always remember the little guy, and to give kindness freely without regard for race, gender, or social status. And also that lions are never to be trusted (though The Lion King amended this lesson to be, “Lions with either snake or hyena henchmen are never to be trusted”).

A Goofy Movie 

If I could give an answer to the question, “What one movie persuaded you to take risks in life?”, the answer would be A Goofy Movie. Depending on who was asking the question, this is where the conversation would likely end – but that’s why I have you readers! You would never abandon me.

A Goofy Movie somehow manages to cram the entire experience of being a teenager into an hour and 20 minutes. Trying to fit in and be cool? Check. Wanting to impress someone you’ve never even talked to but have been in love with forEVER? Juggling social pressure with wanting to have a relationship with your overbearing-yet-well-meaning parent? Check. NEEDING TO GO TO THE CONCERT OF THE COOLEST ROCK STAR EVER AND WILLING TO GO THROUGH WHATEVER IT TAKES TO GET THERE?

You know where this is going. A Goofy Movie also taught me that connecting with your parents might take some effort, but it’s worth it because they will always be there for you and be your biggest fan.

The Princess and the Frog 

I know this is technically a Disney Princess movie and I’m maybe a tiny bit biased since I’m from New Orleans, where it’s set, but hear me out. Even aside from its take-no-BS protagonist Tiana, whose motto is “Wishing on stars is great and all, but work hard for what you want and you’ll go far in life” (you go, girl), The Princess and the Frog is just as good as (if not better than some of) the Disney Renaissance films – it simply came after its time. When Pixar exploded onto the scene with Toy Story in 1995, Disney 2D animation had already hit its peak with the general public, and The Princess and the Frog suffered for it.

This is such a shame, because this movie has some of the most beautiful art and music in all of Disney-animation history. Also, a lot of research went into making everything from the backdrops to the accents and dialect authentic. For example, there’s such a difference between how people in the city say “New Orleans” and how people as close as 10 minutes outside say it, and they NAILED it. This is impressive, and only one of the many things that make this film stand out even among its late-1990s and early-2000s 2D counterparts.

Plus, it includes one of the best Disney characters ever created: Charlotte La Bouff. Feminism goals!

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[Image courtesy Disney]

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