After Bambi, Disney switched to doing package films for the next eight years before starting a whole new wave of films in 1950 starting with Cinderella, thus kicking off the Silver Age of Disney. While none of the films of this era hit the marks of the Golden Age, there were many solid classics to look back upon in fondness. This list counts down the top 5 films of Disney’s silver age.
5. The Sword in the Stone
This one is at the bottom because in terms of storytelling, it has its shortcomings. Merlin’s teachings in this movie feel like something more out of Disney’s educational cartoons rather than a full-fledged movie. However the teachings give the movie a very enjoyable and humorous vibe. Disney’s core animators the Nine Old Men put in a great deal of creativity in technical work in the character designs, the various scenarios Arthur goes through during Merlin’s teachings, and in the Wizard’s duel. These scenes are done in such ways that Disney’s best movies cannot replicate. And it is quite impressive considering that the technology they used back then was in its beginning stages of use. Merlin and Madam Mim are quite eccentric but lovable characters in their abnormality. This movie also was the debut of the Sherman Brothers in Disney and they provided songs for the movie that made the education entertaining and timeless.
4. Sleeping Beauty
Though it stopped the Disney Princess genre for 30 years, this movie is a beauty that will not put you to sleep. The animation is a unique style for Disney in that its backgrounds resemble more of tapestry and medieval paintings that works in drawing the viewer in. The climax is also well animated through its tense movements and dark colors. Although the leads aren’t very interesting, there are several entertaining characters that carry this movie. Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather all have different personalities and serve as some excellent comic relief. The movie’s trademark song Once Upon a Dream is one of Disney’s most beautifully sung and visualized. But what really makes this movie is the villain Maleficent. The voice actress, her designs, and expressions not only solidify her as one of Disney’s greatest villains but also one of the greatest villains of all time. The extremes she goes to getting revenge for not getting invited to Aurora’s christening are amazing. She’s powerful in terms of magic and personality and can be silly but also has a sense of sophistication to her.
3. Lady and the Tramp
What makes this movie so enjoyable is its focus on detail and beauty. The dogs are very different in designs and personalities and have fun interpretations of the real world such as Lady thinking her owners are called Jim Dear and Darling. Lady and Tramp play off each other perfectly being complete opposites of one another: Lady is sweet and naïve but didn’t hesitate to call out Tramp is a troublemaker but is not without heart. The movie has some heavy themes of change, loyalty, responsibility, and love. The songs in this movie like Bella Notte and La La Lu are just so soothing and satisfying and cement this movie as a classic.
2. Peter Pan
This movie is just about every little kid’s dream come true. A faraway land with mermaids, fighting pirates, flying around, and just gives a lovely feeling of a child fantasy. The romance between Wendy and Peter is done in a realistic manner like most kids. Wendy is very much obsessed with Peter upon meeting him and Pan doesn’t know what to make of it. They never kiss in the movie and even though they are smitten with one another they don’t fully understand each other. The Darling children in this movie are nothing short of well darling children and the movie showcases the child-like adventure through all three of them but also the rite of passage into growing up through Wendy, who while she enjoys the sites Neverland provides and Peter Pan’s antics she does get pushed to her limits. This movie very much gave some definitive associations with the classic characters: Pan as the cocky child-like hero, the threatening but comical Captain Hook, and the bumbling good-natured Smee. The two villains combined with the crocodile lead to some amazing slapstick. No matter how old you may get Peter Pan is a movie that fills you with the heart of a child every time you view it. While there is some talk about the Natives being racist, this way Neverland is portrayed, it comes from the mind of a child and enforces the need to grow up as even though these are engaging characters they are not what Natives really are and as we would grow older and with passing years we would realize that.
1. Alice in Wonderland
It’s hard to believe it but even though it didn’t do well when it first came out, this is easily the best adaptation of Lewis Caroll’s story to date. While it lacks a narrative, that was never the heart of the story. The heart of the story was exploring this world devoid of logic or reasoning and the crazy people within it. All the characters are given great opportunities to showcase their personality in interacting with Alice. They are crazy but hard to make out. The way their moods alter, you can never tell if they are threatening or not. Alice herself reflects upon the viewer and is a direct contrast to Wonderland lack of logic. Despite being normal she’s entranced by this fun odd world and wants to be a part of the fun but just gets frustrated by it. The way Wonderland is shown gives it a self-awareness of real world logic and how all of that is thrown out the window here. Alice in Wonderland is such a bizarre film but it has a character that we can put ourselves into to counteract the craziness. It’s a perfect balance of weirdness that Disney has a penchant for providing but also reality.
Are there any others you would put on the list? Any you agree or disagree with? Well leave them in the comments below.