In 1989 Disney started a hot streak of movies, which became the period known as the Disney Renaissance. There would be at least one Disney film each year. In doing so the movie returned to its classic fairy tale roots in re-telling classic stories in their own unique ways. Now this was a period that went on for 10 years and went down a different road during the last half of the decade. Thus I decided to split this list into two parts: This one will rank the movies from The Little Mermaid to The Lion King where the second part will rank the movies from Pocahontas to Tarzan.
4. The Little Mermaid
This movie has a couple of flaws in its leads: Prince Eric is not a very interesting character and the problems Ariel faces in her quest don’t lead to much development. And though she realizes her mistake, the scene where it happens is a couple of minutes long and she gets what she wants. But to Ariel’s credit she is an interesting character in just how far she goes to be a part of the human world. Even though she couldn’t talk as a human her expressions have a great deal of creativity in them that show her curiosity in full bloom and give way to some enjoyable and funny moments. And the romance between the two while, not perfect is still developed well. And I liked it how they had to start from scratch even though they did meet once before. Ursula is a delightful villain in how she tries to obtain ultimate power and how she revels in having it. The songs are iconic hitting all sorts of notes in catchiness, evil, and romance. The animation is beautiful with all the angles, colors, and backgrounds showcasing the uniqueness of the land and sea. This movie gave Disney a kick-start in for a new wave of movies.
Aladdin pretty much as it all: romance, comedy, action, you name it. And it excels on those fronts. Aladdin and Jasmine’s romance may be only over the course of a couple days but they do take time to talk about the problems they go through and understand what they have in common. Aladdin and Jasmine are bold and headstrong leads being able to brilliantly outdo their foes like Jafar on pure wit. The colors and backgrounds are amazing in this movie giving you the sense of adventure and magic of any given moment. Robin Williams managed to become one with the character of the Genie managing to synergize his impressions with the various movements and designs the animators provided for him. Even though the magic carpet has neither a face nor a mouth, its personality is perfectly defined through its movements alone. Jafar’s animation also takes on a wide variety of designs in showcasing his power. And like Aladdin and Jasmine, he carries out many of his plans through wit making him an interesting villain on level of the protagonists. All combined with some amazing songs, this movie truly feels like a journey to a whole new world.
2. The Lion King
This movie had some amazing size and scale in animation. The Hans Zimmer score gives the imagery, colors, and angles so much weight to scenes like the stampede and the opening involving Simba’s birth. The moral that Rafiki teaches to Simba about the past works in a comedic sense but is also very deep which ties into the rest of the movie as well. The voice actors for this movie like Jeremy Irons as Scar and James Earl Jones as Mufasa give the characters a great deal of life. Mufasa’s death in particular hits a heavy note as we see him as a loving and brave father and just come so close to making it out safe only to meet his demise which results in devastation for Simba and the rest of Pride Rock. And though Simba finds himself in exile he, returns a man bent on taking back his kingdom and righting the wrongs done by his evil uncle. This movie combined some brilliant non-diegetic elements in giving so much weight to a prince’s journey in becoming a king making it into a massively engaging experience.
1. Beauty and the Beast
This is the ultimate movie that went back to Disney’s fairy-tale roots with a compelling story and characters all the way through. The romance between Belle and the Beast is perfect. What starts off as mutual hatred for one another, slowly evolves into a simple and playful friendship, and blossoms into a beautiful romance. Each moment builds on the next in splendid fashion and it culminates in a great emotional payoff. The Beast is this amazingly animated, yet ghastly creature that has a small shred of humanity in him that grows over the course of the film. Belle is a loving and kind character (with a beautiful singing voice) with a sense of boldness to stand up to those who threaten her. The villain Gaston is a very different villain as in any other movie he would be the hero. But as he fails to get what he wants he becomes more of a monster within in sharp contrast to the monster-like Beast who becomes more human within. The expressions (particularly in their eyes) are just so polished that you can notice the tiny details that contribute to what a character is thinking in a particular moment. The side characters are also done brilliantly each one having their own comedy. The servants in particular all have their separate ways of helping the beast. Just about every moment in this movie shines and truly cement it as a tale as old as time.
How would you rank these movies? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.