When the Disney Renaissance started in 1989, the movies just kept building upon one another in strength all leading up to the massively animated Lion King in 1994. While the films that followed it were by no means horrid, they weren’t as ambitious. Nevertheless they have cemented themselves as true classics and this list ranks the five of them.
This one is lowest on the list because the story of Hercules’ quest to become a true hero and his romance with Megara is somewhat clichéd. To the movie’s credit, it does have fun with the clichés. But it does come to the second problem in that all the characters are trying to be comedic with not enough straight men to balance it out. But the voice actors for this movie put a lot of effort into this movie that makes the writing as fun as it is and make the movie as memorable as it is today. And the movie does take the time to establish who the characters are. When it comes to the mythological elements such as the designs of the Gods, Titans, Olympus, the Underworld, etc. it presents a great deal of creativity, colors, and effects. The gospel songs in this movie help establish the tone and style the movie is going for and Go the Distance has a great build-up and is filled with inspiration and awe. It’s may have too much fun but is a fun movie nonetheless.
This movie does have problems in its tone being on completely opposite extremes and the characters don’t have much to them on their own. The movie however has a timeless message of how racism can lead to carnage for several people. And the way the romance is played out helps build up the stakes as a small romance results in two worlds colliding culminating in massive consequences for both sides. The characters are given a much more realistic animation designs and it looks natural and gives subtlety. The backgrounds and colors provide a very beautiful nature-like environment. Things such as smoke, water, and wind help give it an extra push to the world of the Natives. The songs help give a unique distinction to both worlds and collides the two with the final song. The two worlds this movie showcases shines throughout the movie and makes it a visually enjoyable experiences.
The way the movie showcases the turmoil of Tarzan’s struggle of being different from the rest of his family plays both the right amount of comedy and deepness. Not only does the movie personify it well through his family and the fellow humans he comes across but it also culminates in an amazingly moving scene where Tarzan learns the truth about his past with little dialogue and most of it told through the expressions. The character expressions in this are particularly amazing as exemplified by Tarzan meeting a fellow human in Jane for the first time and is fascinated by someone like him. There’s also the villain, Clayton who, while his motivation is rather cookie cutter has amazing expressions of his bloodthirsty desire to execute it. Prior to this movie most people would associate Tarzan with just swinging from vines but they go the extra mile in having him surf on tree branches. The Phil Collins songs in this movie help give weight to the moments and let the viewer enjoy Tarzan’s journey and all around provide an enjoyable narrative.
This movie told its story in a fun and compelling manner all the while going into some dark and serious territory in the process. And it brilliantly balances all those elements. The way the movie is animated it looks and feels like China as seen through the artwork based on ancient dynasties. And the action is drawn in an intense and engaging way leading to a variety of creative possibilities. While the romance between Mulan and Shang is glossed over, we see how both these characters strive to be the best they can be and how they grow close because of it. Eddie Murphy gives a fantastic performance to the character of Mushu and the men Mulan fights with each give comedy in their own way and play crucial roles throughout the plot. Each song helps tie into the Chinese feel and the movie’s message. Mulan knew how to tell a strong hero story and give a cultural feel to it. While it’s debated whether or not Mulan is a princess, there is no question that Mulan is a great movie.
1. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
This movie was surprisingly dark for Disney and certainly didn’t talk down to its audience even at its most “Disney-fied” points. While the comedy of the gargoyles don’t synergize with the rest of the movie they aren’t the main focus of the movie. It goes for a surprising realistic angle by having Quasimodo not get Esmeralda at the end of it all. The movie delves into various themes of religion, love, and lust all the while showcasing a prominent presence of Christianity in the city of Paris completely ruled by faith. This gives way to a great deal of corruption in society in high-ranking officials like Judge Claude Frollo and we see how that corruption can lead to him going to horrifying lengths externally in letting Paris burn and how he knows full well he is sinning but views it all as God’s work. The animation utilizes great lighting, shadows, colors, and angles in making various parts of Paris look grand and breathtaking and in the musical numbers (which also represents the movie’s themes in a powerful manner). This movie made some bold decisions in its storytelling that remain quite shocking even today and give the movie a strong narrative.
How do you rank these movies? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.