Ranking the Disney Animated Canon, Part 1

Introduction

Please read this first!

Welcome to my ranking of the Walt Disney Animated Canon! Here I will rank and analyze each of the Disney animated classics. First, a few things need to be cleared up. The only movies included are theatrically released, full-length movies made by Walt Disney Animation Studios (WDAS) or its previous incarnations. Sometimes the movies were advertised as “the nth animated classic/masterpiece.” A full list can be found here. That means you will not find any movies made by DisneyToon Studios or its previous incarnations (A Goofy Movie, The Tigger Movie, Return to Never Land, etc.), any movies made by Pixar (Toy Story, Finding Nemo, etc.), or animated movies neither made nor distributed by Disney (Shrek, The Land Before Time, The Prince of Egypt, Ice Age, etc.). Additionally, this is the animated canon, so live action films with some animated segments (Mary Poppins, Pete’s Dragon, etc.) will not be on the list.

The movies are evaluated based on five key things: story, characters, animation, music (where applicable), and the “I like/don’t like it but don’t know why” category. As far as music goes, songs that play only during the ending credits will not be evaluated, because the ending credits signal that the movie is over. Post-credits scenes will be acknowledged, however. I know it’s not consistent, but that’s how I’m doing it. Movies will not be compared to source material. All that will be evaluated is what’s there on screen. The movies can be compared to each other (because otherwise how could I rank them?) and nothing else. That means they can’t be compared to the real world either. In other words:

  • Historical inaccuracies will not be held against Pocahontas.
  • Paleontological inaccuracies will not be held against Dinosaur or Fantasia.
  • The fact that Zangief was not a villain in the video games will not be held against Wreck-It Ralph.
  • Anachronisms like the waltz in Sleeping Beauty, Eiffel Tower in the “Be Our Guest” segment of Beauty and the Beast, Genie’s impressions in Aladdin, and the fact that in 1914 when Atlantis: The Lost Empire takes place there were 48 States—not 38—will not result in demerits.
  • The fact that leafcutter ants are found in the Americas, and not in Africa will not hurt The Lion King.
  • I will not ding The Rescuers Down Under for the fact that golden eagles are not native to Australia, and will not hold the fact that an Australian boy sounds like an American against it.
  • Pedantry about how it should be One Hundred One Dalmatians instead of One Hundred and One Dalmatians, or that since every other character goes by their Greek name the movie should be called Heracles is not allowed.
  • The only snarky comment about how the most unrealistic thing in a movie about people being turned into frogs is the portrayal of race relations in 1920s New Orleans will be found here.

I must also point out the obvious. This is my ranking. You are probably not going to agree with it, and that’s okay. This is my own view formed with all of my own biases and idiosyncrasies and I am not going to pretend to be objective. If you want attempts at objectivity, consult the Cogerson system. Also, please note that all trivia and background information is taken from each movie’s page on the Disney wiki unless otherwise noted. Finally, there will be spoilers, so read at your own risk! Now without further ado, let’s start the countdown!

#54. Chicken Little

46 Chicken Little 1

During the 1990s Disney had a string of successful animated films in what has since been called the “Disney Renaissance.” When the 2000s came Disney’s animated movies became less successful and kept losing to the likes of Pixar and DreamWorks. Michael Eisner falsely concluded that this was not because Pixar et al. were making movies with superior stories, but because they were CGI rather than traditional 2D animation. He decided that from now on Disney would only make CGI movies, the first of which was this disaster. While most of the movies in the countdown are okay to excellent, there are a few truly bad ones, and this is the worst of the lot. This has the worst Rotten Tomatoes score of any movie in the canon, and the worst critical reception score in the Cogerson system.[1] It deserves both.

The story is ridiculous and all over the place. Had they just stuck to it being about Chicken Little’s strained relationship with his dad and had the baseball game be the big climax, it would have been a little better. Adding in the plot about aliens losing their son and going on a rampage feels forced, almost comes out of nowhere, and is, frankly, stupid. I don’t like or care about any of the characters. There is some character development with regard to Chicken Little and his father, Chicken Little’s relationship with Abby, and Foxy Loxy’s deus ex machina (literally ex machina!) redemption, but otherwise the characters are all flat and undeveloped. Patrick Stewart has a brief appearance voicing the mutton teacher, and it really is a sad waste of a fine actor. The best performance in the movie comes from Adam West’s cameo playing the Hollywood version of Chicken Little at the end of the movie. Another thing that really bothered me was the gag at the beginning showing a movie theater playing Raiders of the Lost Ark seconds before the theater goers themselves had to flee a giant, rolling object. I do not approve of showing actual movies—especially live-action movies—within Disney movies, especially for a quick joke.

The movie fails with music too. It’s not that I don’t like “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” or “We Are the Champions,” it’s just that I prefer my Disney movies to have Disney songs. “One Little Slip” is completely forgettable, and Runt and Abby singing “Wannabe” on her home karaoke machine is worthy of several eye-rolls. As for animation, well, the CGI may have been impressive at the time, but it hasn’t held up over the years. Plenty of CGI movies both before and since blow it out of the water, so it doesn’t even have animation going for it. Overall it doesn’t even feel like a Disney movie; it feels more like a terrible Nickelodeon or DreamWorks movie. There is really only one response one can give after watching this. It will entertain the kids for 80 minutes, but given that there are so many better Disney movies you can introduce them to, why bother? Get this only if you are a “complete the collection” person like me; otherwise forget it. I probably won’t return to it unless I do another complete viewing of the canon. Let’s move on now.

#53. Home on the Range

45 Home on the Range 1

As mentioned previously, Michael Eisner wanted Disney to stop making 2D animated movies and only make CGI movies. This was originally going to be Disney’s last 2D animated film. Fortunately, that decision was later overturned, because it would be a great shame if this movie held that title.

The story is a fairly standard and predictable “save the farm” plot. If they don’t come up the money necessary to pay the bills in a few days, the farm will be sold, but by amazing coincidence[2] the bounty on the villain is exactly the amount needed to save the farm! Our protagonists are a trio of cows voiced by Roseanne Barr (I’m not a fan), Judi Dench (yes, really!), and Jennifer Tilly while Cuba Gooding, Jr. voices a horse named Buck, their main rival in capturing Alameda Slim (Randy Quaid). Between Judi Dench in this movie and Patrick Stewart in the one released after it (Chicken Little) one has to wonder: How did Disney get these renowned British performers to agree to be in these horrible movies? As mentioned before, the plot is predictable and fairly boring. The only thing that was slightly interesting was when we find out that Rico (Charles Dennis), the bounty hunter that was rounding up outlaws was actually working for Slim and was just getting rid of the competition. I didn’t expect that.

The characters are boring and unlikeable, despite the somewhat decent star power in the cast. There are some pretty bad attempts at humor throughout. There is a joke about fake breasts and a gay joke, which are inappropriate for this kind of movie and aren’t even funny. Other kids’ movies have managed to sneak in things for adults without being too inappropriate and yet still be funny, so I’m not against it on principle. Maggie (Barr) calls Buck “stallion of the Cimmoron” at one point, and I don’t approve of making the titles of the competition into insults for a cheap joke. Also, Slim calls his associate, Mr. Wesley (Steve Buscemi), “Mr. Weasley.” Get it, because “weasel” can be used as a term of derision for villains? It’s a joke that works better in Frozen because here it just reminds me of the family from Harry Potter and I think to myself, “Wow, I’d be having so much more fun if I were reading Harry Potter right now.”

Alan Menken (remember that name, you will be hearing it a lot) does the music with Glenn Slater on lyrics. I imagine both would like to forget this because the music is pretty bad. It’s boring and the lyrics are uninspired, but that may be the fault of the plot and I don’t want to lay too much blame on the composers. I’m not a fan of the animation style either. Many of the animals don’t even look like Disney animals. This movie is just bad all around. If you asked a team of filmmakers to make a terrible parody of a Disney movie, this is what they would come up with. Everything I said about Chicken Little entertaining the kids and only getting this if you want to complete the collection also applies here. Let’s not spend any more time on this movie.

#52. The Black Cauldron

25 The Black Cauldron 2

I think the best thing I can say about this movie is that I didn’t hate it as much as I thought I would. It is often considered the nadir of Disney animation. It was a critical and commercial failure and as a result has the lowest Cogerson score of any movie in the canon (Home on the Range has the second lowest). All this is made worse by the fact that it was a milestone movie (25th). Before I start the actual analysis I just want to note a couple of things. First is that this is the first movie in the canon since Fantasia not to have opening credits. It’s also the first since Alice in Wonderland to have ending credits. After this movie opening credits became shorter or non-existent while ending credits became the norm. It was also the first to get a PG rating and the first not to have musical numbers of any kind (it has a score, and that’s it).

First I’d like to start with the positives. The film’s biggest strength is the animation. For the year it was released (1985) and the technique used (xerography) it’s actually really good. It’s not the most beautiful animation ever, but it’s a step-up from some of the other xerography movies. Unfortunately, great animation can’t make up for a boring plot and flat characters. Taran is a whiny pig farmer that dreams of being a war hero, and I liked him a lot better when he was Luke Skywalker. The pig he looks after is a magic pig that can reveal the location of the Black Cauldron, which the Horned King plans to use revive his unbeatable, undead army.[3] They both get captured by the Horned King, but manage to escape. In the process Taran gets a magic sword that is the most powerful weapon in existence, and meets up with the strong, independent Princess Eilonwy. They flee from the intimidating villain, and are we sure he isn’t Luke Skywalker? Oh right, my apologies to Joseph Campbell for ignoring his life’s work.

Anyway, more boring stuff happens and they find the three witches that have the Black Cauldron and trade Taran’s sword for it. The witches tell them the Cauldron can be stopped if someone willingly sacrifices himself to the Cauldron. The Horned King manages to capture them and starts using the Cauldron to revive his army. Gurgi, an annoying…thing Taran met earlier helps our heroes break free, and sacrifices himself so that Taran doesn’t have to. The undead soldiers…die? Break? They stop working and the Horned King is sucked into the Cauldron never to be seen again. The witches want the Cauldron back, and our heroes willingly trade it, but if only if they can bring Gurgi back (they can and do).

It’s odd, boring, and the characters show little development. Yes, Taran grows from regarding Gurgi as an annoyance to a true friend, but that’s pretty much it. The “we don’t get along, which means we’ll have a budding romance by the end of the movie” thing with Eilonwy feels forced. The Horned King is a decent villain, though that’s more due to his design than his actions. True, Gurgi’s sacrifice means this is one Disney movie that gets love right (John 15:13), but that only helps it so much. It doesn’t even feel like a Disney movie. It is not worthy of being the 25th movie. A milestone like that should have gone to a better movie. Next one, please!

#51. Treasure Planet

43 Treasure Planet 1

This film just manages to avoid the “bad” category and settles at the bottom of the “okay” section. I have a hard time understanding how it was one of the first two films in the canon to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature (both lost to Spirited Away). Like Chicken Little and Home on the Range, it’s from the post-Renaissance slump that lasted most of the 2000s. The basic premise is to take Treasure Island and blend it with Star Wars, and it really just doesn’t work. I was shocked to find out that John Musker and Ron Clements directed this. After having directed such beloved movies as The Great Mouse Detective, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Hercules, this is kind of a dark mark on their record.

The story is okay and pretty straightforward. I didn’t expect the whole “the planet is booby-trapped and is going to blow up when you reach the treasure” part. It has some pretty boring parts and they go on for a while, which brings down its rating. The movie seems to go on longer than it needs to.[4] The characters are hit and miss. There is some good character development between Jim Hawkins (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Silver (Brian Murray). I like that they go from distrust, to friends, to outright rivals, to essentially friends again and that Silver pretty much redeems himself. Morph is fun too. I like Mr. Arrow, mostly because he was voiced by Roscoe Lee Browne, who also voiced Kingpin in Fox’s Spider-Man animated series in the 1990s. That triggered some nostalgia. Despite that fact that David Hyde Pierce does his voice, I don’t really care for Delbert. Captain Amelia (Emma Thompson) has some good moments, but overall she’s not that memorable. I find B.E.N. (Martin Short) to be annoying. I know he’s required for the plot, but I just can’t stand him.

There’s only one song during the movie. “I’m Still Here” plays over a montage showing the development of the relationship between Hawkins and Silver and also showing flashbacks of Hawkins dad’s problems and departure from his life as he and Silver bond. The song actually fits what’s happening on screen pretty well, and one can’t help but actually feel for and care about Hawkins, unless one is Iron Man.

iron man dads

The animation is really good. The 2D animation is beautiful and the CGI effects are really well done. As mentioned before, however, technical brilliance can’t make up for lackluster plot and characters. I also don’t care for cheap fart jokes. I’m not against all fart jokes; I’m just against playing several fart sounds just for the sake of getting a cheap laugh out of the kids. There’s a creature that speaks in “Flatula,” which is just a bunch of fart noises, and Delbert is fluent in it (after having taken only two years in high school) and communicates with the creature. It’s stupid and unnecessary. In conclusion it’s not bad, but it’s just barely okay.

#50. The Three Caballeros

7 The Three Caballeros 1

A little background information for the next few movies, which aren’t very well known, and some of which a lot of people may never have heard of.[5] During the 1940s the studio was really hurting due to a major event in world history. To save money and bring in some money to finance future, larger projects, Disney created several “package films” consisting of multiple short segments strung together. I’m not a big fan of these movies, but they did do their job and they aren’t terrible. This is the second of the package films, and the first canonical sequel. It is also the lowest ranked film made and released during Walt Disney’s lifetime.

This is the sequel to Saludos Amigos, which was made as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor policy. It’s Donald Duck’s birthday, and his friends from Latin America have sent him several gifts, each of which introduces a new segment in the movie. The segments start off pretty good, and get progressively worse. The first segments about the penguin, gauchito and his flying burro, and the Aracuan Bird are fun, and I wish the rest were like these. After these, Donald is reunited with José Carioca, whom he met in the last movie, and they travel to Bahia. This segment was notable for the blending of live action and animation. Next, the two meet Panchito Pistoles (the third of the titular caballeros) and he explains about the posadas. I actually like this segment and wish the remaining segments were more segments about Mexican culture. Instead, the three caballeros go chasing women at various Mexican beaches. Following that Donald becomes infatuated with a woman during a singing segment, and then falls into a psychedelic reverie.

As mentioned before, I found the movie got worse the longer it went on. When I got to the end all I could think was “finally!” Having been born when I was (post-Mary Poppins and Who Framed Roger Rabbit), it was hard to be impressed by the blending of live-action with animation, but I’m sure at the time it was mind-blowing, and so the historical significance of that helped this movie’s ranking. I really think one live-action mixed with animation segment would have been enough though. I found them all to be fairly boring, but the first was the least bad. Also, anthropomorphic birds are still birds, and seeing them lust after human women is just plain weird. It would have been better if this movie were more like its predecessor and done more segments explaining various Latin American cultures.

The three caballeros are fun characters overall though, and despite budget problems, the animation is on point. The music is fun too, with the exception of “You Belong to My Heart,” which is long, boring, and Donald lusting after the human female singer is weird. Oh, and Sterling Holloway narrates “The Cold-Blooded Penguin,” so that earns it points. I think it just goes on too long. Had it been shorter and been more about Latin American cultures than experimenting with new animation techniques, I think it would be higher on the list.

#49. Fun and Fancy Free

9 Fun and Fancy Free 1

This is the fourth package film. Jiminy Cricket strolls into a town and ends up in house where puts on a record of Dinah Shore telling the story of “Bongo,” and then notices an invitation to Luana Patten’s birthday party across the street and hears Edgar Bergen (father of Candice, Shirley Schmidt from Boston Legal) tell the story of “Mickey and the Beanstalk.” It’s not the greatest framing device, but it does bridge the two unrelated segments, so that’s a plus.

The “Bongo” segment is boring. I don’t care about any of the characters. The songs are nothing special. The animation is decent though, especially considering the budget problems of the ‘40s. Overall though, this segment is the main reason the movie is this low in the countdown.

The “Mickey and the Beanstalk” segment is much better. Of note is that this is the only time in the entire canon that Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy all appear together.[6] It is also remembered as being the last time Walt Disney himself voiced Mickey. That’s not entirely true, as there were a couple of special occasions when did do it again, but none of them were for theatrically released movies or shorts. Both Walt Disney and Jimmy MacDonald, his successor, recorded lines for Mickey for this film.

Anyway, the interaction between Mickey, Donald, and Goofy is enjoyable and Willie the Giant is a fun villain. The songs are fun, and this has the first villain song in the canon. The animation is pretty good too. My only problems with the segment are the framing device. I had a VHS of “Mickey and the Beanstalk” when I was younger and it was Ludwig von Drake telling the story. I liked that version a lot better. There’s something unsettling about Edgar Bergen being alone with the young Luana Patten and his ventriloquist dummies (and Jiminy, but no one knows he’s there). Where are her parents and the other party guests? Maybe no one thought anything of it in 1947, but today it just feels weird. I recommend getting the “Mickey and the Beanstalk” segment on its own if you can, preferably the Ludwig von Drake version. In conclusion, the movie has two segments, one boring, one pretty good, and a creepy framing device that account for it being placed where it is.

#48. Make Mine Music

8 Make Mine Music

This is the third of the package films. Unlike most of the other package films, this has no overall plot or framing device to tie the segments together at all. It’s literally just “here’s a bunch of short musical segments, now please give us your money so we can finance complete movies again!” There’s a big problem with this movie: the only available release in the U.S. is the Gold Collection version, and it’s censored. The entire first segment of the movie, “The Martins and the Coys,” is removed. I understand they think it’s not appropriate for children, but couldn’t they at least make an uncensored release for collectors? I have viewed the deleted segment, and it’s not the best one of the movie, but it’s not the worst either. I hope that if/when it gets a Blu-ray release there will be an uncensored version available.

Anyway, “The Martins and the Coys” is okay, but not great. It’s a Hatfield-McCoy and Romeo and Juliet parody with comic gunplay; hence its exclusion from the home release. We’re not missing much by its exclusion, but it’s the principle of thing I care about. “Blue Bayou,” “All the Cats Join In,” “Without You,” and “After You’ve Gone” are all pretty boring, though the animation in “Blue Bayou” is beautiful. “Two Silhouettes” is another attempt to show off the blending of live action and animation and is sung by Dinah Shore. It gets points for historical significance and technical brilliance, but it’s not that entertaining. “Casey at Bat” is pretty fun, especially with its ironic ending. “Johnny Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet” is actually a nice little segment, and the Andrews Sisters sing it, so that’s cool. “The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met” is quite good, but the gem of this movie is Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. It’s a fun story, narrated by Sterling Holloway, and the use of different musical instruments to represent each of the characters is genius. I find it interesting that the anticommunist Walt Disney allowed this segment given that the Cold War was just beginning.

Overall the movie is okay. The good segments are as good as the boring segments are boring, so it all balances out. The animation in most segments is pretty good, and absolutely stunning in “Blue Bayou,” which makes sense, because it originally going to be the animated segment “Clair de Lune” in Fantasia, but was cut. The music is hit and miss depending on the segment. The individual segments probably would have been better if they had been released as theatrical shorts, but I understand that they needed quick, inexpensive films to finance future projects. Check it out if you’re curious, but it’s not one you absolutely need to see.

#47. Melody Time

10 Melody Time

This is the fifth package film and the only pseudo-sequel in the canon. Since it’s another “several musical segments with nothing tying them together” movie, I think it can be considered a spiritual sequel to Make Mine Music, and since it has a Donald Duck and José Carioca segment, that segment can be considered a sequel segment to similar ones in Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros. Anyway, enough with the trivia, let’s get to the analysis.

I found the “Bumble Boogie” and “Trees” segments to be boring, even though I actually like the “Trees” poem itself. “Once Upon a Wintertime” and “Blame It on the Samba” are okay. I don’t know that we really needed another Donald Duck and José Carioca segment, but we got one, and the music and animation in it are fine. “Little Toot” is good. The animation is well done, and the Andrew Sisters singing the story is a plus.

I actually really like “The Legend of Johnny Appleseed.” The story is fun, the animation is on point, and I enjoy the music, even if Walt Disney himself didn’t care for it and said it was “like New Deal music” (assuming the statement on the movie’s Disney wiki page with no citation is accurate). By far the best segment is “Pecos Bill.” Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers tell the story to Bobby Driscoll (who would later voice Peter Pan) and Luana Patten. It’s a really fun segment, the animation is great, and the music is catchy. The major problem I have with this segment is the fact that on the Gold Collection version (the only available release in the U.S.) censors it. Pecos Bill’s cigarette is digitally edited out. Sometimes it’s quite noticeable and makes Bill’s movements look weird. Additionally, the tornado part of the segment is edited out because he rolls and lights a cigarette during it. Interestingly, they didn’t edit out the racism.[7] Like Make Mine Music, I hope that when and if this movie gets a Blu-ray release they will offer an uncensored version for collectors.

Like Make Mine Music, I think the segments would have been better off had they been released as theatrical shorts instead of being thrown together with no overall plot or framing device to tie them together, but again, I understand they needed money. The really good segments make up for the boring ones, the animation is pretty good, especially considering the budget constraints, and the music is hit and miss. When it’s good, it’s really good, and when it’s bad, it’s pretty bad. Again, check it out if you’re curious, but you don’t absolutely need to see this one.

#46. Saludos Amigos

6 Saludos Amigos 1

This is the first package film, and second best of them. This is the shortest film in the canon. At 41 minutes and 56 seconds, it just barely meets the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ definition of a feature length film. The plot is fairly simple: a group of Disney animators took a trip to South America to learn about various cultures (shown in live action segments), and created animated segments based on what they learned.

In the “Lake Titicaca” segment, Donald Duck makes his debut in the canon and learns about the lake and Inca culture. “Pedro” is about a small plane that must cross the Andes to deliver mail from Argentina and bring it back to Chile. “El Gaucho Goofy” marks Goofy’s debut in the canon as he humorously tries out life as a gaucho. The “Aquarela do Brasil” segment introduces José Carioca and he introduces Donald to Rio de Janeiro and the Samba.

All the segments are decent. The animation is good, and the music is enjoyable. The titular song was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song. Donald and Goofy are used to their full comedic effect and it’s nice to see such beloved characters make their canonical debuts. A point of criticism is that most of the home releases available in the US are censored. Goofy’s cigarette is edited out and sometimes it makes for awkward movements. The upcoming Blu-ray release in June will supposedly be uncensored, and I hope that turns out to be the case. Overall, the story, characters, animation, and music make for an okay movie, and unlike its sequel it doesn’t overstay its welcome. It’s not a great movie, but it is decent. I know this analysis has been pretty short, but so is the movie. There really isn’t much to say about it.

#45. Dumbo

4 Dumbo 3a

Yes, Dumbo is all the way down here. I know it’s a beloved classic that many people enjoy, but you need to remember what I said in the introduction. It’s not a terrible movie, but I don’t think it’s particularly good either; it’s just okay. Before the analysis I’m going to drop a couple pieces of trivia: this was the first film in the canon to get a home release. It was also the first movie in the canon to be set in the United States.

The story is average and simple, but it does have its strengths. The mother-child moments between Mrs. Jumbo and Dumbo are touching, and the scenes of Dumbo getting bullied are downright sad, so I at least care about the protagonist and have a dislike for his antagonists. Timothy Q. Mouse is a true friend to Dumbo and shows other admirable traits, which is another plus for the movie. Also, this movie marks Sterling Holloway’s Disney debut (as Mr. Stork)! It’s not his best role, but it did start a long and distinguished career with Disney so that makes this movie a little important. It’s also the first Disney movie to feature Verna Felton, as Mrs. Jumbo and the Elephant Matriarch. Another big plus was that this was made during an animators’ strike, so they had to make the movie with fewer resources. That translates to a run time of just one hour, three minutes, and 50 seconds, the third shortest in the canon. The story is told in a timely fashion and doesn’t overstay its welcome like others have. The strike is also thought to have helped cement Walt Disney’s anticommunism, so it had another positive outcome!

Now as for the negatives, well, overall the movie is pretty boring. I really only like the scenes between Dumbo and his mom or Timothy. I don’t care for the “Pink Elephants on Parade” segment. Psychedelic, drunken reveries just aren’t my thing; it’s weird and doesn’t really fit the rest of the movie. I have to address the racism too. The “happy-hearted roustabouts” that help set up the circus tent are dark-skinned and, as the lyrics make clear, illiterate and can’t handle their money. Everyone already knows about the crows that speak in stereotypical Ebonics and have a leader named “Jim” (voiced by Cliff Edwards, the voice of Jiminy Cricket). It was 1941 and this was routine humor. These aren’t the worst examples of racism in the canon, but they do cause the movie to lose points. I certainly don’t advocate editing the movie to change or remove them, but they are something to be aware of.

The animation is pretty good, but not the best of the era. That makes sense given the strike. The music is okay. I’m not enamored with any of the songs, but they’re not terrible either. “Baby Mine” is touching though, and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song. Despite its status as a beloved classic, I find it boring more than anything else. This is one of those movies that I want to like more than I do, but I just can’t. Even as a kid it was never one of my favorites. Let’s move on.

#44. Bambi

5 Bambi 2a

Yes, two beloved classics in a row. I know this is one of the most beloved movies in the canon. If an unverified statement on its Disney wiki page is true, then this was Walt Disney’s favorite of his animated movies. If that’s true then I do feel a bit bad about this, but again, see the introduction. I will say that I do appreciate this movie more now than when I was a kid. Even with this newfound appreciation, however, I have to put it here.

First I want to acknowledge the movie’s biggest strength: the animation is absolutely beautiful. This is one of the finest examples of old school (pre-xerography, pre-digital) animation there is. The colors are vibrant and eye-catching. As with The Lion King decades later, the animators spent a great deal of time studying the movements of real animals. This allowed them to animate the characters in a more realistic way while still having the charm of cartoon animals. If the movies were judged on animation alone, this would be much higher on the list. It’s a visual delight from start to finish.

The story is another story though.[8] It’s pretty boring most of the way through. Things get exciting toward the end when Bambi fights Ronno (a great example of the movie’s success in the animation department by the way) and the big hunt and forest fire that happen shortly afterward, but before that it almost seems like it’s trying to be a mix of a nature documentary, anti-poaching PSA, and Disney movie. It just doesn’t work for me.

The characters are pretty boring too. I noticed I didn’t really care about them until something happened to them. I didn’t care about Bambi until his mom was shot. I didn’t care about Faline until Ronno showed up. I didn’t care about the other animals until the big hunting and forest fire scenes at the end. Thumper might be one of John Lasseter’s favorite characters, but I don’t really care for him.[9] He just seems like an obnoxious know-it-all as a kid and we don’t see much of him as an adult. Flower is boring too. Friend Owl scared me as a kid, but now that I’m older I appreciate his “grumpy old man” persona and find him to be one of the more enjoyable characters. Man is actually a good antagonist. The whole “off-screen evil is the scariest evil” thing works pretty well here. (Technical difficulties would allow Jaws and Alien to mostly repeat the same thing decades later.) This is one of the few Disney movies where no humans are seen (though we see their handiwork and hear about them).

The music is okay. I don’t really care for any of the songs, not even “Love Is a Song,” which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song. I think my favorite song of the movie is “Little April Shower.” The score is really good though and the music syncs up with animation quite well. Overall, despite its technical brilliance, the story and characters are boring. I just can’t put it any higher. This is another one of those moves I want to like more, but can’t. Sorry, Uncle Walt, if this really was your favorite.

[1] Even though it was a critical failure it was financially successful. Essentially, droves of people took their kids to see it, but nobody liked it. This causes it to have a higher Cogerson score than it deserves.

[2] Sarcasm

[3] After typing that sentence I now have to wonder if John Vogel is a fan of this movie because that sounds fairly similar to the plot for Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance.

[4] Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t have a short attention span or hate long movies. The longest movies in the canon are all higher up on the list. I just don’t like it when movies are unnecessarily long.

[5] I’m not trying to be a hipster, that’s just a statement of fact. I remember the fist time a saw a list of the canon and when I got to these movies I thought, “What?”

[6] To date, Minnie Mouse, Pete, Pluto, Chip, Dale, Scrooge McDuck, Huey, Dewey, and Louie have not appeared in a canonical movie. Disney should fix that.

[7] It was 1948. The whole cowboys and Indians thing was very popular.

[8] Pun intended

[9] I’ll have more to say about John Lasseter later, just remember the name for now.

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Ranking the Disney Animated Canon, Part 1