Theatrically Released Animated Disney Movies

For some reason, I found myself looking at Wikipedia’s list of all theatrically-released animated Disney movies the other day, and decided I needed to rank the ones I’d seen. There are 58 of them (and 47 more I haven’t seen), and I ranked them kind of haphazardly, by going through and asking for each “Okay, is this better than that?” until I’d made a list. Some of them are tricky, because the plot’s pretty crappy but the animation is beautiful or I really like the songs. Others I’m pretty sure have earned their spots only through nostalgia. Here’s the Top 10:

1. Frozen (2013; Walt Disney)
2. Mulan (1998; Walt Disney)
3. Spirited Away (2002; Studio Ghibli)
4. Beauty and the Beast (1991; Walt Disney)
5. Emperor’s New Groove (2000; Walt Disney)
6. Aladdin (1992; Walt Disney)
7. Finding Nemo (2003; Pixar)
8. The Little Mermaid (1989; Walt Disney)
9. Hercules (1997; Walt Disney)
10. Howl’s Moving Castle (2005; Studio Ghibli)

It was interesting to me that a lot of them are from right around the same time period. Is that because Disney was the most skilled then? Or because I was the right age? Obviously there are outliers, like Frozen at #1 and the original Fantasia from 1940 ranking pretty high at #23 (see full list at the end). I made a graph scatter plotting release dates with my rankings and you can see most of the top ones are clustered in the post-1985 range, although that’s also when Disney increased their output, and acquired other studios like Pixar and Ghibli.

Interestingly, the worst ranked movie is from 1985

Interestingly, the worst ranked movie is from 1985

Here’s the bottom 10:

49. Sleeping Beauty (1959; Walt Disney)
50. Ponyo (2009; Studio Ghibli)
51. Dumbo (1941; Walt Disney)
52. A Goofy Movie (1995; DisneyToon)
53. Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars (1998; Hyperion)
54. Pinocchio (1940; Walt Disney)
55. Bambi (1942; Walt Disney)
56. Tarzan (1999; Walt Disney)
57. Doug’s First Movie (1999; DisneyToon)
58. The Black Cauldron (1985; Walt Disney)

If anything, it’s harder for me to decide the worst than the best, maybe because my reasons for disliking a movie are more varied. In the end, The Black Cauldron beat out all crappy contenders by having a lot of the same problems of plot, characters, and art style but also trying to cram 5 books into one movie. Five books that I kind of really like, especially at the time I first saw this film. You can imagine the disappointment. Child-Me had not yet come to terms with the fact that movie adaptions of books you like are often fraught with terribleness, but this movie helped teach her that lesson, I guess.

You might also notice that this bottom list is more varied in terms of studio responsible than the top list. I was interested in that too, and if there was a correlation between studio and quality. The comparison is a little unfair, of course, since Walt Disney Studios has produced 37 of the films on this list, while the next most prolific, Pixar, only has 10.

Films on this list produced by each studio

Films on this list produced by each studio

Still, I thought it would be illustrative, so here are the average rankings of each studio on the list (out of 58, remember)

The results aren't surprising

The results aren’t surprising

DisneyToon makes a terrible showing, partly because there are only 2 films it produced, and both are on the bottom ten. Studio Ghibli is a clear winner, even with the terribleness of Ponyo weighing it down from #50. Walt Disney Studios, where the bulk of these are coming from, is sitting comfortably in the middle. Because, sure, it’s got its Frozen and Mulan, but it also has The Black Cauldron and Tarzan weighing it down.

Here’s the full list:

1. Frozen (2013; Walt Disney)
2. Mulan (1998; Walt Disney)
3. Spirited Away (2002; Studio Ghibli)
4. Beauty and the Beast (1991; Walt Disney)
5. Emperor’s New Groove (2000; Walt Disney)
6. Aladdin (1992; Walt Disney)
7. Finding Nemo (2003; Pixar)
8. The Little Mermaid (1989; Walt Disney)
9. Hercules (1997; Walt Disney)
10. Howl’s Moving Castle (2005; Studio Ghibli)
11. Lion King (1994; Walt Disney)
12. Up (2009; Pixar)
13. Wreck-It Ralph (2012; Walt Disney)
14. Toy Story 2 (1999; Pixar)
15. Pocahontas (1995; Walt Disney)
16. Toy Story (1995; Pixar)
17. Kiki’s Delivery Service (1998; Studio Ghibli)
18. Brave (2012; Pixar)
19. Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996; Walt Disney)
21. Cars (2006; Pixar)
22. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993; Skellington)
23. Fantasia (1940; Walt Disney)
24. The Sword in the Stone (1963; Walt Disney)
25. Robin Hood (1970; Walt Disney)
26. The Great Mouse Detective (1986; Walt Disney)
27. Toy Story 3 (2010; Pixar)
28. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1077; Walt Dinsey)
29. James and the Giant Peach (1996; Skellington)
30. Rescuers Down Under (1990; Walt Disney)
31. Peter Pan (1953; Walt Disney)
32. Alice in Wonderland (1951; Walt Disney)
33. Brave Little Toaster (1987; Hyperion)
34. The Incredibles (2004; Pixar)
35. Monster’s Inc. (2001; Pixar)
36. Jungle Book (1967; Walt Disney)
37. A Bug’s Life (1998; Pixar)
38. Recess: School’s Out (2001; Walt Disney Television)
39. Fantasia 2000 (1999; Walt Disney)
40. The Rescuers (1977; Walt Disney)
41. Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001; Walt Disney)
42. Oliver and Company (1988; Walt Disney)
43. The Aristocats (1970; Walt Disney)
44. One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961; Walt Disney)
45. Lady and the Tramp (1955; Walt Disney)
46. Cinderella (1950; Walt Disney)
47. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937; Walt Disney)
48. The Fox and the Hound (1981; Walt Disney)
49. Sleeping Beauty (1959; Walt Disney)
50. Ponyo (2099; Studio Ghibli)
51. Dumbo (1941; Walt Disney)
52. A Goofy Movie (1995; DisneyToon)
53. Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars (1998; Hyperion)
54. Pinocchio (1940; Walt Disney)
55. Bambi (1942; Walt Disney)
56. Tarzan (1999; Walt Disney)
57. Doug’s First Movie (1999; DisneyToon)
58. The Black Cauldron (1985; Walt Disney)

2 responses to “Theatrically Released Animated Disney Movies”

  1. Jessica says:

    I notice that neither Ratatouille nor Wall-E are on your list, but these are two of my favorites! (Of course, I have a penchant for Pixar.) Check them out!

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