As I said last week, I wanted to take on a few lighter topics recently, just for fun.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve been working my way through all the Disney animated movies in chronological order. This task started after my wife and I returned from Walt Disney World and my wife had been offended/astonished at how many Disney movies I knew about but hadn’t seen. And while I love Disney wholeheartedly and have been a fan since I was a lad, it was unacceptable that I hadn’t actually sat down and watched movies like Bambi, 101 Dalmatians, or Peter Pan.
I knew the stories, but I never watched the Disney-fied versions of them. And as an unabashed fanboy for Walt Disney World, I needed to start watching them.
In my progress, I’m currently up to The Rescuers Down Under, right at the start of the famed “Disney Renaissance” that basically created my childhood. I’ve really enjoyed working my way through classic movies and finally piecing together all the little bits of trivia and knowledge I’ve had all these years.
But I can’t help but think of the unsung heroes: the Disney movies that, for one reason or another, don’t get the credit they deserve. When talking about great Disney movies, you might hear somebody talk about Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, or The Lion King. And those all are certainly worthy of approval.
But the three below are some of my favorite movies of all-time (not just Disney movies), and they deserve recognition. If you haven’t sat down and watched these three, go out of your way to do so. They’re awesome.
A Goofy Movie
What it’s about: A split-off of the Goof Troop series (I never watched), Goofy lives with his son Max. He’s the prototypical embarrassing father. Max is kind of a nerd, and he has a big thing for Roxanne. He wants to impress her and watch the Powerline concert with her, but Goofy forces him onto a road trip to help bring them closer together.
Why it’s not appreciated: I think this movie gets overlooked because it’s not part of the traditional “Disney canon”. It’s not a fairy tale or anything – it’s just a funny movie set in present times (well, the ‘90s anyway – Pauly Shore IS in it).
Why it should be: The music is insanely catchy, even if it’s not “magical” music. The story is heartwarming, and there are very few slow spots in this one. I saw this movie in the theaters and it instantly became a favorite of mine.
Best scene: The opening number, “After Today”, which both establishes Max’s intent to woo Roxanne and also perfectly captures the awesomeness that used to be the last day of school before summer vacation. Takes me back.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
What it’s about: The classic tale of the ugly bell-ringer of the Notre Dame cathedral, and his desire to be included in Paris society.
Why it’s not appreciated: It’s pretty dark. Maybe not on Black Cauldron levels, but it’s dark for a Disney movie. There are a lot of adult themes in this movie, like infanticide, prejudice, light racism (the direct kind, not the “ALL DISNEY MOVIES HAVE RACIST THEMES” kind), lust, sin, etc.
Why it should be: Top to bottom, this is the most beautiful movie Disney has ever done. Ever. I mean that. I said it when I walked out of the theater, and it holds up to this day. The animation is stunning, the music is incredible, and all the voice work is top-notch.
Best scene: It’s hard to pick one. You could go with the jaw-dropping opening number, “The Bells of Notre Dame”, or Quasimodo’s ever-building “Out There”, or Esmerelda’s perfectly-animated “God Help the Outcasts” (that I kept humming incessantly as I walked through the actual Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris), or Frollo’s epic darky-dark-dark-I-can’t-believe-this-is-in-a-Disney-movie “Hellfire”. Like I said, this one’s my favorite.
The Emperor’s New Groove
What it’s about: A cocky emperor is turned into a llama and ditched in the countryside and has to humble himself if he ever wants to make it back to take back his throne.
Why it’s not appreciated: It didn’t do too well at the box office. It has a terrible title. There are no musical numbers. It’s at the tail-end of the Disney Renaissance, so it’s not lumped in with the greats by association. I even missed this entirely when it came out – had no desire to see it. Also, David Spade is in it.
Why it should be: It’s funny. Like, really funny. The first time I watched it, I laughed constantly. The tone is so different from a Disney movie, and it’s got a lot of laughs in it. And Kronk talking to squirrels should be preserved in Disney history forever. In fact, Kronk alone makes this movie, but there’s a lot of other great voice work from John Goodman, Eartha Kitt, and yes, David Spade.
Best scene: Like I’ve already said, Kronk with the squirrel. But there’s a lot of good stuff in this movie.
Go out of your way to see these, folks. What’s your favorite Disney movie?