There’s no denying the incredible hold Walt Disney Studios seems to have over those willing to shell out and go to the movie theater nowadays. Recent live action release Beauty and the Beast took in huge numbers at the box office and enjoyed a series of great reviews, likely thanks in part to the nostalgia many of us feel when we’re faced with a Disney release. It takes us right back to our childhood and lights a fire in our hearts; each of us has a go-to Disney film, a movie that means the world to us.
What we often don’t discuss, however, are those Disney movies that fell a little flat. Sure, they may have been big money earners, but there are films within this realm that have failed to tick any boxes at all. With that in mind, we’ve decided to take a look at the 15 Worst Major Disney Movies Of All Time.
15. Fantasia 2000 (1999)
Released 60 years after the original Fantasia movie, Walt Disney Pictures decided to capitalize on the popularity of the first outing with a brand new concert film: Fantasia 2000. For the most part, it seemed to have all the right ingredients for success. There were some incredible celebrity guests such as Bette Midler, Angela Lansbury, Steve Martin, and magic duo Penn & Teller, and the classical music used was easy listening. Unfortunately, it’s the animated segments set to the music that fall a little flat here. Whether it’s the family of humpback whales who can fly or the awakening of the Firebird, nothing here ignited audiences quite like the timeless original. Fortunately, this release doesn’t stain the magic made by Fantasia too badly, but if there’s one thing that can be learnt from this movie and others like it (read: the majority of Disney sequels!), it’s that greatness is often better left alone.
14. The Pacifier (2005)
Though he may currently be helping The Fate of the Furious bring in some record-breaking box office numbers across the globe, Vin Diesel’s roles haven’t always been as compelling as Dominic Toretto. Take for example his leading role in The Pacifier. To be fair, he does the best with what he’s given, stepping into the shoes of disgraced Navy SEAL Shane Wolfe.
Produced by Walt Disney Pictures alongside Spyglass Entertainment, the film follows the strange journey undertaken by Wolfe, who somehow finds himself looking after a group of children while searching for a top secret project that the government needs access to. It’s a flimsy story with even flimsier acting; nobody’s given the chance to shine here. Despite that, it still managed to rake in almost $200 million in the box office, and Vin Diesel even told reporters back in 2015 that a sequel was in the works. Thankfully, we haven’t heard anything about it since then…
13. The Haunted Mansion (2003)
Based on the Disney theme park attraction of the same name, The Haunted Mansion had all the right ingredients to become yet another classic. Unfortunately for those involved, it fell flat on most fronts, and not even leading A-list actor Eddie Murphy could save the flick.
You see, when a movie markets itself as a horror-comedy, it needs both scares and laughs to be a success. The Haunted Mansion is low on both of these and so fails to ever really get off the ground.
For its time, it was visually effective, but that’s about all the good that can be mustered up to say about the release. If you want a good time with The Haunted Mansion, stick to the real-life theme park attraction. The movie is something that’s better left a ghost of your past, so lock it up in the vault and throw away the key…
12. Treasure Planet (2002)
Disney ventured into the realm of science fiction with Treasure Planet, but failed to even break even at the box office on its budget of $140 million. The storyline here isn’t awful, with quite a compelling plot and talented voice actors including Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Emma Thompson, but when it came to the execution, there was a certain charm lacking. There was none of the Disney spirit or magic that the franchise has become so renowned for here, instead with obvious punts to TRY and elicit reactions from the audience which would simply fall flat miles out from where initially intended.
One of those failings comes with the addition of companion character, B.E.N.; a robot that fails to prop up any of the many scenes they appear in, instead hindering them and even making some unwatchable. Maybe a movie to keep small children quiet for a couple of hours, but nothing to write home about, and insufferable for anybody over the age of 5.
11. Bolt (2008)
John Travolta, Miley Cyrus, and Malcolm McDowell are just some of the big names that came together for Bolt, and while the film has in the past been hailed as the one that helped to kick off what’s known as the Disney Revival, it really wasn’t anything special. It starts off well and fine, but once it moves into the territory of telling the youngsters watching that you have to be in the world of showbiz to be a success, it starts to feel a little icky.
Honestly there’s nothing here that stands out. The story is fine and the characters could have been as memorable as the classics of the past such as Pinocchio’s Jiminy Cricket or The Little Mermaid’s Sebastian, but they’re failed by a script and lack of drive by those working on the film and reduced to forgettable parodies of themselves.
10. The Wild (2006)
Released shortly after the first Madagascar movie, The Wild was clearly trying to mop up some of the success that THAT film had seen, but didn’t even get off of the starting grid. If humor was the aim here, whoever was working on the script should be scolded for having such a terrible sense of it. They should also face criticism for the overall plot, as the story done here is SO recognizable that it actually leads the viewer into uncomfortable territory. There’s not a whiff of originality here.
It’s a shame, because Kiefer Sutherland and Eddie Izzard are amongst the cast giving great performances. You are left to wonder however whether they signed onto the movie without actually having a look at a script, because surely they wouldn’t want their name being associated with something so disastrous. A fail on every level, there’s nothing unique or ‘wild’ about The Wild. Avoid at all costs.
9. The Country Bears (2002)
Unsurprisingly, bringing bears and rock music together isn’t something that works either on paper or on screen. In fact, it’s a wonder this film ever got the go ahead. Making less than $17 million in the box office, it’s odd to imagine the meetings that took place in preparation for this flick, and those that inevitably came after when it crashed and burned.
The story saw a ‘legendary rock group’ named The Country Bears torn apart by their own egos, but when young fan Beary Barrington (yes, the names really are that terrible) convinces the bitter former members to come together once more for a benefit concert… Well, that’s where we lost interest.
On a serious note though, there’s not a single redeeming quality about this movie. The acting is wooden, the effects are dull and the plot is VERY loose. If you’re willing to put yourself through this movie more than once, you must be a masochist.
8. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)
There’s no doubting Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is one of the most iconic Disney movie characters of the modern day. Disney noticed this and decided to bring the kooky pirate to the forefront with the fourth instalment of the Pirates of the Caribbean series. It did the trick, grossing over a billion dollars in the box office, but that doesn’t mean the storyline here is anything to write home about, because whilst Sparrow is a mesmerising piece of art in cinema, he’s not somebody who can lead a movie. He needs to be propped up by a supporting ensemble cast, and that’s something that doesn’t exist here.
In fact, the plot is so poorly written and thought out that On Stranger Tides feels like much more of a slog than it should. Many scenes are irrelevant and unnecessary, and Depp’s contempt for being a part of something so utterly rubbish is clear on screen. Another shameless cash grab, and a huge stain on the Pirates series.
7. Brother Bear (2003)
There’s a lot of death and killing in Brother Bear, which in all honesty seems to be par for the course in Disney classics of the past. The plot is quickly confusing, showing that killing bears will in fact get you turned into a bear. So, are bears good or bad? Should being a bear be considered punishment and if so, shouldn’t they be wiped from the planet? It’s all very foggy and not at all presented well.
Phil Collins tries to bring some life to the flick with five new original tracks, but his music serves only to show just how terrible the rest of this release really is.
6. Chicken Little (2005)
Based on the goings-on after the events of the classic fable, where Chicken Little caused panic amongst his peers by claiming a piece of the sky had fallen out (it was an acorn), this film sees the young chicken try to restore his once-good reputation. Unfortunately for him, a piece of the sky really does fall out, landing on his head and sending him and his misfit friends off on a chaotic journey.
This one actually sounds like it could be something special, but unfortunately the premise is where the greatness ends. In execution, the picture is a constant disappointment. There’s never any uplifting moment or one scene of brilliance, with Chicken Little even failing to entertaining its youngest of viewers. Sure, a talking chicken can be fun for kids for maybe five minutes, but when that’s all worn off what’s left? As it turns out, not a lot…
5. Dinosaur (2000)
Not to be confused with the surprisingly great The Good Dinosaur, 2000 movie Dinosaur featured some state-of-the-art computer animation for its time and certainly looked the part on the big screen. When that was put aside however, the generic and bland plot and cast of characters sent most people watching into a state of sleep paralysis.
Following a roster of heroes you’re never really rooting for, the journey in Dinosaur takes viewers through a flaming meteor shower that devastates the prehistoric creatures’ homes. Tasked with finding a new life and a new place to live, the audience never really cares whether or not those featured are successful. In fact, the film may have been better if the characters were wiped out by the meteor shower and a whole new roster of heroes was brought in. Harsh, but true.
4. Home on the Range (2004)
Musical comedy Home on the Range had been in the works for some time behind the scenes at Disney, so it’s disappointing when you discover that the end product is for the most part dull and uninspired. Here we meet yet another cast of bland, unremarkable characters that audiences struggle to relate to; not even Judi Dench voicing Mrs. Caloway brings a pinch of joy to proceedings.
Set in the Old West and following the story of a trio of dairy cows, the heroic cattle are here tasked with capturing a rustler for his bounty so they can save their farm from foreclosure. It sounds ridiculous because it is. Not a single moment throughout the movie even comes close to being compelling and must-see viewing. Sad, as the animation work and music are actually pretty good; just not enough to pull this out of murky waters.
3. Planes (2013)
When Disney made the decision to try and capitalize on the popularity of their Cars film series with the addition of spin-off, Planes, they put all of their eggs in one basket, but failed to make an omelette.
Cute animated characters couldn’t help inspire through a drawn-out and done-to-death storyline of overcoming former cowardice with the help of friends. The likes of Dane Cook, Priyanka Chopra, John Cleese and Teri Hatcher all lend their vocal talents to the film and certainly help to bring life to the roster of colorful characters, but that doesn’t bring about success.
Nothing here stops Planes from being a shameless money grabber. Changing the vehicles involved and slapping a new name onto the Cars movie wasn’t enough to see this film get off the ground. It should have remained stuck on the runway.
2. Hannah Montana: The Movie (2009)
Hannah Montana was without a doubt one of the most popular Disney Channel shows during its time, and the $155.5 million made in the box office by Hannah Montana: The Movie proved that making a film about the character was one of the best decisions Walt Disney Studios could have made.
While they lined their pockets, we sat through almost two hours of lacklustre storytelling that included guest appearances from the likes of Tyra Banks and Steve Rushton. Here, Miley Stewart was struggling to keep her alter-ego Hannah Montana under wraps. For some reason, nobody could work out that Miley and Hannah were actually the same person (well, it works for Clark Kent), but the crushing pressure of keeping her identity a secret would prove to be too much. Of course, there’s a Disney-style ending in which all of the people she’s performing for whom she ‘comes out’ as Miley to actually promise to keep her secret, and she’s able to resume living a double life without such awful worries. If you’re wondering why it all sounds so far-fetched and terrible, it’s because it IS.
1. High School Musical Series (2006, 2007, 2008)
There’s no denying that plenty of us packed movie theaters when the High School Musical series was gearing up to say goodbye in its final film, but that doesn’t mean the quality of the movies here was of a high standard. With cheesy music, terrible dance routines, and some of the worst acting the world has ever witnessed, it’s a miracle the likes of Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens have managed to escape the clutch of the identity that plagued them during their time working on these releases.
The series itself wasn’t even delivering a strong message for teenagers of that generation, instead telling them they could and act however they pleased to get to where they believed they should be. The bratty characters ended up just as happy as the ones who acted with a moral compass and there was nobody here even a little bit relatable for the majority of those watching. This was the ideal high school realm for many, but one that was utterly unattainable and unrealistic.
Disney should inspire, and that’s something that High School Musical constantly failed to do.