It's not quite a longshot to say that Disney runs the world in many ways. This franchise has grown significantly since its start in 1923. Having once been known only for a singing, dancing cartoon mouse, Disney now owns multiple parks, studios, channels, and production companies.
Disney is also a major part of just about everyone's childhoods, creating some of the most well-known, beloved, and iconic films in history. Before Disney became the mega-franchise it is today, the film company was notorious for producing socially unaware, politically incorrect, and sometimes, downright offensive movies - even if the intent was usually in the right place.
But that doesn't mean that Disney didn't produce its share of classic movies that were - and still are - considered ahead of their time. Let's take a look at some of the most notable.
10 MARY POPPINS (1964)
Starring the forever-beloved Julie Andrews, Mary Poppins became an unforgettable classic in no time at all. Nearly everything about this movie was praised, including its cast's stellar performances, and a story that was entertaining and compelling for children and adults alike.
One thing that made Mary Poppins a timeless masterpiece, was its incredible use of animation. Blending 2D animation with real-life elements - such as the unforgettable scene in which Dick Van Dyke's character dances with penguins - was no easy task in the early 60s, but Mary Poppins made it absolutely captivating.
9 THE BLACK CAULDRON (1985)
Since its theatrical release in 1985, The Black Cauldron has garnered both a notorious reputation and a dedicated cult following. This movie was completely controversial when it first came out, and it was the first animated Disney film to receive a PG rating.
Today, The Black Cauldron is regarded as somewhat of a black sheep in the collection of animated Disney films of that era. It was a commercial failure when it was released, but largely due to just how different this film was, it's very beloved today.
8 OLIVER & COMPANY (1988)
Oliver & Company was Disney's very altered take on Charles Dicken's classic novel, Oliver Twist. It's probably the most unique adaptation of the story to date, as it replaces people with animated talking, singing animals.
Today, Oliver & Company is regarded as an underrated classic, and it is thought that the film was stylistically and musically ahead of its time.
7 THE LITTLE MERMAID (1989)
Hans Christian Andersen's classic fairy tale is known for being extremely graphic, morbid, and dark - especially for a story aimed at children. Though Disney's adaptation of The Little Mermaid is loosely based on this Danish fairy tale, the animated classic changed many elements of the source material to make it Disney-friendly.
The Little Mermaid and the character of Ariel are still considered to be ahead of their time today, as Disney impressively gave this princess more independence and spirit than some of the others.
6 BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1991)
Belle is arguably the most admirable, inspirational Disney princess - at least from the 2D animation era. Beauty And The Beast premiered in theatres in 1991. With a beautiful soundtrack, stunning animation, and one of the most memorable love stories Disney has ever created, the film remains a classic to this day.
Beauty And The Beast managed to be ahead of its time mostly when it came to the character of Belle. Notably, she shoots down Gaston, isn't on a quest to find romance, and has her own dreams and aspirations. It's also worth mentioning that Belle is basically the hero of this story, and she saves the lives of both her father and the Beast on separate occasions.
5 TOY STORY (1995)
Toy Story remains very famous to this day, and it is well-known for the fact that it was the first-ever feature film to be created entirely using CGI. Toy Story was produced by Pixar and released by Disney - definitely a collaboration for the ages. Toy Story is now one of the most successful film franchises out there, and it's worth remembering the first film that started it all.
It's easy to see just how ahead-of-its-time Toy Story was, with the stunning use of CGI. The film did something that was never done before, breaking down animation barriers, and it had countless films follow in its footsteps.
4 ALADDIN (1992)
Keeping up with the trend of remaking everything that was ever remotely good, Disney's live-action version of Aladdin hit theatres on May 24, 2019. Unsurprisingly - yet still pretty overwhelmingly - the remake raked in a whopping $1.020 billion at the box office, on a less-than-modest budget of $183 million.
The new Aladdin was certainly a commercial success, and a big contributing factor to that was the fact that the original is still so beloved. Aladdin (1992) was a beautiful Disney masterpiece, ahead of its time in many aspects including stunning animation. The original Aladdin definitely still stands the test of time, causing many to question if a remake was actually that necessary.
3 THE PARENT TRAP (1961)
Before the more well-known version of Parent Trap was released in 1998, starring Lindsay Lohan in a dual role as loveable twins, Annie and Hallie, Disney created a Technicolor film of the same name. The Parent Trap was loosely based on a 1949 book titled Lottie And Lisa.
Sure, the original Parent Trap would appear dated today, as it comes with all that '60s Disney charm that just seems corny these days. But this film made the very impressive accomplishment of young actress Hayley Mills star in a dual role as the twins, just as Lindsay Lohan would decades later.
2 MULAN (1998)
Before the release of Mulan, Disney had gotten quite the reputation for their previous questionable portrayals of minorities and other countries. This was especially true for Peter Pan (1953) and Pocahontas (1995). So understandably, audiences were initially skeptical of the concept of Mulan, a film that would revolve completely around Chinese characters.
But Disney managed to surpass expectations with this one, and the character of Mulan specifically is still praised for being an excellent role model for young audiences.
1 THE PRINCESS DIARIES (2001)
Kicking off a trend of poorly made coming-of-age films that revolved around teen girls discovering that they're actually princesses, The Princess Diaries probably deserves a lot more love than it gets. Sure, it was the inspiration for some rather cringe-worthy material, but that does not mean it's at fault.
At its heart, The Princess Diaries had a good message and was supported by strong performances from Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews. It's a film that critics hated, but audiences loved.