After all these years, Disney movies remain the gold standard in family entertainment. Starting from the back of a realty office in Hollywood back in 1928, Disney is now a brand worth billions of dollars. But it's not just money—Disney's cultural influence is worldwide and manages to stay relevant with each subsequent generation. There's no underestimating the power of nostalgia; chances are if someone grew up liking Disney movies, they're probably a fan for life. Walt Disney pioneered the idea of feature-length animated movies, an idea considered ridiculous at the time. They would be too expensive to make, and what self-respecting adult would pay money to see a full-length animated film? Turns out everyone wanted to, especially those with kids. At the time, there was no such thing as a full-production studio dedicated to animated films—so with the profits of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Walt Disney built one. From there, it was only a short period of time before Disney branched out into producing live-action films, and before anyone knew it, Disney dominated the family entertainment market.
Since then, Disney has expanded its intellectual properties to include Marvel, Star Wars, ABC, and 20th Century Fox. This makes Disney virtually unstoppable. Some meme artists have even depicted Mickey Mouse as Thanos, with its individual properties the different gems in the Infinity Gauntlet. But there were a few hiccups along the way. Disney has had tremendous success with its films, but people tend to forget that even the mighty occasionally fall. Here are the 10 best Disney movies according to the ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, along with the 10 worst.
Pinnochio was Walt Disney's second animated feature, released shortly after the success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Like its predecessor, it had gorgeous visuals with a painstaking attention to every element of the production. Unlike Snow White, it initially flopped at the box office. Luckily, Walt Disney had faith in the movie and gave it a second release to recover production costs. The plan worked, and Pinocchio eventually earned enough money to put it back into the black.
The iconic "When You Wish Upon A Star" theme from the film is still synonymous with the Disney brand.
The artists of Pinnochio helped pioneered advances in effects animation, which specialized on non-character elements that move, such as water or fire. The animated ocean effects during the Monstro sequence were the most ambitious water effects ever achieved for its time.
If nobody remembers this movie, it's partially because it came in and of the theatre pretty fast. A remake of Disney's moderately successful live-action That Darn Cat from 1965, the 1997 version was not nearly as successful. Starring Cristina Ricci as Patti, the plot features a cat that becomes "witness" to a kidnapping gone wrong. Patti eventually convinces the authorities to investigate and she becomes central in helping to solve the details of the crime and eventual rescue.
The reviews of the film were dismal. One critic described it as "...a desperate dip into utter conventionality: dull car chases, explosions, inept slapstick." Another says it is a "...disappointing, rather warmed over Disney offering." Despite this, Cristina Ricci was nominated for two awards for her performance in the film, a Kid's Choice Awards, and a Young Artist's Ward.
The mostly live-action Mary Poppins was a smash-hit. It earned 13 Academy Award film nominations and won five, including Best Actress, Best Original Score, and Best Visual Effects. It's easy to see why. Julie Andrews brought her amazing charisma to the performance, dazzling audiences with her ability to sing, dance, and easily handle comedy intended for children. The songs are memorable, with several such as A Spoonful of Sugar and Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious becoming part of the American culture.
Disney had experimented with combining live action with animation before, but never in such an ambitious way. For many, their favorite part of the film is where Mary Poppins, Burt the Chimney Sweep, and the Banks children jump into the chalk drawing and have a little adventure in an animated world. Disney is releasing the sequel, Mary Poppins Returns, in December of 2018.
Based on the 1960's television show of the same name, My Favorite Martian tells the story of a humanoid Martian (Christopher Lloyd) that crash lands on earth. He enlists the help of a reporter in a funk to put him up while he tries to repair his spaceship and get home.
Though reviews were generally kind to Christopher Lloyd, the movie as a whole was mostly disliked by critics.
Said one reviewer on Rotten Tomatoes, "An utterly pointless and unimaginative remake based on the classic '60s sitcom...a meteoric misfire." Another gets right to the point: "A terrible movie. Beware." My Favorite Martian did earn three nominations...of The Stinkers Bad Movie Awards. It was nominated for Worst Resurrection of a TV Show, Most Botched Comic Relief and Most Painfully Unfunny Comedy.
Like most Disney movies, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh was adapted from existing source material. It's based on characters from short stories from the author A. A. Milne. The film focuses on young Christopher Robin and his stuffed bear, and a menagerie of other stuffed animals come to life. The movie is a collection of animated shorts edited together into a feature-length film.
Surprisingly, the Winnie the Pooh franchise is worth much more than one might imagine. Variety estimated the sales of merchandise related to Winnie the Pooh topped over $5 billion, which among Disney properties, is second only to Mickey Mouse. Disney released a live action movie, Christopher Robin, based on an adult Christopher Robin rediscovering Winnie the Pooh and his friends in August of 2018.
One would think that after one of the most stereotypical happy endings of all time, writers would have a hard time coming up with a good sequel for Cinderella. One would be right. Cinderella II: Dreams Come True is actually an anthology movie that ties together three Cinderella short stories into one film. The first story describes her struggle to be herself as a new princess. The second follows Jaq the mouse feeling left out. And the third shows how Cinderella tries to teach one of her step-sisters how to smile. Seriously.
This direct-to-video sequel wasn't liked by critics. One top critic says simply, "Do not see this film." Another, quite dramatically, announces, "A screaming black vortex of total, irredeemable awfulness." A quick glance through other remarks reveals similarly negative responses. Nevertheless, Cinderella II: Dreams Come True still made approximately $120 million in sales.
Toy Story was ambitious in scope, it being the first animated Disney feature that was fully animated with CGI. Audiences had never seen this kind of animated film before and impressed audiences made the movie a runaway hit. Though CGI animated movies have come a long way since then, Toy Story still holds up. The interplay between Woody the Cowboy (played by Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) is the highlight of the film. Though they have different perceptions of reality, they learn to work together to make sure they don't get left behind in their boy Andy's move.
Toy Story garnered three Academy Award nominations and won a Special Achievement Academy Award for being the first feature-length computer-animated film. It has two hit sequels, with a third in production.
What if a kid found a blank check that allowed him to spend a million dollars? That's the intriguing premise behind Blank Check, a movie that didn't really build a successful story out of this great idea. Through an implausible series of events, young Preston Waters is given a blank check to help pay for a bicycle accident involving a car. But he's given the wrong check, and the person who gave it to him is a criminal. Preston spends the rest of the movie spending lavishly while trying to avoid the authorities and the criminal who is hot on his tail.
One top critic explains it's "One of those smart-aleck kid adventures that manages to be entirely obnoxious with very little effort." A Rotten Tomatoes super reviewer hilariously opined, "If you loved Home Alone, you'll still gonna hate Blank Check!"
Though many modern audiences have never heard of Darby O'Gill and the Little People, it probably remains the most successful movie ever made about Leprechauns. In the film, the aging laborer and caretaker Darby O'Gill has spent much of his life trying to catch the Leprechauns. One day, in his old age, he is actually caught by them. He spends the rest of the film strategizing how he will spend the three wishes granted upon him by Brian, the King of the Leprechauns.
The film also features a young and dashing Sean Connery as Michael McBride, the love interest to Darby O'Gill's daughter.
Though it won no awards, it has been critically well-received over the years and had state-of-the-art special effects for its day.
The character of Mr. Magoo was a successful cartoon character from the late 40's through the 50's. The running gag for each story was that millionaire Mr. Magoo was practically blind, which led him into comically dangerous situations. Mr. Magoo was also amazingly lucky, which seemed to save him every time.
The Disney adaptation starred Leslie Nielsen, an actor beloved for being able to handle silly comedy with a straight face. But it just wasn't enough to save the film, which seemed to suffer from the repetitive and unfunny gags. Critics were beyond cruel to the film. One announced, "The movie is an insult to the intelligence of the entire human race." Another agrees, "Mr. Magoo is transcendently bad. It soars above ordinary badness as the eagle outreaches the fly. There is not a laugh in it. Not one."
After the runaway success of the first Toy Story, a sequel seemed inevitable. Somehow avoiding the curse of most sequels being inferior to the original, Toy Story 2 managed to be a moving story which many think is even better than the first. It also introduced a brand new character to the saga, Jesse the Cowgirl.
Toy Story 2 has one of the most heartbreaking songs in Disney's collection, When She Loved Me, performed by Sarah McLachlan. The song describes being abandoned by the child she loved, a sequence that left hardly a dry eye in the house. It went on to become a smash hit, just like the first one. Though it won no academy awards, it won many independent awards and some argue it is the best Toy Story movie of the entire franchise.
A Kid in King Arthur's Court is very loosely based on Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, a story that has been adapted into several other films. Modern '90s kid Calvin Fuller is playing baseball for his team when an earthquake hits. A chasm opens up on the field and he falls in. Calvin is inexplicably transported to England in the age of King Arthur, where he quickly wows the locals with his modern knowledge. While there, he also falls in love with the local princess.
Critics seemed to be surprised this was a Disney film. One critic laments, "Rarely do the well-financed wizards at Walt Disney Pictures cook up a movie this badly written, acted, and directed." Another says, "Sitting through it, I found myself shuddering at what Disney may have in store for next summer."
Old Yeller was famous for ruining many a childhood with a depressing plot twist, the on-screen demise of its titular dog. After saving his family multiple times over the years from bears, wild hogs, and wolves, Old Yeller finally seals his fate when he fought off a rabid wolf to protect his people. Not only did the the dog pass away, but its owner and best friend Travis had to put him down himself because he had been infected with rabies. This scene has become one of the most famous tear-jerking live-action scenes in all of Disney's films.
Despite the bummer plot development, the film was still a critical and commercial hit. And it still managed to leave on a high note—by the end, Travis adopts Old Yeller's puppy and names him Young Yeller.
As handsome as Paul Walker was, even he couldn't have saved Meet the Deedles. The story describes the hapless Phil and Stew Deedle, brothers who are in high school and avid surfers. Their father becomes disgusted with their lazy behavior and sends them off to a boot camp where they can learn some discipline.
In an extremely unlikely series of events, the Deedle brothers assume false identities as park rangers and...hilarity is supposed to ensue.
As with most movies received this badly, the Rotten Tomatoes reviews are hilarious to read. One critic announces dryly, "If all of this sounds ridiculous, it is." Another is much more cruel, saying, "Dumb is one thing, but this sorry attempt at action-comedy from stuntman turned director Steve Boyum is in an intelligence-deprived class all its own."
Snow White and the Seven Dwarves was Disney's first animated film feature and the first animated film to gain massive success. It was actually the profits from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves that allowed Disney to build its first full-fledged production studio in Burbank, California. From there, Disney was unleashed to produce dozens of huge hits.
Early forecasters predicted Snow White would be a huge flop, but Disney had the last laugh when the film was finally released. Critics, even the ones predicting its failure, absolutely loved it. Audiences flocked to it and children adored it. Walt Disney received a special Academy Honorary Award for making a "significant screen innovation." The Honorary Oscar came with seven little miniature Oscars. As with Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella, Disney is producing a live-action adaptation of the film.
Did we ever even need a Mulan 2? According to critics, the answer is a resounding "no." The original Mulan was a hit in 1998, following the adventures of the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, a woman who became a fearsome warrior against all odds. Mulan 2 features a convoluted plot wherein Mulan prepares to get married and go on an important mission at the same time, trying to prevent several kingdoms from collapsing against the Mongolian hordes.
The plot doesn't sound terrible, but it didn't deliver. Critics seemed to dislike it mainly for being bland. One explained, "If it were any more trivial, it'd be invisible. Mulan II is, rather, more conceptually offensive." Another spoke bluntly, "It's harmless, sure, but it's also charmless." Another sequel was planned but eventually shelved.
With 101 Dalmatians, Disney opted to develop a somewhat obscure children's story. This was a bit different from the popular fairy-tale adaptations that Disney had been known for. After a bachelor and his new blushing bride get married, their respective male and female adult Dalmatians breed a large litter of puppies. An over the top villain, Cruella de Vil, steals them along with other Dalmatian puppies with plans to eventually turn them all into a fur coat. The adult Dalmatians and other animals lead efforts to rescue ALL the puppies and bring them back to safety.
101 Dalmatians cut costs by adopting a more minimal animation style but still was a critical and financial success.
The movie was adapted into two live-action movies in the '90s and also had an animated sequel in 2003.
Not many Disney fans know this film even exists. The Big Green was released in 1995 and tells the story of a scrappy British teacher who introduces kids with low self-esteem in a small Texas town the game of soccer. Sort of a Bad News Bears for the soccer crowd, the movie follows these underdog kids as they go from losers to heroes.
However, according to critics, it's derivative and not as good as either of those films. Perhaps the poster, which features a young kid getting hit in the groin by a soccer ball, is the first sign the "comedy" wasn't up to par. One critic writes, "The Big Green is at its worst and most desperate when resorting to ridiculous hallucinations and silly sped-up photography to get laughs, and it's at its best when… well, it's over." Yikes.
It's hard to believe, but Disney suffered a bit of a downturn during WWII and by the late 40s was financially doing poorly. Disney turned back to its classic roots and decided to produce Cinderella, an old story based on folklore and also told in a classic Grimm's fairy tale. The movie not only brought Disney out of debt, but gave the studio enough capital to create its own film distribution company, begin production on other films, and start building Disneyland and Disney World.
The movie received critical praise not seen since Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and Pinnochio. Many noted its rich colors and backgrounds, realistic human animation, and memorable music. It was later nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Original Song for Bippity Boppity Boo.
The Emperor's New Groove was a unique and charming Disney film that has become somewhat of a cult classic over the years, featuring the voices of the hilarious David Spade and Patrick Warburton. Its sequel, Kronk's New Groove was not received nearly as well. Part of the problem may be the thin plot, which has something to do with Kronk running a restaurant, falling in love with a camp counselor, and trying to impress his father. Yzma returns as a villain but doesn't really have much to do.
Voice talents notwithstanding, the resulting film was a dud with critics.
Pointed out one, "Great voice talents, but weak storyline and frankly not much groove." Another astutely observed, "It's just too generic, and generic is not what we want from a sequel to a film that managed to escape the Disney mold."
Which of these films did you love most? Let us know in the comments!