The Walt Disney Company has been around since 1923 and continually blows its fans away with intricate, beautiful, animated films rich with family values and impressive, overarching themes. The amount of thought that goes into a Disney film is quite amazing, and very rarely does the company get it wrong.
Still, even the Mouse House is capable of producing a mediocre film every once in a while, and unfortunately, it’s happened quite a few times in the past, at least in critics’ eyes. And while true fans overlook the few faults in these films due to their love of Disney, sometimes, critics just can’t.
Here are the 12 Worst Reviewed Animated Disney Movies.
12 The Aristocats (1970)
The Aristocats tells the story of retired opera singer, Madame Adelaide Bonfamille, who is enjoying her retirement in France along with her Parisian cat, Duchess, and her three kittens, Berlioz, Toulouse and Marie. Everything is going well until the butler, Edgar, learns that Madame is leaving her fortune to her cats. He drugs and kidnaps them, only to lose them to a stray, tomcat, Thomas O’Malley, who helps them back to their home in Paris.
The film received low critic scores due to the rather unimaginative storytelling, repetitious characters and unambitious plotline. It’s hard to disagree, as the story is essentially a feline version of Disney’s classic, Lady and the Tramp (1955), recycling character tropes and plotlines. Still, many claim the voice work, music and psychedelic sequences were redeeming qualities of the film, saving it from becoming a complete flop.
11 Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
Milo Thatch, a museum worker set on finding the lost city of Atlantis, teams up with a group of explorers (said to be the top crew) and takes a submarine journey to find Atlantis. But things go awry while on the journey, as Milo realizes the crew’s lust for something other than adventure and discovery.
Critics found fault with the film’s use of stereotypes and inability to connect certain plot points, leaving major plot holes within the story. But perhaps the largest problem with the film was the character development, or lack thereof. It’s almost universally stated that Disney had the right idea in the storyline and characters, but the execution fell flat, a disappointing outcome for an imaginative idea.
10 The Black Cauldron (1985)
The Black Cauldron takes place centuries ago in a land called Prydain. Taran, a young boy, must protect an oracular pig, named Hen Wen, who knows the location of the black cauldron. The black cauldron is a mystical item whose owner has enough power to rule, or destroy, the world, and The Evil Horned King will stop at nothing to get this cauldron, making Taran’s task much more difficult.
While critics describe the film as “ambitious” across the board, it ultimately falls flat, leaving viewers longing for the film’s potential genius. The Black Cauldron is largely considered Disney’s worst animated feature, but even so, it’s impressive ambition and knack for the imaginative demonstrates the best that Disney has to offer, even if it didn’t quite reach the standards it set for itself.
9 Brother Bear (2003)
In true Disney fashion, this 2003 animated feature is largely a tale of brotherhood and understanding. Kenai, a man that resents bears after one kills his brother, needlessly kills one in revenge. However, this selfish, cruel act is punished quickly, as Kenai is turned into the animal he hates, forced to undergo a journey meant to teach him forgiveness, understanding and compassion.
Despite the typical Disney themes and characters, the film didn’t do so well in terms of ratings. In fact, most critics referred to the film as lazy, unimaginative and lackluster, coining it a disappointment in comparison with Disney’s typical, out-of-the-box films. While it’s undeniably cute and means well, the film is just missing that true, unique, Disney feel.
8 Chicken Little (2005)
Zach Braff is the little bird that single-handedly ruined his reputation by mistaking a fallen acorn for a piece of the sky, but now, he’s determined to set everything straight. Soon after the initial incident, a real piece of sky falls. Now wise enough to believe he can handle this on his own, Chicken Little seeks help from his friends in an effort to avoid a panic and save his town.
This was Disney’s first non-Pixar film to make complete use of CGI, and though the animation is very well done, the plot suffered. Critics of the film claim it doesn’t exactly breathe new life into the already famous story, and the characters are juvenile, unimaginative additions that appear very un-Disney.
7 Dinosaur (2000)
Disney's first experiment with CGI (which combined animated creatures with live-action backgrounds), Dinosaur is about an iguanodon, Aladar, who is separated from his family when he’s still an egg, though a family of lemurs quickly takes him in and raises him. But after a meteor shower hits their home, destroying it in the process, they must join a group of dinosaurs and seek shelter, though the trek is the most dangerous any of these characters have ever faced.
While the storyline is mediocre at best, condemning the film for many critics, the animation was this film’s saving grace, contrasting light and dark, beautiful and terrifying (though it feels very dated 16 years later). Still, the similarities to The Land Before Time (1988) and the lack of imagination in the plot didn’t escape the critics' eyes, earning this film yet another low rating for Disney.
6 Home on the Range (2004)
Despite the all-star voice cast, including Cuba Gooding Jr., Steve Buscemi, Judi Dench and Roseanne Barr, Home on the Range did not hit home with its critics. The film follows a group of barnyard animals that have just learned a wanted cattle rustler is buying up property all over Nebraska, and their farm is next. In light of this realization, some unlikely allies align in hopes of saving their farm.
But the plot falls short in critics’ eyes, condemned as uninspired and dry. The animation is described as lacking a certain quality, and the film doesn’t quite reach that standard that Disney films typically implement.
5 Meet the Robinsons (2007)
Lewis is a young, orphaned inventor, desperate to know what his mom looked like. When he invents a machine meant to help him do so, he finds himself propelled into the future with a companion, Wilbur Robinson, who teaches him what it’s like to be surrounded by people that love and appreciate you.
Though the reviews of the film are not nearly as scathing as some of the others on this list, the film still doesn’t quite hit home the way that fans have come accustomed to when it comes to Disney. Critics enjoyed the cutesy, family-oriented plotline and the reimagining of a baby left on the doorstep, but there was still something missing that kept this film from top notch Disney status.
4 Oliver & Company (1988)
Billy Joel lends his voice to the story of Oliver, a homeless kitten wandering the streets of New York on his own, trying to find his place in the world. When a group of thieving, homeless dogs come along and take him under their wing, Oliver’s life changes very quickly.
The cast, also including Joey Lawrence (Oliver) and Bette Midler, couldn’t save the film from the scathing critics. The plot is described as predictable, the songs not nearly as catchy as they could be (especially with vocal talents Joel and Midler) and the animation doesn’t pop nearly enough on the screen, making the film a visual disappointment for Disney.
3 Pocahontas (1995)
The reimagining of a true, tragic story, Disney’s Pocahontas is a love story involving the daughter of an Algonquin chief and an English soldier who just arrived on their land with a group of English colonists in search of gold. The film is described as “politically correct” by many, transforming a dark, horrific past into a kid-friendly film.
Still, with a subject matter this difficult to transform, Disney again fell just a little too short in the critics’ eyes. The plot is arguably bland, giving viewers raw, beautiful moments but surrounding them with dull, lifeless storyline. Though the animals in the film bring a little more life to it, the dark story eventually wins out, making this one of the least fun Disney classics.
2 The Rescuers Down Under (1990)
The sequel to Disney’s The Rescuers (1977) didn’t quite hit the mark, leaving fans with an uninspired plot and disappointment. While the return of lovable R.A.S. agents, Bernard (Bob Newhart) and Bianca (Eva Gabor), certainly left an impression on Disney fans’ hearts, it ultimately wasn’t enough as the story felt mediocre at best (the couple travel to Australia to save a young boy from a murderous poacher).
While the plot is mostly condemned and the voice work didn’t quite do enough, what ended up saving this film was the animation – particularly the flight scenes involving the rare, golden eagle. Still, a few breathtaking sequences weren’t enough to save this film from some awful reviews.
1 Robin Hood (1973)
Everyone’s familiar with the famous story of the man who takes from the rich and gives to the poor, and Disney’s no exception. The only difference, this Prince of Thieves is an animated, humanoid fox. This retelling is certainly cute, making the story very approachable for younger children, but it couldn’t manage to win over critics’ hearts.
While the film was poorly reviewed for the same reasons as the others, namely a plot that fell short, one of the biggest problems was that Robin Hood himself didn’t appear on screen as much as Sir John and Sir Hiss, and their antics tend to feel too juvenile for adult audiences.
Surprised? Disagree with the critics? Voice your opinion in the comments!