For more than 80s years, The Walt Disney Company has been knocking it out of the park when it comes to animated movies. From Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to Moana, the Mouse House has remained at the top of the animation game for eight decades, producing 56 movies that have captured the imagination of countless generations.

In today’s edition of The Great Stampede, I’m taking a look at all 56 movies in the Walt Disney Animated Classics collection, presenting a guide to the hits (and on a few occasions, the misses), with a little explanation for each. Read through the list, see which one’s you’ve watched and check up on those you’ve missed.

Please note: The following list is based on the US list of Walt Disney Animated Classics, so does differ slightly to lists used in other countries. However, as the films are produced in the US, this is the definitive list to work from.

Alex

Walt Disney Animated Classics 101:

  • 1) Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) – The one that started it all and created the Disney formula: A princess, a prince, cute supporting characters, songs, a very creepy villain etc. A little dated in places, but pretty much a timeless classic.
  • 2) Pinocchio (1940) – Based on ‘The Adventures of Pinocchio’ by Carlo Collodi – Pinocchio is the second movie in the Walt Disney Animated Classics portfolio and it’s such a good one. Packed with memorable tunes, including ‘When You Wish Upon A Star’, Pinocchio is worth revisiting every once in a while.
  • 3) Fantasia (1940) – For his third entry Walt Disney goes highbrow with the musical extravaganza. The film consists of a series of animated shorts, all set to the backdrop of classical music, with the main highlight being The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Not for everyone, but its triumphs far outweigh its failings.
  • 4) Dumbo (1941) – A small scale story, focusing on the early antics of a circus elephant called Jumbo Jr (aka Dumbo). Highlights of Dumbo include the bittersweet song, ‘Baby Mine’ and the seriously bonkers, ‘Pink Elephants on Parade’.
  • 5) Bambi (1942) – Another small-scale tale, this time focusing on the early adventures of Bambi – a white-tailed fawn. The movie is packed with charm and drama in equal measure and includes a very memorable scene guaranteed to produce a tear… or two.
  • 6) Saludos Amigos (1943) – The first of six Disney ‘package’ movies – films produced between 1943 and 1949 – which contain a mix of live-action and animation. Saludos Amigos plays out more like a travelogue than a movie and is for completists only.
  • 7) The Three Caballeros (1945) – Donald Duck is the main focus of The Three Caballeros – effectively acting as the glue that holds everything together. Colourful characters and lively dance routine offer something to pass the running time, but The Three Caballeros is not Disney’s finest hour.
  • 8) Make Mine Music (1946) – Make Mine Music is composed of ten musical segments and plays out like a low budget version of Fantasia (1940). ‘The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met’ and ‘Peter and the Wolf’ are musical highlights, but overall the movie lacks drive.
  • 9) Fun and Fancy Free (1947) – Split into just two stories – ‘Bongo’ and ‘Mickey and the Beanstalk’Fun and Fancy Free is enjoyable, but not worthy of ‘Classic’ status. Both stories are enjoyable enough, but sadly neither are superb. Another one for Disney completists only.
  • 10) Melody Time (1948) – The fifth ‘package’ movie and a return to the musically-minded movies of the past. Melody Time includes seven individual segments, with highlights including ‘Blame It on the Samba’ (featuring Donald Duck) and ‘Bumble Boogie’, a jazz variation of Rimsky-Korsakov’s ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’.
  • 11) The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949) – Disney’s 11th Animated Classic and its final package movie. Things are stripped back again to just two animated offerings: ‘Wind in the Willows’ and ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ (narrated by Bing Crosby, no less). Nothing outstanding, but as neither short wears out its welcome it is easily the best of the package movies.
  • 12) Cinderella (1950) – Like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Cinderella is a timeless fairy tale which proves that even the most downtrodden person can get their reward. The animation is faultless, the Prince’s ball sequence (set to the backdrop of ‘So This is Love’) is great and Lady Tremaine is a superb villain. If you like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, then you will love Cinderella.
  • 13) Alice in Wonderland (1951) – The 13th Disney Classic adapts two books, ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ (1865) and ‘Through the Looking-Glass’ (1871). For the most part, the movie works quite well largely because of its colourful characters, but there are a few shortcomings that stop it from being amazing.
  • 14) Peter Pan (1953) – Based on J. M. Barrie’s play, Peter Pan is a Disney movie low on musical numbers but high on adventure. The animation is a joy to watch, the action is great and the interactions between Captain Hook and Smee are fab. Some of the terminology used in Peter Pan date the movie considerably, but it still remains an enjoyable romp.
  • 15) Lady and the Tramp (1955) – Based on Ward Greene’s story, ‘Happy Dan, the Whistling Dog’, the plot of Lady & the Tramp is a simple one and revolves around a cocker spaniel called Lady and a stray mongrel named Tramp. Highlights include the wicked Siamese cats, Peggy Lee’s musical number, ‘He’s a Tramp’ and the now famous scene spaghetti scene. A straightforward tale of love and adventure.
  • 16) Sleeping Beauty (1959) – Sleeping Beauty is a tale about a princess, an evil fairy called Maleficent and love’s first kiss. Sleeping Beauty is without doubt one of the best-looking Disney animated movies ever produced, with highlights including the good fairies (Flora, Fauna and Merrryweather) and pretty much every scene with Maleficent.
  • 17) One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961) – Based on Dodi Smith’s children’s book, One Hundred and One Dalmatians is the perfect movie for dog lovers, as well as those who love great adventure movies. The film features scratchy-yet-stylised animation and some of the cutest cartoon canines ever committed to celluloid. Perfect and delightful.
  • 18) The Sword in the Stone (1963) – Based on the novel of the same name by T. H. White, The Sword in the Stone is an enjoyable Disney movie held together by a paper-thin plot. Nothing amazing, but thanks to colourful characters the movie has enough charm to paper over the cracks.
  • 19) The Jungle Book (1967) – Based on Rudyard Kipling’s book of the same name, The Jungle Book is not only one of the best Disney movies of the 1960s it is also one of the best Disney films period. Toe-tapping songs ‘The Bare Necessities’ and ‘I Wanna Be Like You’ are the highlights, but in short, The Jungle Book is simply excellent.
  • 20) The Aristocats (1970) – A fun story, reminiscent of Lady and the Tramp, One Hundred and One Dalmatians and The Jungle Book. While the film never quite hits the heights of these three Classics, it is still perfectly good animated fair. Ideal for the younger members of the family.
  • 21) Robin Hood (1973) – Great characters, great animation and plenty of action. Robin Hood is a tale about corrupted officials, inspiring heroes and most important of all, hope! The movie is one of the best-loved and best-remembered takes on the Robin Hood legend.
  • 22) The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977) – The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is not an original movie, but rather an animated film composed of previously released material: ‘Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree’ (1966), ‘Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day’ (1968) and ‘Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too’ (1974). If you can get past the patchwork feel, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is a heartfelt, timeless classic.
  • 23) The Rescuers (1977) – Based on a series of books by Margery Sharp and released the same year as The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, The Rescuers is a dark tale filled with danger and peril. Boasting some genuinely creepy imagery, as well as a rather ghastly villain, The Rescuers is a Disney gem that is all too often forgotten.
  • 24) The Fox and the Hound (1981) – Based on the book of the same name by Daniel P. Mannix, The Fox and the Hound is a tear-inducing tale about friendship and social differences. The movie should be up there with the best Disney Classics, but sadly it’s all too depressing. The Fox and the Hound isn’t a bad Disney movie, it’s just a little too downbeat for its own good.
  • 25) The Black Cauldron (1985) – Putting the package movies aside for one moment, as they were produced for budget reasons, The Black Cauldron is the first real misfire in this whole series and it’s a real shame. While the animation and the villain – the Horned King – are superb, the dark overtones and dull storyline derail the movie on an epic scale. A curio but alas, nothing more.
  • 26) The Great Mouse Detective (1986) – Based on the children’s book ‘Basil of Baker Street’ by Eve Titus and Paul Galdone, The Great Mouse Detective is Disney’s take on Sherlock Holmes and features the voice talents of Barrie Ingham and Vincent Price. Not the strongest Disney movie, but not bad either – and sometimes that’s just enough.
  • 27) Oliver & Company (1988) – Loosely based on Charles Dickens’ classic story, ‘Oliver Twist’, Oliver & Company is a so-so animated film with one of the worst soundtracks in Disney history. While the film isn’t awful (although it’s not far off), Oliver & Company just isn’t very good. It’s also dated. Incredibly dated. Disney Classics should feel timeless, but Oliver & Company feels like an average cartoon from the ’80s.
  • 28) The Little Mermaid (1989) – Superb. Simply, superb! After a run of ‘meh’ movies, Walt Disney not only returns to form, the studio surpasses pretty much everything that has come before. All the songs hit the mark, with ‘Part of Your World’ and ‘Under the Sea’ being the standout tunes, and the story never misses a beat. The Little Mermaid is Disney at its best.
  • 29) The Rescuers Down Under (1990) – A belated sequel to The Rescuers – something which is quite rare amongst the Classics – The Rescuers Down Under is an enjoyable, if not particularly memorable entry in the Disney collection. John Candy provides vocal talent and the villain is suitably menacing.
  • 30) Beauty and the Beast (1991) – Everyone has their favourite Disney movie, but this one is easily the best regardless of favourites. Filled with romance, colourful characters, rousing songs and fantastic animation, Beauty and the Beast has it all – and then some! The famous ballroom scene is one of the most beautiful scenes in cinematic history.
  • 31) Aladdin (1992) – Everything about Aladdin is perfect. Just perfect. Aladdin boasts outstanding songs including ‘Prince Ali’ and ‘A Whole New World’, but it’s Robin Williams’ performance as Genie which really cements this film as a stone cold classic.
  • 32) The Lion King (1994) – From the grand opening to the epic showdown, The Lion King is packed full of fun, danger and emotion. Elton John and Tim Rice provide the songs, Hans Zimmer provides the score and the talented voice cast – including James Earl Jones and Nathan Lane – provide the heart. One of the best films from the Mouse House.
  • 33) Pocahontas (1995) – Pocahontas – Disney’s tale of Native American folklore – is a perfectly animated movie, with colourful characters, breath-taking visuals and an ending which completely breaks Disney tradition. The only thing that (slightly) scuppers Pocahontas is the songs, which just miss the mark. That said, ‘Colors of the Wind’ is excellent and the benchmark for Disney ditties.
  • 34) The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) – Based upon the book ‘Notre-Dame de Paris’ by Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre Dame is one of Disney’s darkest movies. It is also one of its best. The film boasts eye-popping visuals, fantastic songs and the late Tony Jay giving one of the best performances in Disney history, as the vile Judge Claude Frollo.
  • 35) Hercules (1997) – A fun reworking of the Greek legend, ‘Heracles’ complete with gospel soundtrack! James Woods steals the show as Hades and the hydra battle sequence is awesome!
  • 36) Mulan (1998) – Set during the Han Dynasty and based on the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, Disney’s Mulan is another fine example of Disney being at the top of its game, with fun songs, great animation and a likeable (and strong) female lead.
  • 37) Tarzan (1999) – Featuring stunning animation, including a sumptuous colour pallet, Tarzan is a visual treat from start to finish with vocal cast that includes Brian Blessed and Glenn Close and a soundtrack from Phil Collins. Tarzan doesn’t always get the recognition it deserves, which is a shame because it is truly excellent.
  • 38) Fantasia 2000 (1999) – Don’t for one moment think that Fantasia 2000 is a remake or sequel to Fantasia, because it isn’t – it’s simply a continuation of the Fantasia concept. Expect classical music, superb animation and the feeling you are watching something special. Highlights include ‘The Carnival of the Animals’, ‘The Steadfast Tin Soldier’ and a retelling of Noah’s Ark, set to the backdrop of Pomp and Circumstance.
  • 39) Dinosaur (2000) – Unlike the 38 movies which came before it, Dinosaur breaks from tradition by ditching cel animation in favour of a mix of live-action and 3D computer generated imagery. It is a bold move, but it works and the end result is a visually stunning movie. So long as you don’t worry too much about the plot, there’s much to enjoy.
  • 40) The Emperor’s New Groove (2000) – The Emperor’s New Groove returns to traditional animation, for a short story which feels as if it’s been fleshed out way beyond its potential. The Emperor’s New Groove has its moments, namely the interactions between Yzma and Kronk, but overall it’s pretty forgettable.
  • 41) Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001) – Atlantis: The Lost Empire is a strange Disney Animated Classic as it doesn’t feel like a Disney Animated Classic at all! There are no songs, there are no cute talking animals, there’s barely any humour, and there’s no heart. That said, the action is good, so if you’re after knock-out animation and great adventure then this movie is for you.
  • 42) Lilo & Stitch (2002) – Lilo & Stitch is a real return to form with one of the best Disney Animated Classics of the entire collection. The film has humour, fantastic characterisation, a soundtrack packed with Elvis songs and enough emotion to guarantee at least one tear. Lilo & Stitch is brilliant – that’s all you need to know.
  • 43) Treasure Planet (2002) – Combining 3D animation with traditional 2D animation, Treasure Planet is one of Disney’s most underrated films. Although it follows a similar course to Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Treasure Planet veers off in its own direction, regaining all of the charm needed for an excellent Disney movie. *SPOILER* It’s also one of the only Disney Animated Classics where the villain redeems himself by the end of the movie. *END SPOILER*
  • 44) Brother Bear (2003) – Brother Bear is another Disney ‘toon that is watchable, just not particularly memorable. Phil Collins provides the soundtrack (again), but the movie is average at best. Such a shame.
  • 45) Home on the Range (2004) – The disappointment continues with Home on the Range – a story about a group of cows who set out on a journey to save their farm from bankruptcy. The animation is colourful and the voice cast (including Dame Judi Dench) try their best, but it’s a misfire from the start. Avoid.
  • 46) Chicken Little (2005) – Loosely based on the fable of the same name (only with a sci-fi twist), Chicken Little is neither good nor bad. As the first fully computer-generated Disney Animated Classic, Chicken Little feels more like a test run than anything else.
  • 47) Meet the Robinsons (2007) – Based on the book, ‘A Day with Wilbur Robinson’ by William Joyce, Meet the Robinsons is a sci-fi adventure about an orphan and his adventures with time travel. The movie boasts off-the-wall humour and some dark moments and is surprisingly enjoyable. Overlooked but much better than you would expect.
  • 48) Bolt (2008) – Three years on from Chicken Little and the animation on show in Bolt is a vast improvement. The film also benefits from a good story and strong performances from the vocal cast – including John Travolta as Bolt.
  • 49) The Princess & the Frog (2009) – Disney returns to 2D animation for one last time with a reworking of two stories: ‘The Frog Princess’ by E. D. Baker and ‘The Frog Prince’ by the Brothers Grimm. The result is a beautiful tale, with a great villain, effortlessly recapturing the Disney magic.
  • 50) Tangled (2010) – Disney hits a milestone with Tangled – the 50th entry in the Disney Animated Classics collection. Based on the Rapunzel story by the Brothers Grimm, Tangled is another knock-out Disney movie which hits all the high marks for animation, songs and characters. It’s up there with The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast.
  • 51) Winnie the Pooh (2011) – A gentle tale, aimed at a young audience, but one which is still fun to watch. Filled with all the classic Pooh characters, Winnie the Pooh is delightful.
  • 52) Wreck-It Ralph (2012) – Packed with numerous references, sight gags and nods to the classic era of gaming, Wreck-It Ralph is an enjoyable romp for gamers and non-gamers alike. The voice cast is excellent, the animation even better – Wreck-It Ralph is a joy to watch.
  • 53) Frozen (2013) – Based on The Snow Queen fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson, Frozen is as fun and exciting movie, with stunning visuals and one of the most famous songs in Disney history – ‘Let It Go’. So much has already been said about it, but Frozen truly is a gem of a movie.
  • 54) Big Hero 6 (2014) – Aimed squarely at the super hero-loving crowd, Big Hero 6 features larger than life characters, beautiful animation and a story that is effortlessly engaging. Baymax – the robotic healthcare companion – is the standout star.
  • 55) Zootopia (2016) – Known as Zootropolis in the UK, Zootopia is another good romp with a likeable cast, a heap of jokes, a fun story and a strong moral message always worth revisiting. Flash, the three-toed sloth is hilarious, bringing humour every time he is on screen.
  • 56) Moana (2016) – Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, Moana is set in the ancient Oceania in the South Pacific and features a cast that includes Auli’l Cravalho and Dwayne Johnson. The movie is GORGEOUS to look at, includes a marvellous soundtrack and continues Disney’s high mark of excellence.