From 1970 through to 1989, Disney struggled to produce a major cinematic hit. While their movies continued to perform acceptably at the box office, it was widely suggested that they were a studio in decline. That all changed in the early ’90s however when the studio entered into one of the most commercially successful periods in its history now known as ‘The Disney Renaissance’. It lasted from 1989 to 1990 and these animated musicals are the best part of growing up as a child because it was Disney’s time to finally get out of their horrid era into a different direction. It all started with the Little Mermaid that began the Disney Renaissance that started in very late 1989 (so that counts as a 1990s film) that lasted an entire decade. This is considered as Disney’s best years because they all were so brilliantly integrated from the soundtracks, atmosphere, artistry, characters, charm and even appeal that I have seize to see any other era in animation to do the same. These are the films are as good, if not, better than the original Disney classics. The stories and characters (though they were borrowed by other tales) had been better than they’ve had been in years, and there was a substantial philosophy change in which these films were approached. Rather than just making films with just songs in them, Disney started making broadway musicals that had the most relatable characters. The quality of storytelling has been changed drastically where they like to give a valuable lesson in the end, but it combines the fantastic to the everyday relatable. We still deal with love, magic, and whimsical worlds, but there’s a down to Earth and moral story being told and they all have hit on something that we all can relate to; especially children. We’ve all been there and we can all feel what these characters are going through. We, just like the character, want to break free from the mundane and be part of something better. If you watch these movies an adult you understand what this is like for all of these protagonists, but if you seen these films as a child, you’re already there! The saddest part is that this has been Disney’s absolute best and that makes it hard to believe that can be pulled off once again. But for now, let’s countdown the ten best Disney animated movies from 1989-1990!
Number 10. – Hercules
Now I know a lot of people are indifferent to this movie and either really love this movie or really hate it. Me personally I love it. For a couple reasons, first the villain, Hades is my favorite Disney villain ever and one of my alll time favorite villains, and that is mainly due to how James Woods plays him. He doesn’t sound evil, I always thought he sounded like a lawyer or agent which I find kind of interesting. Next the animation, this film has probably the most colorful and interesting animation I’ve seen in a Disney film, which is understandable seeing how the animation was lead and handled by Gerald Scarfe who did the animation for Pink Floyd’s the Wall and he does a fantastic job at doing this animation, my favorite being his design of the Hydra in the film. Also I really do enjoy the music and comedy in the film for as weird as the musical choice of Gospel is for a movie about ancient greece.
Number 9. – The Hunchback from Notre Dame
In hindsight, it’s hard to see how it even got through the Disney machinery at all, and surely, it’s only the commercial confidence the firm had at the point it was greenlit that allowed it through. The first thing to note about The Hunchback Of Notre Dame, then, is that it’s dark. Often really very dark, both visually and in tone, and this is right from the off. The Disney of the early 80s would have struggled with this, too, and the Disney of the 90s sometimes offsets this darkness a little too much (the A Guy Like You sequence seems ill-fitting, for instance, as do most attempts to lighten the mood). But it gets far more right than wrong. The visuals in the song Hellfire and Belles of Notre Dame also help show how powerful these songs are and how well they move the story along and they look just amazing. Also the characters, aside from a few characters *coughgargoylescough* The characters are all well developed and very likable. Frollo being one of Disney’s best villains of all time, just how tormented he is and how fantastically he is pulled off by British actor Tony Jay. Jay captures the power that this character has and what he will do to get it and it just is one of Disney’s most well written villains ever. Quasimodo is also a very likable villain and with the help of Tom Hulce’s voice it helps make him such a likable and innocent character along with his singing voice giving him some of the best songs in Disney history. Hands down the best thing about this movie aside from the characters is the music. This film has hands down my favorite soundtrack from any animated movie and it just makes all the epic parts of the movie sound even more epic when viewing.
Number 8. – Rescuers Downunder
This has got to be some of the most adventurous movies that came out from this era and it fill so much excitement and joy! A young boy named Cody rescues a huge golden eagle and they instantly become friends. However, Cody stumbles onto the grounds of a poacher, McLeach, who wants to find the golden eagle so he can get rich. Cody won’t tell McLeach where the golden eagle is, so McLeach holds the boy as a hostage. Word gets out among the mice that a boy has been kidnapped, and it’s up to two famous rescuers, Bernard and Miss Bianca, to travel to Australia and rescue Cody. This is miles much better than the original Rescuers and still remains underrated for reasons it hasn’t ever got the credit it deserves. For the time, “The Rescuers Down Under” had some good visuals and effects. All the characters in the movie are interesting from the adventurous Bernard and Miss Bianca, the hilarious Wilbur the albatross whose voice is done by John Candy, and even the fearsome enemies, McLeach and his pet salamander. It’s especially good for kids because they will grow up watching it and they’ll probably remember it the rest of their life as one of their favorites. This one’s much too overlooked and deserves legions more fame than it gets.
Number 7. – Tarzan
Being that this is the last of the Disney Renaissance turned out to be a fantastic closure to this era of the magical animation studio. Out of all the stories that they could have chosen as a finale of such era in filming, I was surprised they chose to adapt this story. A tale of a man who grew up with the apes all of his life was left as an outcast struggling to figure out his purpose in life only to find out that there’s humans just like him living outside of the jungle. I like how the backstory is neatly told at the beginning in one song with accompanying animation. The first segment follows a young Tarzan living with the animals in the jungle and is reminiscent of many other Disney animal movies. Next, we have a grown Tarzan (voiced by Tony Goldwyn), coming into contact with humans, including a dainty but independant Jane (voiced by Minnie Driver), her old professor father (Nigel Hawethorne) and a gun-toting agressive Tantor (Wayne Knight) who wants to blow Tarzan and his animal friends to smithereens. Tarzan elists his animal friends in the jungle to resolve the conflict. There’s some great 3-D background animation whenever Tarzan swings and jumps through the jungle trees, creating an amazing effect of depth. And no one shall ever forget the Phil Collin’s soundtrack that became the backbone of this movie! Tarzan is a fantastic animated masterpiece that’s forever in our childhood hearts!
Number 6. – A Goofy Movie
Centers around the growing pains of Max Goof , Goofy’s teenage son. Max develops a crush on a girl at school (Roxanne) and promises her he will take her to the Powerline concert, although he has no idea of how he will pull it off. Meanwhile, Goofy realizes that he and Max’s relationship is strained. As a result he plans a road trip so the two can become better acquainted. Max hotly refuses, but then realizes he can trick his father into going to the concert. During the trip, mayhem follows them everywhere, and they become endanger of losing their lives. But at the closing of the trip, Max realizes that his father loves him very much, and that he is the only family that he has. Also at the end of the trip, Max makes it to the concert and performs with his idol Powerline. Ultimately, it’s the details and playfulness in the movie that makes it such a delight every time I re-visit it. Every time through I notice something different. (A few details I noticed this time: the large lady in the convertible during the road trip is the vocalist in the concert, the nuns are at the monster truck show, the nerd who cheers for Stacy has a Star Trek shirt, and the ditzy-looking girl Max passes in the hall is also at Stacy’s party.) A Goofy Movie has a silly, fun tone throughout most of the movie, but has legs as a family drama, too. A Goofy Movie is a hugely underrated animated Disney movie, and a classic in my book. Though not a part of the official Disney canon, it deserves to be remembered with the same reverence as many of those classics are. The delicate father-son relationship gives the movie humanity but the comic energy and timing keep the film afloat and enjoyable. It’s well-made, with a sharp attention to detail, and it captures the hormones and battles of adolescence with a very honest, balanced eye. Its an excellent road trip movie with big laughs and a touching father-son moral. A treat for the whole family.
Number 5. – Mulan
Sure, Pocahontas (worst Disney film) and Hercules were a step backwards in the Disney Renaissance department, but Mulan redeemed Disney’s stature of making animated masterpieces. While I find it strange that Disney would tackle a chinese style film, I find it just flat out incredible how well it is done. Part of that is because this is like Disney took note of everything they’ve been criticized in their past movies, like the princesses being bad role models for girls and been accused as racists when trying to be diverse. It would have been a complete disaster if Mulan had been unintentionally racist, but surprisingly the Disney fans in Asia adored this animated masterpiece and that’s because Mulan is the best Disney female character ever. Mulan is a very likable character and all the side characters are all very well done comedically when poking fun at gender roles. But we all know what character we all love in this film, Mooshoo because Eddie Murphy does one of his funniest performances in a Disney movie since the Genie. Mulan is famous for poking fun at gender role but that’s what makes this movie a great role model for both boys and girls as they learn to be strong! One of the best things about this movie aside from the characters is the fantastic art style because it captures the Asian culture and design perfectly. If this was an anime instead of a traditional animated film then there would ben nothing special about Mulan. Its just incredible to look at how well detailed many of the backgrounds are and the decision of using the chinese style spirals when a cloud of smoke comes up it looks very good and very interesting to look at. Too bad they don’t make animated films like this one anymore. Mulan will forever stand as Disney’s last film of such a high caliber.
Number 4. – Beauty and the Beast
The Disney Renascence is what makes the 1990s one hell of decade of film. A long time ago, I used to be so scared of this film because the Beast was so intimidating, but when I got older, I learn to appreciate this masterpiece. This is one of those movies that I don’t really need to explain why it is so good because lets face it, we’ve all seen it and we all know the reasons why its so good. The music is incredibly well composed by Alan Menken, the characters are all colorful and are all very fun, my favorite being Lumiere, the actors are well chosen for their parts and all do fantastic jobs, The story is great, and the animation is just flat out amazing. You can really feel the connection between Belle and the Beast for they are just one of the best romantic chemistry ever seen in film. The only thing I don’t like about it is Gaston, and I honestly think he is the most bland of the Disney villains and the most annoying. Other than that I can find no flaws with this film its just a masterpiece of a Disney film and it was well worth the Golden Globe for best picture.
Number 3. – The Lion King
In terms of box office, commercial success, and critical success this is the peak of the Disney Renaissance. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the for the past sixteen years you know what this movie’s about. Everyone knows the plot of “The Lion King.” The story centers around a young lion named Simba who aspires to be king of the animal kingdom some day just like his father, Mufasa. But when Simba’s uncle Scar becomes jealous of Mufasa he deliberately throws him off a cliff into a stampede and kills him. Simba is ashamed because he thinks the death of Mufasa os his fault and is told by his Uncle Scar to “run away and never return.” To me, the heart of “The Lion King” is after Simba leaves the gorge and goes into an exotic jungle to meet his pals to be, Timon and Pumbaa. From the time when there’s hilarious, introductory voice-over work from Nathan Lane to the point when the three characters are singing “Hakuna Matata,” dancing, and having fun is an example of when true Disney magic is put up on screen. It’s one of those rare moments you’ll find in a movie. It’s something that sticks with you for a long, long time. It isn’t necessarily the storytelling, animation, or music, but all of those things put together in which make that scene put a look of happiness on every audience member’s face. This movie is such a classic. Everything from its beautiful animation, memorable music, to its bold method of storytelling that flows perfectly so that children and adults can, not just sit through the film, but also be fully submersed in its narrative. It’s lovable characters make the movie a Disney classic, not to mention a classic in all of film history. To this day, it shines with the perfect blend mature thematic elements, laugh out loud humor, and Disney magic.
Number 2. – The Little Mermaid
This is the very film that started what is now called the Disney Renaissance that lasted throughout the 1990s. Sure there were big Disney hits before Little Mermaid like Oliver and Company and the Great Mouse Detective, but this is the film that changed Disney from the studio that made good films to the studio that made animated features that are as good, if not better than the original Disney classics! The stories and characters have been better than they’ve been in years that it made a substandard philosophy change to how are these films are approached, high animation quality, memorable songs, and even qualitative storytelling that can never be compared or match from any other animated movie. All of these qualities have changed to a much higher level, and it’s all thanks to The Little Mermaid! The protagonist is a teenage mermaid who wants to explore the world, not just the world that her father keeps her in. She wants to explore the world that her father exclude her from. Ariel is a good person with a good heart and she always see the good in the humans, who she’s been obsessed over, no matter how many times it’s been drilled into her that they are evil. Everyone tries so hard to keep her in the world under the sea though none of them know anything about the human world other than the dangers it poses. But Ariel has a mind of her own and as she collects objects from above the sea, it makes her more a part of it. The most amazing dilemma about Ariel is that it hits on something that everyone can relate to (especially children); she wants to be part of another world. You might think it ridiculous to see why a mermaid that can swim across under the sea would even consider to just walk on land, but we all been there and we can all feel what Ariel is going through. We all feel like we want to break free from the mundane and be part of something better. She would go far as to exchanging her own voice for a pair of legs and feet just to fall in love to the charming Prince Eric. She saved his life then disappeared back into the sea only to have him only recognize the sound of her voice. The experience was so profound that it convinced that he loved her and would do anything to find her. It’s a unique way to bring two characters together because it’s all very honest and pure. If you grew up with this film or loved it as long as it has been around, you probably have a fond association with it, but that’s part of growing up with Disney. All of the substance and animation qualities is what gives this film a soul. As stated, this is the film that kicked off the Disney Renaissance and if you’re trying to return your brand to a state of eminence, it helps to kick things off with a good film. But when beginning the Disney Renaissance, they’ve began with a masterpiece!
Number 1. – Aladdin
Part of what makes going to the movies a fantastic time in the 1990′s is the Disney Renaissance, and my personal favorite growing up and still to this day is Aladdin! Aladdin is a good animated film that will please anyone of all ages. This is a fun, comedy filled adventure that will appeal to kids as much as adults. As a kid, I always imagine being like our main hero, but the quality of Disney films at the time took an extra mile with bigger budget to make better animation and special effects! Not to mention, that this has to be the best sing-along-songs that Disney has had since Little Mermaid. The movie also has all of the Disney cliches that I’m so love like a prince and princess falling for true love, an epic villain show down, catchy sing-alongs, and magical scenes that (in my opinion) remains the best of its kind! Not to mention that the film offered best vocal talent by Robin Williams as the Genies that always gets us up in spirit! It’s the standard boy meets princess love story but it was told at a very epic scale of pure and wholesome feeling that makes it worth coming back to. I really wish that there were more romantic movies out there that can be more embracing than what has been seen in animated films like this one. As magical as this movie is, it makes me sad to see that the quality in Disney films is never the same, and that’s because there’s no quality or effort in their films anymore. However, I’m still willing to keep doing a marathon of the Disney Renaissance and remember the good days of being a movie fan at a very young age.