Very quickly, let me clarify what I mean by “Disney animated films.” What I’m referring to specifically is the animated films in Disney’s official animated canon. As such, direct-to-video sequels, Disneytoon movies and the like were not considered for this list. Anyway, on to the list.
And already I’ve lost some of you. This isn’t a bad film (honestly, there aren’t enough bad Disney animated films to fill this list). But it is a film I find very flawed. The main issue I have is that the characters (with the exception of Hades) are just kind of dull. And the really bizarre style, while definitely giving the film a unique visual identity, can also be too distracting at times. Honestly, the film is definitely watchable, with James Woods’ performance as Hades single-handedly elevating it.
9. Saludos Amigos
The one Disney animated film that you’ve probably never even heard of. And it’s not hard to see why. This is a 42-minute long package film in which we see the Disney animators taking a trip to South America, and using what they see as an inspiration for a cartoon which we then get to watch. This feels more like a behind-the-scenes featurette than an actual film. The cartoon shorts are good and creative, but the framing device simply isn’t engaging enough to justify making this into a feature film, especially when you consider how short it is.
This film boasts some incredible 3-D animation, very well integrated into real-life backgrounds. It also boasts an incredibly boring and generic story, with boring and generic characters. Honestly, the best part of the film is the opening scene, which wordlessly shows us the journey of a lost egg. Had the film been at that same level throughout, and especially if they’d decided to tell the story visually without any dialogue whatsoever, I probably would’ve liked this so much more.
7. Home on the Range
I personally don’t think this film is quite as bad as everyone says it is; there are some funny moments, and I do like that the film is attempting to emulate a more old-fashioned Looney Tunes-esque style when it comes to its animation, slapstick, and humor. But even so, I can’t overlook its many flaws; obnoxious characters, very hit or miss timing when it comes to the slapstick, and a dumb plot. I can’t say I regret watching it, but I’d also be lying if I called this a good film, because it’s not.
6. Ralph Breaks the Internet
I was convinced that Wreck-It Ralph didn’t need a sequel, and this film did very little to convince me to the contrary. This film has to bend over backwards with its previously established universe and characters to get the plot moving in the direction they want. And that’s simply not how you write a sequel. On top of that, it’s clear that the writers of this film don’t really understand how the Internet works. It’s not a total waste, because it has some entertaining moments, but as a sequel to a film as good as Wreck-It Ralph, I expected something much better than this.
One of Disney’s more polarizing films, I tend to lean more towards the negative camp on this one. So, what doesn’t work in this film? How about the fact that this film grossly oversimplifies the complicated race relations between the European settlers and the Native Americans? How about the fact that this is a very stock premise (Dances with Wolves already did this 5 years prior)? Or how about the fact that this film beats the message and point it’s trying to make over and over again without any hint of nuance or subtlety? But still, the film isn’t without its pros; the music is incredible, the animation is gorgeous, and Pocahontas is a very likable protagonist. It’s just the film’s script that holds this thing back.
4. The Aristocats
This one was a nostalgic childhood staple at my house. But looking back on it now that I’m an adult, it’s pretty easy to see that it doesn’t hold up especially well. It’s pretty clear that it was trying to do for cats what A Hundred and One Dalmatians did for dogs. The only problem? The villains aren’t anywhere near as memorable this time around, the premise is dumb even by cartoon logic standards, and the plot progression is a lot more convoluted and all over the place than the much more straightforward, but highly effective Dalmatians.
3. Oliver & Company
This was made during a time when Disney was desperately trying to save itself after the financial failure of The Black Cauldron. And it shows. This feels like a movie that was designed solely to be an easily digestible mass-market product to make money, and not because the filmmakers actually had a compelling story they wanted to tell. I mean, it’s the story of Oliver Twist as told via stray dogs in New York City. And very little is done with the story otherwise, other than making the story palatable for kids. The reason this is so high on the list, is because of just how bland and forgettable the whole experience is. And if there’s one thing that a Disney film should never be, it’s forgettable.
2. Brother Bear
Let’s start with the positives first. The animation is at times stunning, the film does a good job at immersing the audience a unique culture, and the climax is actually surprisingly well thought out and compelling. Those are some pretty good positives. So, this begs the question; why is this so high on the list? Simple. The second act sucks. Really bad. Most of the animal characters are annoying, and their more modernized dialogue does not gel at all with the more mystical and old-fashioned dialogue of the humans. On top of that, the plot is extremely predictable (even as a kid, I could see the huge twist coming from a mile away). This is simply an instance where a section of a film is so bad that it completely drags the rest of the film down with it.
1. Chicken Little
This is pretty much the only Disney animated film that they’ve made that I would completely recommend skipping altogether. Honestly, there’s not much else I can add to this conversation that hasn’t already been said; it’s mean-spirited, it’s got some very mixed messages, the characters are awful, and the plot is so far removed from the original fable that they might as well have made it its own thing. This was Disney clearly attempting to copy DreamWorks, but not knowing to write like DreamWorks. This movie is exactly what happens when you both try too hard, and don’t care, simultaneously. It’s a mess, and quite frankly, it’s earned its reputation as Disney’s worst film in their animated canon, hands down.