50. “The Fox And The Hound” (1981)
“The Fox And The Hound” was something of a transition film for Disney — it was the last film to use the legendary Nine Old Men animators who’d been with the company since the beginning, and one of the first to use a new wave of creatives like John Lasseter, Tim Burton, Henry Selick and Brad Bird, who’d all go on to have immeasurable impact on animation in the years to come. That slightly split feel shows, though: it’s sweetly old-fashioned and pastoral, but maybe a little too much so, often feeling a bit wispy, simplistic and manipulative.
49. “Pocahontas” (1995)
The clanger in the middle of an otherwise excellent 1990s run, “Pocahontas” in some respects cleaved to the formula that had been established — gorgeous, sweeping visuals, cutesy animal sidekicks, some star cameos (Mel Gibson here, as John Smith). Alan Menken’s songs are pretty good (“Colors Of The Wind,” obviously), it’s genuinely beautiful, and the film’s ambition is sort of laudable, but it’s a deeply wrong-headed idea to turn this particular story into a kids’ movie, simplifying and trivializing real events in a way that’s only aged poorly.
48. “Fantasia 2000” (2000)
Only the second sequel in the official Disney canon (the first was “The Rescuers Down Under;” a third, “Wreck-It Ralph 2,” hits in 2018), “Fantasia 2000” (which was exclusively released in IMAX theaters at first) revives the classic “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” segment and adds a host of new ones, to pieces by Beethoven, Respighi, Gershwin, Shostakovich, Elgar and Stravinsky, among others. There are a couple of great sections worthy of anything in the original — the Gershwin section and “The Firebird” in particular — but there are more misses than hits, with sections either feeling abstracted to the point of feeling like screen savers, or coming across as disappointingly slapsticky.
47. “Meet The Robinsons” (2007)
The first movie to be released after (and having been rejigged on the order of) John Lasseter took over control of Disney animation was a pleasant-enough surprise, still somewhat underrated by some, but definitely bears the marks of its last-minute surgery a bit. A time-travel saga about a young inventor orphan who meets his future family, it’s a very odd, uneven, somewhat manic film that throws a lot at you with only some of it sticking, but does rather a better job at showing a vision of the future than Brad Bird’s “Tomorrowland” would a few years later, and has a real emotional core that means the ending really pulls it together.
46. “Melody Time” (1948)
A follow-up of sorts to “Make Mine Music,” and the fifth of the package films, “Melody Time,” even more so than its predecessor, feels like a sort of folk/pop equivalent to “Fantasia,” but comes rather closer than the previous film to actually capturing the spirit of it: brisk, sweet segments like “Bumble Boogie” and “Little Toot” are strikingly animated. Again, it’s hit-or-miss a bit — Roy Rogers-featuring closer “Pecos Bill” is overlong and soporific — but there’s plenty to enjoy here.
45. “The Three Caballeros” (1944)
The second of the package films, “The Three Caballeros” came about after “Saludos Amigos” proved unexpectedly popular in Latin America, and was intended as half love letter, half cash-grab, with live-action cameos from stars like Aurora Miranda and Carmen Molina. As with all these films, it’s uneven, but feels a little more coherent and satisfying than most of the anthology films, thanks to the title characters — Donald Duck, Brazilian parrot Jose Carioca and sharpshooting Mexican rooster Panchito Pistoles — and their journey South of the Border through a number of rather stylish, colorful segments that mostly steer clear of stereotyping.
44. “Oliver & Company” (1988)
A fairly conscious attempt to rejig the “Lady And The Tramp”/“101 Dalmatians”-type animal picture for the 1980s, “Oliver & Company” (co-written, fact fans, by “Logan” writer/director James Mangold) updates Charles Dickens’ “Oliver Twist” with a cast of cats and dogs in 1980s New York. The use of a celeb cast featuring Billy Joel, Bette Midler, Dom DeLuise et al dates the film much faster than its 1960s inspirations, and it has the same strange ill-fitting darkness as many of the ’80s movies when it comes to its villain, but it has a characterful cast, at least, and definitely finds a romanticism in an animated take on pre-Giuliani NYC.
43. “Treasure Planet” (2002)
Marking the return of “Little Mermaid” and “Aladdin” directors John Musker and Ron Clements to the studio, this was part of a shift in the early ’00s towards a more boy-friendly, action-adventure heavy vibe, relocating Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island” to a sort of sail-punk sci-fi future, and mixing 2D and 3D animation. There’s some beautiful design here and well-achieved action scenes, but it feels atypically cynical, and aside from Brian Murray’s cyborg take on John Silver, the characters are disappointingly bland and forgettable.
42. “Peter Pan” (1953)
One of the truly iconic, fairy-tale Disney classics, and to our mind probably the worst of them. Of course J.M. Barrie’s story of the boy who never grew up is beloved, and the Disney take has some memorable sequences, most notably the flying scenes. But it’s aged more problematically than most other Disney films of its era (particularly when it comes to its female characters and the ‘Indians’), and more importantly leans towards a certain slapstick-y tone (its Captain Hook is pretty bad when you look back, for one) that undermines the melancholy and meaning of the source material.
41. “The Great Mouse Detective” (1986)
Perhaps if it came out now, on the back of the Guy Ritchie franchise and the Benedict Cumberbatch-starring series, ‘The Great Mouse Detective,” which gives a rodent-y spin on Sherlock Holmes, might have been a bigger success. It’s often forgotten now, dismissed as part of the 1980s slump at the studio, but it’s actually pretty good fun, a little tonally confused in places and visibly not of the highest budget, but affectionate to its source material and with a cast of fun characters (most of all Vincent Price’s excellent villain Rattigan).