Disney Animated Classics: How to Watch All 60 Movies in Order of Release Date

by | Aug 19, 2021 | Disney Movies, WDW Blog

We’ve got the complete list of Disney animated classics in the order they were released.


Gone are the days when you’ve got to pop open a Black Diamond clamshell to get your sticky fingers all over those precious VHS tapes. (Hey, are they worth any money, by the way?) No more do you have to worry about scratches on your DVD or catching a showing of Beauty and the Beast on ABC.

Disney+ has made watching your favorite Disney animated classic films (and a whole lot of other films and TV shows) insanely easy.


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So let’s say you decided to tackle every Disney animated classic over the course of a year (or whatever timeline your healthy binge obsession can accommodate). What’s the order you need to watch them in, and what constitutes a true Disney animated classic?

In this post, you’ll find:

What Makes a Disney Animated Classic?

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Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was the OG Disney animated classic. Photo courtesy of Disney

Disney actually labels its animated films as “Classic,” so the list is not arbitrary. Important omissions to this list include any direct-to-video sequels and Disney•Pixar films or films from Disney-adjacent studios.

Sequels that debuted in theaters, however, like Frozen II, are considered Disney animated classics. Sorry, Return of Jafar; better luck next time.

But the biggest travesty of this list: Because A Goofy Movie was made by Disney Toon Studios, it is not considered a Disney classic, even though it contains everybody’s favorite road trip song, “On the Open Road.”

In essence, not all Disney animated movies are Disney animated classics, but all Disney animated classics are Disney animated movies. It’s the square-rectangle relationship of the animated world.

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The Ultimate List of All the Disney Animated Classics by Release Date

beauty and the beast - disney animated classics films

Beauty and the Beast is a fan-favorite Disney animated classic movie. Photo courtesy of Disney

So if you decide to watch all the classic movies in the order they were released, where do you start? We’ve got the complete list of Disney animated classic movies right here, starting with (you guessed it!) Snow White.

1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 1937
  • Runtime: 83 minutes
  • Fun fact: The American Film Institute named this movie the Greatest American Animated Film of all time.

As Walt Disney Studios’ first fully animated feature film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs has developed something of a legendary status. Snow White’s presence is strong in Disney Parks around the world, including the famous grotto at Disneyland.

The film tells the classic tale of Princess Snow White, who seeks refuge with seven dwarfs (Doc, Dopey, Happy, Grumpy, Sneezy, Bashful, and Sleepy) to escape her evil stepmother-turned-witch. When Snow White eats a poisoned apple, it takes true love’s kiss from Prince Charming to awake her.

2. Pinocchio

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 1940
  • Runtime: 88 minutes
  • Fun fact: Figaro the cat became Walt’s favorite character in the whole film, hence why he becomes Minnie’s own cat.

Wooden puppet or a real boy? You decide. In this classic film, we follow Pinocchio, a living puppet, and his cricket (and his conscience), Jiminy Cricket, as he journeys to become a “real boy.” We owe Disney’s most famous song, “When You Wish Upon a Star,” to this film.

3. Fantasia

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 1940
  • Runtime: 125 minutes
  • Fun fact: Despite being the third Disney animated classic and more than 80 years old, Fantasia still holds the longest runtime of any animated film from Disney.

While Disney’s first two animated full-length feature films relied on a single narrative to fill the hour-plus, Fantasia broke from that formula, instead featuring visually stunning imagery synced to orchestral music.

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Sorcerer Mickey of Fantasmic! fame originally debuted in Fantasia. Photo by Cliff Wang

If you have one memory of Fantasia, it’s probably of Sorcerer Mickey and the lively brooms. For nearly 15 years (2001 to 2015), the Sorcerer’s Hat served as the icon for Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

4. Dumbo

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 1941
  • Runtime: 64 minutes
  • Fun fact: Dumbo is, of course, an elephant, but there is actually an octopus named after him. The Dumbo octopus, so called that because it resembles Dumbo’s ears, has 15 species in the genus.

Dumbo is a classic Disney animated film and yielded one of the most iconic attractions in the parks. However, much of the film does not pass today’s standards, including the controversial pink elephant season and portrayal of the crows.

If you can look past today’s lens, the film is still an endearing story about someone who doesn’t fit in (because of his ears) and his journey to overcome that—with the help of a tiny mouse.

5. Bambi

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 1941
  • Runtime: 70 minutes
  • Fun fact: Bambi was not the first Disney animated classic to feature talking animals, but it is noteworthy for being quite conservative with what they said. Altogether, they speak fewer than 900 words.

If you watched this movie without crying as a kid (or an adult), I just don’t know what to say to you. This movie wrecked me.

The plot is quite simple, following Bambi the deer as he navigates childhood, but the death of his mother is one of the most tragic Disney scenes in film history.

6. Saludos Amigos

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 1942
  • Runtime: 42 minutes
  • Fun fact: This was the first Disney film to debut in South America before the United States.

Like Fantasia, Saludos Amigos does not follow a single plotline. Instead, the film features four mini segments. Two of these star Donald Duck and one Goofy.

7. The Three Caballeros

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 1944
  • Runtime: 71 minutes
  • Fun fact: This is the first Disney animated classic film that was a sequel and that blended cartoon animation with live-action actors.

The Three Caballeros may not be as well-known to younger Disney fans as a film, but it’s likely made a lasting impression on all those who have taken the ride at the Mexico Pavilion in EPCOT. This film is segmented even more than its predecessor at seven mini segments.

8. Make Mine Music

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 1946
  • Runtime: 75 minutes
  • Fun fact: This is the only Disney animated classic film that is not streaming on Disney+ at the time of publication.

While Walt Disney Studios dealt with reduced manpower because of World War II, the animators put out this film, which was a hodgepodge of different short stories set to music.

9. Fun and Fancy Free

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 1947
  • Runtime: 73 minutes
  • Fun fact: This films is technically a package film, but it only packages together two separate stories—“Bongo” and “Mickey and the Beanstalk.”

In “Bongo,” we watch a bear escape the circus while “Mickey and the Beanstalk” gives us my favorite animated interpretation of the classic Jack and the Beanstalk story. There’s now a Funko game based on this story; you can read our review in our August 2021 print edition.

Side note from the author: This was the first movie I ever watched on Disney Channel. I remember coming home from school to my dad watching this on the couch. “We got Disney Channel,” he told me, the four words every ’90s kid once longed to hear. I immediately sat down and watched the whole thing.

10. Melody Time

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 1948
  • Runtime: 75 minutes
  • Fun fact: This is the perfect film to see Disney Legend Mary Blair’s true artistic ability at play. Look for her style in “Once Upon a Wintertime.”

As the war efforts continued to tax the American workforce, Disney was looking for another affordable yet entertaining film of vignettes set to music. Melody Time is certainly not on anyone’s radar as the most popular Disney animated classic film, to be sure, but it still merits a rewatch as you make your way down the list.

This is a good “fold your laundry and make your grocery list while watching” kind of Disney film. Save your “eyes glued to the TV screen” binge for something more deserving, like Atlantis or The Little Mermaid.

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11. The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 1949
  • Runtime: 68 minutes
  • Fun fact: This is the last of Disney’s package film era

Easily the best packaged film, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad is memorable largely because of its “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” portion, which is scary even still today. Seriously, it’s the stuff of fever dreams.

This one makes for a good Halloween watch when you’ve already seen Hocus Pocus and Halloweentown a dozen times this season.

12. Cinderella

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 1950
  • Runtime: 74 minutes
  • Fun fact: Unlike Snow White, Cinderella is a non-royal blood princess, making her the first to marry into royalty.

Ah, here we are, out of the packaged film era and back to the iconic Disney films. Cinderella, as you likely know, takes us through the story of a poor young girl, mistreated by her wicked stepmother and stepsisters, whose Fairy Godmother transforms her world so she can go to the Prince’s ball.

Cinderella is one of the best disney animated classics

Photo courtesy of Disney

There, she and the Prince fall in love, but when she must flee at midnight, she leaves nothing behind for the Prince but a shoe. The Prince must search the village to find the woman whose foot fits the slipper so that he can marry her.

Iconic songs from this film include “Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo” and “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes.”

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13. Alice in Wonderland

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 1951
  • Runtime: 75 minutes
  • Fun fact: As was common in some other Disney films back then, actors performed live-action sequences as reference footage for the animators. (See some of this footage in the videos below.)

Known for being one of the trippiest Disney films of all time, Alice in Wonderland takes us on a journey based on Lewis Carroll’s book of the same name. Some of the iconic characters from the film include the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter, and the Queen of Hearts.

14. Peter Pan

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 1951
  • Runtime: 77 minutes
  • Fun fact: The actress who voiced Alice in Alice in Wonderland also lent her voice to Wendy.

Peter Pan holds a special place in my heart; after all, I portrayed him at age 15 in a children’s theatre show. But the film itself, based on J.M. Barrie’s story, is magic from beginning to end, filled with the kind of adventure (pirates, swordfights, mermaids, flying ships, and pixies) that every little kid dreams of.

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Photo courtesy of Disney

Fly along with the Darlings (Wendy, John, and Michael) as Peter Pan and Tinker Bell take them to Neverland, where they’ll have to go toe to toe with the formidable Captain Hook. The film itself ends on a much happier note than the original story (as is often the case with Disney adaptations).

In the original story, Hook for sure gets eaten by the Crocodile, and all the Lost Boys desert Peter to live with the Darlings while Peter refuses to give up his lonely life as a kid.

15. Lady and the Tramp

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 1955
  • Runtime: 76 minutes
  • Fun fact: Lady is actually based on a real dog (also named Lady); she belonged to writer and artist Joe Grant, and Walt fell in love with Grant’s sketches of Lady.

This is Disney’s take on the classic rich girl falls in love with poor boy story. Only they’re dogs. The most iconic scene from this film, of course, is when the two share spaghetti, though when I think about this Disney animated classic, I instantly recall the (admittedly insensitive) lyrics, “We are Siamese if you please,” which get stuck in my head (as they are now).

16. Sleeping Beauty

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 1959
  • Runtime: 75 minutes
  • Fun fact: Because she spends a large portion of the film asleep, Aurora only has 18 lines in the entire film.

Maleficent continues to be one of Disney’s most famous villains (inspiring a live-action film), and she gets her Disney debut in Sleeping Beauty. Of course, the heroine of the story is Aurora, a Disney Princess. After being cursed, he requires a prince and three fairies to help her wake up.

17. One Hundred and One Dalmatians

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 1961
  • Runtime: 79 minutes
  • Fun fact: Over the 113,760 frames in this film, you can spot 6,469,952 spots.

Dog lovers, this is the film for you. This classic Disney animated film follows Pongo and Perdita and their litter of 99 (birth and adopted) puppies as they attempt to escape the clutches of Cruella de Ville (cruel devil, get it?), who wants to turn the dogs’ coats into, well, coats.

18. The Sword in the Stone

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 1963
  • Runtime: 79 minutes
  • Fun fact: This isn’t the only Disney film to feature a sword stuck in a stone; the Disney Channel Original Movie Phantom of the Megaplex also involves a small plotline involving a fake sword stuck in a fake stone.

The Sword in the Stone marks the first time that Disney dipped into Arthurian legend and gave us the original old wizard with a long, white beard (Gandalf and Dumbledore are just posers). Consider this King Arthur’s origin story.

19. The Jungle Book

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 1967
  • Runtime: 78 minutes
  • Fun fact: Released in 1967 shortly after Walt’s death, The Jungle Book was the last film that Walt oversaw.

“I Wanna Be Like You” is one of my all-time favorite Disney songs, and it’s certainly a standout scene in this film. But then there’s also “Bare Necessities”—this movie has some bangin’ songs.

The Jungle Book takes us on a journey with Mowgli the Man Cub, Baloo the Bear, and Bagheera the Panther as Mowgli navigates growing up (in the jungle or with fellow humans).

20. The Aristocats

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 1970
  • Runtime: 78 minutes
  • Fun fact: Back in 2005, Disney toyed with the idea of an Aristocrats II, based on Murder on the Orient Express, but with cats and without the murder; the idea was ultimately scrapped.

Jazz music defines The Aristocats and is largely why the film is so memorable. The story follows an unlikely pair (O’Malley and Duchess) of cats escaping an evil butler.

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21. Robin Hood

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 1973
  • Runtime: 83 minutes
  • Fun fact: Though he is portrayed as a fox, Walt Disney Studios first envisioned Robin Hood as a pig.

Though the story of Robin Hood has been told countless times in movies, TV shows, and live plays, none is perhaps as famous as Disney’s rendition. This film puts a Disney (i.e., animal) spin on the classic tale of the British outlaw.

22. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 1977
  • Runtime: 74 minutes
  • Fun fact: Both “TTFN: Ta-ta for now!” and the “hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo” laugh were ad-libbed by Tigger voice actor Paul Winchell.

Made famous by Disney, Winnie the Pooh is actually the creation of author A.A. Milne. This film marks the first of many Pooh-based films (and TV shows!) from Disney. It also inspired one of my favorite dark rides in Fantastyland at Walt Disney World.

23. The Rescuers

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 1977
  • Runtime: 78 minutes
  • Fun fact: The Rescuers is the final film to have been animated by Disney’s Nine Old Men.

Get ready for adventure! The Rescuers introduces us to Bernard and Miss Bianca, two members of the Rescue Aid Society in New York City. These two rescuers must, well, rescue Penny, a mouse in need of help. While entertaining, this film is not one of Disney’s heavy hitters that we generally remember fondly.

And there is that whole thing about a, um, naughty picture being snuck into the film …

24. The Fox and the Hound

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 1981
  • Runtime: 83 minutes
  • Fun fact: The friendship between Tod and Copper is based on the real-life friendship of Disney Legends Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston.

Another tear-jerker, The Fox and the Hound is a film that proves not every Disney movie has to have a predictably happy ending.

fox and the hound - list of disney animated classics

Photo courtesy of Disney

This story is quite simple: It is one of friendship between two unlikely friends. Just hearing the film’s “Best of Friends” song gets me in the feels.

25. The Black Cauldron

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 1985
  • Runtime: 80 minutes
  • Fun fact: This was the first Disney film to receive a PG rating.

Without a doubt, this is Disney’s darkest animated classic, which, of course, has grown it quite the cult following in today’s world. The Black Cauldron takes us on a journey as a band of misfits must find a magical black cauldron before the Horned King uses it to unleash an army of the undead. Just what kids want, right?

26. The Great Mouse Detective

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 1986
  • Runtime: 74 minutes
  • Fun fact: The Great Mouse Detective is based on a book that is itself based on Sherlock Holmes; it has developed quite the cult following out of Sherlock Holmes fans.

Detectives come in all sizes—and this one just happens to be mouse-sized. Follow Basil the mouse detective as he investigates a kidnapping that ultimately leads him to his archnemesis, Professor Ratigan.

In the climactic confrontation with Ratigan at Big Ben, filmmakers broke ground by combining traditional hand-drawn animation with newfangled computer-generated backgrounds, allowing for all the gears, pulleys, and other clock bells and whistles to do their thing behind the rodents, without intricate hand drawings.

27. Oliver & Company

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 1988
  • Runtime: 74 minutes
  • Fun fact: Billy Joel—the man, the myth, the legend—voiced Dodger, which makes this one of the coolest Disney animated classics of all time. The flippin’ Piano Man himself!

Oliver & Company marks the final film before the Disney Renaissance, but in my humble opinion, this film is the stuff of legends and deserves to be included in that famous Disney era. The classic cartoon introduces us to Oliver the kitten and a gang of lovable (but thieving) dogs in New York City. Billy Joel singing as a dog in the city? Sign me up.

28. The Little Mermaid

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 1989
  • Runtime: 83 minutes
  • Fun fact: My favorite family-friendly fact about this iconic film is that Ursula was modeled after a famous drag queen named Divine.

All Ariel wants is to be a part of our world, but after watching Sebastian rock out under the sea, all childhood me wanted was to be a part of Ariel’s world. This fairy-tale classic takes us underwater as we watch Ariel fight to spend time on land and fall in love with Prince Eric. Every time I watch, though, I forget how angry I am about the ending. Ariel giving up her family and mermaid-ness to marry Eric? Pssh.

(Admittedly, I’m not angry when Hercules gives up his god status to live a mortal life with Meg, so I know my anger is unfair.)

29. The Rescuers Down Under

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 1990
  • Runtime: 77 minutes
  • Fun fact: This was the first film made by Disney using the studios’ Computer Animated Production System (CAPS), which cut production time by six months.

Bernard and Miss Bianca are back, but this time, they’re heading to Australia to save a boy and an eagle from a dangerous poacher. It’s rare for a Disney sequel to eclipse its predecessor, but this one is definitely higher on my personal list.

30. Beauty and the Beast

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 1991
  • Runtime: 84 minutes
  • Fun fact: Look closely as Maurice walks in the woods; the sign post has directions to Valencia, Burbank, and Anaheim.

In this tale as old as time, Belle, captive to a hideous Beast, falls in love with her captor. Call it Stockholm Syndrome or true love: Either way, this is one of Disney’s most beloved animated classics. The ballroom scene is cinematic gold.

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31. Aladdin

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 1992
  • Runtime: 90 minutes
  • Fun fact:

Head to Agrabah as we see Aladdin (or Prince Ali), Abu, their Magic Carpet, and Genie (Robin Williams is the show stealer, for sure) fight for Aladdin’s true love, Princess Jasmine. The only problem? The evil Jafar has other plans.

Aladdin was so popular that it inspired not one but two sequels, an animated series, and a live-action remake in 2019.

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32. The Lion King

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 1994
  • Runtime: 88 minutes
  • Fun fact: The famous stampede scene alone took animators more than two years to develop.

Arguably the best Disney animated classic of all time (it ranks number four for me overall), The Lion King takes familiar plotlines from Shakespeare’s Hamlet and drops them into the grasslands of Africa to be played out by lions, hyenas, meerkats, hornbills, mandrills, and warthogs (oh my?).

The film has so much going for it: amazing songs (“Be Prepared,” “Hakuna Matata,” “Circle of Life,” “I  Just Can’t Wait to Be King,” and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” to name a few) thanks largely to Sir Elton John; an amazing cast, including Disney Legend James Earl Jones, Rowan Atkinson, Nathan Lane, and Jonathan Taylor Thomas; beautiful animation; an unforgettable storyline; and the right amount of comedic relief (thanks, Timon and Pumbaa).

33. Pocahontas

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 1995
  • Runtime: 81 minutes
  • Fun fact: Pocahontas was the first princess of color and paved the way for Disney to give us princesses and characters in general of all different backgrounds.

Is Pocahontas historically accurate? Heck no. But is it entertaining as all get out? You betcha.

Pocahontas from Disney's Pocahontas an animated Disney classic film

Photo courtesy of Disney

This movie is beautifully animated and has such an important message about the world we live in. But because of the serious amount of whitewashing that went into this storyline, I seriously doubt we’ll see a live-action remake of this one.

34. The Hunchback of Notre Dame

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 1996
  • Runtime: 91 minutes
  • Fun fact: In the Victor Hugo novel upon which the movie is based, Quasimodo does in fact talk to the gargoyles; they just don’t talk back.

This legendary Disney animated classic introduces us to Quasimodo, an outcast who lives in the Notre Dame cathedral. He must stand up to his evil “caretaker” (Frollo) to aid the gypsy (Esmerelda) with whom he has fallen in love. While successful, Quasimodo does not find love with Esmerelda; she instead catches feelings for Phoebus, and I’ve never forgiven her.

35. Hercules

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 1997
  • Runtime: 93 minutes
  • Fun fact: For the first time (in forever), Disney strayed from folklore and fairy tales to explore mythology with Hercules.

MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITE DISNEY ANIMATED CLASSIC. This film has everything. Ancient Greek mythology jokes, the most hilarious Disney Villain of all time, amazing songs (“I Won’t Say (I’m in Love”), Danny freaking DeVito, and a flying horse.

In this beloved story, Hercules, Zeus’ son who has been kidnapped and turned near-mortal, must earn his way back onto Mount Olympus. But Hades, Zeus’ brother, has other plans. Will Meg, who sold her soul to Hades, prove to be Hercules’ savior—or his downfall?

36. Mulan

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 1998
  • Runtime: 88 minutes
  • Fun fact: Mulan was the firm film to be created at Disney-MGM Studios (what is now Hollywood Studios).

Let’s get down to business—and talk about the fiercest Disney Princess to date, in my opinion (though Rapunzel, Merida, and Moana all make strong cases for themselves too). I remember standing in a long line that wrapped around outside a theater the morning after Mulan opened with my mom and some neighborhood friends. A bunch of young boys about to get their first lesson in the power and importance of feminism.

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Photo courtesy of Disney

Mulan tells the story of a young girl in China who, to save her father, pretends to be a man to fight in the Chinese army against the Hun. The film gives us two iconic songs: “Reflection” and “I’ll Make a Man Out of You.” Not to mention, this is an action-packed classic that keeps you on the edge of your seat for the entire hour and a half.

37. Tarzan

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 1999
  • Runtime: 88 minutes
  • Fun fact: The author of 1912’s Tarzan of the Apes had been hoping for an animated adaptation since 1936.

Phil Collins can do no wrong. There, I said it. (I actually prefer some of his work for Brother Bear, but more on that later.) Regardless, Collins’ music is one of the defining features of this swingin’ film that tells the story of Tarzan, a man raised by gorillas.

38. Fantasia 2000

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 1999
  • Runtime: 75 minutes
  • Fun fact: This was the first feature-length film to be offered in IMAX.

Fantasia 2000 serves as an update to the original Fantasia that had defined Disney so long ago. Classical music is still important to the film, but it uses new animated interpretations of such classic songs.

39. Dinosaur

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 2000
  • Runtime: 82 minutes
  • Fun fact: Dinosaur is Disney’s first non-Pixar computer-animated feature film.

I can still remember being in awe of the animation of Dinosaur when I saw it in theaters. For 2000, this film was a high achievement. While it is not remembered as one of Disney’s better films, I still find myself going back to this story of a dinosaur, raised by lemurs, seeking a new sanctuary after his home is destroyed by meteors.

40. The Emperor’s New Groove

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 2000
  • Runtime: 78 minutes
  • Fun fact: Chicha, Pacha’s wife, is the first pregnant woman in any Disney animated classic film.

Boom, baby! My second favorite Disney animated classic of all-time, The Emperor’s New Groove is, without a doubt, the funniest Disney cartoon. Kronk’s ineptitude defines the film (oh, that shoulder angel and devil pair!), but even Yzma’s got a funny, twisted evilness to her, and Kuzco’s selfishness elicits plenty of laughs.

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Chicha is Disney’s first animated pregnant mother. Photo courtesy of Disney

This film gives us Emperor Kuzco, turned into a talking llama, who must team up with peasant Pacha to change him back before Yzma claims the throne.

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41. Atlantis: The Lost Empire

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 2001
  • Runtime: 95 minutes
  • Fun fact: The guy who created Klingon for Star Trek (Marc Okrand) also developed the language of Atlantean for this film.

As a nerdy kid myself, it was amazing to see a “nerd” like Milo Thatch be the hero in an action-packed Disney classic that also delved into one of my favorite historical fascinations. This film does not get enough credit for the adventure and the heart that it offers up.

42. Lilo & Stitch

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 2002
  • Runtime: 92 minutes
  • Fun fact: Though it’s not said in the film, Lilo’s and Nani’s last name is “Pelekai.” You can see it on Stitch’s dog license.

Dive into the weirdest but most delightful combination of Hawaiian and alien culture in this film about a young, stubborn, and misunderstood Hawaiian girl, raised by her sister, who finds a friend in an escaped alien project gone wrong. Really wrong.

Lilo & Stitch brought the Hawaiian term “ohana” (“family”) into the larger American language. And if you’re a true fan, you can’t hear the word “ohana” without finishing “means family, and family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.”

43. Treasure Planet

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 2002
  • Runtime: 95 minutes
  • Fun fact: Laurie Metcalf (of Roseanne fame) voices Jim’s mother, but this was not her first matriarchal role in a Disney film. She also lent her voice talents to Andy’s mom (Michael Scott’s favorite character) in Toy Story.

Treasure Planet is pure adventure. It takes the classic story of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island (which I loved reading as a kid) and sets it in space, giving us a futuristic version of this thrilling tale, with flying ships, cyborgs, and more.

If I had to choose between Treasure Planet and Muppet Treasure Island … well, I think I’d lead a mutiny on whoever forced that decision.

44. Brother Bear

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 2003
  • Runtime: 85 minutes
  • Fun fact:

In terms of Disney, Phil Collins is most often associated with Tarzan, but it’s his music for Brother Bear that is most memorable to me. This movie may be a tad bit predictable, but it’s got a lot of heart, great music, and a cool story that follows an Inuit hunter, turned into a bear, as he learns what it means to be a man.

And the moose. I mean, what’s funnier than the pair of old moose?

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45. Home on the Range

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 2004
  • Runtime: 76 minutes
  • Fun fact: The working title for this film was once Sweating Bullets.

This is a movie that Disney would probably prefer you forgot about (and not just because Roseanne was a part of it). In case you’ve complied with Disney and blocked it from your brain, here’s a loose plot summary: Barn animals go hunting for an outlaw in an effort to save their farm.

46. Chicken Little

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 2005
  • Runtime: 81 minutes
  • Fun fact: Chicken Little reportedly has 250,000 feathers.

“The sky is falling!” That’s how the classic tale of Chicken Little goes.

But in the Disney rendition, Chicken Little, who once cried wolf about said falling sky, must now warn the town of an alien invasion. But no one believes him this time.

47. Meet the Robinsons

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 2007
  • Runtime: 95 minutes
  • Fun fact: Look closely and you’ll spy a picture of Walt himself at the orphanage.

Time travel has always been fascinating, and Disney’s take on it with Meet the Robinsons was actually very well done. Because this film came after Home on the Range (a flop) and Chicken Little (commercially successful but not popular with critics), Meet the Robinsons is a hidden gem that many Disney fans overlook. It definitely merits a close rewatch.

48. Bolt

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 2008
  • Runtime: 96 minutes
  • Fun fact: Animating Rhino the hamster wasn’t easy. In fact, animators actually adopted a hamster to help them with accuracy.

This last film before the Disney Revival, Bolt is an animated Inception: a fictional world inside a fictional world. Bolt the dog is the star of a sci-fi show in which he has special powers, but when danger strikes in the real-world, Bolt thinks those powers are just as real as they seem on TV.

49. The Princess and the Frog

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 2009
  • Runtime: 97 minutes
  • Fun fact: Disney had not done a true animated fairy-tale film since Aladdin, meaning The Princess and the Frog broke a near 20-year dry spell.

The Princess and the Frog marked a return to hand-drawn animation that fans so desperately wanted. It also introduced us to our first Black Disney Princess, more than 70 years after the first Disney Princess. Tiana was long overdue.

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Photo courtesy of Disney

This beautifully animated story tells us of a hard-working waitress who wants to own her own restaurant in New Orleans, but when she is accidentally turned into a frog, she and Prince Naveen must fight to reverse their fate.

50. Tangled

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 2010
  • Runtime: 100 minutes
  • Fun fact: Originally, Tangled was going to be a fairy-tale satire, but Glen Keane, the idea guy who originally pitched the film, patently rejected this twist on the sotry.

Back-to-back Disney Princess films? Yes, please. Tangled is every bit as magnificent as The Princess and the Frog (which is why this era is called the Revival).

Tangled takes into the classic story of Rapunzel, but don’t for a second think your princess just waits in the tower to be rescued. In this version of the classic fairy tale, Rapunzel takes her fate into her own hands to have the adventure of a lifetime. Mother Gothel proves to be one of Disney’s best villains, and Flynn Rider is a prince full of personality.

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51. Winnie the Pooh

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 2011
  • Runtime: 63 minutes
  • Fun fact: Though there are countless Winnie the Pooh movies, this is only the second to be produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios, one of the reasons it earns a spot on the Disney animated classics list.

The beauty of Winnie the Pooh stories lies in their simplicity. In this film version, we see Pooh and his friends searching for Eyeore’s lost tail. This movie may be for kids, but when I babysit for my friends’ daughter, she’s not the only one with eyes glued to the TV when I put this movie on. I love it!

52. Wreck-It Ralph

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 2012
  • Runtime: 101 minutes
  • Fun fact: Pooka and Frygar, Pac-Man and a ghost, Bowser, Sonic and Dr. Eggman, Neff, Q-Bert, and several Street Fighter characters are just some of the video game franchise creations who appear in the film.

When it debuted, Wreck-It Ralph was a total surprise for me. For Disney to dive into video games was not anything I ever expected, but as a major Nintendo fanboy, seeing Bowser in a support group was everything I ever needed.

Wreck-It Ralph has a truly unique concept, making a hero out of a video game villain and showing us the behind the scenes of classic arcade games. The nods to Mario and Donkey Kong, plus the whole Vanellope storyline (and Mindy Kaling’s amazing voice talents before Inside Out!), just solidify this as a modern classic Disney movie.

53. Frozen

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 2013
  • Runtime: 102 minutes
  • Fun fact: Frozen is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen.” Walt Disney had begun developing an adaptation way back in 1939.

Frozen was a mega success for Disney. There’s no denying it. From Idina Menzel’s instant hit with “Let It Go” to the story of sisterly love (over romantic love) to the comedic stylings of Olaf, this movie delivers pure joy. It has inspired attractions at Disney Parks around the world and is so successful of a franchise that Anna and Elsa don’t need to be considered Disney Princesses.

The plot of Frozen involves two orphaned princesses on the day of the elder sister, Elsa’s, coronation as queen. But Elsa, who has holed herself away from Anna for over a decade, has a secret: She has an icy power that ultimately sends the kingdom into an eternal winter. Anna and co must go convince Elsa, who has gone into hiding, to come back and help them restore the kingdom.

54. Big Hero 6

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 2014
  • Runtime: 102 minutes
  • Fun fact: To create Baymax’s famous movements, animators studied baby penguins.

I just knew going into Big Hero 6 that I would cry. And I did. Multiple times. Don’t let the hilarious premise of this movie fool you; it’s a tear-jerker.

Big Hero 6 takes place in San Fransokyo in an alternate history wherein Japan had a major influence on San Francisco following a 1906 earthquake. Hiro’s brother Tadashi has designed a robot nurse named Baymax before perishing in a building explosion; together, Hiro and Baymax, along with a group of friends, band together as makeshift superheroes to track down the person responsible for Tadashi’s death.

55. Zootopia

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 2016
  • Runtime: 108 minutes
  • Fun fact: Remember Make Mine Music and Melody Time from much earlier on this list? Assistant Mayor Bellwether is based on the lambs in those films.

Welcome to Zootopia. This film came at a very relevant time in world history, with thinly veiled criticisms of white supremacy, anti-Semitism, and other forms of discrimination. But of course, to children, the film is just a colorful, hilarious story about a bunny cop and a sly criminal fox as they uncover a conspiracy rooted in Zootopia’s government.

Whether you are analyzing the deeper message of Zootopia, rocking out to Shakira’s “Try Anything,” or just simply busting your gut laughing at the sloth, you’re sure to enjoy this film.

56. Moana

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 2016
  • Runtime: 107 minutes
  • Fun fact: In Proto Polynesian, “lalo” means “below” while “tai” is “the sea,” hence the name of Tamatoa’s realm of monsters, Lalotai.

What an incredible film. Moana has everything: great original songs, a strong female lead, beautiful ocean animation, The Rock (can you smell what he’s cooking?), and an original story that gives us Disney’s first dive into ancient Polynesian culture.

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Photo courtesy of Disney

Moana takes us on a journey as Moana, soon-to-be chief of her island, wants anything but to be stuck on her island. She feels called by the ocean to explore, and when an ancient curse reaches her island, she has no other choice but to answer that call, teaming up with Demigod Maui to save her people before it’s too late.

57. Ralph Breaks the Internet

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 2018
  • Runtime: 112 minutes
  • Fun fact: Stan Lee makes an unspoken cameo as an avatar.

Disney went into sequel mode, starting with Ralph Breaks the Internet, the follow-up to Wreck-It Ralph. This time, Ralph and Vanellope, who’ve been stuck in the world of arcade games, discover a Wi-Fi router that springs them into a much bigger adventure: the internet.

58. Frozen II

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 2019
  • Runtime: 103 minutes
  • Fun fact: Jonathan Groff provides the voice for all of the reindeer backup singers in “Lost in the Woods,” recording 18 voal tracks in total.

The second Disney sequel in a row, Frozen II was a long-anticipated follow-up that continues the stories of Elsa, Anna, Olaf, Kristoff, and Sven. Easily the best part of the film is Kristoff’s and Sven’s ’80s-esque power ballad, “Lost in the Woods.”

But the goodness didn’t stop there. The entire film is action packed, beautifully animated, and full of great music and jokes.

59. Raya and the Last Dragon

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Released in: 2021
  • Runtime: 107 minutes
  • Fun fact: Stick around for the special credits; there’s a thank-you for the cast and crew who worked on the film in more than 400 individual homes because of COVID-19.

Raya is rumored to become Disney’s 13th official princess after her heroic efforts finding the last dragon in Kumandra to stop the Druun from enacting total destruction. If you haven’t watched this movie yet, you’re missing out. It’s got heart, adventure, and lots of laughs.

60. Encanto

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Photo courtesy of Disney

  • Coming November 2021

Check out the first Encanto trailer.

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Disney Animation Eras

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What is your favorite Disney animation era, and why is it the Renaissance? Photo courtesy of Disney

Disney’s animated classics can be broken out into nine eras, starting with the Golden Age. We’re now in what’s being called the Streaming Era, which officially started in 2020.

Here’s the full list of Disney animation eras:

The Golden Age of Disney

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Photo courtesy of Disney

The Golden Age is called the Golden Age because it marked the highly successful beginning of Walt Disney’s full-length animated features. Five films, all iconic, define this era.

The Disney animated classic films included in this era are:

  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
  • Pinocchio (1940)
  • Fantasia (1940)
  • Dumbo (1941)
  • Bambi (1942)

The Package Era of Disney

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Photo courtesy of Disney

When World War II broke out, Disney had to switch gears. With reduced manpower and budget, the studio focused on “packaged” films, i.e., collections of shorter animated stories. Existing between the Golden and Silver Ages, these films, though admirable, are not often remembered as Walt Disney Studios’ best works.

The six films include:

  • Saludos Amigos (1942)
  • The Three Caballeros (1944)
  • Make Mine Music (1946)
  • Fun and Fancy Free (1947)
  • Melody Time (1948)
  • The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)

The Silver Age of Disney

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Photo courtesy of Disney

One of Disney’s most iconic films kicked off the Silver Age—Cinderella—and ended with another Disney animated classic—Sleeping Beauty. After a sort of high-quality hiatus during the war, the Silver Age reaffirmed Disney’s place as the top animation studio in the world.

The Silver Age Disney animated classics include:

  • Cinderella (1950)
  • Alice in Wonderland (1951)
  • Peter Pan (1953)
  • Lady and the Tramp (1955)
  • Sleeping Beauty (1959)

The Transition Era of Disney

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Photo courtesy of Disney

This era ushered in a new Xerox process that makes these films look different from those in the era prior. While the animation quality arguably takes a dip (due to lower budgets), this era still houses three heavy hitters in my opinion.

The three Disney films of the Transition Era include:

  • One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)
  • The Sword in the Stone (1963)
  • The Jungle Book (1967)

The Bronze Age of Disney

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Photo courtesy of Disney

I’ve heard this era also called the “Dark Ages” of Disney, which I kind of resent. Sure, things take a hit, but this era also has some bangers and brought Winnie the Pooh into Disney canon. That’s pretty important, if you ask me.

The Disney animated classic films regarded as Bronze Age movies include:

  • The Aristocats (1970)
  • Robin Hood (1973)
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)
  • The Rescuers (1977)
  • The Fox and the Hound (1981)
  • The Black Cauldron(1985)
  • The Great Mouse Detective (1986)
  • Oliver & Company (1988)

The Disney Renaissance Era of Disney

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Photo courtesy of Disney

Ah, to relive the ’90s as a kid again. The Disney Renaissance films represent what many widely consider to be the best of the best Disney animated classics. After the bleak Bronze Age for Disney, this era represented smash hit after smash hit, including my favorite, Hercules (honey, you mean Hunk-ules!). Though I’ll be darned if films like The Emperor’s New Groove, Lilo & Stitch, Atlantis, and Treasure Planet have to be relegated to the next era, which isn’t remembered with as much respect.

The iconic Disney Renaissance classics include the following films:

  • The Little Mermaid (1989)
  • The Rescuers Down Under (1990)
  • Beauty and the Beast (1991)
  • Aladdin (1992)
  • The Lion King (1994)
  • Pocahontas (1995)
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
  • Hercules (1997)
  • Mulan (1998)
  • Tarzan (1999)

The Post-Renaissance Era of Disney

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Photo courtesy of Disney

I am not a huge fan of the wide strokes this era is painted with. While it did have some duds, some of my favorite Disney animated classic films come from this era. Do I see it through rose-colored glasses because I was coming of age when the earlier Post-Renaissance films were released?

Case in point: The Emperor’s New Groove and Treasure Planet are easily in my top 10 all-time favorite Disney animated films.

I think much of the criticism of this era owes itself to the transition from hand-drawn to computer-generated (CG) artwork. And my favorites are all the former, so I stand my ground.

My perhaps needless commentary aside, the Post-Renaissance Era (also called the “Second Dark Age of Disney,” grr) included the following films:

  • Fantasia 2000 (1999)
  • Dinosaur (2000)
  • The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)
  • Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
  • Lilo & Stitch (2002)
  • Treasure Planet (2002)
  • Brother Bear (2003)
  • Home on the Range (2004)
  • Chicken Little (2005)
  • Meet the Robinsons (2007)
  • Bolt (2008)

The Revival Era of Disney

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Photo courtesy of Disney

We only recently exited this Disney era, and boy, was this a popular one. Disney launched major successes, both in hand-drawn and CG films. We’re talking about blockbuster successes such as FrozenMoanaZootopia, and The Princess and the Frog. In fact, Princess Tiana kicked this era off for us.

Here are the Revival Era Disney films:

  • The Princess and the Frog (2009)
  • Tangled (2010)
  • Winnie the Pooh (2011)
  • Wreck-It Ralph (2012)
  • Frozen (2013)
  • Big Hero 6 (2014)
  • Zootopia (2016)
  • Moana (2016)
  • Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)
  • Frozen II (2019)

The Streaming Era of Disney

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Photo courtesy of Disney

Welcome to the present! With the advent of streaming giant Disney+, the way we see new and old movies has forever changed. The first film, Raya and the Last Dragon, actually debuted in theaters the same time it was released on Disney+ (thanks, COVID).

Here are the films that mark the Streaming Era of Disney:

  • Raya and the Last Dragon (2021)
  • Encanto (2021)

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My Top 10 Disney Animated Classics, Ranked

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Meg singing “I Won’t Say I’m in Love” is quite possibly the best 2 minutes in Disney animated history. Photo courtesy of Disney

This list is entirely subjective (and likely to change based on how I’m feeling each day), but since you’ve been with me here for a while, I figured I would share my thoughts on the best Disney animated classic films ever made. Please ignore the obvious bias toward the 1990s and early 2000s; it can’t be avoided.

  1. Hercules (1997)
  2. The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)
  3. Peter Pan (1954)
  4. The Lion King (1994)
  5. Moana (2016)
  6. Tangled (2010)
  7. Treasure Planet (2002)
  8. Mulan (1998)
  9. Aladdin (1992)
  10. One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)

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Disney Princess Animated Classics

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Photo courtesy of Disney

Disney canon currently has 13 Disney Princesses. Favorites like Anna and Elsa do not qualify while other female leads like Esmerelda, Jane, and Tinker Bell were previously Disney Princesses but have lost the title. Characters such as Meg, Nala, and Vanellope have never been considered Disney Princesses.

If you’re tying to watch all the official Disney Princess films in order, here are the 13 you’ll need to queue up and the princesses to watch for:

  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937): Snow White
  • Cinderella (1950): Cinderella
  • Sleeping Beauty (1959): Aurora
  • The Little Mermaid (1989): Ariel
  • Beauty and the Beast (1991): Belle
  • Aladdin (1992): Jasmine
  • Pocahontas (1995): Pocahontas
  • Mulan (1998): Mulan
  • The Princess and the Frog (2009): Tiana
  • Tangled (2010): Rapunzel
  • Brave (2012): Merida—she is the only non-Disney animated classic character to be named an official Disney Princess; Merida, of course, is from Pixar
  • Moana (2016): Moana
  • Raya and the Last Dragon (2021): Raya [RUMORED TO BE NEXT DISNEY PRINCESS]

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Disney Animated Classics Remade as Live-Action Films

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Live-action Aladdin is where it’s at. Photo courtesy of Disney

Like it or not, Disney has been reinventing our favorite Disney animated classics as live-action films that have been breaking the box office. But this isn’t just a recent trend (though Disney was busy in 2019). It actually started way back in 1994 with the live-action The Jungle Book (and no, not the one that came out just a few years back).

Here are all the live-action remakes of Disney animated classics to date:

  • The Jungle Book (1994): Remake of The Jungle Book
  • 101 Dalmatians (1996): Remake of One Hundred and One Dalmatians
    • 102 Dalmatians (2000): A sequel
  • Alice in Wonderland (2010): Remake of Alice in Wonderland
    • Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016): A live-action adaptation of Carroll’s sequel novel
  • The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (2010): Remake of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
  • Maleficent (2014): A villain story based on Sleeping Beauty
    • Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (2019): A sequel
  • Cinderella (2015): Remake of Cinderella
  • The Jungle Book (2016): Another remake of The Jungle Book
  • Beauty and the Beast (2017): Remake of Beauty and the Beast
  • Christopher Robin (2018): An extension of The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
  • Dumbo (2019): Remake of Dumbo
  • Aladdin (2019): Remake of Aladdin
  • The Lion King (2019): Remake of The Lion King
  • Lady and the Tramp (2019): Remake of Lady and the Tramp
  • Mulan (2020): Remake of Mulan
  • Cruella (2021): Revisionist prequel to One Hundred and One Dalmatians

My hot take that no one asked for? You can probably skip most of these and be just fine. But some must-watches on this list include AladdinMulan, 2016’s The Jungle Book, and 101 Dalmatians (I mean, Glenn Close, come on!).

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Must-Watch “Non-Classic” Disney Animated Movies

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Photo courtesy of Disney

If, after you’re done with your binge of all the Disney animated classics, you’re still looking for more Disney ‘toons, then I highly recommend you check out some of these Disney animated movies. All but A Goofy Movie were straight-to-video or only released theatrically outside the United States.

This list is not exhaustive. These are just the sequels, prequels, adaptations, and other Disney films that I think are worth a watch, even if they aren’t “Disney animated classics.”

  • The Return of Jafar (1994)
  • A Goofy Movie (1995)
  • Aladdin and the King of Thieves (1996)
  • Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas (1997)
  • Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas (1999)
  • An Extremely Goofy Movie (2000)
  • The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea (2000)
  • A Very Merry Pooh Year (2002)
  • Atlantis: Milo’s Return (2003)
  • The Lion King 1 1/2 (2004)

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Disney•Pixar Films

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Photo courtesy of Pixar

While classics in their own right, Disney•Pixar films are not technically considered Disney animated classics but are considered Disney animated movies. (It’s the same reason A Goofy Movie, made by Disney Toon Studios, is not considered a classic either.)

That said, in case you’re interested, here’s a complete list of every full-length Pixar film:

  • Toy Story (1995)
  • A Bug’s Life (1998)
  • Toy Story 2 (1999)
  • Monsters, Inc. (2001)
  • Finding Nemo (2003)
  • The Incredibles (2004)
  • Cars (2006)
  • Ratatouille (2007)
  • WALL-E (2008)
  • UP (2009)
  • Toy Story 3 (2010)
  • Cars 2 (2011)
  • Brave (2012)
  • Monsters University (2013)
  • Inside Out (2015)
  • The Good Dinosaur (2015)
  • Finding Dory (2016)
  • Cars 3 (2017)
  • Coco (2017)
  • Incredibles 2 (2018)
  • Toy Story 4 (2019)
  • Onward (2020)
  • Soul (2020)
  • Luca (2021)

Coming soon are Turning Red and Lightyear.

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How Much are Your Disney VHS Tapes Really Worth?

List of Official Disney Princesses – And the Ones That Got Left Out

5 BEST DISNEY SEQUELS YOU PROBABLY FORGOT ABOUT

Written by Timothy Moore

Written by Timothy Moore

Boom baby! Timothy Moore is excited to serve as your managing editor and resident Disney Renaissance expert. When he's not drinking around the world at EPCOT or gobbling down Mickey Waffles for breakfast, he can usually be found with his partner hiking and kayaking the great outdoors, putting off writing his novel by playing Nintendo Switch, or telling his dogs Goomba and Blooper that they're the best boys in the world ad nauseam (because they are).