While this post isn’t strictly Disney Parks, the studio’s animated films are the foundation for many of the rides and pavilions in both Orlando and Anaheim. Classic Disney movies have shaped many of our childhoods, and here’s a countdown of my top five favorites:
5. Beauty and the Beast
A classic tale about appreciating what’s on the inside, Beauty and the Beast features some stunning animations and dazzling scenery. It’s one of those movies where, for me personally, the side characters are more entertaining than the main ones; Belle and the Beast are iconic, but I prefer Lumiere, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts, and even Gaston (if you get the chance, go see the character performer in Magic Kingdom—he’s hilarious!). The really selling point of this movie, though, is the soundtrack. Look no further than “Belle,” the movie’s impressively intricate and catchy opening number.
4. The Little Mermaid
Before The Little Mermaid came out in 1989, Disney was in somewhat of an animation slump. This film about a young mermaid that longs to walk on land helped reinvigorate the franchise, and was a pioneer in the field of animation. Much like Beauty and the Beast, I enjoy the supporting roles more than the main ones, and you can always count on Sebastian and Flounder and even Ursula for a one-liner or a tune that’s an instant classic. Truth be told, I’m still obsessed with “Part of My World.”
There’s something mesmerizing about Aladdin and its parent tale, Arabian Nights. The film’s atmosphere always immediately grabs my attention, and the setting still feels so unique. Aladdin and Jasmine are one of my favorite Disney couples, and “A Whole New World” will never get old. Abu is one of the best animal sidekicks, and Genie is an unforgettable Disney addition.
Mulan is the ultimate badass, and she was definitely my hero growing up. She’s brave and strong and honorable and is willing to sacrifice her self for others—not to mention that she ultimately saves all of China. Mulan was a feminist icon before any of us even knew what that even meant as kids, and the message of this movie is head and shoulders above the others. Mushu and the other characters are also totally awesome, and it’s impossible to forget the words to “I’ll Make a Man Out of You.”
How do I even begin to explain the special place in my heart for Hercules? It’s been my favorite since I was a kid, and, tragically, it’s one of the least represented films in the parks. Still, there are plenty of reasons to love it. It’s far and away the cleverest and best-written animation of the studio’s Renaissance era. Maybe you won’t get all the jokes when you’re little, but the movie gets funnier every time you watch it. Hercules is the ultimate hero, but it’s his leading lady that really steals the show; Meg is no princess, and she’s all the better for it. Mentor Phil and flying sidekick Pegasus are great secondary characters, and Hades is by far one of Disney’s best villains. The soundtrack of this movie is also outstanding, and “Go the Distance” will forever be my pump-up jam.