Recent movies like turn red and Pixar Light year, released in March and June 2022, show that Disney animated features have come a long way since the days of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. That’s not to say that truly traditional Disney magic doesn’t have a place, but the company has certainly branched out beyond fairy tales.
Disney is built on the backbone of fairy tales, fiction, and fantasy, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t kept pace. Even Walt Disney himself experimented once or twice in his decorated career. Princesses and castles can sell movie and theme park tickets, but sometimes it’s best to steer clear of the same old.
ten Fantasy (1940)
Although the company has its roots in films like Snow White and Pinocchio, Walt has always been a proponent of new innovation and experimentation in the animation medium. In the vast realm of Disney films, there is perhaps no better example of this assertion than the concert feature Fancy.
In collaboration with maestro Leopold Stokowski, Disney put its artists and animators to the test by creating this experimental arthouse film. Known for its “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” segment, the film not only showed what white animation could be capable of, but also revitalized Mickey Mouse’s career in the process.
9 Dumbo (1941)
Fancy was a huge creative endeavor that changed the way audiences looked at animation, which can’t be denied. However, it was not the financial success Walt expected. So Disney returned to the storybook narrative. However, Dumbo was not a fairy tale in the traditional sense.
Considered one of Disney’s greatest underdog stories, the story of Dumbo the Flying Elephant is an adorable classic born out of creative necessity as it would be one of the studio’s last traditional pre-WWII films. world. Either way, it resulted in one of the most lovable characters in the business.
8 The Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)
By modern standards, the original 101 Dalmatians is something of an animated classic. In 1961, however, it was a decidedly different path for Disney. An adaptation of Dodie Smith’s novel, the film had the same brand of Disney entertainment with catchy tunes and talking animals, but the look, time period and animation were all new.
Although Walt was not meant to be a fan of the sketchbooks, the sketchbook animation style paired with the jazz-inspired soundtrack made it a visually distinct and unique feature. Pair that with one of the first xeroxed animation apps, and it stands out as an important piece of Disney history.
seven The Black Cauldron (1985)
When it comes to a different side of Disney, it doesn’t stray much further from the heart of the studio than The Black Cauldron. While it might be a fantasy movie, it’s about as far removed from a traditional Disney film as a movie can be. The 80s were the age of J&D and dark fantasy with movies like The dark crystal and Excalibur on the stage, and Disney was just trying to keep up.
That being said, this abrupt shift into darker waters nearly killed Walt Disney Pictures’ animation department due to its graphic content. As weird and out of Disney’s comfort zone as it was, it was still a project that allowed the studio to experiment and try new things.
6 The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
The black cauldron may have been a failed experiment, but this stop-motion masterpiece from Tim Burton and Henry Selick has become one of the company’s most popular cult films. Jack Skellington’s twisted Christmas tale has become an annual tradition for many fans, and it was certainly a different flavor from Disney’s 1993.
Although it may have been considered too dark for the Disney logo when it was first released, it became a fan favorite that quickly dominated the fandom. From the animation style to the Tim Burton story and screenplay, it showed that Disney wasn’t shy about taking a walk on the weird side.
5 Toy Story (1995)
Disney and Pixar’s marriage was a match made in animation heaven, and the springboard for that partnership came in the form of Toy story. Along with introducing a groundbreaking new studio, the film changed the way viewers viewed CGI and animation as a whole. Although the effects of film may be primitive by today’s standards, they have revolutionized the medium of animation.
This project was a huge gamble on Disney’s part. If successful, it would be a game-changer for the industry. If it failed, it would simply be known as “that CGI movie”. Luckily for Disney and Pixar, Buzz and Woody ended up being part of one of the company’s most successful films.
4 The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
Fancy showed that Disney could be artistic, The Nightmare Before Christmas shown that they could be dark, but The Hunchback of Notre Dame showed they could use their wonderful animation to tell a mature story with epic scale. Although it was a very loose adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel, it was a Disney film ahead of its time.
The film delved into mature topics of religion, lust, social acceptance, and grief in a way children and adults could relate to. A far cry from the G-rated material audiences may have been used to seeing from the company, but easily one of their most cinematic contributions to date.
3 Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
Whether Atlantis had only had more marketing, it would have been the big animated hit of 2001. It had all the right ingredients for Disney’s next immortal animated classic, but it just couldn’t find its audience until years later. . Thankfully, its cult movie status has kept it away from the dregs of obscurity.
A steampunk adventure through Jules Verne and Indiana Jones with illustrations by The Hell GuysMike Mignola, the movie should have been one of the best action movies of the decade. No song and dance numbers, no talking animals, but with an epic sci-fi story worthy of a hard-hitting graphic novel, it was an underrated and underrated gem.
2 Lilo & Stitch (2002)
Lilo & Point is a film that could be described as “wonderfully bizarre”. The idea of a destructive alien crash-landing on a tropical island paradise and befriending a little girl is ridiculous on paper, but it’s become one of Disney’s most popular devices, and Stitch saturates the media and commodities twenty years later.
Based on a concept by animator Chris Sanders, the film works best if audiences surrender to the silliness and get carried away with the fun. Aliens Unleashed on the Shores of Hawaii isn’t exactly standard Disney fare, but it certainly did one of its best.
1 Zootopia (2016)
While movies featuring talking animals aren’t new to Disney, those that use them to illustrate social issues to provide surprisingly adult commentary certainly are. The dazzling sights, sounds and species of zootopia aside, the film is arguably one of the most poignant and culturally significant from the House of Mouse in recent years.
Nick and Judy may be the stars of the buddy-cop comedy, but they also convey an anti-bias message that’s as important to young viewers as it is to adult audiences. While it’s not Disney’s first film to tackle such topics, it’s one of the most successful.
NEXT: 10 Best Disney Movies Without Prince Charming