We all know the classic Disney flicks, right? We can name our faves straightaway, having worn out those VHS tapes with re-watches over and over again as kids.
But what about the movies that came before our time? You might be able to name a couple of the big ones, but dear reader, today my job is to introduce you to A Whole New World (hehe) of five totally underrated Disney classics, ranked from must-see to quit-your-job-and-watch-it-right-now.
Most of these movies are of the vintage variety – but some of them are more recent, and have perhaps slipped under the radar.
So next time someone asks you what your fave Disney movie is, you can impress them with an extremely underground, extremely niche answer like the animation buff you are.
To learn even more about these Disney classics, make sure you swing by the Disney: The Magic of Animation exhibition at Queensland Museum, running from June 23 to January 22.
5. Steamboat Willie (1928)
Steamboat what-now? Maybe you’ve never heard of this one before, maybe you have – but honestly, for the massive impact Steamboat Willie had on the animation world, it should be in every Disney fans’ top five just by default.
Produced in 1928, Steamboat Willie is not only considered the debut of Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse, but it was also one of the first cartoons with synchronised sound (that is, music and sound effects in sync with the animated narrative on screen).
The animated short only goes for about seven-and-a-half minutes but it was considered a huge technical feat at the time.
4. Fantasia (1940)
Now this one’s a serve. Fantasia debuted only 12 years after Steamboat Willie, which is bonkers when you note the animation developments made between the two.
Made up of eight animated segments set to pieces of classical music, Fantasia was the first commercial film to be shown in stereo sound and is the 23rd-highest grossing film of all time in the US if the box office was adjusted for ticket-price inflation.
Lots of people will be familiar with Mickey in his lil sorcerer hat in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, but I think my fave segment of Fantasia is the Night On Bald Mountain sequence which features demons and skeletons and wee little dragons all floating and spooking about.
Apparently this sequence very much freaked out some kids who went to see the film at the time. I know it gave me a fright as a kid – but I also know a part of me was just as thrilled as I was scared.
3. Saludos Amigos (1943)
Now this is one I had actually never heard of until this very morning. Saludos Amigos is a part-animation, part live action feature film that was commissioned by the US government to encourage closer ties between the US and South America.
A team of Disney creatives travelled through Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Peru to create the film, which includes footage of animation artists drawing the local culture they were observing throughout their trip.
For any llama enthusiasts out there – yeah I’m looking at you – there’s also some pretty adorable animated and live action footage of various llamas llama-ing about. Splendid.
2. 101 Dalmatians (1961)
I know, I know. This one’s not really flown under the radar has it? Au contraire dear reader. I think it has – hear me out.
First there was the 1996 live action remake with Glenn Close stealing the thunder of the animated original. Then there was Cruella in 2021. What can I say – I’m just a sucker for the classics.
101 Dalmatians was an economic boon for the Disney company, with the money made from its release pulling the company out of a tough spot after the costly Sleeping Beauty released a couple years prior.
Also there’s literally one hundred and one teeny tiny animated dalmatian puppies flip flopping around. What more could you possibly want from a film.
1. Tangled (2010)
OK, so this is just an excuse to talk about my favourite Disney movie ever. Welcome to my elevator pitch on why Tangled is so flinging flanging good.
Firstly, my queen Mandy Moore plays Rapunzel. Iconic. Next.
Tangled also features the delightfully camp hit Mother Knows Best, a song I perform quite fabulously in the shower if I do say so myself.
It’s also one of the most expensive animated films of all time, which is very slay. I wish to one day be noted as the most expensive lady of all time. Tangled gives me a reason to dream.
You can learn so much more about all of these films and so many more at Disney: The Magic of Animation exhibition at Queensland Museum. It runs til January, but best get in quick I reckon.