Disney/Pixar Movie Rankings: 2019

This one has been a long time coming. Had I been born in the ’80s, I imagine I would have been more taken with E.T. or The Goonies or other movies of that ilk. As it is, I’m from the ’90s, and there’s a good argument to be made that there was never a better time for a child watching children’s movies in this country…unless, of course, you were a kid between 1937 and 1942. One of the qualifications that I’ve kept returning to is the craft of the images themselves, which matters more in movies where anything can look like anything. Orson Welles looks like Orson Welles in Citizen Kane no matter how big his fake beard is, and Jean Renoir had to go to Sologne to film The Rules of the Game. At the risk of sounding corny, the limit of what we see on the screen when we watch Beauty and the Beast or Up is the limit of what animators can draw. It’s the reason that animation appeals so much to children, and to those of us struggling with our arrested development. There’s possibility in those little cels that feels exceptional, and it’s part of the reason they suck in adults as well.

The bigger part, at least as far as Disney goes, has to do with the difficulty of making a list like this. Ranking those movies and their forbears and their descendants remains one of the great challenges in movie list-making because everyone has their favorites which are, often as not, passionately felt from childhood. Putting together a list of Disney movies from top to bottom which tries to make judgments without nostalgia (as I’ve tried to do), reference to Disney music tapes listened to from the back seat of a minivan (ditto), or trips to one of the theme parks (mercifully exempt) is tricky. This list aspires to look at the pictures as movies first and as scrapbook items or historical icons much further down the list. Toy Story 3 doesn’t get points for tracking the development of characters I knew as an elementary schooler and again as a college student, nor does Snow White move up on the basis of its remarkable place in the history of the movies.

There are fifty-seven Disney movies, at present, in what we’re going to call “the Disney Animated Features Canon,” which were made by Walt Disney Animation Studios for theatrical release. In other words, we’re cutting out movies by other Disney-owned production companies (A Goofy Movie, The Nightmare Before Christmas, etc.), direct-to-video movies (The Lion King 2), and movies which combine live-action and animation (Mary Poppins, Bedknobs and Broomsticks). It should go without saying that Studio Ghibli movies are definitely their own thing and will not appear in these rankings. Doing it this way means we make some unsatisfying cuts, but it also means that we don’t have to pretend that Planes or Mars Needs Moms exist. The only exceptions to this rule are Pixar’s twenty movies, and to show that I’m really inconsistent, I’m even going to include their output predating the 2006 Disney deal. The way I see it, you can’t tell the story of Disney in the past twenty-five years without highlighting Pixar. Cutting out their movies from these rankings would make them feel, to me at least, a little hollow; on the other hand, if I can get this done before Toy Story 4 comes out I can more credibly pretend that it isn’t real. (UPDATE: I didn’t, but I’m still pretending anyway.) (ANOTHER UPDATE: Without redoing this whole thing, I would put Toy Story 4 somewhere in the forties.) (ANOTHER UPDATE: Without going back and changing too much, Onward would rate in the sixties. Frozen II…Frozen II would also rate in the sixties, but below Onward.) (DOUBLE UPDATE: Raya and the Last Dragon deserves to be in the fifties somewhere, while Luca is a forties movie.)

Below I’m placing a running index of entries in this series. Enjoy!

1

  • 1: Toy Story

2-5

  • 2: WALL-E
  • 3: Beauty and the Beast
  • 4: Bambi
  • 5: The Fox and the Hound

6-10

  • 6: Fantasia
  • 7: The Incredibles
  • 8: The Lion King
  • 9: Mulan
  • 10: Ratatouille

11-15

  • 11: Toy Story 2
  • 12: The Little Mermaid
  • 13: The Rescuers
  • 14: The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  • 15: Monsters, Inc.

16-20

  • 16: Aladdin
  • 17: The Great Mouse Detective
  • 18: The Jungle Book
  • 19: Up
  • 20: Alice in Wonderland

21-25

  • 21: Pinocchio
  • 22: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
  • 23: Finding Nemo
  • 24: Inside Out
  • 25: The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

26-30

  • 26: The Emperor’s New Groove
  • 27: The Princess and the Frog
  • 28: Hercules
  • 29: Tangled
  • 30: Dumbo

31-35

  • 31: Toy Story 3
  • 32: Frozen
  • 33: A Bug’s Life
  • 34: Robin Hood
  • 35: The Good Dinosaur

36-40

  • 36: Coco
  • 37: Winnie the Pooh
  • 38: Monsters University
  • 39: Moana
  • 40: Atlantis: The Lost Empire

41-45

  • 41: One Hundred and One Dalmatians
  • 42: Lady and the Tramp
  • 43: Brave
  • 44: The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad
  • 45: The Incredibles 2

46-50

  • 46: The Sword in the Stone
  • 47: Zootopia
  • 48: Wreck-It Ralph
  • 49: Tarzan
  • 50: The Aristocats

51-55

  • 51: The Rescuers Down Under
  • 52: Lilo & Stitch
  • 53: Pocahontas
  • 54: Cars
  • 55: Ralph Breaks the Internet

56-60

  • 56: Treasure Planet
  • 57: Peter Pan
  • 58: Fantasia 2000
  • 59: Melody Time
  • 60: Cars 3

61-65

  • 61: Cinderella
  • 62: Cars 2
  • 63: Sleeping Beauty
  • 64: Meet the Robinsons
  • 65: Big Hero 6

66-70

  • 66: Oliver & Company
  • 67: Home on the Range
  • 68: Make Mine Music
  • 69: The Black Cauldron
  • 70: The Three Caballeros

71-77

  • 71: Fun and Fancy Free
  • 72: Dinosaur
  • 73: Saludos Amigos!
  • 74: Brother Bear
  • 75: Finding Dory
  • 76: Bolt
  • 77: Chicken Little

19 thoughts on “Disney/Pixar Movie Rankings: 2019

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