But there are some movies in the Disney universe that are just criminally forgotten. Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001), Meet the Robinsons (2007), McFarland, USA (2015) — films that have great plot, casts, and characters but for some reason just don’t get the recognition they deserve.
This is an appreciation list for the most underappreciated films from Disney. Do not fear, little films, I haven’t forgotten about you!
The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)
Big Hero 6 (2014)
George of the Jungle (1997)
Home on the Range (2004)
Treasure Planet (2002)
The Great Mouse Detective (1986)
Chicken Little (2005)
Oliver & Company (1988)
#10: A Bug’s Life (1998)
Out of all Pixar’s movies, this has to be the most underappreciated. It’s not lacking an all-star cast: Dave Foley, Kevin Spacey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, David Hyde Pierce, Hayden Panettiere, and Bonnie Hunt all co-star as insects in our delightful bug family. Nor is it short on humor, as the whole film revolves around the misunderstanding that a group of circus bugs are actually elite warriors hired to save an ant colony from evil grasshoppers. I don’t know what it is about this film that makes it so underappreciated, all I know is it deserves way more recognition for its phenomenal early animation and its excellent character development.
#9: Robin Hood (1973)
No movie has truly told the story of Robin Hood perfectly yet, but this one comes pretty close. Disney’s 1973 version of the classic steal-from-the-rich-to-give-to-the-poor tale gives the audience a pleasant family story. This type of animation — called xerography, also used in classic Disney animated films like 101 Dalmatians (1961) — evokes a certain feeling of nostalgia. The lines aren’t as clean and they give it the retro feel that a tale of this caliber requires. Another nostalgia-invoking element of the film is the iconic song, “Whistle Stop,” sung by Roger Miller. Put it all together and you have Robin Hood — a beloved family film that brings a smile to its audience’s face.
#8: Brother Bear (2003)
More people know about this movie, but it’s still hidden among more popular Disney movies of the year, like Finding Nemo and The Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Starring slightly lesser-known actors like Michael Clarke Duncan and Joaquin Phoenix, it’s a beautiful film about brothers — the ones we have by blood and by choice. What I believe drove most people away from the film was the fact that it took place in a setting most people weren’t familiar with — something that I believe attracts people to it now. Taking place in the mysterious Alaskan wilderness (and probably parts of Canada), it introduces audiences to a culture they aren’t used to and tries to teach that people aren’t much different from one another. Besides the fact that it portrays a different culture, it’s an entertaining film about brothers who may pretend to hate each other but really love each other when it comes down to it.
#7: A Goofy Movie (1995)
This movie was always big in my family growing up, so I didn’t know how much people slept on it until I was older. Goofy is a dedicated father trying to spend as much time with his distant teenage son, Max, as possible. Unfortunately, Max has different plans; he dreams of going to a Powerline concert (basically a Michael Jackson-like character with equally smooth moves and pop hits) to show his friends how cool he is. While it utilizes the tired trope of the single parent, it’s a lovely father-son bonding film that teaches us to love our family, even when they’re really embarrassing and take us to places like Lester’s Possum Park. Be prepared for some cringeworthy yet surprisingly catchy sing-alongs!
#6: Muppet Treasure Island (1996)
Let’s get something straight: I love anything with the Muppets. It could be an hour of Kermit and Grover sitting in a room staring at the camera while occasionally bursting out with obscure quotes from my mass communications textbook and I would absolutely love it. Muppet Treasure Island is chock-full of hilarious quips and gags to make even the most hardened audience giggle. You have no idea how much I needed to hear the tale of Long John Silver told by a group of crazy, singing puppets. Even if you know nothing about the story, you’ll laugh your butt off at this movie.
#5: The Fox and the Hound (1981)
The Fox and the Hound is on Bambi (1942) levels of cuteness as it tells the story of an unlikely friendship between Todd the fox and Copper the hound. Once again, it teaches kids to look past their differences and learn to be friends with others. It’s really just a feel-good story about two adorable animals who are best friends. There’s no dastardly villain to overcome or fantasy elements to deal with — it’s simply a realistic tale about friendship. Though the voice actors aren’t as recognizable today, it does feature performances from Mickey Rooney and Kurt Russell who lend their talents to a film that deserves much more recognition in the Disney universe.
#4: Newsies (1992)
I’ve already professed my love for it before, but I really love Newsies. Young Christian Bale is such a heartthrob and his cockiness perfects his character. The dancing and musical numbers are expertly choreographed and are fun to sing along to. Plus, you learn a little bit about the history of the newspaper industry and child labor in the process. Supporting performances from David Cameron and Bill Pullman help create this fantastic family film. Sure, the characters are a bit lacking in the realism/emotional department, but the general story doesn’t seem to suffer. It’s a glorious tale of the little guy overcoming the corrupt machine of politics and money.
#3: Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
I know I’m not alone on this one, but Atlantis: The Lost Empire is probably one of the coolest Disney films I’ve ever watched. The graphics and colors definitely aren’t up to speed with modern effects, but they’re still awesome. It’s interesting to explore the concept of a mythological place and it’s fascinating to see Disney’s take on what the inhabitants look like. Not to mention there’s actually a lot of great voice actors in it: Michael J. Fox, James Garner, John Mahoney, David Ogden Stiers, and Leonard Nimoy, to name a few. Full of witty comebacks and the thrill of adventure, it’s an amazing animated film.
#2: Dinosaur (2000)
Does anyone remember this movie? Because I have really fond memories of it and it’s highly underrated for the spectacular visual effects it uses. Basically, it’s about a dinosaur raised by lemurs who must migrate to a sanctuary after the big asteroid hits Earth. What it lacks for in star power (the only slightly recognizable names are probably Julianna Margulies and Hayden Panettiere), it makes up for in pure awe of how crazy the animation is. The story is a little lacking (what dinosaur movie isn’t?) but the concept itself is interesting. This one is high up on my list purely for nostalgia factors, but I cannot rave enough about how crazy these effects were back in the day (and how awesome they still are).
#1: Meet the Robinsons (2007)
This is probably one of my favorite Disney movies of all-time. Lewis, a genius orphan, gets caught up in the world of time travel after meeting Wilbur Robinson — a boy from the future. Not only does it show the touching familial bonds between the wonderfully strange Robinsons and Lewis, it’s also genuinely hilarious and highly quotable. Bowler Hat Guy — the main villain — is so lovably kooky that it’s hard not to laugh at every scene he’s in. Time travel and surprising reveals make this movie quite a wild ride. It keeps kids entertained with visual gags and adults will love the sharp, witty remarks and funny one-liners; Meet the Robinsons is a great story about how to “keep moving forward” and following your dreams.
Thanks for reading! What are your thoughts on top 10 underrated Disney movies? Did we miss any? Comment down below!
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