Underrated Disney Movies: Part One

Everybody loves a good Disney movie, especially one that has been raved about in the media and received glittering five star reviews across the board. For good reason, we are always compelled to watch films that obtain global success and popularity and that people continue to talk about for years after their release. Therefore, of course, success and popularity results in yet more success and popularity, which leads to global prosperity. Disney have created a LOT of great films that have resulted in a LOT of all of those things. Most recently we had Frozen, which secured two Oscars, two BAFTAs, one Golden Globe award and the hearts of people all over the world. The Lion King, which won two Oscars, three Golden Globe’s and was nominated for two BAFTA awards, is a prime example of a timeless Disney classic.

However, let’s talk about those Disney movies that have perhaps been swept under the rug, the movies that although haven’t been forgotten about, aren’t the ones that necessarily spring to mind when you think ‘Disney movie’. Walt Disney studios have blessed us with over 50 classic animated movies, along with countless other greats, so it is a shame to think that the majority of these films have been forgotten about or aren’t even recognised. These under rated gems may not have the success rate of Frozen, or receive the undying love that The Lion King does, but they are, dare I say, excellent pieces of cinema!

I’ve had a good sieved through all the Disney within my brain and come up with ten brilliant Disney movies that I would consider to be ‘under rated’..:

10. ROBIN HOOD

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Let’s start off with an old, traditional Disney classic, Robin Hood. Old Disney classics often end up forgotten about (with the exception of the princess movies, maybe), and massively under rated. Released in 1973, Disney’s Robin Hood is an anthropomorphic adaptation of the well-known tale of the outlaw that steals from the rich to give to the poor.. you all know the plot, I don’t need to go over that. The film certainly has a traditional feel to it, with its slapstick-like comedy and its old style animation, and is a funny, entertaining film that the whole family would enjoy. I myself am a huge fan of the way the film is presented as a fairy-tale from the off set, beginning with a fairy-tale book opening and being narrated by the Rooster, there is just something weirdly magical about that! Disney’s decision to present the tale within the animal kingdom was an interesting one, and the choices they made with regards to the animals assigned to each of the original characters was clearly a well thought out process. The antagonist of the film, Prince John, who has declared himself King, is a lion. Within the animal kingdom, lions are seen as ‘kings’ (hence The Lion King) and are one of the most powerful and dangerous creatures in the world. Although Prince John is a powerful man.. well, lion… he is far from a strong, dangerous lion. He is a coward and a cry baby who sucks his thumb when things get rough, hardly King material. John’s henchman, Hiss, is presented in the form of a snake, a fitting metaphor as he is a sly and sneaky character and often recognised as being very similar to Kaa from The Jungle Book. Robin Hood himself is in the form of a fox, which carries connotations of being cunning and conniving. Although this may be true of Hood, he carries these traits for all the right reasons as he steals gold from those who do not need it and gives it to those who do. One of my favourite scenes from the film is one in which Robin and Little John are dressed as women in order to trick the King and steal some gold. It is this kind of simple humour that makes the older films just as hilarious today as they were all those years ago, the classic comedy is simply timeless! Robin Hood is a classic example of an amusing and engaging Disney movie that has been swept under the rug, but one that I will always love!

9. THE BLACK CAULDRON

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Upon hearing the words ‘The Black Cauldron’ and ‘Disney film’ in the same sentence, most people would present a rather confused look and have no idea what you were actually talking about, as unfortunately, it is not a film a lot of people are familiar with. Released in 1985, Disney’s 25th classic shares the animation style of well-known films such as The Little Mermaid and is in fact a thoroughly enjoyable film to watch. Featuring the voice of the late John Hurt as the Horned King, The Black Cauldron is one of Disney’s spookier productions, being its first to receive a PG rating. I first saw this film about 4 years ago, as a teenager, and thank god! If I had watched it as a child I can guarantee that I would have been traumatised (I have never coped well with anything scary, especially as a child!). The Horned King is possibly the most aesthetically terrifying villain to ever emerge from a Disney movie, not to mention his army of the dead, who are enough to make a grown adult want to sleep with a light on. They ensure that this Disney film is certainly unlike any other. As an audience, we follow the journey of Taran, a young assistant pig keeper who becomes a hero as he attempts to stop the use of the black cauldron for evil. On his quest, Taran is joined by a head strong Princess, a scruffy looking talking dog and an old man, surely nothing could go wrong, could it? Of course it could, and of course it does, as the team undergo twists and turns that lead them to their destination. My favourite thing about this movie is probably the character of Gurgi, with his adorable voice and mischievousness nature, he acts as the perfect companion, ultimately showing his sweet and caring side as he sacrifices himself, unwilling to let his friends die. It is certainly an emotional moment! The Black Cauldron is an exciting, suspense filled adventure that unfortunately doesn’t seem to get the recognition it deserves and seems to be easily forgotten about, and in my opinion is severely underrated.

8. THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME

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There is certainly a lot to be said about this movie. One of Disney’s darker productions, The Hunchback of Notre Dame touches on some very mature topics including discrimination, manipulation, abuse, lust and even mass murder. Released in 1996, it was Disney’s 34th animated feature and was based on the novel by Victor Hugo of the same name. Although the film was made during what was referred to as ‘Disney’s renaissance’ and received high praise and success at the time of its release, it seems to have been somewhat forgotten about. We follow the story of Quasimodo, a young bell-ringer who struggles to be accepted within society due to his condition. The film demonstrates just how badly people can be treated when they are different, something that is still very much relevant today. Quasimodo is ‘taken care of’ by the evil Claude Frollo, a lying, manipulating, abusive man who quite frankly has Hitler-esque tendencies as he aims to wipe out the Gypsy population. He is an incredibly sinister villain and is certainly close to crossing boundaries that Disney have never even approached before. However, his controlling ways are not enough to stop Quasimodo as he finally plucks up the courage to venture out of his hiding place and into the streets as he attends the carnival and allows people to see him for who he really is. Unfortunately, Quasi ends up being deeply humiliated, until a young gypsy girl, Esmerelda, comes to his rescue. A strong-minded and independent young women, Esmerelda sticks up for Quasi, despite his appearance. We watch as the minorities stick together and a beautiful, unlikely friendship blossoms (one of the few platonic male/female relationships we see in Disney), and our hearts are warmed! Overall, The Hunchback of Notre Dame is an excellent film which deals with serious issues and topics in a way that resonates with children and adults and it is a shame that it is one of the less recognised classics.

7. TARZAN

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Tarzan is another of the never ending stream of Disney movies that highlights the importance of family and friendships and makes you just want to hug everyone you know! I admire the way Disney present the relationship between Tarzan and his animal friends, particularly Terk. They hold such a strong friendship, never noticing or caring about the fact that they are different on the outside, cementing the idea that difference should not matter! The compassion and love that the gorillas show towards Tarzan, a baby boy who has lost his parents and left alone, despite the fact that he is different, is so heart-warming! This is the kind of behaviour that should be reflected into real life. I think that due to the numerous different adaptations of Tarzan, the Disney animation is often forgotten or cast aside, which is a shame as it is such an enjoyable and heartfelt film to watch. Tarzan and Jane’s love story is such a unique one, and I don’t think there are many like it in the Disney universe. Jane helps Tarzan to find who he really is, without detracting him from the life he has lead up until meeting her. Similarly, Tarzan makes Jane realise the person she wants to be, resulting in her abandoning her life in civilisation to be with Tarzan and his family in the jungle. Adorable! However, Tarzan tugs at our heart strings towards the end of the movie, as Kerchak finally accepts Tarzan as one of his own. At this point, our eyes should produce rivers of happy tears, however, this is short lived, as Kerchak is killed while trying to protect Tarzan.. absolutely heart breaking! Of course, we can’t forget the amazing soundtrack, featuring songs by Phil Collins. Such a wonderful soundtrack is necessary to accompany a great film like Tarzan. Tarzan even features an appearance from Chip and Mrs Potts… Bless Disney and their Easter eggs!

6. TREASURE PLANET

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Treasure Planet is a sci-fi adaptation of the well-known tale of Treasure Island and features the talent of Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Jim Hawkins and Emma Thompson as the strong Captain Amelia. Cracking soundtrack? Check. Interesting plot? Check. Unique characters? Check! Treasure Planet has everything you could want from a movie! However, it is one that is very rarely spoken about, which is disappointing! Unfortunately, the film bombed at the box office, despite being nominated for the academy award for best animated picture in 2002, and since then has been more or less forgotten about, which is a huge shame. In my opinion, it is a thoroughly enjoyable film, which entertains the perfect balance of humour, drama and suspense. The disappointing performance of the film resulted in the planned sequel being cancelled. Initially, this was a disappointment, but as I discovered the planned plot of the film, I realised that this was probably for the best. Treasure Planet 2 would feature a love interest for Jim, something that I would be highly opposed to. One of the reasons I loved the original so much was the fact that the young, good looking male protagonist was without a love interest, which was such a refreshing change from your stereotypical Disney movie. Maybe this was down to Jim’s ridiculous hair cut? Or may just because Disney chose to focus on Jim’s character and other elements of the plot? Either way, this would be ruined by introducing a lady into Jim’s life. Treasure Planet is a great film, and I don’t care if the box office numbers prove otherwise.

 

To be continued…

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