10 Frequently Forgotten Disney Films You Need to Watch
There are so many brilliant Disney films that it can feel impossible to see them all. Of course, you’ve got the essentials, movies like Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, The Lion King, Moana, and Frozen, but what about the lesser-known movies? They deserve your love and attention too.
With that in mind, here are 10 animated features you may not have heard of, but should still watch.
Make Mine Music (1946)
During World War II, much of Disney’s animation staff was used to make movies for the government. To keep the feature film division afloat, Disney released a number of anthology pieces like Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros.
Make Mine Music is a treasure trove of memorable moments, such as the story of Casey at the Bat, The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met, and Blue Bayou (featuring animation originally intended for Fantasia).
That said, the standout is Peter and the Wolf, which visualizes the music of Sergei Prokofiev. The narration was provided by Sterling Holloway, better known as the voice of the Cheshire Cat and Winnie the Pooh.
Melody Time (1948)
Like Make Mine Music, Melody Time was an anthology piece. While the film was moderately successful upon its release, it really found success when segments were released as shorts later.
The cast was a remarkable collection of talent, with performers like Roy Rogers, the Andrews Sisters, Sons of the Pioneers, and Buddy Clark. Trigger, Roy Rogers’s legendary horse, was also featured.
Among the best-known segments are Bumble Boogies, The Legend of Johnny Appleseed, Little Toot, and Pecos Bill.
Chicken Little (2005)
The classic fairy tale of Henny Penny never quite looked like this before.
A computer-animated film starring Zach Braff and Joan Cusack, the movie tells the story of a young chicken who becomes a walking punching after he claims the sky is falling.
One year later, he believes it is happening again. Only it’s even bigger than he feared. It’s an alien invasion.
The film was the last work produced under the Walt Disney Feature Animation name, and the company’s first fully computer-animated film (bearing in mind that Pixar was distributed but not produced by Disney and Dinosaur included some live-action segments).
Including music by Barenaked Ladies and performances by Don Knotts, Patrick Stewart, Wallace Shawn, and the legendary Adam West, it’s a fun and sweet-hearted story.
Treasure Planet (2002)
In 1950, Disney produced a live-action version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic adventure novel Treasure Island. Fifty-two years later, they would revisit the story, re-imagining it in outer space.
Though it wasn’t released until the 2000s, the movie traces its roots back to the late 80s, when Ron Clements and John Musker pitched the idea. While it wasn’t picked up for over a decade, another film they pitched at the same time (a somewhat obscure movie called The Little Mermaid) saw immediate success.
Joseph Gordon Levitt starred as the voice of Jim Hawkins, who sets out to find the “loot of a thousand worlds.” The cast also included Martin Short, Emma Thompson, Laurie Metcalf, and David Hyde Pierce.
It was nominated for an Academy Award, though it lost to Hiyao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away.
The Great Mouse Detective (1986)
Sherlock Holmes is arguably the second greatest detective in history. Why second best? Because he’ll never be quite as clever of Basil of Baker Street.
The Great Mouse Detective was Disney’s 26th animated feature and was based on the novel Basil of Baker Street by Eve Titus and Paul Galdon.
While it contains many memorable moments, Vincent Price’s performance as the villainous Ratigan easily steals the show, including his musical performance of the songs ‘The World’s Greatest Criminal Mind’ and ‘Good-Bye (So Soon)’, both of which were composed by Henry Mancini (composer of the Pink Panther theme).
Basil Rathbone, famous for portraying Sherlock Holmes beginning in the 1930s, also appears in the film, reprising his most noted role.
Oliver & Company (1988)
The concept behind Oliver & Company sounds crazy. It takes Charles Dickens’s novel “Oliver Twist” and re-tells it with animals voiced by people like Billy Joel, Cheech Marin, Joey Lawrence, and Bette Midler. However, the result is as charming and big-hearted as you would expect from Disney.
Billy Joel’s performance of ‘Why Should I Worry’ was nominated for a Golden Globe, and a host of other famous musicians contributed to the soundtrack. Huey Lewis sang ‘Once Upon a Time In New York City’ and Bette Midler sang ‘Perfect Isn’t Easy’ (which was composed by Barry Manilow).
The Rescuers (1977)
This film would be worth mentioning if only because it featured the voices of the ever-brilliant Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor (who also voiced Duchess in The Aristocats), but it doesn’t stop there. The Rescuers also includes one of the most memorable and dastardly villains in Disney history: Madame Medusa, a kidnapper who plans to use her victim to find the world’s largest diamond, a gem known as the Devil’s Eye.
Oddly, during the early production of the film, Medusa was drawn as Cruella de Vil. Ollie Johnston and Milt Kahl objected to reusing the character, with storyboarder Burny Mattinson stating of Kahl, “he felt that Marc [Davis had animated] Cruella beautifully. He was not gonna go and take his character.”
The Brave Little Toaster (1987)
Long before Toy Story told the story of inanimate objects coming to life and having an existential crisis about their human counterparts, The Brave Little Toaster tackled the subject.
The connection is no coincidence. Many CalArts graduates, including the earliest Pixar employees, were involved in the production. One of Pixar’s most famous Easter Eggs made an appearance in the movie.
Room A113 was the CalArts classroom used for graphic design and character animation. It has since appeared in numerous animated films and television shows. In The Brave Little Toaster, it is seen on an apartment door.
The Black Cauldron (1985)
On a whim, I recently looked up “best animated horror films” to see what the search would yield. To my surprise, The Black Cauldron showed up on numerous lists. Then again, maybe it shouldn’t be that shocking. The film’s main antagonist, The Horned King, is a dark, twisted villain who seeks to unleash an undead army (known as the Cauldron Born) on the world.
The character was performed by John Hurt, who perfectly captures the menace of the villain.
Based on Lloyd Alexander’s ‘Chronicles of Prydain’, the movie is a classic fantasy adventure in the tradition of J.R.R. Tolkein and C.S. Lewis.
Meet the Robinsons (2007)
In 1990, author Wilbur Joyce wrote the picture book A Day With Wilbur Robinson. Seventeen years later it would serve as the inspiration for Disney’s Meet The Robinsons, taking the basic premise of the story and expanding it drastically.
It’s a brilliant and hilarious work of art featuring a great villain (Bowler Hat Guy), singing frogs, and a t-rex. The movie is also filled with some amusing Disney references, such as a sign reading ‘Todayland’ when the characters travel into the future. Look close and you’ll notice the Astro Orbiter and the exterior of Space Mountain in the scene. Most notably, the film takes a Walt Disney quote (Keep Moving Forward) and makes it an integral part of the plot.
Be forewarned though, you’ll need a hankie to watch it.