Welcome to the debut episode of “Ruminations,” a podcast on movies, politics, and religion, discussed over a glass–or three–of some type of adult beverage. In this inaugural episode, co-hosts Chris and Steve (previously known on this site as Flipp) discuss the 57 animated films produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios. This conversation has been 5 years in the making, as it was the summer of 2014 when Chris and Steve began a chronological journey through Disney’s official filmography, starting with 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. This endeavor finally came to its conclusion last fall (December 2018, to be exact) with the release of Disney’s most recent movie, Ralph Breaks the Internet.
For ease of discussion, each co-host compiled an individual ranking from best to worst; a combined average was then taken to create a single master list. The master list’s Bottom 10 and Top 10 will be highlighted specifically in this episode. For the complete rankings, additional notes, and movie clips, check out the show notes below. For now, please listen and enjoy!
|2||The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)||The Hunchback of Notre Dame||The Hunchback of Notre Dame|
|3||Beauty and the Beast (1991)||The Lion King||Beauty and the Beast|
|4||The Lion King (1994)||Beauty and the Beast||Pinocchio|
|5||Cinderella (1950)||The Little Mermaid||Alice in Wonderland|
|6||The Little Mermaid (1989)||Sleeping Beauty||The Lion King|
|7||Sleeping Beauty (1959)||The Black Cauldron||Cinderella|
|8||Pinocchio (1940)||Cinderella||Emperor’s New Groove|
|10||Mulan (1998)||Mulan||Sleeping Beauty|
|11||Alice in Wonderland (1951)||Tarzan||The Little Mermaid|
|12||Tarzan (1999)||The Princess and the Frog||Mulan|
|13||The Black Cauldron (1985)||Pocahontas||Pocahontas|
|15||Emperor’s New Groove (2000)||Robin Hood||Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs|
|16||The Princess and the Frog (2009)||Lilo and Stitch||The Princess and the Frog|
|17||Robin Hood (1973)||Dinosaur||The Great Mouse Detective|
|18||Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)||Emperor’s New Groove||The Black Cauldron|
|19||Lilo and Stitch (2002)||Alice in Wonderland||Robin Hood|
|20||The Great Mouse Detective (1986)||Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs||Lilo and Stitch|
|21||Zootopia (2016)||The Fox and the Hound||Wreck It Ralph|
|22||Peter Pan (1953)||Peter Pan||Zootopia|
|23||The Fox and the Hound (1981)||The Jungle Book||Ralph Breaks the Internet|
|24||Wreck It Ralph (2012)||Zootopia||Bolt|
|25||Dinosaur (2000)||101 Dalmatians||Tangled|
|26||Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)||Oliver and Company||Peter Pan|
|27||Bolt (2008)||The Great Mouse Detective||The Fox and the Hound|
|28||101 Dalmatians (1961)||Wreck It Ralph||Fantasia|
|29||Tangled (2010)||Ralph Breaks the Internet||Dumbo|
|30||Dumbo (1941)||Bolt||Atlantis: The Lost Empire|
|32||The Jungle Book (1967)||Brother Bear||101 Dalmatians|
|33||Brother Bear (2003)||The Rescuers||Dinosaur|
|34||Frozen (2013)||Fantasia||Brother Bear|
|35||Oliver and Company (1988)||Tangled||Meet the Robinsons|
|36||The Rescuers (1977)||Frozen||The Rescuers|
|37||Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)||Lady and the Tramp||Fantasia 2000|
|38||Lady and the Tramp (1955)||Fantasia 2000||Lady and the Tramp|
|39||Fantasia 2000 (1999)||The Aristocats||The Jungle Book|
|40||Meet the Robinsons (2007)||Bambi||The Aristocats|
|41||The Aristocats (1970)||Meet the Robinsons||Moana|
|42||Bambi (1942)||Moana||Oliver and Company|
|43||Moana (2016)||Atlantis: The Lost Empire||Bambi|
|44||Home on the Range (2004)||The Sword in the Stone||Big Hero Six|
|45||The Rescuers Down Under (1990)||Home on the Range||Home on the Range|
|46||Big Hero Six (2014)||The Rescuers Down Under||The Rescuers Down Under|
|47||Treasure Planet (2002)||Treasure Planet||Treasure Planet|
|48||The Sword in the Stone (1963)||The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh||The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad|
|49||The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)||The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad||The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh|
|50||The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)||Big Hero Six||Winnie the Pooh|
|51||Winnie the Pooh (2011)||Winnie the Pooh||The Sword in the Stone|
|52||The Three Caballeros (1944)||The Three Caballeros||The Three Caballeros|
|53||Saludos Amigos (1942)||Saludos Amigos||Saludos Amigos|
|54||Make Mine Music (1946)||Melody Time||Make Mine Music|
|55||Melody Time (1948)||Make Mine Music||Fun and Fancy Free|
|56||Fun and Fancy Free (1947)||Fun and Fancy Free||Melody Time|
|57||Chicken Little (2005)||Chicken Little||Chicken Little|
Episode I Show Notes
- SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS: We mentioned the seven little Oscars Walt Disney received for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Here he is presented the awards by Shirley Temple.
- THE SWORD IN THE STONE: Madam Mim toys with young Arthur and scares him by pulling her face and turning it into a pig, which Disney pays homage to in Princess and the Frog when the alligator Louis puts willow tree leaves over his face.
- WINNIE THE POOH: The best scene in either “Pooh” movie (pun intended) is when Winnie trips out on bad honey in the Heffalumps and Woozles sequence. This scene also hearkens back to when Dumbo accidentally gets drunk and hallucinates “Pink Elephants on parade.” The Baksun song, from the 2011 film Winnie the Pooh, is arguably the only memorable piece of it–in fact, it was the only scene we could remember!
- THE ADVENTURES OF ICHABOD AND MR. TOAD: Check out this video of the Disneyland dark ride “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride,” where you, your family, and Mr. Toad get to be damned to Hell with a smile! Quite possibly the best scene from any of the World War II era films is the famous Headless Horseman chase which ends in a flaming pumpkin being thrown at a terrified Ichabod Crane.
- WWII ERA FILMS: Here’s some backstory on the Good Neighbor Policy mentioned when discussing Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros from NPR. For more information, you can always check good ol’ reliable Wikipedia. Here is the beloved Gran Fiesta Tour starring the Three Caballeros at the Mexican Pavilion in EPCOT, enjoyed best over a margarita from La Cava del Tequila. In Make Mine Music, a whale sings opera. (It’s exactly how it sounds.) The Fun and Fancy Free intro includes Jiminy Cricket, bringing the movie some sense of continuity…but that’s about it.
- CHICKEN LITTLE: Chicken Little SUCKS, end of story! (If you want tangible evidence, brace yourself and check out the alien chase scene from the 2005 abomination).
- MULAN: Here is some backstory on the legend of Mulan. Some highlights: Mulan embarrasses her family and herself with the matchmaker and she goes to the shrine of her ancestors and sings “Reflections.” She then meets Mushu, who tries to overcompensate for his small stature. In this last clip, the hulking mass Shan Yu and the Hun army fight Captain Shang and Mulan.
- HERCULES: Phil the satyr–who is a mirror image of his voice actor Danny DeVito–sings “One Last Hope” while training Hercules. The fast-talking Hades erupts in anger at henchmen Pain and Panic wearing Hercules’ merchandise. Later, in one of the most quotable scenes in the movie, Pain and Panic, in the guise of two children, trick Hercules and get him to fight the Hydra by pretending to be trapped under a boulder.
- PINOCCHIO: We mentioned Pinocchio‘s diverse and terrifying villains. Here the overweight Italian caricature Stromboli threatens to use Pinocchio as firewood and babbles in 40s’ era Disney dialect “Italian.” In one of Disney’s scariest moments, the evil Coachman’s face contorts into a demonic visage while declaring his diabolic plans for the boys he’s kidnapping. The oily Lampwick transforms into a donkey in traumatizing fashion before Pinocchio’s eyes on Pleasure Island. The film’s final villain, the giant whale Monstro, sneezes out and chases Geppetto and Pinocchio.
- SLEEPING BEAUTY: Maleficent, the self-declared “mistress of all evil,” transforms herself into a dragon, fights Prince Philip, and becomes Disney’s villain poster child all in one fell swoop. Prince Philip places the film in the 14th century when talking to his father. We also mentioned that Disney used music from Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s 1890 ballet Sleeping Beauty as the basis for its film’s music, and here is a blog post by Floyd Norman, one of the film’s animators, on that subject.
- CINDERELLA: A particularly cute scene in Cinderella is when the mice introduce Gus Gus to Cinderella. Disney’s most evil housecat Lucifer maniacally sits on Lady Tremaine’s lap as she snaps at Cinderella. He later chases and tries to eat Jaq and Gus who are acquiring pieces to make Cinderella’s dress. We erroneously called the Duke a viceroy or captain; here, he discovers Cinderella and finally finds the owner of the lost glass slipper.
- THE LITTLE MERMAID: Ursula sings “Poor Unfortunate Souls” and makes a deal where Ariel signs over her voice to the sea witch. She then, in true Disney fashion, transforms herself into a giant octopus and is then impaled by Prince Eric. We mentioned the controversy surrounding Ariel’s plot line–a quick Google search brings almost 2 million results–so have at it, if you are so inclined. We’ll end with a short tweet from conservative columnist John Podhoretz about The Little Mermaid‘s impact.
- THE LION KING: First, that opening. We (well, Steve) mentioned how Black Panther is essentially a live-action Lion King (which is funny as Disney is currently making an all-CGI “live-action” version to be released later this year). Scar prepares his Nazi-like hyenas for his usurpation of the kingdom which culminates in him revealing his true intentions as he whispers “long live the king” when killing Mufasa. In the film’s lightest moment, Simba grows up to song (becoming Matthew Broderick) in the famous “Hakuna Matata.” Later, the heavenly ghost of Mufasa appears to Simba in the sky reminding him who he truly is–the music is chill-inducing.
- BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: The Beast erupts in anger at Belle and gives her some warm advice that she should “Go ahead and STARVE,” a favorite scene of Chris’s from his childhood. The dinnerware come together to console a crying Belle by singing “Be Our Guest.” (Remember, it all takes place on the table!) After a few drinks, the towns people sing a raucous song about their local hero Gaston. We also mentioned the innovative use of computers in the artwork for the Best Picture-nominated film, so here is a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the movie.
- THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME: Hunchback begins with its goosebump-inducing opening number, “The Bells of Notre Dame” (which also serves as the ending to our episode.) Quasimodo watches the city streets of Paris by moonlight as he sings the heartfelt number “Heaven’s Light.” This quickly leads to the diabolical musical number of “Hellfire,” sung by Judge Frollo in front of a raging fireplace as he lusts after Esmeralda. (This would also be a good time to mention that Chris was incorrect–and face palmed hard–about Maleficent being the only Disney villain to ever say hell, as Frollo sings an entire song about it!) Lastly, Hugo the gargoyle, voiced by Jason Alexander (much to Steve’s chagrin), sings “A Guy Like You” to make Quasimodo feel better.
- ALADDIN: Aladdin shows Jasmine “A Whole New World” in one of Disney’s most romantic scenes. The film’s superb villain Jafar reaches his serpentine zenith as he transforms into a giant cobra, Chris’s favorite scene in any Disney movie. During the fight scene, Genie turns into a cheerleader, not-so-secretly rooting for Aladdin. All of Robin Williams’ impressions and their inspirations in Aladdin can be found in this video. Also included here are two articles about the dispute between Robin Williams and Disney that Steve sort of mentioned but failed to expand upon–we had no idea a Picasso painting was involved until compiling these notes. Lastly, Chris compares his loyalty to Aladdin to that of Davy Jones’ loyalty to Calypso in Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End.
- THE BLACK CAULDRON: We have linked a decent Slate article on the making and box office failure of The Black Cauldron. (The only caveat is that Chris strongly disagrees with the author about the Horned King being a poor villain, because you know, he’s great!) Here is the Horned King’s first appearance, where he reveals he wants to resurrect his dead soldiers as “cauldron born” and ultimately desires to be worshipped as a god among men (See? So cool!) He later terrorizes his minions as he makes his dramatic entrance into the banquet hall of his castle. The only other Disney villain that could arguably be labeled as equal to the Horned King’s sheer evilness is the demon Chernabog from Fantasia, who summons the forces of darkness in the epic scene “A Night on Bald Mountain.”
- ALICE IN WONDERLAND: Alice stumbles upon a Caterpillar smoking a hookah, who impatiently asks her who she is. She is later greeted by the delightfully mad Cheshire Cat who gives her dodgy advice.
- THE EMPEROR’S NEW GROOVE: There is a documentary titled The Sweatbox that covers the history of the scrapped, much darker version of The Emperor’s New Groove called Kingdom of the Sun, but Disney seems to not want it available to the public. A version on YouTube that we had saved for these notes has already been removed for copyright reasons.
- THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG: The “Disney Renaissance” Era-esque The Princess and the Frog opens and closes with the great musical number “Down in New Orleans.” Dr. Facilier also takes up the mantle of great villain songs when he tricks Prince Naveen into making a deal with him and his “Friends on the Other Side.”
- ZOOTOPIA: Judy Hopps plays “Try Everything” by pop star Gazelle (aka Shakira) as she travels to Zootopia for the first time, similar to how we both have played this incredibly catchy song many times since first hearing it. After she becomes a cop, she is put in charge of parking meters and has a particularly rough day giving out tickets on the city streets of Zootopia–a truly laugh-out-loud moment.
- Two final notes from Steve: first, he would like to link to the show notes of an episode of the great culture podcast The Weekly Substandard from March 2017, as his email on the WWII era Disney films was featured (and also read in the episode.) Last but not least, here is the first ever blog post “Flipp” wrote on this site, way back in the summer of 2014–a post that never got a follow-up for a variety of reasons. Guess what it was about?
The Big Lebowski (Gramercy Pictures)
Inglourious Basterds (The Weinstein Company)
Goldfinger (United Artists)
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (Buena Vista Pictures)
The Shining (Warner Bros)
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (New Line Cinema)
Game of Thrones (Warner Bros/HBO)
“The Three Caballeros” by Manuel Esperón and Ray Gilbert, The Three Caballeros
“I’ll Make a Man Out of You” by Matthew Wilder and David Zippel, Mulan
“I Can Go the Distance” by Alan Menken and David Zippel, Hercules
“When You Wish Upon a Star” by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington, Pinocchio
“Once Upon a Dream” by Jack Lawrence and Sammy Fain, Sleeping Beauty
“Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” by Al Hoffman, Mack David, and Jerry Livingston, Cinderella
“Under the Sea” by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, The Little Mermaid
“Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” by Elton John and Tim Rice, The Lion King
“Be Our Guest” by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, Beauty and the Beast
“Heaven’s Light/Hellfire” by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz, The Hunchback of Notre Dame
“Never Had a Friend Like Me” by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, Aladdin
“Friends on the Other Side” by Randy Newman, The Princess and the Frog
“Try Everything” by Sia Furler, Tor Hermansen, and Mikkel Eriksen, Zootopia
“The Bells of Notre Dame” by Alan Menken, The Hunchback of Notre Dame