My Bottom-10 Worst Disney Movies
Even as a fan of Disney, I have to admit that some of their films are pretty terrible. In order to appreciate such classics as Bambi, Alice in Wonderland, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Mulan and Atlantis, it’s good to remind ourselves that Disney isn’t flawless.
While I will focus mostly on the Disney Animated Features Canon (the so-called “Disney Classics”) there will be a few straight-to-video sequels in the mix. This means, I’m leaving out other theatrical Disney features that weren’t made specifically by Walt Disney Studios. I’m also leaving out the Pixar films, because I want to focus on traditional animation. And lastly, these are just my opinions and you are free to disagree with them (or share your own least favourite Disney film in the comments).
An (dis)honourable mention goes to Fun and Fancy Free which is the only one of Disney’s commercially lackluster 1940s anthology period-films which I’ve seen. It’s not terrible but definitely underwhelming. You also wont be seeing most of the anthology era films here because I haven’t actually seen that many of them.
Let’s get on with the list…
No secret here, I’m just not a fan of Winnie the Pooh. I never liked the A.A. Milne books and really the cast of the Winnie the Pooh universe just isn’t inherently appealing to me. All the characters are mildly sympathetic at best (Eeyore) and infuriatingly stupid or irritating at their worst (Piglet, Rabbit and Pooh himself).
Admittedly, the movie isn’t terrible. The animation is probably the best part of it, as you really can’t tell that it was pieced together from shorter animations that were made all through the 60s and 70s. However, the episodic nature of the film is one of the things I dislike about it. There really is no strong narrative and the singular sections just aren’t that interesting.
At the same time, I recognise that I am way out of the key demographic for Winnie the Pooh, which is another reason I didn’t want to put it too high on the list. But as Disney films go, it’s easily one of the least interesting and accomplished amongst them.
Disney was really getting its ass kicked during the 1980s by Don Bluth, but what can you expect when they were pushing out such “riveting” films as The Great Mouse Detective, Oliver and Company and this loose adaption of The Chronicles of Prydain novels. In fact, “loose adaption” is being a little generous to say the least. The movie is a miss-mash of plot-elements and characters from the first two novels of the series with even the author Lloyd Alexander commenting that the movie had really nothing to do with the books.
Even with that, The Black Cauldron is just a generic fantasy adventure and not even a very compelling one at that. The characters are bland, the comedy is almost non-existent and rather strangely, it also feels like a bad novel adaption. In other words, it doesn’t even feel like a Disney film. The only thing even mildly appealing about this film was Gurgi, who’s like a cuddlier version of Gollum. Barring that, even John Hurt couldn’t save this mess of a film as the admittedly bad-ass Horned King.
The Black Cauldron shows what kind of creative slump Disney had hit in the 80s. Barring The Fox and the Hound, they weren’t really able to get that same likeable atmosphere into their films that was present in some of their earlier classic or indeed in the Disney Renaissance era films of the 90s. Again, The Black Cauldron isn’t terrible – just generic and unmemorable.
The Disney straight-to-video sequels are definitely hit or miss affairs which is why I usually steer clear of them. Some of the stuff that goes on does seem inanely terrible (I mean, did we really need a Cinderella 3), but with Lion King being considered by most as Disney’s finest film, it’s easy to see why I was curious to see the follow-up back in the day.
Firstly, I’ll defend the film at least in-so-far as to say that it’s certainly not the worst that Disney video-sequels have to offer. Having said that, it’s exactly what you’d expect from a straight-to-video sequel: it’s not as memorable as the first film, the animation is (obviously) not as good and the songs are mediocre and, like everything else in the film, unmemorable. As The Lion King was an admittedly loose adaption of Shakespeare’s Hamlet (but where only the bad guys die at the end), Lion King 2 models itself after another Shakespeare classic: Romeo & Juliet.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Disney-fied take on Shakespeare without the happy ending. And who are the Romeo and Juliet in this one? Simba’s daughter and Scar’s son… yeeeeeeah. (Don’t you just love how nonchalantly Disney is able to brush all the incestuous undertones under a rug).
Just like the Black Cauldron, Lion King 2 isn’t terrible, just mediocre, predictable and nowhere near as good as the first film. I recommend skipping this one and just going straight for the much better and far more entertaining Lion King 1½ (a.k.a. Lion King 3).
I was actually surprised to find out that The Sword in the Stone was based on a novel by T.H. White and not just Disney’s own original take on the story of King Arthur. Even with that in mind, The Sword in the Stone has never been one of my favourite films, for the reason that it doesn’t focus so much on Arthurian lore but tries to be a “coming of age” type deal. In that though, it’s pretty disappointing.
The film has some redeeming qualities. I think the parts where Arthur is turned into animals are pretty creative and fun, but ultimately just humorous highlights. They don’t carry the weight of the film. Also no matter how much I actually enjoyed the banter between Archimedes and Merlin, it doesn’t excuse the film from introducing probably one of the worst original Disney characters, Madam Mim. I’ll take Magica De Spell any day of the week, thank you very much.
Ultimately, my biggest gripe with the film is that it ends at the part where I think the movie should have started, with Arthur pulling the sword from the stone and becoming king. That would have actually made for an interesting story. As it stands, the film is an unfocused mess with some good highlights, but ultimately a mediocre narrative.
Despite Disney’s habit of altering classic fairy tales to be more child friendly, I’ve generally enjoyed their takes on these classic stories. The Little Mermaid however stands as a particular thorn in my side. I’m not really a huge Hans Christian Andersen fan, but taking one of his saddest and most sombre stories and turning it into a fun-filled adventure seemed like an incredibly poor decision from Disney. Here we can honestly say that the movie bears practically no resemblance to the story its adapting.
Having said that, The Little Mermaid is almost so offensively dumb that it rolls right back around and becomes incredibly entertaining because of it. It’s essentially just an animated teen drama about a renegade wanting to shake up the status quo with complete disregard for the consequences. Seriously, Ariel makes some of the worst choices I’ve seen a protagonist in a Disney film make and still somehow gets her happy ending. The cheese factor is also super high due to the film’s cartoonishness and over-abundance of comic sidekicks.
Also, I of course recognise that this movie ushered in the Disney Renaissance for which I’m definitely grateful. That and the inherent entertainment factor were enough to make me want to spare this film from being in the bottom-5. Still, that whizzing sound you hear – is H.C. Andersen rolling in his grave.
While Pocahontas gave a bad precedent for Disney films based on historical figures, Disney redeemed themselves with the excellent Mulan three years later. However, Mulan 2 is one of those situations where plain old common sense would dictate that you shouldn’t try to keep riding a good thing to the ground just in the hopes of making more money and even if your leading lady was willing to reprise her role. Eddie Murphy, apparently though, was too classy for this shit.
Mulan 2 ruins the mood almost immediately. Cheesy song numbers, half-assed story scenario and unlikable characters. Mulan 2 goes the most predictable route story-wise you could possibly think of. Also, Mushu is the evil mastermind this time around, worried that he’ll lose his position as a guardian spirit. The movie has “rushed sequel” just spelled all over it and that’s really what makes it so painful to watch. It possesses none of the charm and character development of the original.
I will admit that the part where Shang seems to die was a bit surprising and quite left-field. This is still a movie where I think you can actually laugh at its badness, but some of the scenes in it are so cringe-worthy, it’s really hard to do.
Even before I knew anything about the historical Pocahontas, I didn’t actually much care for this movie. It seems that I’m not alone in denouncing it more or less as the least impressive of all the Disney Renaissance era films. I mean, let’s get the obvious out of the way: Pocahontas was all of thirteen years old when she met John Smith. Really, this is a mild change and I can see why Disney did it since depicting “that” kind of relationship would have been stretching it a bit.
The real problem with Pocahontas is that it’s just plain old generic. The leading couple is completely devoid of interesting character traits. There’s an over-abundance of animal sidekicks who really don’t contribute to the story and are just there to keep the kiddies awake. Awkward song numbers are abound and the film just generally feels like it’s just going through the motions of a typical Disney animated adventure. The production quality is high but the whole thing feels hollow and uninteresting.
I’m almost sad to say that I honestly enjoyed Pocahontas 2 a lot more since it actually followed, to some extent, the real life events of Pocahontas. And that’s the thing that never stops bothering me about this movie. With everything else, this film would have probably dodged the bottom-5, but knowing it was based on a real person and was so egregiously misleading just makes me dislike it even more. The only redeeming factor of the movie, honestly, is The Colors of the Wind which is probably one of the best songs from a Disney movie I’ve ever heard.
I’m willing to recognise certain Disney movies I don’t particularly care for as classics in their own right, like Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and The Little Mermaid. However, Pinocchio has never been high on my list of Disney films and I’ve always considered it one of the most supremely terrible Disney films out there.
To its credit, Pinocchio stays faithful to the original text by being episodic, as Pinocchio was originally a collection of different children’s stories. That however, brings forth the first problem, which is the unfocused narrative for much of the film. Secondly, the characters are annoying and unsympathetic. I’ve never liked Jimminy Cricket and Pinocchio himself (although not as big of an asshole as in the original story) is just an irresponsible moron. Thirdly, the movie features minors drinking and smoking – which might have seemed hilarious back in 1940, but is borderline disturbing to see now.
In fact, the only reason Pinocchio isn’t higher is because it’s so god awful, it’s really easy to make fun of. The parts of it that actually make me laugh are mostly, unintentionally funny. Some people consider it an endearing classic, but it disturbs me to my very core.
It is fair to say that as a kid, I was quite the Aladdin fan. The movie was the first I ever went to see in a theatre. I owned the story-book on tape version, which I would listen to time and again just to hear A Friend Like Me (the Finnish version of course). And I quite enjoyed the TV show based off the thing which was quite exciting for me. However, for whatever reason I never convinced my parents to get me The Return of Jafar, perhaps because I didn’t know it was released only for video-distribution.
And seeing it, years later, made me think that I would have been supremely disappointed had I actually seen it. The Return of Jafar is a joke. Whereas it seems to be a direct sequel to the first movie, it’s actually just an extended pilot for the TV show. The problem here is that the average episode of the TV show had better animation quality. Dear god! I don’t know what the people at Disney were smoking when they decided that this was at all passable. Add to this the typical weaknesses of the movie being inherently unmemorable and the songs being lackluster at best – and you got one of the biggest kicks in the teeth that Disney has ever committed to its fan-base.
They couldn’t even get Robin Williams to reprise the role of genie! While I have nothing against Dan Castellaneta, the fact that Homer Simpson was forced to stand in for the comic idol of my childhood just perfectly sums up this movie: it’s a fucking joke. And Disney laughed all the way to the bank because they knew us stupid kids wouldn’t demand our money back.
Disney has made many a succesful film about dogs: Bolt, Oliver & Company, Lady and The Tramp, and of course my favourite 101 Dalmatians. In fact, Disney seems to be able to make any animal likable. So why did Disney so utterly fail with The Aristocats?
The plot in its simplicity has a wealthy lady leaving her inheritance to her cats. The greedy butler gets jealous and decides to get rid of the cats in order to get the inheritance. Next, the movie becomes a genesis of the mommy cat and her three kittens to get back home, while she cozies up to a stray called Thomas O’Malley (the only character from the film whose name I can remember just because it’s also the name of a song). So in a way, it’s just a knock-off of 101 Dalmatians but with far lesser number of cats. And that what it feels like, a knock-off – a movie based on a pun.
Maybe I should give the movie some slack since it’s clearly supposed to be more joke than narrative based, but really none of the characters are at all interesting. They’re not unlikable, they’re just unmemorable and generic. There’s maybe one or two jokes in the whole movie that made me laugh. Even Eva Gabor’s sexy Hungarian accent couldn’t salvage this film. It’s just a pointless, unfunny, generic Disney film about cats.