Disney’s Bronze Age of Animation ran from 1970 to 1988. It was a time when the animation department was struggling creatively following the passing of Walt Disney in 1966. It lasted until Disney found its way with the formulaic musicals that made up the Renaissance. It’s sometimes referred to as the Dark Age because so many of the films during this time featured darker themes than previous Disney animated films. It’s also sometimes called the First Dark Age because of a similar view of Disney films during the 2000s. Eight films were released during the Bronze Age. In this list, I’m going to rank them from my least favorite to my favorite. Remember this list is entirely subjective.
8. THE BLACK CAULDRON
This is considered a low point for the Walt Disney Animation Studios, and it’s not hard to see why. It was an attempt to take a dark series and make it family friendly. That led to some pertinent parts of the book being left out and a sloppy edit job by the new head of animation at the time, Jeffrey Katzenberg. It’s a film that brimming with potential and just doesn’t really live up to it. And, in my opinion, it’s the only bad movie from this timeframe.
7. THE MANY ADVENTURES OF WINNIE THE POOH
This is one of the few times since the Wartime Era where Disney put a bunch of different stories together to make a feature length film. But, unlike the Wartime Era package films, this feels more episodic rather than like stories that have very little to do with each other being put into the same film. We get several adventures with Pooh and his friends. It’s fun, but feels weak compared to a lot of other Disney films.
6. THE ARISTOCATS
The first film of the Bronze Age tells an interesting story of three cats who are set to inherit a fortune, so the butler kidnaps them so he can get the fortune instead. While the motive is different, it still feels like a lower stakes version of “101 Dalmatians.” It’s fun and has some good songs, but there are better films during this timeframe.
5. OLIVER AND COMPANY
Disney gives a unique, kid-friendly spin on the Charles Darwin classic “Oliver Twist.” This time, Oliver is a cat, while Dodger and his friends are dogs. It’s fun, but a lot of the load is carried by the musical talents of Billy Joel and Bette Midler along with the comedic work of Cheech Marin.
4. ROBIN HOOD
Disney takes the tale of Robin Hood and turns it on its head by making the main characters anthropomorphic animals. Foxes, bears, lions, badgers and chickens take over lead roles to make the story of the thief who steals from the rich and gives to the poor more kid-friendly.
3. THE RESCUERS
“The Rescuers” is the first Disney film to get a sequel and it’s easy to see why. Bernard and Miss Bianca weave a riveting story as they fly to Louisiana to rescue Penny and help her get back to her orphanage and find a forever home. This is another film that is driven by the vocal performances of its stars. Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor are amazing and it shows.
2. THE FOX AND THE HOUND
While this is considered one of the saddest Disney films, it’s also one of the best. It’s a tale of unlikely friendship that faces trials and tribulations but eventually stands the test of time even as they have to go their separate ways. It’s got its fun moments. It’s got its sad moments. An argument can be made this is the most complete Disney film of the Bronze Age.
1. THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE
Disney’s take on Sherlock Holmes is my personal favorite from this era. Basil of Baker Street is a phenomenal main character. Olivia Flaversham is an excellent girl in need. And Vincent Price steals the show as Professor Ratigan, the mouse version of Holmes’ Moriarity. It’s fun. It’s scary. It can be dark, but to me, it’s the best.
That’s my ranking. As I’ve been watching them in order, I’m seeing some of these for the first time. While it’s recognized as a down time overall for Disney, the quality holds up on most of these films. But, I want to know how you would rank the 8 Bronze Age films?