The Disney Renaissance was the most financially lucrative time for the Walt Disney animation studios. It ran from 1989-1999 and featured 10 films. Almost all of the films were successful both critically and commercially. Many people identify these one of these 10 films as their all time favorite Disney film. So, I’m going to rank the 10 films. Remember this is just for fun and completely subjective.
The final film of the Disney Renaissance is more known for its soundtrack than for its actual plot. Phil Collins wrote the songs and while they are almost all amazing, they can be distracting from the film itself.
9. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Disney’s interpretation of the literary classic is nowhere close to what you read, but that’s probably a good thing for a children’s movie. This is one of the darker films in the Disney canon and Frollo may be the most evil villain Disney has ever unveiled. This is a good film for the older kids, but not one I would recommend for children that are too young.
This film is very loosely adapted from the story of the historical figure Pocahontas. The music is wonderful and “Colors of the Wind” may be my absolute favorite song in a Disney film. Plus, the story is enjoyable as long as you don’t pay too much attention to how completely historically inaccurate it is. Still, it’s quite the enjoyable kids film.
Another film loosely adapted on the story of a historical figure, “Mulan” tells the story of the Chinese mythical legend. It’s another film that’s great as long as you can’t ignore it’s lack of historical accuracy. But, in the end, “Mulan” saves China which is a really cool story that can be very inspiring for young girls. Also, Donny Osmond’s performance of “Make a Man Out of You” is masterful.
6. The Rescuers Down Under
The very first fully digital film, “The Rescuers Down Under” underperformed at the box office, but still tells a fun, enjoyable story. It’s also the very first sequel to a Disney animated film to be released in theaters and, for my money, is a better film than the original “The Rescuers.” Plus, John Candy as the voice of the albatross, Wilbur, is spectacular.
The film loosely based on Greek mythology is a lot of fun with some great music and a magnificent performance from James Woods as Hades. Plus, the voiceover by Charlton Heston featuring him saying “You Go Girl!” is hysterical in itself, but even funnier when you realize the director had to trick him into saying it.
This is my absolute favorite Disney film. I want this to be the best film of this era, but if I’m being objective, there are three better. The genie is one of Robin Williams finest work and I wish Disney had treated him better when they marketed this film. Plus, Scott Weigner’s performance as the voice of Aladdin is amazing and is also excellent nostalgia for those who grew up watching him on “Full House.” This is also the final film to feature music from the duo of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken.
3. The Little Mermaid
The very first film of the Disney Renaissance, this film was a sign of great things to come. The first of three films to feature music from the incomparable duo of Ashman and Menken, it knocks it out of the park with some songs that are easy to sing along to. Ask any child of the 90s and they can probably sing “Part of Your World,” “Kiss the Girl” or “Under the Sea” for you.
2. Beauty and the Beast
The second of three films featuring music from Ashman and Menken, this was the culmination of a lifetime of work for Howard Ashman. As many doubted the film’s success, Ashman was confident it would be a success. The music in this film is just as easy to sing along with as the rest of the Disney Renaissance. The film perfectly conveys every emotion it attempts. It was the very first animated film to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar.
1. The Lion King
This film is the peak of Disney animation. It’s an excellent re-telling of the Shakespeare classic “Hamlet.” It’s also got an amazing cast featuring James Earl Jones, Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Rowan Atkinson, Jeremy Irons and Jim Cummings. After the passing of Howard Ashman, Disney reached out to music legend Sir Elton John to write the songs and it was a match made in heaven. This, in my opinion, is the best film of the Disney Renaissance.
That’s my ranking. We’re not all going to agree and that’s okay. How do you rank the films of the Disney Renaissance?