Disney’s Experimental Age of Animation ran from 1999 to 2008. During this timeframe, Disney moved away from the musical formula that had worked so well during the Renaissance of the 90s and kept trying new types of animation and storytelling. Also called the Post Renaissance, Dark Age of Animation or Second Dark Age of Animation, Disney saw some rough times at the box office, but the changes made during this timeframe paved the way for the Disney Revival of the 2010s. Let’s rank the 11 films of the Experimental Age of Animation.
11. HOME ON THE RANGE
This isn’t just the worst film of the Experimental Age of Animation, this is the worst Disney film I’ve ever seen. It may be the worst film I’ve ever seen. The cattle rustling plot had potential, but this film completely wastes the talents of Dame Judi Dench. She tries to make this work, but anything with Roseanne voicing the main character is hard to get behind.
This is the film where Disney went all out with 3D animation. By the standards of 2000, this film was beautiful. By the standards of 2022, parts of it are still beautiful while other parts have aged badly. While the animation has its bright spots, the plot doesn’t. It’s too thin to distract you from the parts that have aged well, and the animation is not good enough to distract from the poor plot.
9. CHICKEN LITTLE
This is a beautifully animated film, but like the two lower ranking films, it’s thin on plot. “Chicken Little” has a lot more potential than either “Home on the Range” or “Dinosaur,” but it stretches itself too thin by combining the alien invasion plot with the coming of age father-son bonding plot.
8. TREASURE PLANET
This film should be so much better than it is. The animation looks beautiful overall, even though some of it hasn’t aged well. It’s based on one of the best books of all time, “Treasure Island.” It has the potential to be a great futuristic spin on a literary classic, but it falls flat. It’s better than I thought it was when I was 17 and walked out of the theater because I hated it so much then. But, it still leaves a lot to be desired.
7. LILO AND STITCH
Disney combines Polynesian heritage, the story of sisters choosing each other and an alien adventure and gives us a fun film, but still disappointing film. Disney would improve the Polynesian story in “Moana” and the sister story in “Frozen.” This alien adventure is still better than the one offered in “Chicken Little” though.
6. FANTASIA 2000
Disney’s return to classical music is vastly superior to its predecessor but still could be better. The presentation is more friendly to the viewer in “Fantasia 2000,” with better animation and better song choices. Still, “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” is a classic version of Mickey and it makes sense that it was the only segment from the original “Fantasia” to be brought back. It’s a solid outing during an otherwise dark time for Disney.
5. BROTHER BEAR
Now, we are getting into the five films from this era of animation that I enjoy the most. “Brother Bear” takes another great soundtrack from Phil Collins and adds a coming of age story about brothers, love and protecting nature. This film does everything “Chicken Little” tried and failed to do. It is blended perfectly to make a compelling story.
4. MEET THE ROBINSONS
This is a fun romp that doesn’t get enough love, in my opinion. It certainly is fast paced and that can lose some people, but I think it does a great job of blending that fast pace with a likable protagonist and a compelling story. It’s one film from this era that Disney should trot out more often.
3. ATLANTIS: THE LOST EMPIRE
This film’s very tagline tells you that you are no longer in the Renaissance. “Fewer songs, more explosions.” This film also delivers with a good story and some great voice acting. This may be Jim Varney’s best performance and it’s a real shame he never got to see it. The film failed to deliver at the box office, but it delivers every time I watch it.
2. THE EMPEROR’S NEW GROOVE
“KUZCO!!!!” This film delivers on all counts. It has excellent music without really being a musical. It has amazing performances from David Spade, John Goodman, Patrick Warburton and Eartha Kitt. It gave us one of the greatest supporting characters in the Disney canon in Kronk. It may not have been a box office hit, but it’s a cult favorite for a reason.
This is my favorite film of the Experimental Age of Animation. This is the film where it felt like the Walt Disney Animation Studios would be able to consistently compete with Pixar. “Bolt” tells an excellent story with excellent animation and excellent voice acting. There’s a reason it’s the final film of the Experimental Age. It was the gateway to the Revival.
That’s my ranking. The 2000s had some great movies, but it also had some duds. Let’s toss it over to you. How would you rank the films of Disney’s Experimental Age of Animation?