The Bare Necessities

The Jungle Book is the last animated film produced by legendary pioneer filmmaker Walt Disney. A man whose influence can still be felt more than 50 years after his untimely death. Although The Sword in the Sword was the last animated film released in his lifetime, The Jungle Book was the last one  with his personal touch. As the nineteenth animated production (plus all of his live-action work), that equalled about 81 movie’s Disney had a hand in. So his final film had to go out with a bang. Luckily The Jungle Book turned out to be a perfect choice. Disney really wanted to do another story about animals. That’s when the famous 1894 Rudyard Kipling book was brought to his attention.

Most fans of the book know that the original stories were very dark and episodic. Mowgli is still a man-cub living in the Indian jungle, but the tone is far more philosophical. With themes of one’s place in society and the tension between man and animal. Disney didn’t wanna do any of that. That was the direction at first, but Disney just wanted to have fun with the story. It’s possible his failing health influenced the light hearted tone. With far more focus on swinging jungle fun that made this the best outing Walt Disney could have asked for (effectively ending the Silver Age)…

32. The Jungle Book

Mowgli, Baloo, and Bagheera in the jungle

The Jungle Book was one of me and brother’s all time favorite Disney movies when we were man-cubs. The infectious music and fun characters meant frequent rewatches on VHS. Although Disney’s death was likely a factor, The Jungle Book nevertheless deserves all the appreciation its gotten over the years. Even if it’s surprisingly light on plot. With the opening of its titular book, the story begins in the jungles of India. It’s there that the baby man-cub Mowgli is discovered. Mowgli is the final child character that Disney worked on. He’s the second most iconic literary jungle human, best recognized by his red loincloth. Mowgli is notably the first non-white lead in an animated Disney movie. As Mowgli is of Indian descent.

Bagheera the black panther discovers the man-cub all alone in a basket. So he decides to bring him to the wolves. Where they lovingly raise him as one of their own. Until the jungle becomes too dangerous for him. Bagheera is a straightlaced, but caring guardian to Mowgli. He escorts him to the man village where he’ll be safe from a notorious predator. On his reluctant journey, Mowgli meets all sorts of colorful animal characters. The first is a deadly python named Kaa. A more comical threat that hypnotizes his dinner before eating them. Kaa strangely has the exact same voice as a certain sweet honey loving bear. Next Mowgli encounters a pack of marching pachyderms. Colonel Hathi is the head elephant who runs his pack like the military. Including his wife and son. The segment is mostly just there to fill time.

Then Mowgli befriends one of the best animated Disney sidekicks of all time. A happy-go-lucky bear who enjoys the bare necessities named Baloo. Baloo is a hilarious comic foil who brings the fun loving picture to life. Helped greatly by celebrity comedian Phil Harris. In fact, The Jungle Book was another rare animated production that employed famous voice actors. Mowgli is then snatched up by a band of monkey’s that take him to orangutan King Louie. A jazz influenced original character modeled after his voice actor Louis Prima. He’s not in the book, but he does briefly reference the “red flower” (fire). When Baloo and Bagheera rescue Mowgli, the latter convinces the former to let the man-cub go. A betrayed Mowgli runs off just in time for Shere Khan to arrive.

Shere Khan is a classy tiger complete with evil British accent. He’s one of the best villainous Disney animals with a deep hatred for man. After another nasty encounter with Kaa, Mowgli finds himself in the outskirts of the jungle. There he meets a wake of vultures clearly inspired by the Beatles. Who unsurprisingly turned down a chance to voice. Mowgli and Shere Khan face off in battle aided by a brave Baloo. It’s a one-sided fight that only ends when Mowgli uses fire against the scaredy cat. Although it seems like the man-cub will live happily with his father-like bear friend, something catches his attention. An Indian girl that inspires Mowgli to finally enter the man village.

The Jungle Book once again uses sketchy animation, but the story is simple enough for it to work. With stylized animal characters that became Disney icons. Although The Jungle Book was one of the first Disney movies to extensively use recycled animation. It’s almost silly how many shots are repurposed over and over again. All with varying angles that are either at night or during the day. Shots from One Hundred and One Dalmatians and The Sword in the Stone were recycled as well. That doesn’t affect things much, since the music is really the main attraction.

More modern jazzy 60’s beats were used in many very catchy songs. There’s Kaa’s creepy villain song “Trust in Me.” King Louie’s infectiously upbeat swinging tune “I Wan’na Be Like You.” Then there’s the less notable, but still memorable “Colonel Hathi’s March,” “That’s What Friends Are For,” and “My Own Home.” The best song in the whole movie is easily Baloo’s laid back signature tune “The Bare Necessities.” A song my brother and I sang often when we were younger. With the sense of fun Walt Disney was hoping for, The Jungle Book was a jungle boogie that wouldn’t be recaptured for years to come.

33. The Jungle Book

Shere Khan threatens Kaa

Followed by: The Jungle Book 2

The Young King Arthur

The Sword in the Stone is the most underrated animated film from the Silver Age of Disney. Not that it would ever be considered one of the all time greats. And certainly not when compared to everything else released during the 50’s-60’s era. Of course Mary Poppins was released the following year. So it’s possible Disney put all his energy into that. Although One Hundred and One Dalmatians was a budget friendly success, Roy Disney still urged his younger brother to shut down animation. Succeeding only in limiting the production of animated movies.

The Sword in the Stone is both based on Arthurian legend and a 1938 novel of the same name written by T. H. White. Most people are familiar with the basics of the story. Of how Arthur pulled Excalibur from the stone, became King, started the Knights of the Round Table, and was mentored by Merlin. Well Walt Disney was more interested in the younger days of Arthur. In favor of another movie called Chantecler. The rights to the story were bought as far back as 1939. Although the war was a factor, it was really a lack of development that kept the eighteenth production in the stone for so long…

30. The Sword in the Stone

Arthur pulls the sword from the stone

The Sword in the Stone was not something I saw often as a lad. I saw it maybe twice when I was younger, but it never really stood out much to me. At least not as much as my brother. Just like in the book that’s opened, former King of England Uther Pendragon dies without an heir to the throne. So to decide who would rule, a sword is sent down from Heaven. Placed in an anvil stone that only the true king can lift. Many have tried to pull the sword from the stone, but all have failed. Plunging England into the Dark Ages. That’s where Merlin comes in. Disney’s greatest animated wizard. The movie may be generally forgotten, but Merlin is still the most memorable character. He’s much more eccentric than in the legend with a cartoonishly long beard and pointy cape. He’s definitely the funniest character, matched by his back talking owl Archimedes.

Merlin predicts a child will fall through his hutt in the forest. The child turns out to be 12 year old orphan Arthur. Nicknamed Wart by his brutish foster brother Sir Kay and foster father Sir Ector. Although trained to be a lowly squire, Merlin sees the potential in the lad. As he seeks to educate the boy with magical lessons. Wart is a fine enough lead full of heart, but his voice is really distracting (and not just because it’s American). He was voiced by three separate child actors. The first went through puberty, so he was replaced by two brothers. Strangely enough, Wart’s voice actor even changes in the same scene.

The magical lessons are probably the most memorable scenes outside of the titular climax. Merlin’s magic shows Wart the perspective of a fish from the sea, a squirrel from the land, and a bird from the air. The squirrel segment always stood out to me the most. It features a girl squirrel that falls in love with Wart. Although it sadly ends with the poor squirrel discovering he’s human. Along the way, Wart encounters the mad Madam Mim. A villainous, but not at all intimidating black magic witch. The animal transforming wizard’s duel she shares with Merlin is colorful fun. Eventually Wart, Kay, and Ector leave for a jousting tournament in London.

It’s pure happenstance that Arthur pulls the sword from the stone. A true Disney moment that grants him the rank of King Arthur. Even if he doesn’t want the honor at first, a time traveling Merlin convinces him otherwise. The only real problem with The Sword in the Stone is a lackadaisical sort of aimless plot. Comedy is more important than making the legend epic. Especially evident with the even more sketchy animation that I feel works more against the film. It doesn’t help that none of the songs became classics. Although if I had to pick a favorite, I guess it would be “Higitus Figitus.” The Sword in the Stone is not the definitive take on King Arthur, but it’s still a fun enough romp that offers harmless Disney magic.

31. The Sword in the Stone

Merlin gives Arthur a lesson

Get those Puppies!

One Hundred and One Dalmatians will leave you seeing spots. This is the seventeenth animated Disney production and the first released in the groovy 60’s. By this point, the animation studio was facing a financial crisis caused by Sleeping Beauty. The expensive production failed to make back its budget, so it was decided that more inexpensive animation needed to be utilized. Making this the first Disney movie to replace hand inked cel animation with xeroxed photographic techniques. I don’t really understand animation well enough to tell you how, but they gave One Hundred and One Dalmatians a sketchy look.

The film is based on a 1956 children’s book written by Dodie Smith titled The Hundred and One Dalmatians. It was a simple enough story that Walt Disney loved. Hardly anything from the book was changed. Making this one of the few animated Disney movies set in modern day. As most others up to this point were either fairy tales or set several decades in the past. One Hundred and One Dalmatians also returned to the relatively safe animal focused narrative. Some dogs from Lady and the Tramp even make a cameo. Well 101 canine friends were more than enough to win people over…

28. One Hundred and One Dalmations

One Hundred and One Dalmatians

One Hundred and One Dalmatians was definitely a pleasant viewing experience as a young pup. Although I only occasionally watched it on VHS, I still knew the movie well enough as a Disney staple. Set in modern day London, England, a Dalmatian named Pongo lives with his pet songwriter Roger. Of course everything is from a dog’s perspective. So to a dog, a human would be a pet. When Pongo gets lonely, he searches for a companion for him and Roger. After examining several women who look like their dogs, he finally finds their respective soulmates. A lovely Dalmatian named Perdita and her equally lovely human Anita. Each couple is promptly married after a funny meet-cute.

Months later, Pongo and Perdita are living happily with Roger and Anita. Along with their caring newly appointed Nanny. Perdita is expecting, meanwhile Roger tries to find words for his new song. At least until the perfect inspiration comes strolling in. As if her name wasn’t an indication, Cruella de Vil is one of the most unsympathetically evil Disney villains ever created. She’s a cruelly vain devil of a woman who both lives for and worships furs. Despite being frail, her enormous fur coat represents her eccentric personality. Throw in an extra long cigarette holder plus black & white hair and you’ve got another iconic Disney villainess. With one of the greatest villain songs ever written. “Cruella de Vil” is the infectiously catchy signature song that Roger comes up with.

Since Cruella somehow knew Anita from school, she tries repeatedly to purchase their puppies before being told no. When the puppies are born, Perdita gives birth to 15 of them. 15 absolutely adorable Dalmatian puppies with cute British accents. The most notable ones being the rowdy Patch, the miracle dog Lucky, the always hungry Rolly, the sweet Penny, Freckles, Pepper, etc. Although commonly associated with firefighting, Dalmatians received an increase in popularity at the time. Even though they’re a notoriously temperamental breed that require a great deal of patience. Regardless, the Pongos are a loving family that enjoy watching dog shows together (specifically Thunderbolt). Unfortunately, Cruella sends bumbling hooligans Jasper & Horace to kidnap the puppies. It’s only at her aptly named “Hell Hall” manor that her despicable plan becomes clear. She plans to make spotted fur coats out of over 99 Dalmatian puppies.

When humans fail, devoted parents Pongo and Perdita spring into action. They send a distress call out to every dog in the surrounding area using a barking chain called the “Twilight bark.” There’s something sort of heart warming about seeing such crisis concerning canine comradery. Of course plenty of other animals help out as well. Along with a goose and horse, it’s a cat that initially helps the 99 puppies escape. Then it’s some cows that give the puppies milk after they’ve been walking in the snow. Meanwhile, Jasper, Horace, and Cruella are in hot pursuit of the Dalmatians. Who are finally able to get away using soot as a Labrador disguise. What follows is a tense car chase where Cruella’s driving just gets angrier and angrier. Until she crashes into her henchmen, losing the puppies forever.

The Dalmatians return in time for Christmas and it’s decided that a large plantation is the only thing that can accommodate 101 dogs. One Hundred and One Dalmatians is actually more charming with its sketchy animation. Disney may not have been a huge fan of it, but that many spots would have been a nightmare to draw any other way. Apart from the “Kanine Krunchies Jingle” and “Dalmatian Plantation,” “Cruella de Vil” is really the only noteworthy song in the movie. Nevertheless, One Hundred and One Dalmatians is a wholesome doggy tale you’re bound to love 101%.

29. One Hundred and One Dalmations

Cruella de Vil sees something she likes

Followed by: 101 Dalmatians II: Patch’s London Adventure

Once Upon a Dream

Sleeping Beauty is the last great fairy tale made in Walt Disney’s lifetime. As the animation studio wouldn’t return to their winning Disney princess formula for well over 30 years. The reason being that it performed surprisingly low at the time of its release. Sleeping Beauty was the sixthteenth animated Disney movie and the most expensive one made at the time. That coupled with audiences that thought it was too similar to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, are why it underperformed. Well like most movies made in the Silver Age, it received a far warmer reevaluation.

Sleeping Beauty is based on the 1800’s French fairy tale of the same name. Which was retitled Little Briar Rose in the Brothers Grimm version. All interpretations feature a princess awakened by true love’s kiss, but names vary between writers. Just as unspecific is the villain who is simply described as a Wicked Fairy Godmother. Needless to say, Disney made the story their own. Sleeping Beauty was made in response to the success of previous princess movie Cinderella. So it was shot in widescreen just like Lady and the Tramp, featured more improved sound, and more unique animated backgrounds…

26. Sleeping Beauty

Prince Phillip awakens Princess Aurora

Sleeping Beauty is my personal favorite Disney princess movie of the original three made by Walt Disney. As a child I watched it several times on VHS, because I felt it was the most balanced. There was plenty of romance to appeal to the female demographic. As well as plenty of action to appeal to the male demographic. Not that I didn’t love both equally. The opening of the book starts it all. Once upon a time a King and Queen welcome a daughter into their lives. “They named her after the dawn, for she filled their lives with sunshine.” Princess Aurora is a Disney princess who’s a bit difficult to describe. Not for her hair of sunshine gold and lips red as the rose, but because she only appears for 18 minutes with a mere 18 lines of dialogue. When we do see Aurora, her personality can sort of be described as longing. That’s why the particularly strong supporting characters have to shine through.

At the christening of their daughter, King Stefan and Queen Leah (Disney’s only living parents at the time) welcome the three good fairies into their kingdom. Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather are really the stars of the movie, because they do all the work. Flora is the leader dressed in red, Fauna is the compassionate one dressed in green, and Merryweather is the headstrong one dressed in blue. They’re funny, magical, and take an active role in the action. During the christening, Flora blesses Aurora with beauty, Fauna with song, Merryweather with… Just then the greatest Disney villain of all time arrives. As well as the best animated female villain.

Maleficent is an evil fairy who curses baby Aurora, simply because she didn’t receive an invitation. It doesn’t get more evil than that. I mean her name literally means “to cause harm.” I don’t often mention voice actors from classic Disney, but Eleanor Audley deserves all the credit. She gave Maleficent a commanding cackling charisma. While dressed in a sinister black gown complete with horns and magic staff. Her curse specifies that before the sun sets on Aurora’s 16th birthday, she shall prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and die. To counter the spell, Merriweather blesses her instead with ageless sleep that can be broken by true love’s kiss. As an added precaution, the three good fairies raise her while in disguise as a simple peasant girl named Briar Rose.

16 years later, Rose dreams of a prince she met once upon a dream. With her animal friends by her side, they help make her dream come true. Until the real prince cuts in. Prince Phillip is the first Disney prince to have a name, a personality, and to actually participate in the action. Even though Philip also stops talking right after a word with his father King Hubert. Who randomly shares wine with King Stefan and a drunken mandolin player. Unbeknownst to them that they’re the betrothed prince and princess, Aurora and Phillip fall in love after a memorable dance in the forest. Meanwhile a hilarious chain of events where the fairies cook a cake and sew a dress leads to Maleficent’s crow discovering them. In a haunting sequence, a hypnotized Aurora pricks her finger on a magically appearing spinning wheel.

With Aurora becoming a sleeping beauty, the fairies put the rest of the kingdom to sleep as well. But not before realizing Prince Philip is the true love needed to break the curse. So the fairies free him from Maleficent’s forbidden mountain. What follows is easily one of the most exciting action sequences in all of Disney’s history. In grand medieval fashion, Philip rides his noble steed equipped with the shield of virtue and sword of truth. Maleficent only becomes more evil when unleashing all the powers of Hell. She transforms into a purple green flame throwing dragon for him to slay.

When slayed, Philip is finally able to kiss Aurora, breaking the curse. And no I don’t have a problem with the fairy tale moment. They share another memorable dance in the clouds where Aurora’s trademark dress turns pink & blue and live happily ever after. Sleeping Beauty has many unique distinctions that set it apart from most magical Disney adventures. The background animation has a far more art deco renaissance feel complete with square trees. To match that look, most of the characters are given a sharper design. Despite being a musical, the songs don’t really stand out as much as the instrumentals. The best song is easily Aurora’s romantic dreamer song “Once Upon a Dream.” Sleeping Beauty is in fact a dream come true.

27. Sleeping Beauty

Prince Philip fights Maleficent

Puppy Love

Lady and the Tramp is the greatest canine romance ever put to film. So it’s hard to believe people didn’t appreciate it upon its release. Everyone loves dogs after all. Well fortunately Lady and the Tramp is now seen as the animated Disney classic that it always ways. Lady and the Tramp was probably the closest thing to an original idea Walt Disney made at the time. Lady was actually based on the dog of one of Disney’s story artists. Disney loved the idea, but thought it was too light. Enter the Tramp. A character inspired by a short story from Cosmopolitan titled “Happy Dan, the Cynical Dog.”

The rest of the movie drew heavily from personal experiences with man’s best friend. After many human focused adventures like Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp became the first animal focused Disney animated movie since Bambi. As well as the fifthteenth made by the studio. Being something of a passion project, Lady and the Tramp had many firsts. It was the first movie disturbed by the entirely Disney owned company Buena Vista and it was the first animated movie filmed in widescreen CinemaScope…

24. Lady and the Tramp

Lady and the Tramp share a plate of spaghetti

Lady and the Tramp was a dog centered Disney movie that I couldn’t help but love when I was younger. I didn’t watch it as frequently on VHS, but it was still a staple (despite my never officially having a dog). Lady and the Tramp is a classic love story about two individuals from different social classes. Only this time done entirely from the perspective of a dog. That means everything is drawn from a low angle with most human characters having partially obscured faces. On Christmas day in 1909, Jim Dear and Darling receive the very adorable puppy Lady as a present. After a sequence I’m sure most dog owners can relate to, Lady grows up.

Lady is a lovely purebred Cocker Spaniel who lives in a high end upper-middle class neighborhood. Like most dogs, Lady is full of energy and loves attention. Her friends are the Scottish accented Scottish Terrier Jock and older Bloodhood who lost his sense of smell Trusty. We spend a lot of time on the average everyday experiences of a dog. Including receiving their first collar & license and the more life changing addition of a baby to the family. That’s where Tramp comes in. Tramp is a stray part Schnauzer part Terrier mutt from the wrong side of the tracks. Known by his reputation of always evading dog catchers. After freeing his friends Peg and Bull, Tramp winds up in the rich neighborhood where he meets Lady. His cynical attitude towards being a pet clashes with her naive optimism. They couldn’t be more different, but he does have a heart of gold.

After the baby is born, Jim Dear and Darling leave him to be looked after by Aunt Sarah. I know she’s supposed to mean well, but I can’t help but to hate the way she treats Lady. Even worse is her evil Siamese cats. Chinese stereotypes that annoyingly blame their mess on Lady. She’s then taken to get a muzzle, but Lady escapes into the big bad world. Where the Tramp rescues her from a pack of vicious dogs. After a whistling beaver gets the muzzle off, Tramp shows Lady the exciting life of a stray dog. Then they share a romantic date at an Italian restaurant. Not only is this the most iconic scene in the animated film, it’s also one of the most iconic scenes in film period. Hard to believe Disney almost cut it. There’s just something about seeing two dogs accidentally kiss while sharing a plate of spaghetti & meatballs. Something many couples have tried to replicate.

They fall in love, but Lady unfortunately winds up in the dog house. It’s a surprisingly depressing sequence that doesn’t stray away from what living in a pound is like. Lady also discovers the Tramps trampy past. She stops speaking to him, but there’s an even greater problem that needs to be dealt with. A monsterous rat that goes after the baby. Tramp shows his true colors, but is still sent away. Trusty uses his nose to sacrifice himself, but there’s no way the movie would kill him off. Just like the beginning, Lady and the Tramp enjoy Christmas day with Jock, Trusty, and their puppies. Three that look like Lady and a scampy one that looks like Tramp.

Lady and the Tramp is only enhanced by its widescreen format. Something that was a bit of a learning curve for the animators, but they pulled it off. Giving them more sweeping backgrounds and characters to fill the screen. Just like with Bambi, real dogs were used as reference. They certainly captured all the mannerisms that we know and love. Music wise, “He’s a Tramp” has always been a sultry favorite. While obviously cringy, “We are Siamese” is still pretty catchy. But “Bella Notte” is a romantic serenade from the heart. Lady and the Tramp is just as loveable as its titualar canine couple.

25. Lady and the Tramp

Christmas with Lady, Tramp, and family

Followed by: Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp’s Adventure

You Can Fly!

Peter Pan will make you feel young again. As I would consider it to be the definitive take on the boy who never grew up. Peter Pan was a project that Walt Disney wanted to make right after Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It was originally based on a stage play by J. M. Barrie titled Peter Pan; or, the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up. Which was shortly adapted into the children’s novel Peter and Wendy (that I partially read). Although the original story was a bit darker and sort of tailor made for theater, Disney still wanted a hand in another adaptation.

Paramount had the live-action film rights, but not the animated film rights. I honestly don’t think any property has had as many cross media reinterpretations as Peter Pan. Of course the story had to be Disneyfied a bit to keep characters like Peter or Tinker Bell more likable. Just like Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan was one of the three feature length animation projects that needed to be put on hold until the war ended. Eventually becoming the fourteenth Disney animated film overall…

Peter Pan

Peter teaches Wendy and her brothers to fly

Peter Pan is actually one of my personal favorite Disney movies. I watched it on VHS numerous times when I myself was a kid who wanted to hold onto his childhood. Mostly because Peter Pan was very much targeted at a male demographic. I loved the swashbuckling action and greater focus on physical comedy. Along with a healthy dose of Disney magic that gave it the classic feel. Peter Pan begins with three Darling children named Wendy, John, and Michael. Wendy Darling is arguably the star of the story. In London, England during the 1900’s, Wendy lives in the nursery with her two brothers who are looked after by their St. Bernard nursemaid Nana. Despite her father’s insistence that she should grow up, Wendy encourages her brothers love of stories about Peter Pan.

Peter Pan is one of the most famous characters in all of fiction. He quickly became an icon for Disney as well. A leafy green outfit with a feathered hat makes sense, but I never understood why he has pointy ears. As a boy who never grew up, Peter is full of childlike mischief. Most plays cast a woman to play Peter, but Disney mainstay Bobby Driscoll got the part instead. Peter flies into the Darling house in search of his lost shadow. Waking Wendy in the process. She desperately wants to see Neverland, so Peter decides to take her there to become their mother. Something that makes Tinker Bell jealous. Tinker Bell is a fairy with a blonde 50’s style bun and leaf dress who never leaves Peter’s side. Tink was different than other female Disney characters at the time. She was a curvy cutie who was sassy and showed jealousy without having to say a word. Tinker Bell was so popular that she became the magical face of Disney during all of its studio intros.

In the most famous scene in the movie, Peter helps Wendy, John, and Michael to fly with him to Neverland. All it takes is faith, trust, and a little pixie dust. By taking the second star to the right and straight on till morning, Peter and company arrive at Neverland. A mythical land where you never grow up. Just like in the original story, Neverland is an island populated by pirates, mermaids, indians, and the Lost Boys. Children dressed in animal skins that were also taken by Peter.

The first true male Disney villain and Peter Pan’s archenemy is Captain Hook. A flamboyant pirate dressed in red with a hook for a hand. Something that Peter cut off and fed to a crocodile as a practical joke. Captain Hook is easily one of the funniest Disney villains along with his bumbling first mate Mr. Smee. Although generally realistic, their antics are very exaggerated in a more cartoony way. Especially when the ticking crocodile attacks. Not that Hook doesn’t have his cold hearted moments. Like shooting one of his shipmates mid-song.

When Tink goes too far, she’s banished by Peter. Who proceeds to take Wendy to see the mermaids. Meanwhile, John and Michael take the Lost Boys to find the indians. Mermaids are beautiful, but show their true colors when they casually try to drown Wendy. The indians are easily the most controversial part of the movie. Along with some stray sexist remarks, the indians are obviously racist caricatures drawn to look as red as possible. It’s outdated, but far too important to cut out. I’ll at least say that they are depicted as clever warriors with a sense of honor. When the lovely daughter of the Chief Tiger Lily is kidnapped, Peter comes to the rescue.

After a bonfire celebration that didn’t age well, Wendy reminds everyone of their mother. Which leads to a raid that nearly ends Peter’s life. Until Tink gets caught in the crossfire (“I do believe in fairies”). With Wendy and the boys taken to Hook’s ship, Peter Pan faces the old codfish once and for all. Peter wins the duel and sprinkles the ship with pixie dust. Flying Wendy, John, and Michael back to their family. Peter Pan takes flight with gloriously fast paced animation and plenty of memorable sword fights. The best remembered songs include the villainous sea shanty “A Pirates Life,” the catchy “Following the Leader,” the mildly uncomfortable “What Made the Red Man Red?,” and the inspiring “You Can Fly!” Peter Pan never gets old.

23. Peter Pan

Peter faces Captain Hook

Followed by: Return to Never Land

A Very Very Unbirthday

Alice in Wonderland invites you to go tumbling down the rabbit hole. With perhaps the most surreal movie Walt Disney ever produced. Alice in Wonderland is based on one of the most beloved children’s fantasy novels ever written. While under the very obvious influence of drugs, Lewis Carroll created a wonderful world of curious nonsense. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass are 1800’s books that popularized that most unusual subgenre. Walt Disney was a fan of the Alice books since childhood. It was always his intention to bring it to the big screen.

First as a live-action/animation hybrid, then as a much more appropriate entirely animated feature. The war and production cost forced Disney to put Alice in Wonderland on hold along with three other projects. Although done simultaneously, Cinderella beat Alice in Wonderland to become the first of the Silver Age. While the latter became the thirteenth animated Disney film. Which was surprisingly panned by critics and longtime book fans alike. Most complained that there was too much Disneyfication of the mad Carroll tale. At least until the more psychedelic 60’s came around, which earned Alice in Wonderland the appropriate rank of cult classic…

20. Alice in Wonderland

Alice has tea with the Mad Hatter and March Hare

Alice in Wonderland was so nonsensical that my childhood history with the movie was just as unusual. I definitely saw it a couple of times on VHS, but certain moments stood out to me more than others. I have fond memories of the tea party and ending with the Red Queen more than anything else. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Rather than frontwards, I should go backwards. Alice in Wonderland begins in a barely seen Victorian England that centers around Alice. Disney’s third animated heroine who’s sometimes included in the princess lineup. Rather than a child like in the books, Alice is an elegant, well mannered, young lady with her head in the clouds. Notably dressed in her iconic puffy blue dress.

Alice imagines a Wonderland where everything is nonsense. So we start by seeing a White Rabbit dressed in a waistcoat carrying a pocket watch. He’s late, he’s late, for a very important date! So in classic Disney fashion, Alice goes tumbling down the rabbit hole and into the curiouser and curiouser world of Wonderland. A colorful land where nothing makes sense. In her movie long pursuit of the White Rabbit, Alice meets all sorts of truly mad characters. The first is a doorknob that convinces Alice to grow smaller and larger. Since in Wonderland, “Drink Me” bottles make you shrink and “Eat Me” biscuits make you grow. It’s her tears that help her through the keyhole.

Then Alice crosses paths with a sailor Dodo and the oddball pair Tweedledee & Tweedledum. Egg shaped twins that tell Alice the tale of “The Walrus and the Carpenter.” A surprisingly dark story about a walrus that tricks a group of baby oysters into becoming dinner. Alice eventually catches up to the Rabbit, but grows to the size of house instead. When she shrinks again, Alice is greeted by a bouquet of rude talking flowers that mistake her for a weed. Then Alice meets the most obvious drug metaphor in the book. An articulate hookah-smoking Caterpillar that instructs Alice to grow by ingesting mushrooms. Alice then meets the hilariously random Cheshire Cat. A mad grinning cat that can disappear.

However, the most famous scene in Alice in Wonderland is of the mad tea party. Where the goofball Mad Hatter and insane March Hare are celebrating their Unbirthday with the drunken Dormouse. Why today is my unbirthday too. The tea party is full of nonsensical tea gags that go absolutely nowhere. When Wonderland becomes too much for Alice, the Cheshire Cat returns to point her in the direction of the Queen. The last character we meet in the slowly paced movie. After helping her army of playing cards paint the roses red, Alice encounters the Queen of Hearts (and the King). She’s a loud pompous tyrannical Disney Villain known for the phrase “OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!” A quick game of flamingo croquet brings out her temper and Alice is sent to court. Where every mad Wonderland resident comes flooding in and finally wakes Alice up.

Animation is the only medium that could bring Alice in Wonderland to life. With trippy visuals much in the style of Fantasia. Character designs remained very faithful to the original illustrations. Making almost everyone in Wonderland a Disney icon. Music was another priority with memorable songs like “I’m Late,” “Painting the Roses Red,” and my personal favorite “The Unbirthday Song.” The rest of the many songs are less well known. Alice in Wonderland is a wonderfully silly piece of nonsensical art.

21. Alice in Wonderland

Alice meets the Red Queen


Cinderella finally brought Disney animation back to its former glory. Returning to what worked in the first place. Feature length animation based on fairy tales. By 1950, Disney was near bankrupt after releasing their sixth package film with The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. Needless to say, Walt Disney needed a surefire hit to bring back joy after the war. “Cinderella” couldn’t have been a more perfect choice. The idea was in Walt Disney’s head since the 20’s, but it took over three decades before it finally became Disney’s twelfth animated film. Which also made it the first of the Silver Age.

“Cinderella” is a timeless fairy tale that’s been told and retold a countless number of times over the years. The story is so old that it can even be traced back to ancient times, but the European versions from Brothers Grimm and other writers in the 1600’s are the closest to the ones we recognize. Some versions her name is Ella before receiving the “Cinder” part of it, sometimes Cinderella dances with the Prince multiple times, and occasionally the evil stepmother & stepsisters have their eyes pecked out. Rest assured Cinderella (1950) was as Disneyfied as possible without losing the heart of the rags to riches story…

18. Cinderella

Cinderella dances with her Prince Charming

Cinderella may be considered one of the girliest movies Disney has made, but it was still one that I loved watching on VHS growing up. Even after seeing numerous versions of the story, this version will always hold a special place in my heart. Even though pretty much everyone is familiar with the story, this is what Disney does differently. After the opening of the book of course. Once Upon a time a beautiful young girl lived a happy life before the loss of her mother. Her father remarried, but it wasn’t long after his passing that Cinderella’s stepmother & stepsisters showed their true colors.

Despite the unfair label that she’s received in recent years, I actually consider Cinderella to be a very worthy Disney Princess. At least in the context of the fairy tale. This was still the 50’s afterall. Cinderella is best recognized by her strawberry blonde hair and classic beauty. Not even a cleaning outfit can hide it. I don’t consider Cinderella to be a doormat. She’s a dreamer. A victim of circumstance who holds onto her hope and remains kind in the face of hardship. Her only friends are a group of adorable birds and mice that affectionately refer to her as “Cinderelli.” She also has a horse and a dog named Bruno that keep her company. They serve as her animal sidekicks and were one of Disney’s earliest additions to the fairly light fairy tale.

Jaq and Gus are a fun mouse duo that spend most of the screen time escaping the devilishly evil cat Lucifer. Which amounts to multiple Tom & Jerry style games of cat and mouse mixed in with the hour & 16 minute story. Cinderella works hard as a servant for her evil stepmother & ugly stepsisters, yet she’s actually less of a pushover than most people remember. Lady Tremaine is easily one of the Disney villains that I despise the most. Physical threats are one thing, but sometimes nothing’s worse than an antagonist that mentally abuses someone. The same goes for Anastasia and Drizella. Especially when they destroy the dress that the birds and mice lovingly made for her. That moment will always be hard to watch. Fortunately it’s followed by one of the greatest in Disney history.

Cinderella is greeted by her Fairy Godmother who resembles a sweet caring grandmother. In a magical sequence, the Fairy Godmother grants Cinderella her wish to go to the ball. With the flick of her wand and the magic words Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo, a pumpkin becomes a couch, the mice become horses, and Cinderella is given a beautiful dress. Her most iconic outfit complete with classic updo, choker, and frilly white design (that’s often recolored blue). The animation used to transform the dress was actually Walt Disney’s personal favorite.

The castle became the basis for the Magic Kingdom in Disney World. It’s where the King has his own subplot of desperately wanting grandchildren. He has many humorous moments with the Grand Duke before and after the ball. Prince Charming is an apt description, but he’s another prince without a personality. Serving as the dream guy for Cinderella when they share a romantic dance at the ball. Of course the clock strikes 12 and Cinderella leaves behind her famously impractical glass slipper. Being cruelly locked away isn’t enough to keep Cinderella from fitting the slipper and living happily ever after with her Prince Charming.

Cinderella was achieved with all the high quality animation that was underutilized for several years. This was the first feature to bring together Disney’s Nine Old Men. An animation team responsible for many classics. Cinderella is realistically drawn, but in a way that’s different than Snow White. It’s mostly the animals that are more stylized. Straightforward musicals were also sorely missed from the studio. Luckily the songs were worth the wait. Cinderella’s signature “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” is a perfect dreamer song, “Sing Sweet Nightingale” only sounds good from her, the “Work Song” is very catchy, but nothing beats the Oscar nominated gibberish song “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo.” Cinderella is just the magical masterpiece that Disney needed.

19. Cinderella

Cinderella’s dress transforms

Followed by: Cinderella II: Dreams Come True

Jessica, Only Child, Illinois Chicago (제시카 만 아이 일리노이 시카고)

Parasite just might be the best foreign language film I’ve ever seen. Before I start, massive SPOILER ALERT! Seriously, this is the kind of movie you need to know as little about as possible before going in. I just feel it’s impossible for me to properly review Parasite without getting into detail. So if you still haven’t seen the movie, you’ve been warned. Although it’s always been a topic of discussion, the general public has always had a short attention span when it comes to foreign films.

It’s never been a problem for me, but there’s no denying it takes a certain level of concentration. Parasite had me invested from the start. Even more when I realized the title was a metaphor. Made with an all South Korean cast, master director Bong Joon-Ho delivers a timeless story about social class. One that never feels heavy handed, because the line between good and bad is a bit blurred…


“Jessica, Only Child, Illinois Chicago”

Parasite follows two vastly different families. The poor Kim family that lives in a sub basement and the rich Park family that lives in a lavish mansion. The Kim’s are made up of forward thinking father Ki-taek, strong willed mother Chung-sook, dreamer young adult son Ki-woo, and scheming young adult daughter Ki-Jung. While the Park’s are made up of lackadaisical father Dong-ik, simple minded mother Yeon-gyo, boy crazy teenage daughter Da-hye, and energetic kid son Da-song. They couldn’t be more different, but their paths cross when opportunity comes knocking at the Kim’s door. Ki-woo’s university friend Min-hyuk gifts the family with a good luck rock and offers Ki-woo a position as a tutor for the rich family. Using the name Kevin, Ki-woo passes himself off as a highly recommended tutor for Da-hye.

It’s not long before the entire Kim family cons there way into the Park’s lives. Ki-jung passes herself off as Jessica, an art therapist for Da-song. The previous driver is removed in favor of Ki-taek and longtime housekeeper Moon-gwang’s peach allergy is exploited in order for Chung-sook to complete the circle. So Parasite is actually referring to how the organism attaches itself to a host and gets worse the longer it stays. I was skeptical at first about Parasite being labeled a comedy, but it has plenty of subtle humor that never feels out of place. Just like the dramatic tonal shift that now presents us with thriller themes akin to Alfred Hitchcock. They happen the second the previous housekeeper comes knocking at the door late at night. I never could have predicted the twist that her husband Geun-sae has been living underground the entire time. Yet all the clues were there from the start.

Parasite is like a work of art with great attention to detail. Even at its darkest moments. By the end, you could almost mistake Parasite for a horror movie. Until it finally settles into a sad commentary about the real world. The subtitles aren’t enough to hide moments and themes that keep you talking long after you’ve seen them. The most stand out moment being Ki-Jung’s Jessica jingle. There’s also Ki-woo and Ki-Jung so desperate for wi-fi that they’ll hover over their toilet. There’s the edge of your seat montage where the final con is orchestrated. The truth exposed, followed by the Kim’s attempting to hide from the Park’s (now I want Ram-Don).

Then there’s the tragedy of the Kim house being flooded. Finally, it’s the climax that ends with two unexpected deaths. The biggest question is whether or not rich people can be nice. Parasite became the first non-English film to win Best Picture. While easy going director Bong Joon-ho won a record 4 Oscars. Including Best Director, Original Screenplay, and International Film. Although I’m not familiar with their other work, the cast was brilliant as well. It was all the encouragement I needed to finally see what all the fuss was about. Needless to say, I wasn’t disappointed. I’d say there should never be an American remake, but a TV series is already in the works. Until then, everyone should experience the original Korean masterpiece that is Parasite.


Mrs. Park sees something shocking


Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales be the finale film in the franchise, says I. Although I don’t believe that for a second. Disney wouldn’t let something so profitable end like this. But that didn’t stop me from making this the only Pirates of the Caribbean film I saw in theaters. Something I probably should have done sooner. After the experimental solo adventure that was On Stranger Tides, Dead Men Tell No Tales returns to its roots and addresses open ended storylines. Specifically the tragic yet hopeful end to Will and Elizabeth’s story. Their son Henry grows up to become a Royal Navy sailor obsessed with legends of the sea. Specifically the Trident of Poseidon that can end every curse at sea (where’s Aquaman when you need him?).

After entering the Devil’s Triangle, Henry encounters the least notable crew of cursed pirates yet. An undead crew with missing body parts like Barbossa’s crew, but that are unable to go on land like Davy Jones crew. Not even Javier Bardem as villain Captain Salazar is enough to make them stand out. The title comes from the ride and it also ties into Salazar keeping one shipmate alive to tell his tale. That leads him to the distinctly modernized astronomer Carina Smyth. She’s labelled a witch, but she’s the only one who can follow a map to the Titrant.

A mutual ally is found in Captain Jack Sparrow. Who’s famous compass is linked to Salazar’s fate. At this point Johnny Depp has made Jack into a bumbling caricature of his former glory. Not that any of these movies would survive without him. Together after a wacky Fast & Furious style safe scene, Jack, Henry, and Carina set sail with his sort of loyal crew. Later newly dubbed Pirate master Barbossa joins them as well. So after 5 movies, Jack Sparrow, Hector Barbossa, and Joshamee Gibbs are the only characters to appear in every installment. Of course Henry and Carina take Will and Elizabeth’s place as a less interesting romantic pairing. Like Henry, Carina is also related to a veteran character. One I find a bit hard to believe.

After many other ridiculous swashbuckling scenarios, the Black Pearl (and Jack the Monkey) are freed from the bottle. The water opens up to reveal the Trident and all are freed after a noble sacrifice. Orlando Bloom had it super easy appearing briefly on the Flying Dutchman and making out with Keira Knightley at the end. She doesn’t say a word and her hair is suddenly brunette, but they at least appear again in a post-credit scene that may or may not be addressed. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales was probably better left untold. “Savvy.”

5. Dead Men Tell No Tales

Captain Jack Sparrow gets cornered

Preceded by: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides