When it comes to animated movies, Disney is THE household name as they’ve provided multiple generations of audiences with charming and heartwarming animated adventures and characters. From the growing lineage of Disney princesses to the stunning and iconic worlds they’ve created, Disney’s animated flicks have become a cultural tent pole. They’ve played a major role in not only influencing the animation industry but also viewers by presenting themes and characters that can inspire everyone. Still, not every one of their films get the recognition it deserves.
Sure, Disney movies like The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaidand countless others are so popular that Disney has tried to capitalize on their nostalgia through live-action remakes. However, not every film got that same kind of love or audience and even Disney has films stuck at cult status. Just because they did not find their audience upon release, does not mean that they are not worth watching though as they’re truly some of Disney’s best hidden gems.
‘Atlantis: The Lost Empire’ (2001)
Although Atlantis: The Lost Empire left a lot of critics mixed upon its release and did not do so hot at the box office, it has garnered a large cult following for its unique animation style and adventurous fantasy story.
The film follows eccentric adventurer Milo (Michael J. Fox) and an eclectic crew of explorers as they attempt to find the lost city of Atlantis and uncover an ancient power. The film’s animation excellently blends comic book creator Mike Mignola‘s visual style with some strong CGI for the time and showcases some characters, story, and action that viewers will love.
‘The Emperor’s New Groove’ (2000)
A mostly forgotten comedy-adventure from Disney, The Emperor’s New Groove is full of memorable laughs and characters within its strange, but fun adventure.
The film sees the young narcissistic Emperor Kuzco (David Spade) require the help of good-hearted villager Pacha (John Goodman) after he is turned into a llama. The Emperor’s New Groove has tons of great slapstick comedy for all to enjoy and features one of the most underrated villain performances from Eartha Kittas Yzma as well as one of the funniest henchman performances from Patrick Warburton as Kronk.
‘The Princess and the Frog’ (2009)
Of all the Disney princess movies, The Princess and the Frog never got the recognition it deserves, and it’s a shame because it’s one of Disney’s best films in the modern era.
The film follows hardworking waitress Tiana (Anika Noni Rose) and the arrogant Prince Naveen (voiced by Bruno Campos) as they try to find a way to transform back into themselves after they’ve been turned into frogs by the nefarious Dr. Facilier (Keith David). The Princess and the Frog has everything fans could want, including amazing songs, stunning animation, a heartwarming romance tale, memorable characters, and an instantly classic villain in Facilier.
‘The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad ‘(1949)
A film forgotten by most Disney fans, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad is essentially two classic literature stories brought to life by Disney in one classically animated film.
The film contains adaptations of two classic stories, The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving. The animation style is truly classic Disney in action and both stories still hold up well for a very fun fantasy watch. Also, who could pass up Disney’s version of Sleepy Hollow?
‘The Great Mouse Detective’ (1986)
Those looking for a sly and entertaining Disney mystery will easily love what The Great Mouse Detective has to offer.
Based on the children’s book series Basil of Baker Streetthe film follows mouse detective Basil (Barrie Ingham) as he solves a new crime on the streets of Victorian London. The Great Mouse Detective is basically Disney’s take on Sherlock Holmes meaning that there’s plenty of engaging sleuth storytelling, fun characters, and an infectious adventurous spirit to enjoy.
The third animated film from Disney, Fantasia remains unlike anything that Disney has put out since and remains a visual and musical treat.
Fantasia does not have a singular story to follow, but rather utilizes excellently composed music and imaginative animation to take viewers on a magical animated journey. There are so many iconic moments in Fantasialike Mickey’s magical endeavors with broomsticks and a dark and stormy night on Bald Mountain, that still stun to this day, and frankly, it would be incredible to see Disney bring Fantasia back.
‘Robin Hood’ (1973)
Disney’s Robin Hood mixes Disney’s love of charismatic animal characters and an adaptation of a classic story for an easily enjoyable watch.
The film tells the classic story of Robin Hood (Brian Bedford) robbing the rich to help the poor as the dastardly Prince John (Peter Ustinov) tries to capture him. The animal character designs of classic Robin Hood characters still look great, and the story remains a fan favorite.
‘Treasure Planet’ (2002)
Aside from maybe Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Treasure Planet is widely considered the biggest Disney cult classic of all time.
The film takes viewers on a visually stunning sci-fi adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel Treasure Island filled with space pirates and whimsical adventure led by protagonist Jim Hawkins (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Treasure Planet might have been a box-office bomb, but you would not know it from how its animated world, Jim’s personal journey, and the film’s incredible sci-fi action continue to receive praise.
‘A Goofy Movie’ (1995)
Who knew that Disney giving Mickey’s beloved friend Goofy his own spin-off film would result in a delightful father / son comedy trip that features some underrated music?
A Goofy Movie takes viewers on a comedic road trip with Goofy (Bill Farmer) and his son Max (voiced by Jason Marsden) where the two butt heads but eventually come together in heartwarming fashion. Goofy and Max’s misadventures are full of heart and humor, and the songs from the fictional singer Powerline (Tevin Campbell) are still amazing as ever.
‘The Fox and the Hound’ (1981)
Those that miss the days of Disney’s more animal-centric stories will find some warm nostalgia and an unexpectedly emotional story with The Fox and the Hound.
The film follows the friendship of a fox named Tod (Keith Coogan/Mickey Rooney) and a hound Copper (Corey Feldman/Kurt Russell). Tod and Copper’s bond will instantly latch onto your heart and tear and tug at all your heartstrings through all the ups and downs of their unlikely friendship. Make sure you have tissues on hand for this one because you’re going to need them.
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