When I did my article on all 10 movies in the Disney Renaissance era, ranked, the first thing I thought was, well, I need to do the second renaissance from Disney Animation Studios next. You know, the one that started with 2010’s Tangled and wound its way all the way up to 2021’s Encanto. But, then I thought, you know what, if I do that, then I’d be skipping a whole ton of films, some excellent, and some…well, not so excellent, but all of them appearing in-between those two critically acclaimed periods of the 1990s and the 2010s.
I definitely wouldn’t want to do that, since I think that all of them are worthy of your time. That’s why I decided to write this list about all of the Walt Disney Animation Studio movies BEFORE what some might consider the second Disney Renaissance, with movies like Frozen and Moana. Some of these Disney movies underperformed at the box office, and a lot of these Disney animated movies are now considered underrated classics today. Either way, all of these movies exist, and you should definitely watch them on Disney+ if you haven’t seen them already.
13. Home On The Range (2004)
Three dairy cows essentially become bounty hunters in order to save their farm. There’s also a horse and a rabbit. It takes place in the west, and…well, that’s about it.
Okay, I know how I said earlier that all of these films are worthy, and they are. But, Home on the Range is just not for me. The jokes don’t land, I don’t like the music (even though it all fits), and overall, I find it rather boring. Don’t get me wrong. I like the idea of a Disney animated western, especially one that isn’t traditional at all, but Home on the Range just doesn’t do it for me. Sorry!
12. Chicken Little (2005)
Chicken Little is like the story you read as a child about a chicken who thinks the sky is falling, but in this story, the “sky” that’s falling is actually from aliens. Aliens!
Honestly, I love Chicken Little, but in the same way that I love a movie like Troll 2 in that it’s so bad it’s good. Visually, it’s definitely the worst-looking Disney animated film of this period (I mean, even 1995’s Toy Story looks better than this) and the jokes are absolutely TERRIBLE. All of the characters are also pretty annoying. But again, I love dumpster fires, so I enjoy it, though I understand why most people wouldn't.
11. Brother Bear (2003)
The story of a man who kills a bear, only to then become a bear himself (How do you like them apples?), our hero must reach the Northern lights in order to transform back into his human self, and he travels with a bear cub to accompany him. This is like some deep cut Disney stuff right here.
And I’m a fan! That said, I’m well aware that a lot of people find the plot to be a little predictable, and even mawkish at times, but I enjoy it. I also like the Phil Collins soundtrack, as well as the overall message of treating nature with respect. It’s not the greatest Disney animated film, and most people I talk to usually tend to forget that it even exists, but on a personal level, I enjoy it. If The Little Mermaid is “Billie Jean,” and The Lion King is “Thriller,” then Brother Bear is “Baby Be Mine.” And if you get that reference, I love you.
10. Dinosaur (2000)
Dinosaur is about an Iguanodon that finds a new family with lemurs after a meteor shower, and they all travel together to a new, safer territory along with other herbivores. Look out for those carnivores, though. They spoil all the fun.
Not quite as good as The Land Before Time, but way better than The Good Dinosaur, which, when ranking every Pixar movie is way down at the bottom, Dinosaur still looks pretty good, even today. The story itself is pretty run-of-the-mill, but it’s a perfectly competent film, and enjoyable for the entire family.
9. Meet The Robinsons (2007)
A boy searching for his mother travels to the future and meets a family in the far-far-far off year of…2037. A man with a bowler hat is the main antagonist. It's quirky.
And it's fun! Meet the Robinsons has a great twist with its time travel story, and there are some tender moments. I like the film, and I understand how some people LOVE this movie, but for all its charm and uniqueness, I'm not in love with the actual Robinson family. I also find the story a bit too frenetic at times. Overall, a good film with the potential to be somebody's favorite.
8. Fantasia 2000 (2000)
Fantasia 2000, which had its wide release on IMAX in January of 2000, is much like the original 1940 movie, featuring lights, sounds, and colors all set to a symphony orchestra. It's more a visual feast than anything else, but the stories are somewhat loosely connected. I guess.
I say I guess because, like the original Fantasia, I just don't get it. It's kind of like one of my least favorite Stanley Kubrick movies, 2001: A Space Odyssey, in that I know I should like it, but it's just too artsy fartsy for my taste. Still, I can understand its greatness, which is why it ends up here on this list.
7. Bolt (2008)
The Truman Show, but with a dog. That’s pretty much the plot of this fun, CGI animated feature. Bolt, voiced by John Travolta, thinks he’s living a life of explosions and bad guys, but he’s actually just being filmed for a TV show with his owner, Penny (voiced by Miley Cyrus). But, when he manages to get separated from her, he has to reach her again. Fun stuff.
Bolt is a strange one for me. I love the idea of the story, but the execution doesn’t always land for me. I’m not a huge fan of the characters, either, and it has more slow parts than I would like. That said, it’s an enjoyable film, and I’ve had it on in the background on a number of occasions, but overall, I’m pretty mixed on it. Sometimes, I love it, and other times, I just think it's fine. I really need to be in the mood for it.
6. Treasure Planet (2002)
Treasure Planet is Treasure Island, but set in space. End of plot description.
Treasure Planet was a box office BOMB, and I guess audiences weren't really impressed by flying pirate ships and hover surfboards at the time, but Treasure Planet is really fun! The sense of adventure is enthralling at times, and the film did the impossible - it made me LIKE Treasure Island, which is one of the most boring books I've ever read in my entire life.
Sure, the sci-fi influence feels gimmicky, and I don't think anybody is putting it on their list of the best sci-fi movies of all time, but it's an enjoyable enough film, and it's pretty. What else could you possibly want?
5. Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
A linguist who desires to see Atlantis gets his wish as he goes on a journey to the deep with a few others. Adventure awaits!
Like Treasure Planet, Atlantis puts action and thrills at the heart of its story. It's like a Jules Verne tale, but from Disney! The animation is top notch, and the sense of adventure is even stronger here for me than it is with Treasure Planet. But, that might just be because the ocean fascinates me more than space. Either way, Atlantis: The Lost Empire is a hidden gem, and I'm happy that it's finally found a cult following. It deserves it.
4. The Emperor's New Groove (2000)
A pompous emperor is transformed into a llama and must learn humility if he wants to reclaim his throne.
The Emperor's New Groove is, in my mind, the funniest Disney animated movie ever. The characters are all over-the-top and unique, the plot is bouncy and never boring, and it never, ever takes itself seriously. It didn't do too great at the box office, but like Atlantis, I'm pretty sure it's now found its audience, and I couldn't be happier. This one’s a keeper.
3. Lilo & Stitch (2002)
The story of a girl and her dog, or rather, her extraterrestrial fugitive that she thinks is a dog, Lilo & Stitch is all about family, both the members you’re born with, and also the members that you choose to take in. Oh, and always remember: Ohana means family.
Lilo & Stitch is many things for me. Sure, it’s really funny and engaging, and the hand-drawn animation is amazing. And yes, the Hawaiian setting was unique for the time, but if anything, Lilo & Stitch reminds me of just how hard it is to be a parent. Nani, voiced by the great Filipino actress, Tia Carrere, is struggling. Nani is Lilo’s older sister, but she has taken on the role of her parents as their actual parents have died, and I can empathize with her stress levels. I love the whole alien story, as it’s fun and entertaining, but Nani is the character I’m really following throughout the film. She makes the movie for me.
2. The Princess And The Frog (2009)
The very last traditionally hand-drawn animated feature from Disney Animation Studios, The Princess and the Frog, is loosely based on the novel, The Frog Princess. In the movie, a hard-working waitress ends up kissing a frog, thinking she’d turn him into a prince, only to end up turning into a frog herself. It’s cute.
The Princess and the Frog is notable for many things (one of which is having the very first Black Disney princess in Tiana), but everything about it just feels so classic, and yet, so modern at the same time. It has one of my all-time favorite Disney villains with Dr. Facillier, some of the best musical numbers, and it’s just gorgeous to look at. I’ve come back to this movie several times, and I’m always just enraptured by it. I mean, I love Splash Mountain and all, but I’m overjoyed that if any movie was going to be its redesign, that it’s The Princess and the Frog. I’d say that it’s my favorite Disney animated movie from this period if not for one other.
1. Tangled (2010)
Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair! That was the basis for this modern Disney classic (that I would argue is even better than Frozen), but it then evolves into something else entirely involving everything from a kidnapping, a selfish surrogate mother, and a handsome rogue who goes on the adventure of a lifetime with our wonderful heroine.
It’s only fitting that the first Disney animation studio film in the 2010’s is also arguably the first film in the second Disney renaissance. But, everything just works in this stunner. The music is exceptional, the art is luxuriously beautiful, and the story is top notch, both funny, but also serious. I’ve raved enough about how much I love Tangled (Our very own Mack Rawden also believes that Tangled is better than Frozen. Deal with it.), but there really is no other way to put it. Tangled is the best Disney Animation Studios movie from 2000 to 2010. It just is.
What’s YOUR favorite Disney animated feature within this time period? For more news on everything Disney, make sure to swing around here often.