Disney: 10 Essential Movies That Changed The Studio


Disney has had their Mickey-gloved mitts on audiences since 1928, and to say the studio is a household name would be painfully understated. Magic is their business, and business is good. But with so many beloved songs, stories, and characters across a multitude of movie masterpieces, how can they have the world by its collective childhood?

The company has released films and projects that have shaped not only the animation industry but the studio itself. The sheer number of movies in the studio’s catalog can be outright overwhelming, but there’s a reason for their tried-and-tested longevity.

10 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

What was predicted to be a massive failure back in the ’30s turned out to be one of the greatest achievements in film history. Without Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The animation industry would not be what it is today.

There’s a reason Disney has perfected the fairy tale narrative, they’ve been doing it since they first began. For fans of the classics or Disney history in general, one can never go wrong with this one.

9 The Jungle Book

The Jungle Book was a decent success for the studio, but it was also unfortunately the last film Walt Disney would ever be involved with. Released only months after Walt’s passing in December of 1966, the film literally marked the end of an era.

The studio stumbled without its founder, still trying to recapture the magical element that saturated all of Walt’s projects. Every movie that followed on the heels of The Jungle Book had a distinctly different flavor, and both the critics and the public noticed.

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8 Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Who Framed Roger Rabbit might seem like one of the many classic ’80s comedies, but even some of the most hardcore Disney fans can forget just how game-changing the film was. Not only did it fully demonstrate the incredible abilities of CGI, but it showed how surprisingly well Disney could play with other studios.

With characters from Paramount, Warner Bros., Fleischer, and more, this film was possibly the biggest crossover event in history. It was animation’s Infinity War.

7 Toy Story

On the subject of CGI, one of the biggest contributions has to be Pixar’s Toy Story. While the graphics aren’t exactly what one would call polished by today’s standards, it’s still nice to see how far the medium has come since the ’90s.

Buzz and Woody are the faces of the Pixar brand, that’s a given. But without them or the studio’s contribution, the likes of BlueSky, Illumination, and even some of Disney’s most recent films would not exist.

6 Star Wars: The Force Awakens

While the acquisition of the franchise might have split the fandom, Disney’s contributions to the galaxy far, far away are undoubtedly worth mentioning. The Force Awakens was the spark that ignited a new saga in the Star Wars universe.

While the sequels were a bit of a mixed bag, the first entry in Disney’s trilogy breathed new life into the franchise and explored different regions of the galaxy. New faces, old friends, but the same plight between the light side and the dark side of the Force.

5 Fantasia/Fantasia 2000

It might be cheating to put two in the spot, but they are honestly interchangeable. The original Fantasia might be an acquired taste for some, but it was a game-changer for Disney.

It was an experiment in the medium of animation that brought Mickey Mouse back to the forefront as well as introduced thousands and thousands to wonderful pieces of classical music. Simply put, the marriage of gorgeous animation with beautiful music is one that will stand the test of time.

4 Aladdin

Aladdin has to win some sort of special award because it reinvented the Disney movie formula and perfected it. An enticing adventure with a sweet love story, a maniacal villain, an underdog hero, and a goofy sidekick voiced by a favorite comedian? Why does this all sound familiar?

Whether they do it intentionally or not, every animated film that followed on the heels of Aladdin tried to replicate the formula. Even the likes of Frozen aren’t immune to this.

3 Beauty and the Beast

There’s a reason this movie got nominated for best picture at the Academy Awards. Once again, Disney comes at audiences with a familiar fairytale but reimagined to be one of the greatest love stories ever put to film.

What makes Beauty and the Beast so timeless is the fact that it turns the typical narrative on its head. The princess saves the prince, not with a grand and epic gesture but through an act of love. How is that not powerful?

2 Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins has often been called Walt Disney’s magnum opus, and with all its acclaim and awards it’s impossible not to see why. At the time, the film was revolutionary in its performances, its animation, and its music. But most importantly, it reached out to a wide and receptive audience.

Mary Poppins and her magic charm bringing a family together and teaching valuable life lessons through whimsical sequences never fail to delight audiences everywhere, even in the 21st century.

1 The Lion King

The Lion King is the animated movie by which all other entries in the genre are judged. Even to this day, it’s still regarded as the perfect animated feature. From the majestic and sweeping visuals to the unforgettable story of Simba’s fall and redemption, the film continues to inspire and invigorate everyone who sees it.

It has been homaged and parodied for decades, its songs continue to flood everyone’s playlist, and its jokes and messages are still repeated today. Disney films may come and go, but the king will always wear the crown.

NextThe 10 Darkest Batman Movies Ever, Ranked

About The Author

Zach Gass (848 Articles Published)

Zach Gass is a writer from East Tennessee with a love for all things Disney, Star Wars, and Marvel. When not writing for Screen Rant, Zach is an active member of his community theatre, enjoys a variety of authors including Neil Gaiman, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkein, and is a proud and active retro-gamer.

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