Lilo and Stitch (2002)
“She likes your butt and fancy hair”… “She thinks it’s fancy?”
Poetry in motion, I’m telling you.
This is probably one of the most overused phrases on the internet, but this film deserves more love and credit than it has. I think this was the first Disney movie I saw that was really outside of the box. Time and time again, Disney has used period pieces, it’s their bread and butter and there’s not necessarily anything wrong with that, but this flick was so off the wall that it was a truly refreshing blast of fresh air. For the first time in a long time Disney was brave enough to confront real-life issues and not the watered down crap of “my parents don’t understand me” or “a friend I knew from school stole my Dalmatian puppies to make a fur coat”. For Lilo & Stitch presents the all too tragic, yet familiar circumstances of absent parents who leave the children to fend for themselves. Nani, Lilo’s older sister, struggles to cope with the parental duties that were thrust upon her as she scrambles to scrape together a stable nurturing environment for Lilo as social services breathe down her neck. Her efforts are somewhat thwarted by the cookie Lilo as the pair frequently knock heads, causing real anxiety as Lilo’s innocence and Nani’s efforts only thinly veil her from the precariousness of their situation. Here, Disney illustrates a broken family unit that is still full of love and tenderness that is actually believable. On top of that, Lilo is an extremely likable character, which is a big deal coming from me as I so often hate kids in movies: her quirkiness isn’t forced and instead comes quite naturally, making her instantly relatable.
So, amongst all of this excellent material, Disney decide to chuck in aliens – amazing. Some critics say that the overarching Stitch plot detracts and ruins the sisters’ story but I’m not so sure as for me Lilo and Stitch’s escapades are fairly amusing and Stitch’s character evolution was suitably tear-jerking – he’s also so cute! In Lilo and Stitch, Disney achieved something great – a relatable kids movies not rife with modern references thus creating a timeless classic.
The Jungle Book (1967)
Anyone who says that they don’t like this film can politely fuck off. This is the most toe-tapping, head-shaking, charming, and delightful of all the Disney movies, and that’s an undisputed fact. For me, it would be the clear winner in a Disney movie competition for music: you always meet someone who cringes at the first few chords of “Let it Go”, but no-one, and I mean no-one can resist singing along to “Bare Necessities” or “I Want To Be Like You”. Most importantly, at least in this particular writer’s opinion, “The Jungle Book” is one of the best examples of what Disney studios does best: ripping off and watering-down well known pieces of fiction and fable into such pure whimsy that we literally could not give a shit about all the transgressions made against the original work, so that it in fact becomes the default of that story instead [evil cackling].
The Jungle Book is a coming of age story without all of the annoying teenage existential crises you get these days; though it’s not overly sad and mopey – great sympathy is still stirred up for Mowgli as he is uprooted from his home but his journey is paved by a cavalcade of zany, memorable characters. Besides, Mowgli is such a cute little imp with a nose for trouble, so you can’t stay angry at the mancub, making him, amazingly, another child character with actual charisma, something I will always appreciate. The Jungle Book is of the era when animated movie voice actors began to be regarded as the stars of Disney’s productions (previously it was the animators) and the likes of Phil Harris, Sebastian Cabot, George Sanders, Sterling Holloway, and others do a stellar job of bringing the wacky animals to life – this movie is the home of some of Disney’s most memorable characters including the long-suffering Panther Bagheera, the lovable hepcat Baloo, the chilling Shere-Khan and the slimy Kaa whose on a constant quest to swallow Mowgli whole.
In conclusion, I dare you to not like this film – I am under the impression that it’s a physical impossibility, at least in this universe. There could simply be no greater swan-song for Walt himself than this fanciful jungle tale.
Beauty and the Beast (1991)
For a lot of people my age, the late 80s and 90s was the greatest era in Disney’s history. The “Renaissance” is what the era was coined as, and it includes many a twenty something’s favourite Disney movie, whether it be “The Little Mermaid” or “The Lion King”.
Being the extremely unoriginal person that I am, I have to declare that this movie is my absolute favourite of the lot and, in my opinion, is the pinnacle of the renaissance. It’s the movie of a few significant firsts for Disney: the first ever animated film to be nominated for Best Film at the Oscar’s; the first Disney movie to feature a character dying on screen, and; one of the first Disney animations to include CGI effects (check out the “Tale as Old as Time” sequence – you’ll see it). But enough of all these grand statements about its influence on cinema as a whole, this film is important to me just… well… because… Okay?!
Belle is one of my icons: a strong-willed woman who refuses to conform and strives to follow her own dreams. She is compassionate, humble and smart. It is her kindness that helps to transform the Beast and is ultimately his redemption. Sure it’s problematic: it’s basically a story of Stockholm syndrome and it has fed me the greatest lie of all: actually being able to change a man. However, the wonderful thing about this movie is that I’m so dazzled in general that I barely see those glaring negatives. The animation is on point, the soundtrack has the grandeur that I feel the more modern Disney movies lack [seriously bring back the fucking choruses they blow your socks off!] and I will always be proud to admit that I think this is one of the most romantic movies I’ve ever seen. My closing argument is that any bloke who gives a lass a library as a present truly is a keeper!