Disney is known for thousands of films and beautiful songs that people have made references to across several generations. The company has been on a roll, especially with popular films like Frozen, Moana, the recent Encanto, and all the other movies featuring the iconic Disney princesses. And that’s not even counting the subsidiaries of Disney, like Marvel and Pixar. Still, despite the more famous films that everyone enjoys today, many viewers have forgotten or might not have fully appreciated (perhaps some were too young to understand what was going on) classic Disney films.
While the movies created in the late 2000s are excellent in their own way, several films produced during Disney’s renaissance era up to the early 2000s have been often overlooked, even by fans of the film studio. Here are some underrated Disney films that are worth checking out:
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
Right off the bat, let’s start with one of the (arguably) most underrated animated films of all time. In this 1996 film, Disney takes Victor Hugo’s classic and turns it into an animated musical. The story follows Quasimodo, the Notre Dame Cathedral’s bellringer, who spends his time locked away in a tower. Quasimodo aches to leave the tower and be one with the people, and he eventually does. With his struggles, his newfound friend Esmeralda, and other outcasts, he fights to help the people and the city that have faced injustices.
If you’ve never seen this before and are a bit taken aback by how dark the plot seems to be, that’s because it is. In fact, it’s possibly one of the reasons why it’s been disliked by a number of audiences, particularly some concerned parents who might think that the film is too heavy for children to watch. However, it’s also one of the reasons why the film is so great. It’s a thought-provoking film about injustices that outcasts face, with themes relating to religion, a false sense of self-righteousness, and acceptance. The characters are all so complex as well, with Frollo being one of the best Disney villains ever created.
If the storyline isn’t enough, the film’s art style and music are also equally magnificent. For a movie made in the late 90s, the animation is beautifully made – you’d just wonder how much time and effort the artists have created such a breathtaking visual without many technological advancements. The music’s not as equally catchy as the ones we sing along to today, but they deserve more recognition with how artistic the lyrics are and how the music ties so well to advance the story’s plot.
Treasure Planet (2002)
Treasure Planet is a sci-fi adventure animated film that follows the journey of Jim Hawkins through the galaxies as a cabin boy of a space sailing ship. Along with other voyageurs and pirates (the good and bad), he is on a treasure hunt to find the legendary loot found on “Treasure Planet.”
The main storyline seems simple, but the twists and emotional scenes featuring Jim’s background story and his relationship with other equally complex characters like John Silver make the film so captivating. Though not as much as the first film, it also deals with sensitive topics, including those related to family issues. Not only is the art masterfully done, but the animation is just as beautiful. It also features fitting songs that can elicit specific emotions from viewers.
Unfortunately, Treasure Planet did not do so well at the box office when it was released, especially considering that the film was expensive. Unfortunately, there’s not much we can do about that anymore, but it’s worth giving it the attention it deserves today.
The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)
This classic is an underrated animated comedy. In this movie, the highly self-centered and spoiled Emperor Kuzco maintains his “groove” by imposing what he wants, not minding who he steps on and who he hurts in the process. After firing his advisor Yzma, she vows to get revenge and take over the throne by poisoning the emperor. However, because of a mishap by Yzma’s right-hand man Kronk, Kuzco is instead turned into a llama. With help from Pacha, the village leader he had a conflict with at the start of the film, he attempts to regain his throne and get back to who he was.
Besides a stellar cast of David Spade, John Goodman, Patrick Warburton, and Eartha Kitt as the voice actors, the film deserves more love for featuring one of the best character developments ever shown in a Disney film. Although relatively fast-paced, the film is still able to flesh out Kuzco’s character enough for you to see how he changes (not only externally but, most importantly, internally). More than that, the film is hilarious. Comedic lines are interlaced with absurd moments that can make the audience have a laughing fit. The Emperor’s New Groove is a great film to watch with your family and friends!
Next, we have Disney’s take on Greek mythology. When he was born, Hercules, the son of Zeus and Hera, was taken by Hades. With a failed attempt to make him lose his immortality, Hercules becomes a half-man, half-god with superhuman strength. Initially struggling to live his life as a mortal, he is told that he must prove himself worthy of living with the other gods on Mount Olympus by becoming a hero. He trains with Philoctetes, a satyr, and together with him and Pegasus, he defeats several monsters and rescues different people to become the true hero he longs to be.
Hercules stands out as a unique film among others made by Disney. It’s fun for kids to watch and gain a bit of familiarity with Greek mythology (though inaccurate), but adults would find a deeper appreciation for certain film elements. For example, the songs sang by the five goddesses (collectively known as The Muses) in gospel choir style are catchy and witty enough to narrate Hercules’ story while interacting with some characters. You’ll also find a somewhat different villain in this film. Hades provides a big chunk of comedic relief despite being the main antagonist, which is a unique element compared to other Disney films, especially those released around the same time.
Overall, with its wit and heartwarming message, you’ll enjoy watching this interesting yet slightly underrated Disney film.
A Goofy Movie (1995)
Some might argue that this film is, in fact, not underrated as it has quite the following. Beyond fans of the film, though, it’s not as valued as other big names released during the Disney Renaissance. While the younger generation would have heard of the classics Beauty and the Beast and Alladin (the original ones, not the remakes), they might not have seen the beauty of A Goofy Movie.
After Max attempts to get the attention of his crush, Roxanne, by having a concert during the school assembly, he and his friends get in trouble as the principal busts them. This concerns Max’s father, Goofy, and in an attempt to keep his son out of trouble, he takes him on a cross-country fishing trip that Max resents.
Goofy is mainly known as one of Mickey’s closest friends to a larger audience, but this film is just as fantastic as other films that star the well-known mouse. Beyond memes and short clips of Goofy that you’d typically hear from an online soundboard, A Goofy Movie deserves more praise and attention for a captivating and touching story between a father and son. And yes, Disney made such films, too, way before focusing on sisterly love or familial love we see today.
As a balance to its emotional aspect, the film is also made up of funny scenes, most of which relate to Goofy and his friend Pete. Apart from that, the film also has a solid soundtrack, some of which were performed by Tevin Campbell (who also plays the role of the famous Powerline in the movie).
And there you have it – 5 classic Disney films worth the watch. It might be years since these were released, but it’s undeniable that these gems still deserve attention from young and not-so-young viewers today. So the next time you’re unsure what new film or show to check out, you might want to delve into the classics and gain a newfound appreciation for these films.