Disney. At this point the company name should be listed in the dictionary as a synonym for money. When you're the studio that produces narratives for some of the world's favorite costumed heroes, galaxies far, far away, and own arguably the most beloved 3D animation film studio, it's easy to forget about humble beginnings. Disney started off simply an animation studio. Was it an animation studio that rose above all others at the time, and changed the world forever? Yes. However, that's all it was some sixty odd years ago. Even though Walt Disney Studio owns a slew of famous properties, including the animation juggernaut Pixar, Disney has still been creating great animation films on its own. In the last sixteen years, there have been a handful of great animated movies made by Walt Disney studios that give us viewers the thought that "Disney is catching up with the quality of its daughter studio, Pixar." So, to make things interesting, here's the eight best non-Pixar Disney animation films since 2000.
8. Brother Bear
It's probably been ten years since I have seen Brother Bear, nonetheless, it's still one of the movies from my early childhood that is still vivid in my mind. There was a lot of heart in this movie, it was creative, and it really captured something not many movies have; the Native American spirit. The biggest reason this movie makes the list is because of its utilization of tradition, "Disney magic," and originality.
7. A Christmas Carol
One thing Disney was originally famous for was renovating old stories from books or plays into something beloved on film. From Snow White, Cinderella, Peter Pan, The Little Mermaid, and so on and so forth, Disney has proven time and time again that it can bring old stories to life. So, in 2009, they gave Charles Dickens' famous A Christmas Carol a crack. And quite frankly, the magic was captivated with Disney's attempt. One of the main factors we have to thank for why this movie turned out to be memorable is Jim Carrey's voice acting. Not only was he old, grouchy Scrooge, but also all the Ghosts of Christmas and all the young, flashback Scrooges. In conclusion, this movie proved to us two things. One, Disney can still turn an old classic into animated gold, and two, they still know how to perfectly cast voice actors.
In 2010, right as it appeared that Disney had done a movie on every princess in the book, we had forgotten something; there was still no Rapunzel movie. Well that all changed in late November when Tangled was released. I hadn't seen this movie until last year and I was incredibly surprised by it. Maybe it seemed a little better since my expectations weren't all that high, but almost every adult I've talked to who had taken their younger kids said they enjoyed this movie as well (and that was from men and women.) One thing Disney tends to strive in is making movies that appeal to both genders of all age groups. That reputation furthered with Tangled and that's partially thanks to its spin on the original classic. If you picked up a copy of Rapunzel, read it through, then watched Tangled, the only common elements would be that there's a girl with long hair named Rapunzel, she's locked up in a tall tower, and an evil step mother is responsible for doing so. The creative team over at Disney changed almost the entire story when making this movie and it was definitely for the better.
5. The Emperor's New Groove
I watch this movie at least once every year simply from the standpoint I feel like it. Oh ya, and it's great. This is not the typical Disney film. The story revolves around a cocky emperor in a South American country who acts like David Spade and happens to be voiced by David Spade, that was turned into a llama by a creepy, purple-skinned woman. Sound like any other movie? No, it doesn't actually, and that's another reason why its great. There is a lot of hidden, crude humor in here and has got to be one of those movies I quote all the time. Because who doesn't love to yell "Pull the lever Kronk!" or muster up their best Patrick Warburton voice and say "Riiiiiighhhht?" I know I do.
4. Lilo and Stitch
Aloha! Don't pretend this movie wouldn't make the list. Lilo and Stitch has got to be renowned by the majority of people as one of the best animated movies to be released in the last sixteen years. Why Lilo and Stitch is so good is because of the characters and setting really. Stitch alone makes this movie great, but his relationship with Lilo and the other humans and aliens only add positive effects. This movie still holds up today as a modern Disney classic. Oh, and that setting I was talking about was, of course, Hawaii. Much like how Brother Bear showed a lot of insight on Native American tradition, Hawaii customs were interestingly displayed in Lilo and Stitch from the torch twirling, hula dancing, and surfing. Not to mention the Elvis soundtrack tribute was perfectly utilized.
3. Big Hero 6
This is the first movie kicking off the grandiose three Disney animation pictures from 2012-2014 that have most paralleled the quality and emotion that Pixar is famous for. Not to mention the usage of 3D animation. Originally, when I saw Big Hero 6, I kept having to remind myself that this was Disney Animation; not Pixar animation. The reason behind that is because the heart of the movie, how the characters were drawn, and even the story were all of exceptional quality. While Disney owns Marvel Studios, Big Hero 6, showed us that Disney can make a great superhero movie without using live action actors or well-known comic book characters. Baymax, much like Stitch, was an incredibly lovable, non-human character that captured the hearts of audiences. Oh ya, and there's a Stan Lee cameo, which alone could have got this a number three slot.
Frozen took the world by (snow) storm from its initial release up to and through about six to eight months after it came out on DVD. In April of 2013 I was at the Hollywood Studios park at Walt Disney World when I saw this teaser poster of a snowy landscape and the word "Frozen" at the bottom with "November" beneath it. Me and my family began speculating what this movie was going be and I just thought it was going to be "just another Disney movie" that would catch attention for a short time. I don't think I've ever been more wrong. Everyone was talking about Frozen, singing about Frozen, making YouTube videos about Frozen. It was a cinematic phenomenon that went on to easily obtain Best Animated Feature Film at the Oscars in 2014 as well as Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song. Beyond the awards, Frozen is just going to be one of those movies that in thirty years we're going to look back on as one of Disney Studios' most famous masterpieces. The only thing holding it back from the number one slot is that while Olaf is incredibly lovable and original, the story is still an age old Disney formula that has worked before. The princess film. Although it's quite the spin on "a princess film," that essentially is the core element. Number one, however, did something that it may stand on a lone pedestal for. Making a great video game movie.
1. Wreck-It Ralph
Many companies have attempted to create a successful video game adapted movie, but it's never really worked out. Yes, while Wreck-It Ralph was not directly a video game adaptation, it peppered in video game elements and other games into it. Its uniqueness makes it rise above the other seven on this list. Not to mention, all of Disney's heart, soul, and emotion was still present. Ralph also wrecks this list due to all the retro video game references and the puns in Sugar Rush. Because don't pretend you didn't love "Nesquik sand" or the Oreo security guards spoofing The Wizard of Oz. Wreck-It Ralph is the best Disney Animation Studios' non-Pixar film since 2000 due to its creative formula, one-of-a-kind success in the "video game movie" genre, and, well, everything else.