The Disney corporation has come to be a multifaceted mechanism with the ability to capture the attentions of both adults and adolescents alike.
Childhood specifically, however, has been characterized for many by the litany of Disney films that they watched. These include the basic Disney classics such as “The Little Mermaid,” “The Lion King” and “Aladdin.”
Yet, Disney has a wider variety of material that is often forgotten as a result of the success of some of its larger, higher-grossing productions. The fact of the matter is that the majority of these “forgotten” films have the same value as those that have gained massive acclaim.
The following is a list of some of the most clever, quirky, creative, innovative or cute films that have been produced by Disney, yet have not achieved the same renown as higher grossing films. This not only extends to the Disney Renaissance (taking place primarily in the 1990s and beginning with the Little Mermaid), but also to those films that were successful in the earlier years (i.e. “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” and “Mary Poppins”) and those that were successful in recent history (i.e. “Frozen” and Tangled”). The films recognized on this list are from Disney’s “dark age” during which their films received less acclaim (this era accounts for the time after creator Walt Disney’s death in 1966, to the release of “The Little Mermaid” in the early 1990s).
Disclaimer: this list is subjective and was not placed in a specific order. The items listed are shows that have been deemed obscure as they belong to Disney’s “dark age.”
The Black Cauldron: released in 1985
This movie documents a much darker story than the Disney corporation had focused on prior to this point in time. It tells the story of a young lad, Taran, and his pig Henwig as they face off against the “horned king.” The story itself has many undertones that seem reflective of Tolkien work (i.e. the “Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit”). This particular Disney film is one that would appeal to audiences who enjoy darker themes and undertones as well as those who enjoy fantasy.
The Rescuers: released in 1977
This movie tells the story of two mice, Bernard and Miss Bianca, who belong to the Rescue Aid Society, an organization of Mice who seek to aid in the protection of children all across the globe. The organization itself is somewhat comparable to the UN as they have many [mouse] representatives from across the globe. Bianca and Bernard go on a quest to protect one little girl in particular named Penny who is being held captive by a malicious villainess in some sort of swamp. This particular movie has brilliant character design especially when it comes to the movie villainess who has a similar look to Cruella De Vil. The mice in the story are also incredibly charming with Bernard’s quirky bashfulness and Bianca’s determined goodness. The film also opens with a rather lovely tune that pushes forth an eerie feeling.
The Sword in the Stone: released in 1963
This film documents the beginnings of a young King Arthur in a way that is accessible to audiences of all ages. Once again, this is a film which focuses on fantasy and creates a wide array of interestingly comedic characters. One of the most notable individuals in the story is the “Mad” Madam Mim, one of the story’s antagonists who is in opposition of Arthur’s teacher Merlin. Not only is she a well-animated character, but she is also a character with an incredibly comedic song (“Mad Madam Mim”) that pulls in the audience.
The Aristocats: released in 1970
This film documents the adventures of Duchess the cat and her three kittens as they are kidnapped by their owner’s butler and then forced to wander about the French countryside with O’Malley the Alley Cat. The movie itself is likely best known for the song “Everybody Wants to be a Cat” and character Marie, the youngest female kitten in the film. It’s a film worth watching simply because it’s very quirky and comical like many of the other films of the time.
The Great Mouse Detective: released in 1986
By far the most notable movie on the list, “The Great Mouse Detective” tells the tale of [mouse] detective Basil From Baker Street as he helps a young mouse find her father who was abducted by the Malicious Ratagan. Through the entirety of the movie, the setting is consistent with that of Sherlock holmes as Basil lives beneath Sherlock Holmes and even has a portly companion, a mouse called “Watson.” Many darker themes are dealt with in this show and has a bit of a different appeal than the average Disney movie with a childish take on an old story, a recurring theme throughout this era.
During Disney’s Dark age, many movies could be characterized by fantastical themes or the themes of famous literary works. These are but a few examples of films that haven’t gained an incredible amount of recognition in comparison to their more successful counterparts. Disney provides a treasure trove of films that are worth watching, despite their obscurity.
Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures