I am a Disney nerd – obviously. I wrote my undergrad dissertation on Disney films, and now I’m writing a postgraduate thesis on animation a bit more generally; I’ve seen every film in the Disney canon at least once – even the weird ones. Along the way I’ve discovered some hidden gems, tucked away, overshadowed by the classics – these films are unloved, but that doesn’t make them any less great. In short, today I’m gonna recommend a few of my favourite underrated Disney movies.
The Black Cauldron (1985) dir. Richard Rich and Ted Berman
The first of two eighties films on the list, The Black Cauldron has a bit of a Marmite reputation: for every person that loves it, there is someone who’ll hate it. It’s darker than a lot of other Disney, and sort of loosely based on some Welsh mythology – so it’s full of dragons and swordplay and wizards. It’s can be trippy in places, but it’s also really unique, and if you have a spare couple of hours, it’s absolutely worth your time.
The Great Mouse Detective (1987) dir. Ron Clements, Burny Mattinson, Dave Michener, and John Musker.
This is the directorial debut of two of Disney’s most iconic directors: Ron Clements and John Musker are the fellas behind The Little Mermaid, Hercules, The Princess and the Frog, Moana… basically, they’ll almost definitely had a hand in at least one or two of your favourite Disney films. This was their first ever feature film, and get this – it’s a Disney adaptation of Sherlock Holmes. Let that sink in. Sherlock becomes a mouse called Basil, and the story is as deliciously silly as that sounds. The visuals are stunning, it’s funny as hell, and honestly, I’m not sure why it isn’t a classic.
Winnie the Pooh (2011) dir. Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall.
This is the last traditionally animated Disney film to date – since this was released, only computer animated films, like Wreck-It Ralph or Frozen, have been made by Disney. That breaks my heart a little bit, but if this were the last hand drawn movie they ever make, at least it’s a wonderful one. There’s not really much to say that you can’t guess: the beloved Pooh bear and his gang spend an hour getting up to mischief, singing cute songs (the Backson!), and just sort of generally being adorable. The voice cast are fantastic, the animation is beautifully done, and adults and kids of any age will love it.
If you haven’t seen any of these films, get them on your to-watch list. I promise you’ll have fun.