Top 10 MOST IMPORTANT Walt Disney Animation Studios films (in a positive context)

Honorable Mentions


Lilo and Stitch ends up being an honorable mention due to it becoming one of the biggest franchises from the WDAS lineup, especially during a tumultuous time for the company. It also holds importance to the company not only for making more money than its successors and predecessors, but due to it’s extremely small budget (so they are able to continue making bigger films). Stitch himself has become an icon for Disney; almost to the magnitude that Tinkerbell has.

Walt Disney Animation Studios 26th feature film

This film is an honorable mention for one main reason, and that is giving the studio faith to continue making animated films, since there was some serious doubt after the flop of The Black Cauldron. It is only an honorable mention because the studio seems to forget about it, and it is one of their only works that has been COMPLETELY untouched by the company outside of this film.


I know many people are wondering why this film is on here (even as an honourable mention), but if you have read my reviews, you know that The Little Mermaid gets a bit too much credit for certain formulas regarding the company and their films. This film is the reason why Disney is set on releasing a film every year, and brought music back to the forefront.


Honestly, I was debating about putting this on as an honorable mention, because it is not much of a milestone film. It’s not the first CGI film, and it’s not the film that revived the princess formula after almost 2 decades. But then I thought about it, and Tangled IS the film that revived the franchises (which was started with the short film, and is the first in a decade to receive a TV show). Many people see this film as the start of this new Revival era, as it’s their first successful film in a decade. It also changed the market of WDAS films up to this day. Now onto the actual list…

10. Frozen


OH MY GOSH, FROZEN IS ONLY AT 10. I know some people would not put this on the list at all, while others would put it really high, but I can’t see either side. It is undeniable regarding the impact Frozen left 3 years ago. It was TOO BIG to become a part of the Disney Princess franchise, and became it’s own franchise (which has kind of overshadowed the Disney Princess line). It is the first WDAS film to win an Academy Award for Best Animated film, and is the first to make a billion dollars. It is only at #10 because the others left a bigger impact, and changed the company for the better (results that we have seen, which we have not with this film yet).

9. Dumbo


Dumbo was the second success of WDAS when it first started, as most of their other films failed in the box office. This film was so big back in the day that it was going to be the main cover of Time Magazine, before Pearl Harbor took place.  What this film proved is that it’s not always about making these grand A-projects, but to sometimes make smaller films, and those will be the ones that are appreciated. It was conceived on a low budget, so it could retain some losses from Pinocchio and Fantasia, and it worked.

8. Peter Pan


I know a lot of people will be confused regarding it’s placement, but I just have to say this; Tinkerbell is used in almost every single Disney advertisement there is. That alone should signal that Peter Pan is one of WDAS’s top films. While Cinderella started the Silver age for the studio in the 50s, Alice in Wonderland proved that they were on inconsistent ground. Peter Pan was the film that proved that their success is not a one-time fluke, and this resurgence was here to stay. Peter Pan became a franchise from the 50s onwards to the present day, and is still one of Disney’s biggest icons.

7. The Lion King

Walt Disney Animation Studio's 32nd feature film.

I am sure people must be feeling sole type of way about this film only reaching number 7. It is the highest grossing traditionally animated film, was WDAS’ highest grossing film for close to 2 decades, and became one of Disney’s biggest franchises. Outside of that, I don’t really see other positives that it had on the studio. I mean, they did not try to repeat the storytelling from this film, and the film didn’t save anything. It is only here because of what a huge success it was.

6. The Rescuers


For some reason, this film is almost never on these type of lists, despite being important for a plethora of reasons. One is that it’s the first film to become a franchise, and what’s even better is that it’s a Canon sequel. Another is that it introduced a new form of Xerography that they used through the the 80s, and made Xerography softer-looking. The final reason is that this was the only huge success in the “Bronze/Dark” era of the canon.


5. Beauty and the Beast

Walt Disney Animation Studio's 30th feature film.

Beauty and the Beast is mainly on this list because the executives tried time and time again to replicate the formula and success of this film. What The Little Mermaid started with the musical format, this film built on it, and EXCELLED with it. This film was also the start of the more complex relationships and protagonists, so it gets more credit there as well. It was a monumental success that even the Academy acknowledged, and is not considered one of the best films in the canon. Despite this, I think the other films are more monumental, and changed more with the company.

4. One Hundred and One Dalmatians


This one is an extremely easy choice for me. While as a film in itself, it has garnered mixed reception, but this is EASILY one of the most important films in the canon. It introduced the Xerography format, as the ink-celled format proved to be too expensive to continue, as the animation industry was changing. The format was used for roughly 3 decades, and the film proved to be a smash success (one of the last the studio would have for a while). It has since become a franchise, and one of the most recognizable Disney films. The company would be extremely different if this film did not exist.

3. The Little Mermaid


The Little Mermaid definitely deserves to be this high. Despite all that I said in the Oliver & Company writeup, this film was the one that did all of that SUCCESSFULLY, and with no regrets. It started the Disney Renaissance, was one of the movies that saved the studio, and changed the function of storytelling for the canon.

2. Cinderella


Was there any doubt what the top two films would be? I am not going to spend much time on this, because everyone knows it. Not only Cinderella brought the company out of debt, and was monumental in the creation of Disney Land, but was a major factor in Disney distributing their music. It also started the new Silver Age of Disney Animation, and brought consistently back into the canon.

  1.  Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs


It is very simple. Without this film, there is no Disney Animation, and is still a staple almost 80 years later. This film and Cinderella are the backbone of the animation canon, and without those two films, there would be no canon.




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