Entertainment Geekly is a weekly column that examines contemporary pop culture through a geek lens and simultaneously examines contemporary geek culture through a pop lens. So many lenses! Click here for past columns.
Last week I wrote a long and rant-y column about the Disney Myth, as constructed in Saving Mr. Banks and deconstructed in Escape From Tomorrow. In an effort to prove I’m not the world’s biggest grouch — and because I spent the past week in the metaphorical Disneyland known as “being back home with my family for the holidays” — I decided to try an experiment that would prove just how completely Disney has colonized our minds. But, like, in a fun way.
Without resorting to the internet, I tried to make a list of my Top 100 Disney Things: Official Disney-branded movies, TV shows, interactive experiences, whatever, all ranked in the chronological order that they popped into my mind. It was sort of a pop culture version of a Proust memory experience, with one vividly recalled childhood memory leading into another. I recommend making your own Disney Top 100, especially if you’re A) bored or B) in the mood to get a couple dozen songs stuck in your head.
(A note: What follows is purposefully unofficial. Precisely what defines a “Disney thing” was left intentionally vague, but I opted not to consider, like, TV shows produced by ABC or movies produced by Miramax after both companies were respectively purchased by Disney, unless they “felt” like specifically Disney-esque things. To paraphrase Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart: I shall not attempt to define what “Disney-esque” is, but I know it when I see it. Also, the nature of this exercise is meant to be off-the-cuff and reveal certain personal biases, such as my clear preference for Duck-related comics and my equally clear distaste for anything involving Mickey Mouse.)
1. “The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck,” by Don Rosa
A 12-part comic book series that tracks the globetrotting life story of Uncle Scrooge. Modeled in part on Citizen Kane and based on decades’ worth of comic book history. Basically Disney’s version of Watchmen, except much funnier and much sadder.
2. “The Treasure of the Ten Avatars” by Don Rosa
A richly detailed one-off adventure that sends Scrooge, Donald, and the nephews to India. Involves references to Alexander the Great and an Indiana Jones-y hidden temple built on deathtraps modeled on various strands of Hindu mythology. Who says comics can’t be education?
3. Really every Scrooge McDuck comic book by Don Rosa
Cheating my way out of this one because I could probably make it the whole 100.
4. “Tralla La” by Carl Barks
A one-off adventure that begins with Scrooge suffering from debilitating panic attacks, Tony Soprano-style, before setting off for a mythical land without money. Tragic irony ensues, hilariously.
5. The moment in Carl Barks’ “North of the Yukon” when Scrooge gives up all his riches to save his sled dog from drowning.
Oh god, I might cry just thinking about it. I’m only on #5! This is going to be emotional.
6. “Only a Poor Old Man” by Carl Barks.
The definitive Scrooge story. Just throw in everything else Carl Barks ever did, too.
7. “The Money Ocean” by Marco Rota.
Scrooge’s money bin turns into a money ocean. Promise this is the last comic book on here. Can’t promise this is the last Scrooge McDuck-related entry on here.
8. High School Musical 1 and 3
The first movie was a cheap accident with catchy tunes that turned the blandest boringest most colorless vision of suburban high school into a kind of cultural monomyth. The third movie is a pop culture vortex, a High School Musical about a high school musical that appears to be a commentary on High School Musical. And the tunes are still catchy, too!
9. The Incredibles
Not sure if it’s Pixar’s best, but it’s definitely it’s biggest departure from the Pixar formula. (IE: “Talking things that don’t usually talk.”)
10. Finding Nemo
But what’s wrong with talking things that don’t usually talk?
My personal childhood fave.
12. The Lion King
Unless maybe this is my personal childhood fave.
13. The Lion King on Broadway
Seems likely that in the near future midtown Manhattan will be rezoned “Lion King Land.”
14. Mickey’s Christmas Carol
So good it makes A Muppet Christmas Carol look like that freaky dead-eyed Jim Carrey Christmas Carol.
15. The bright orange Disney Christmas Carol” audiocassette
Just for the group sing-a-long to “Twelve Days of Christmas.”
16. The Chip and Dale cartoon where Mickey cuts down their tree to make a Christmas Tree.
And they come into conflict with Pluto. Generally speaking I don’t care for Pluto or Mickey, but Chip and Dale made them raise their game.
17. The Little Mermaid
Has third-act problems, but Sebastian is a First Round Sidekick pick on my Disney fantasy team.
18. Beauty and the Beast
And Belle is my first-round Princess, mostly because she’s not really a Princess.
19. The Haunted Mansion: The Ride
Child Me was not informed that the ghosts weren’t real.
20. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Ride
Still the only theme park ride I want to live in.
21. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
Pretty much a perfect action-adventure. Depp in Pirates 1 is one of the weirdest things Disney has ever allowed to happen.
22. Toy Story trilogy
2 is my favorite. But 3 has the best moment of any of the movies. You know, with the toys all holding hands as they OH GOD I CAN’T THE EMOTIONS.
23. The first act of WALL-E
All the other movie apocalypses of the last decade have to be judged next to Pixar’s post-human trashtropolis.
24. 101 Dalmatians
In hindsight, this is about as close as Disney ever came to giving us a Birds and a Bees talk.
25. This picture.
Unclear if George Lucas is sad, happy, or confused. Us, too.
27. The Three Caballeros
Just your typical bilingual educational travelogue musical film. At one point, Donald basically experiences the 2001 wormhole trip sequence twenty years early. Watched this VHS tape to tatters.
28. The “Night on Bald Mountain” sequence from Fantasia
I think it’s about, like, hell?
29. Kingdom Hearts
Remember that one time, when someone made a mash-up of every Disney character with every Final Fantasy character, and somehow it worked? If memory serves, is set in a universe where the time-space continuum is ruptured and the only way to fix it is by collecting hearts. Will hopefully be the basis for a post-apocalyptic religion someday.
30. Star Tours
Totally worth the two-hour line, Mom and Dad, I swear!
31. Frontier Land
Does this still exist at Disneyland? Do kids still know what the frontier is?
32. DuckTales: The Treasure of the Golden Sun
The kickoff multi-episode movie which started the Disney Afternoon linchpin. Features an important public service message about gold fever.
33. DuckTales The Videogame
So difficult, you guys.
34. Quack Pack
An attempt to redo DuckTales, this time done in a “cool” way. But, like, cool for the mid-’90s. An essential artifact from a miserable era.
Monstro still freaks me out.
36. Aladdin 2: Return of Jafar
The only worthwhile direct-to-video sequel.
37. Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers
Features my First Round Villain draft pick: Fat Cat, the metaphorical fat cat who is also an actual fat cat.
If I had a time machine, I wouldn’t want to go anywhere except for the TaleSpin pitch meeting. “So guys, we need to refresh the Jungle Book brand.” “I got it! Let’s take all the characters out of the jungle and resettle them in a retro-future science-fiction universe that could best be described as Sky Punk. Everyone flies planes, and ‘air pirates’ are a thing, and our onscreen everykid surfs through the air on a metal boomerang.” “Hmmm, sounds interesting. But could the tone of the show simultaneously resemble Casablanca, Cheers, and anti-Soviet propaganda films?” “Absolutely!” [Handshakes and highballs ensue.]
39. Gummi Bears
Bouncing here. And there. And everywhere.
40. The “Disney Afternoon” theme song
41. Cars, Cars 2, and Planes
The post-human automobile series (and the off-brand Dane-Cooked travesty franchise it spawned) serve an important purpose. They are the essential imperfection that allows us to to paradoxically recognize Pixar’s perfection.
Not just a good movie, but an important watershed moment in the gradual canonization of Patton Oswalt.
43. Monster’s Inc
The most perfectest ending of any of the Pixar movies, trumping even Toy Story 3.
44. A Bug’s Life
Prettier than Antz, albeit less funny than Antz.
45. Katzenberg’s lawsuit against Disney
Admittely not a typical pop culture thing, at least not until someone makes a movie about the Katzenberg-Eisner rivalry. Ideally a movie written by Aaron Sorkin and directed by Paul Greengrass, starring Vin Diesel as Katzenberg and The Rock as Eisner.
46. Once Upon a Time
Admittedly have never actually watched it, but I like reading about the show and imagining how much sillier it can get.
47. The Straight Story
David Lynch directs a G-rated film about the world’s oldest old man. Played by the late, great Richard Farnsworth.
48. The Richest Cat in the World
A TV movie from the ’80s. Definitely needs a reboot.
49. The Black Cauldron
Supposedly the first movie I ever saw. Usually remembered as the last bad gasp of the pre-Little Mermaid era, but it’s an essential piece of Dark Disney history. Feels like an attempt to out-weird The Last Unicorn but also make Star Wars in Middle-Earth.
Me now: “An important turning point for the presentation of female characters in Disney films.” Me when I first saw it: “Swords!”
Is it just me, or does Gus the Tubby Mouse from Cinderella kind of look like Monterey Jack from Rescue Rangers?
52. Sleeping Beauty
Maleficent is tops in my book. Fingers crossed for that Angeline Jolie Wicked-ish reboot.
53. The Rescuers
Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor play a janitor and a socialite who solve crimes while slowly falling in love? Take out the fact that they’re mice, and this is, like, the great lost ’70s detective show.
54. The Rescuers Down Under
There’s a side universe where The Little Mermaid never happened, Disney never had a new renaissance in animated features, and the company spent the ’90s releasing Rescuers sequels. I’d be totally happy in that universe.
55. All the pervy hidden easter eggs in the G-rated cartoons, like the nude woman in The Rescuers.
Mostly because rumors about them convinced me and all my friends that our Disney VHS tapes were positively overflowing with hidden messages. Different days before the internet, kids.
56. The cartoon where Donald and the newphews get into an epic snowball fight.
Because every real-life snowball fight felt like a mere imitation.
57. The cartoon where Donald plays hockey with the nephews.
Terrifying passage-of-time moment: Watching both of those cartoons now, I emphasize more with Donald than the nephews. Darn kids.
58. The “Litterbug” song.
59. The “Donald Duck Presents” theme song.
Best description I’ve ever heard of the ’80s: “Wild and wacky quackin’.”
60. James Woods as Hades in Hercules.
Makes Robin Williams in Aladdin look like Larry the Cable Guy in Cars 2.
61. The old Davy Crockett show.
Somehow I watched a lot of this when I was a kid. I’m almost positive there’s something offensive about them.
62. The Swiss Family Robinson.
Could possibly recite every line of dialogue from start to finish. Shocking that ABC has not remade this as a 13-episode limited series (with option for pick-up.) Pirates! Tigers! Tree house!
63. The Black Hole
An attempt to do their own Star Wars somehow led Disney to create a mash-up of Solaris and 2001, complete with an ending sequence where everyone joins Donald on his Three Caballeros trip scene.
64. Mary Poppins
Now every song is stuck in my head.
65. The Mickey Mouse Club
Turns out it invented the modern world.
66. The song “Like Me” from Teen Beach Movie
The movie was a truly miserable Grease riff that attempted to recapture that High School Musical magic. But this one song is damn catchy, and also prepares the children of today for the confusingly redefined gender norms they’ll all have to figure out together in a few years.
67. Glenn Close in the 101 Dalmatians remake.
Essentially Tony Montana for kids.
68. The train scene from The Lone Ranger.
Too bad it was preceded by the first three hours of The Lone Ranger.
69. Marvel Studios’ output post-Captain America.
Although scholars will struggle to figure out precisely if and when the Disney influence started to penetrate the Great Wall of Marvel Studios.
70. That Robin Hood with animals.
Peter Ustinov, never better.
71. Peter Pan
I seem to recall being extremely disturbed by this when I was a kid. Probably because of Captain Hook, right?
Basically the only part of Song of the South anyone has seen in decades.
73. The Nightmare Before Christmas
Because what other movie is equally good Halloween viewing and Christmas viewing?
74. Alice in Wonderland
The cartoon, not the Depp monstrosity.
75. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
I always preferred Bashful.
76. The Steamboat Willie level in Epic Mickey
Pretty sure I’ve never actually seen Steamboat Willie.
77. Bedknobs and Broomsticks
For a time — say, from when I was 3 to 5 — this was in heavy rotation in our VCR. Maybe better than Mary Poppins, question mark?
78. All the “Donald Goes to War” propaganda shorts.
Except that one with the really, really awful racial caricatures. Actually, now that I think about it, this whole series is kind of disturbing. He’s in WORLD WAR TWO. Like, Private Ryan is fighting alongside him, basically. Mark this down as “thing that wouldn’t happen today, never never never.”
79. The Sword in the Stone
Mad Madam Mim!
Another bold experiment that turned into a weird curio.
82. The soundtrack for TRON: Legacy by Daft Punk
Raises the whole movie up a whole grade.
83. The Enchanted Tiki Room
“In the Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki room/In the Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki room!”
84. Main Street, U.S.A.
Because someday the aliens will find it, and they will know who we were. Or at least who we thought wanted to be.
85. Figment at Epcot Center
I think he was a dragon who taught us about imagination? Would not shut up about him for months after going.
86. The Hall of Presidents
Hey, I liked history.
87. My Davy Crockett cap
Is Davy Crockett still a thing with kids? Was it even a thing when I was a kid? Now I’m thinking that my parents might have just handed me down some of their Crockett paraphernalia and pretended I was growing up decades earlier. This would explain a lot.
88. Bill Nighy in the crappy Pirates of the Caribbean sequels
I would watch a Saturday Morning Cartoon show about the life and times of Davy Jones.
90. Jean Simmons in the English dub of Howl’s Moving Castle
The Miyazaki film’s translation dub was overseen by Pixar. A weird movie, but Jean Simmons as the lead character’s old-lady incarnation is pretty much perfect.
91. “You’ll Be In My Heart” by Phil Collins
Tarzan‘s okay, but this song really gets stuck in your head.
92. The baseball dance number in High School Musical 2
Important evidence that baseball and dancing just don’t mix. Basketball and dancing: Perfect. Football and dancing: Reply hazy. Hockey and dancing: Possible. Baseball and dancing: No.
93. The growing-old montage from Up
94. The Aristocats
But mainly because it’s funny to imagine someone accidentally renting The Aristocrats.
95. The Bugs Bunny/Mickey Mouse cameo in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
96. That One Song by the Jonas Brothers
You know the one I’m talking about.
97. The Lizzie McGuire Movie
Watched it on a long plane ride after a stressful vacation. Whither the Duffs of yesteryear?
99. Everything Disney ever did with Winnie the Pooh.
100. The Lady and the Tramp spaghetti scene.
Did anything else actually happen in this movie?
101. Spring Breakers and “We Can’t Stop” and that Joe Jonas mini-memoir at Vulture.
Unofficial Bonus entry for what has become a generational trend ever since Annette Funicello started wearing bikinis in movies. Disney Kids Go Bad, 2013 Edition.