To honor the rich history of animated feature film making over the years, Joey Armstrong has chosen 50 animated films that have had some of the greatest cultural impact on adults and children alike.
8. Toy Story (1995)
John Lasseter’s Toy Story was and remains a revelation of animated film. It is as important as the very first animated feature film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Like Star Wars and The Wizard of Oz, you don’t necessarily have to like or even enjoy Toy Story. Your opinion has been overruled by its very presence and legacy. It is as timeless as any great film and it has been ruled a classic by the very cosmos themselves.
Woody the cowboy doll (voiced by Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear the toy spaceman (Tim Allen) have become just as iconic as Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, Batman, or Spongebob Squarepants. Not only did Pixar change the animation game forever, they also created a window into childlike wonder and quest narrative that Disney had been striving for since the early days ofPinocchio and Bambi. There is no doubt that Toy Story does it the best.
Sure, the story isn’t all that complex and the characters seem fairly standard for a family film, but, the themes of capturing childhood in a SINGLE PARENT family (this really pissed off Dr. James Dobson and his conservative Evangelical disciples) and learning how to accept people who are different from you are timeless. Not to mention the friggin’ magic! These toys come to life! Not only that, but they are the very center of the narrative. We love Toy Story because it is well made, touching, and valiant, but, it is also inventive, daring, and a significant challenge to adults to recapture that sense of imagination and wonder that, without a doubt, makes the world a better place. Toy Story started one of the most significant revolutions in American animation and it has not been equaled.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was technically the very first Disney princess film, but, in some ways, it doesn’t count. William Cotrell’s Snow White was a film about a perilous adventure. The Dwarfs of the title were just as important as Snow White. The film is not solely about or reliant on her. Clyde Geronomi’s Cinderella came 13 years after Walt Disney’s very first animated feature film, but, it was the first of the Disney films to establish the princess character as the center of the story’s universe. The title character was, in a way, the first of the Disney princesses. The presence of this film, alone, skyrocketed Disney Studios to infinite heights of fame and changed the entire Disney empire forever. Every Disney princess and princess film owe something to Cinderella and her band of mouse disciples.
The music is classy, the sparkly blue dress with the long white gloves is elegant as hell and well….it’s the blue dress! What more do you want?? Also, Lady Tremaine, Cinderella’s evil stepmom, became the archetype for evil stepmothers everywhere, and damn, is she SCARY. There are only a couple of Disney villains who I find genuinely terrifying and Lady Tremaine (voiced by Eleanor Audley) is one of them. She may be second to the Queen/Witch inSnow White but she is a CLOSE second. Then there’s the friendly house mice Jaq and Gus-Gus, the cat Lucifer aka “Lucifee,” and the Fairy Godmother. Who doesn’t want friggin birds tweeting love songs to you in your shower??
Cinderella’s story, a well-known one for sure, has lived on into immortality. It is truly timeless and important because it’s about a young woman who is lifted from the oppression of abuse and poverty and given something to live for. She is reminded of her worth. In that way, she may be the most feminist and most important of the Disney princesses.
Joey Armstrong is a hospital chaplain from Western New York. He is also a playwright and amateur cartoonist. Follow him on Twitter @chaplainmystic and Medium, where he writes more reviews for film and television.