Disney’s Underrated Gems

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A review of three underrated Disney films

From Cinderella and The Little Mermaid to The Lion King to Aladdin, Disney has produced some of the greatest animated films of all time; films that will forever be cemented in the memories of children and adults.  

October 16 marks the 100-year anniversary of Disney’s founding and as a company they have created some truly incredible movies, tv shows and cinematic universes. 

Most of these titles you will know well such as the iconic princess films, the adventures of Mickey Mouse and his friends, and their musical masterpieces. However, there are many Disney films which aren’t remembered as fondly or are simply not remembered at all.  

Whether they lacked the universal appeal of Disney’s most popular films or were the unfortunate subject of poor marketing, some of these films have failed to gain the same status as modern classics such as Frozen or Mulan.  

However, I believe there are films from Disney’s lengthy filmography which are truly underrated gems and, here are just three of these underappreciated films. 

Image credit: Walt Disney Studios

Treasure Planet 

Just as Treasure Planet masterfully blends 2D and 3D animation styles, it perfectly combines the sci-fi and adventure genres to create a thrilling story with a heart-warming relationship at the centre of it. 

Treasure Planet was released in 2003 and directed by John Musker and Rom Clements. It is a loose adaption of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel Treasure Island and follows troubled teen Jim Hawkins (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) as he strives to find purpose in his life by joining an expedition to find the legendary Treasure Planet.  

On its release, due to 2D animation becoming a dying art-style, it massively underperformed at the box office and was considered a failure. For fans, however, the animation style is considered a highlight with the seamless blend of 2D and 3D contributing to the richness and flavour of the otherworldly setting. 

The stand-out aspect of the film is the complex relationship developed between Jim and the ‘villain’ of the movie, Long John Silver (Brian Murphy). The characters play off one another so well and both encourage each other to be the best versions of themselves. Any one of Silver’s speeches to Jim is enough to bring tears to the eyes of any viewer. 

Treasure Planet is the ideal choice for fans of action and adventure with an intricate coming of age story tied in.  

Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios

The Black Cauldron 

Disney have ventured down dark paths with their films before, however, The Black Cauldron might just be the darkest. 

The Black Cauldron was released in 1985 and directed by Ted Berman and Richard Rich. It is an adaptation of the first volume of The Chronicles of Prydain. We follow young pig-keeper, Taran (Grant Bardsley), Princess Elionwy (Susan Sheridan), bard Fflewddur and the strange creature, Gurgi as they embark on a quest to find and destroy the Black Cauldron before the Horned King uses it to unleash unspeakable evil upon the world. 

The Black Cauldron was the first Disney movie to ever receive a PG rating and scenes were removed for the final release so as not to terrify young audiences. However, it is still claimed to be one of the scariest Disney films to date for its dark themes and disturbing imagery. 

While it does follow the quest storyline viewers will likely have seen before, the darker tone and terrifying villain certainly make it stand out, especially with the lack of truly menacing villains in this new era of Disney films.  

Darker concepts like The Black Cauldron are also becoming rarer so perhaps rediscovering an old, creepy classic is exactly what audiences need. 

Also, there is a psychic pig, what more can you ask for? 

Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios

The Great Mouse Detective  

The Great Mouse Detective expertly emulates the distinctive style of the character and world of Sherlock Holmes; the complex case, the genius detective, and the tricky villain the detective must uncover. However, as the title suggests, all the characters are mice. 

The Great Mouse Detective was released in 1986 and directed by Burny Mattinson, Ron Clements, John Musker and David Michener. The characters and story are based on the children’s book series The Great Mouse Detective by Eve Titus which was inspired by the character Sherlock Holmes created by Arthur Conan Doyle. 

The story follows Basil (Barrie Ingham), the mouse version of Sherlock and Dr Dawson (Val Bettin), the mouse version of Watson, as they investigate the kidnapping of a toy-maker by Basil’s arch-nemesis Professor Ratigan (Vincent Price) and uncover a sinister plot.  

The film is full of action, mystery and all of the particular quirks and details found in any Sherlock Holmes work. Basil and Dawson mirror their human counterparts perfectly and the dynamic they develop throughout the film is a highlight. 

If you are a fan of the traditional Sherlock Holmes stories you will likely enjoy The Great Mouse Detective for its action packed, compelling mystery and a cast of unique characters you will grow to love.  

These are only three of Disney’s forgotten wonders, however, there are plenty more just waiting to be rediscovered. So, if you are ever scrolling or looking for some Disney magic, maybe turn your attention to some less obvious choices. You might just find a new favourite.

Featured Image: Craig Adderley/Pexels

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