Disney By the Numbers: A (mostly) Objective Ranking of the Disney Animated Canon

A Honeymoon at Walt Disney World.

That was always a foregone conclusion for us when we discussed our wedding. We even, lightly, considered a Disney Wedding but ruled that out due to the financial burden that would put on our families among other things. But we knew we would honeymoon there so we immediately began making plans.

In the midst of this planning, another thought occurred to us. Why not watch every single Disney Animated Feature in chronological order as a way to ‘prep’ for the trip? As we discussed we then started talking about which ones were our favorites and the question came up.

“What makes a Disney movie a Disney movie?”

On the surface the answer is simple.

Does it have this logo?


Or maybe this one?


Or failing that, does it have the words “Walt Disney Presents”… written in the title card. Or was produced by the Walt Disney Animation Studios?

If the answer to any of those is yes… then congratulations! You’re watching a Disney movie!

But the thing is, Disney has produced over 58 films across 9 decades. These movies  adapted everything from fairy tales to classic works of literature to children’s novelty books. They were worked on by countless animators, voice-actors, and producers. With such a storied history and pedigree, is it really possible to expect a coherent tone? If so, what common factors feature into these movies that make them feel like Disney?

What slowly emerged from our conversations were a series of tropes and criteria that when combined, formed the backbone of what made an animated feature more than just a long cartoon and instead a Disney movie. We developed a rating system to separate the Black Cauldrons from the Little Mermaids, the Chicken Littles from the Tangleds, even The Rescuers from The Rescuers Down Under.

Don’t give us that look! We all know it’s true!


From there we developed this probably overly elaborate ranking 100 point system with categories and subcategories to delve deep into what makes these movies tick:


  • Theme
  • Tightness of Script
  • Dialogue
  • Use of Comedy
  • Use of Drama


  • Lyrics
  • Score
  • Number of Songs
  • Notoriety of Songs


  • Fluidity of Animation
  • Use Of Color
  • House Style
  • Character Design
  • Breaks New Ground

Love Story

  • Character Interaction
  • Importance To Overall Plot
  • Complexity
  • Pulls At Heartstrings
  • Overcomes Obstacles


  • Sidekick
  • Charm
  • Goodness
  • Emotional Transformation
  • Comedy


  • Evilness
  • Comedy
  • Sophistication
  • Henchmen
  • Poses A Threat

Supporting Characters

  • Comedy
  • Inventiveness
  • Clear Help Or Hindrance
  • Strength of Relationship with Main Character

Disney Magic and Legacy

  • Theme Park Presence
  • Timelessness
  • Impact On Culture
  • Scope of Audience
  • Disney Feels (Or Did It Make use Cry?)
Pretty much how we felt

Over the course of this review series we’re going to break down each movie, from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, to Frozen 2. Each movie will be evaluated on categories such as Story, Music, Hero, and Villain. The goal will be determining, as objectively as possible, which ones are the best.

Now the goal was to get all of this done in the months before our trip. And to be honest, we got as far as Beauty and the Beast before the big trip came and went. But afterwards we continued, and let’s be honest here. It wasn’t always easy. Disney movies can soar like as high as Peter Pan but they can also sink as low as Hades. Either way we’re finally ready to present to you, dear reader,  the Disney Animated Features ranked, by the numbers.

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