It’s no secret that I love Disney movies. So when my mom shared an opinion piece written by The Week correspondent Matthew Walther titled, “The 20 Best Disney Movies, Ranked” with me, you bet I was excited to read the opinions of a fellow Disney fan.
But that isn’t what I found in this article. I didn’t even really find a “20 best” list at all. Here is what I found instead.
1. More “Worst” Than “Best”
Overall, Walther spends more time talking about what he doesn’t like about Disney movies than why he thinks these 20 movies are the best.
At the very beginning of the article, he calls The Aristocats “a terrible film,” and then he includes a section about why he hates The Lion King – a section longer than any of his reviews of the films actually on his “20 best” list.
In his reviews of 101 Dalmatians and The Jungle Book, he devotes more words to what he doesn’t like about the films than what he does like.
In his reviews of Winnie the Pooh, The Great Mouse Detective, Cinderella, Bambi, and even in his number-one choice Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, he foregoes talking about why he likes the movie in place of talking about things that bother him about Disney – their bad adaptations, their use of computer animation, their princess franchise, and the way some people who worked on Disney films were mistreated by their boss.
A full article about any of those topics would be interesting in itself, but they seem very out of place in a “20 best” list. The idea of a “20 best” list is to talk about what you like. What you don’t like belongs in a “20 worst” list.
2. Inconsistent Criteria
Walther establishes in the title that he is going to rank Disney movies, but he has very inconsistent criteria for what makes a Disney movie deserving of a higher rank.
He opens the article defining the “essence” of Disney movies as “awe and wonder and swords” but later praises The Rescuers for being about a girl fending for herself “without the aid of magical powers” or “some kind of heroic destiny.”
In one section he scolds The Lion King for “lazy” animation, and in another he claims that the “shabby, patchwork quality of the animation” in Robin Hood (a film known for re-using animation from previous films) is a good quality of the film.
First he insists that everyone else is wrong about The Lion King and The Aristocats being good movies, and then he “defer[s] to public opinion” to include 101 Dalmatians on the list.
It’s okay for people to have opinions; that’s the whole point of a “top 20” list. However, ranking things requires some kind of internal consistency.
3. Counterfactual Claims
Throughout the article Walther makes some rather strange statements in order to support the movies that he does like, statements that make a Disney fan like me raise an eyebrow.
For example, Walther says that The Rescuers Down Under is “the only successful Disney sequel.” Though he does not define “success,” a quick Google search reveals that The Jungle Book 2, 102 Dalmatians, High School Musical 3, The Santa Clause 2 and 3, Cars 2 and 3, and Toy Story 2 and 3 all grossed higher at the box office than The Rescuers Down Under.
Walther also claims that Robin Hood was “the last great Disney musical.” Again, he does not say what makes a musical “great,” but several Disney musical films have been adapted into successful Broadway productions, and every one of these musicals – including Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and yes, The Lion King – were created after Robin Hood.
These claims leave me feeling like Walther thinks that in order for him to like a Disney sequel or musical, all of the other sequels and musicals must be bad. That is simply untrue.
To be fair, Walther makes good points about some of the movies on his list. His explanations of why he likes The Nightmare Before Christmas, Fantasia, and Sleeping Beauty in particular merit my complete agreement. But that makes the rest of the article all the more baffling to me.
While this article has the format of a “20 best” list, the majority of it does not have the content of a “20 best” list. When Walther does talk about what he thinks is the “best,” rather than celebrate them as the works of great entertainment that they are, he makes a point of putting down the rest of Disney’s film.
I went into this article expecting the joy of a fellow Disney fan. Instead, I found a clumsy diatribe that probably only used the listicle format and “top 20” title in order to draw in views.