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Now that Disney+ is here, you’ve probably made a list of all your favorite Disney movies to rewatch. But one of the advantages of subscribing to this streaming service is the opportunity to discover long-lost classics from the Disney universe. This may come as a surprise to you, but there are a number of great films that, unfortunately, Disney seems to have forgotten over the years.
In today’s article, we’re going to share a roundup of 15 underrated gems from Disney. They range from animated classics to modern productions and live-action movies. You may vaguely recall some of these titles, while others might not even ring a bell. But fortunately, with Disney+, you have the opportunity to discover them or rewatch them whenever you want. Feel like joining us on a magical journey through the Disney universe?
1. Bedknobs and Broomsticks
After the success of Mary Poppins, Disney decided to produce a similar movie, that is, one with scenes of real-life actors interacting with cartoon characters. The result is the charming Bedknobs and Broomsticks, an adventure whose incredible animated sequences and visual effects continue to amaze us. Especially noteworthy is the film’s climax, when Eglantine Price, the protagonist newbie witch (played by a young Angela Lansbury), will conjure up a very curious army to face a legion of Nazis. It also has catchy musical numbers such as “Portobello Road” and “The Beautiful Briny.”
2. The Great Mouse Detective
Many believe the Disney Renaissance began with The Little Mermaid, but that’s not entirely true. Released three years earlier, The Great Mouse Detective brought together most of the ingredients that would make Disney succeed in the ’90s: an agile script, a charismatic hero (who can resist the mouse version of Sherlock Holmes?), excellent animation and, of course, a great villain. The final battle, in and out of London’s iconic Big Ben, is still quite spectacular. It was also one of the pioneers in introducing computer animation.
3. The Great Muppet Caper
We all remember the endearing The Muppet Christmas Carol or The Muppets reboot from 2011, but The Great Muppet Caper has been largely forgotten. It was the film that launched the absurd, self-referential comedy that now permeates everything related to the Muppets. In fact, the movie opens with a song acknowledging that this is a movie (“Hey a Movie!”) and explaining how Kermit the Frog and Fozzie will play two journalists who are identical twins. This moment sets the tone for the entire film! The adventure is full of misunderstandings, trickery and stellar actors like Monty Python’s John Cleese
4. Hocus Pocus
Hocus Pocus was released in 1993 with limited success, but in recent years it has luckily become regarded as a cult classic. And for good reason: the film is the quintessential ’90s movie that mixes genres without a problem. It offers 96 minutes of horror, comedy, fantasy, suspense… as we follow a teenager, Max Dennison, who inadvertently resurrects the Sandersons, a trio of fearsome witches played by Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker
5. Darby O’Gill and the Little People
Darby O’Gill and the Little People is a must-see movie for fans of old-fashioned special effects. We’re talking about the homemade kind, without any computerized tweaking. This story of an Irishman who captures the king of the leprechauns and gets him to grant three wishes is full of magical scenes with great special effects and editing.
6. Waking Sleeping Beauty
Here we’re breaking the rules a bit by recommending a documentary instead of a fictional film, but it’s well worth it. Waking Sleeping Beauty tells the story of how Walt Disney Feature Animation returned to the fore of entertainment after multiple box-office flops and productions that dragged on forever. Specifically, after the disaster that was The Black Cauldron, the situation was so dire that many analysts of the era believed Disney was finished. How did it go from that to The Little Mermaid, The Lion King or Aladdin? Watch the documentary to find out!
7. 10 Things I Hate About You
10 Things I Hate About You is a modern-day adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew, one of William Shakespeare’s most popular comedies. In its day, the film’s romantic misunderstandings and hidden life lessons truly resonated with the ’90s generation. How will you feel when you watch it now? You may wonder why today’s teen romantic comedies can’t be as smart and mature as this one. And if you’re still not convinced, you can always satisfy your curiosity by checking out a young Heath Ledger, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Julia Stiles
8. The Parent Trap (1961)
The title of The Parent Trap may bring to mind a movie from the late ’90s with Lindsay Lohan playing twins separated at birth, but we’re referring to the original ’60s film with Hailey Mills as the lead. The adventure is the same: twins who learn of each other’s existence at summer camp and then try to get their parents back together. But this version is better than its remake because it doesn’t consider itself a kids’ movie: it’s endearing without being cheesy, and smart when it needs to be.
9. The Princess and the Frog
The Princess and the Frog was Disney’s last movie with traditional animation… because when it was released, it went largely unnoticed. And that’s a shame, because it’s an excellent remake of a classic tale, now set in New Orleans. Tiana was the first African-American Disney princess, and her strong, proactive personality makes her an excellent role model for kids. Oh, and in case you were wondering: yes, the villain’s song lives up to expectations!
10. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is still one of Disney’s best live-action films because of its stunning special effects (the movie won an Oscar for them in 1955), its massive dose of adventure, James Mason’s portrayal of Captain Nemo and Kirk Douglas as whaler Ned Land. The adventure begins when a mysterious sea monster is sinking ships in the Pacific Ocean. An expedition is launched to find out if the beast really exists, receiving help from Nemo and his iconic submarine, the Nautilus.
11. The Black Cauldron
Remembered by few, The Black Cauldron is one of Disney’s most underrated animated films. Based on the first two books in The Chronicles of Prydain (The Book of Three and The Black Cauldron), the movie follows the adventures of Taran, a swineherd. He dreams of being a hero, but instead of having adventures and battling monsters, his life is centered on looking after Hen Wen, a little pig. However, Hen Wen is no ordinary animal, because when she touches her snout to water, she has the ability to see the future. One day, Hen Wen runs away due to a mistake by Taran and is captured by the Horned King and his minions. Will Taran manage to rescue her with the help of Princess Eilonwy, the bard Fflewddur Fflam and the adorable Gurgi? Magical, spooky and full of unforgettable moments, The Black Cauldron is a film that no Disney or fantasy fan should miss.
12. The Sword in the Stone
Want to know why Disney’s theme parks have a huge rock with a sword stuck in it? The Sword in the Stone is Disney’s fun and (never better said) magical take on the Arthurian legend. While it isn’t the most recognized or remembered film from the makers of Mickey Mouse, it has everything it needs to dazzle viewers of all ages. The Sword in the Stone follows the adventures of Arthur (“Wart” to his friends), a young orphan and apprentice squire who, after an accident in the forest, meets the wizard Merlin. After seeing a very promising future in Arthur, the enchanter will return to the castle with him and become his tutor. Magic, adventures, unforgettable songs and an exciting wizards’ duel are a taste of what awaits you in this movie.
13. Atlantis: The Lost Empire
Atlantis: The Lost Empire was the first fantasy and science fiction film created by Walt Disney Feature Animation. This movie had everything it needed to succeed: a good story based on Jules Verne, charismatic main characters, and loads of special effects that looked amazing on the big screen. However, the film went largely unnoticed, and to this day, many people have forgotten that it is one of the Disney classics. If you haven’t had the chance to see it yet, we suggest you join Milo Thatch and his expedition on their search for the underwater empire of Atlantis. It’s worth the trip!
14. Treasure Planet
In the wake of Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Disney tried its luck with a futuristic adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s tale, Treasure Island. Called Treasure Planet, the movie follows young Jim Hawkins on some mind-blowing adventures. Using a holographic map, Jim sets out to find the so-called “Loot of a Thousand Worlds,” hidden in some corner of the galaxy. Aboard the RLS Legacy, Hawkins will hunt for the treasure and befriend the cyborg John Silver… but behind their friendship, there may be hidden intentions. With its amazing design and hair-raising action, Treasure Planet is a film that will delight animation and science fiction fans.
15. Pete’s Dragon
To bring our list to a close, Pete’s Dragon is another magical Disney film that, similar to Bedknobs and Broomsticks and Mary Poppins, successfully mixes real-life images with cartoons. This film follows the adventures of Pete, an orphan boy who was bought by the Gogan family and is treated as a servant. While staying with them, the boy meets Elliott, an invisible dragon that he is able to see. One day, the two decide to run away from the Gogan family in search of a better life. Exceptionally sweet and full of memorable moments, Pete’s Dragon is a beautiful story of friendship that you cannot miss.
We hope you liked our selection of lost and underrated classics from Disney. Don’t forget to watch them on Disney+! Do you know of any others that should be on this list? Tell us about them in the comments section!