The Art of Disney: Disney’s Ten Most Visually-Stunning Animated Films
10. Alice in Wonderland
Though it may not be one of the favorite films of the Disney canon (it happens to be my favorite, but I digress), Alice in Wonderland is nonetheless a visual kaleidoscope of shape and color that draws you in. Even the characters are so uniquely drawn in a memorable fashion that their wackiness is startlingly unforgettable. From a garden of talking flowers, to a mad tea party of piping teapots, the film is so creatively out-of-the-box for Disney. A thrilling sequence of the Queen of Hearts’ marching cards remains a haunting, trippy parade of artistic perfection.
Cinderella was one of the first Disney films to exquisitely capture magic. When the Fairy Godmother shows up to save the day and transform animals into coachmen, footmen and horses, spin a pumpkin into a lavish coach, and “Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo” Cinderella into the most enchanting of gowns (complete with glass slippers), it is an iconic moment of Disney cinema. But the brilliance doesn’t stop there. Everything from the sinister characterization of the Wicked Stepmother, to Cinderella’s glorious entrance at the Prince’s ball, Cinderella never fails to awe.
Some people complain about Frozen overload, having seen and heard the movie a multitude of times in the last few years. I, for one, never tire of the dramatic build of Elsa creating her ice palace to the strains of “Let it Go”, or the masterful use of light in the opening scene of men cutting blocks of ice. Frozen transforms the snow and cold into a winter wonderland of swirling blizzards, twinkling icicles, and frosty vistas.
7. Sleeping Beauty
Taking its inspiration from the great story visuals of gothic tapestry, Sleeping Beauty had a very distinct artistic style that stands apart from other Disney films. Each frame of the film hints at the elongated pictures of castles and people captured on these historic treasures. Whether it is the ostentatious palace where Princess Aurora is born and cursed, the enchanted forest where she meets Prince Phillip, or the draconian chateau of the horned fairy Maleficent, each locale has an elongated splendor, rich with interesting shaped and colors.
6. The Rescuers
Though it is often relegated to “second tier” Disney, The Rescuers is unjustly overlooked in the pantheon of great animated films. One of the reasons that it is so wonderful is the evocative settings of the Louisiana bayou where much of the action takes place. The spooky silhouettes of the rundown riverboat, the gnarled, trees and the snaking Spanish moss all come together to create one of the more-frightening locales that any Disney animated film has ever endeavored.
5. The Lion King
The first ten-minutes of the movie The Lion King are about the closest thing to animated grandeur you can expect from a film. As the many animals begin to gather for the presentation of the newborn lion cub Simba, the event is captured with splendor-filled scenes of the African savannah. Whether it is a flock of birds soaring through the mist of a waterfall, looking down on charging zebras, watching the sun come up over the Serengeti, or witnessing antelope spring in and out of the fog, every moment is breathtaking. A wildebeest stampede rivals this opening for its intensity and complicated manipulation of a multitude of animated creatures moving at highs speed.
Ancient Chinese Art plays a large role in the design of the world created for the Disney film Mulan, with its delicately drawn characters and its atmospheric use of floral designs and nature imagery. Mulan’s home and gardens are visual poetry. The Imperial City is a magnificent feat of animation, especially dazzling in its use of crimson. Even the ghostly ancestors are distinct in their transparent interpretation in silvery-grey. Mulan also has the most subtly beautiful palate ever achieved in a Disney film.
3. Beauty and the Beast
Many of you would probably put this on the top of the list (and for good reason). There are many beautifully drawn moments in Beauty and the Beast. From the lushly depicted backstory of the Beast and his predicament, through the cleverly orchestrated musical number “Belle”, to the magically computer-generated angles of the title number, Beauty and the Beast sparkles. A highlight is the literal visual feast “Be Our Guest” where the anthropomorphic furniture and kitchenware present a Broadway-style extravaganza while serving up Belle a multi-course dinner.
No studio can better capture the opulence and elegance of a magic carpet ride quite like Disney can. Aladdin is a colorful, jewel-toned film full of deep purple skies, golden turrets, and intricately patterned carpets for soaring through the skies over the world. The film has many stunning moments, including the ornate Cave of Wonders, the Sultan’s palace in Agrabah, and the pageantry of Prince Ali’s menagerie as they parade into the city.
1.The Little Mermaid
Arguably the studio’s finest visual achievement, The Little Mermaid is hypnotically beautiful to look at. The capture of the water and its movement is an achievement unto itself, but so are the brilliantly rendered characters, particularly in the unparalleled “Under the Sea” musical number. From the creepy lair of the sea witch Ursula, to the majestic seascapes outside of Prince Eric’s castle, the movie just overflows with breathtaking vistas and unforgettable action sequences. It is on a par with being submerged into a watery paradise, color and texture palpable and potent. You can almost smell the seawater.
What are your favorite visual moments of Disney films and why? Share in the discussion by commenting below!