6. Lilo & Stitch
Again, this isn’t one of those ones that immediately leaps out as being underseen or unloved. Lilo & Stitch has consistently proved it’s longevity with the marketing machine that is Stitch, remaining one of the most popular Disney characters, and pieces of merchandise, of all time.
However what gives this film a place on the list is the fact that whilst it is appreciated for it’s zany comedy and unforgettable characters, it perhaps isn’t as appreciated for it’s realistic themes and the honest way in which it depicts them. Unlike a lot of other films which “romanticize” the idea of being an orphan, and Disney themselves are guilty of that, Lilo & Stitch instead gives us a very real insight to the struggles these siblings go through, following the death of their parents. Older sister Nani is tasked with becoming the main breadwinner and looking after her young sister and her troublesome new pet, but this proves to be a real challenge. She deals with unemployment, social services, childcare, relationships, and all whilst having to deal with the same grief of losing her parents.
The antics of Lilo and the mischievous Stitch may be the thing you take away as a younger viewer, but there’s a deeper layer to this film that makes it worth a revisit as an older watcher. Few depictions of family in Disney films are as realistic as this one…even though there is a little blue alien involved!
5. The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr Toad
Even the diehard Disney aficionados tend to overlook the often maligned wartime era. It was a difficult time for Disney, a studio now in survival mode, battling the effects of losing a large chunk of their workforce to strikes, and having to redirect their artists to produce animated propaganda shorts.
As a cost saving measure, Disney released a series of “package” films, a collection of shorts or anthologies packaged together to make one feature. There’s a couple of gems in there however and The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr Toad is certainly one of them!
The film gives the Disney treatment to two shorts based on beloved literary classics, one from the UK, and one from the US. The Mr Toad portion is a delightfully madcap take on The Wind in the Willows, however the real highlight is the Adventures of Ichabod, an adaptation of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. This segment has some of the best (and scariest!) animated sequences that Disney have ever produced, and the headless horseman moment in particular is a striking slice of horror, and perhaps the closest Disney have ever come to producing something in that genre.