It was a tough call for me, deciding between Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella for top 5. I went with this for several reasons. First, this is really the princess story in all of Disney. It’s both the first one and the quintessential one.
In terms of being what I consider the “first,” Snow White is great and all, but it’s not really a fairy tale. She meets the dwarfs and almost dies — there’s nothing romantic there. This, though — poor girl, gets her dream to come true for a night, then winds up getting her fairy tale ending anyway — this is the first one to do that. And, when you think of how a typical Disney princess story goes, you think of Cinderella first.
Plus — the songs. Sleeping Beauty doesn’t have any songs. It just really has the one great one. This one has about five great ones. The only real thing Sleeping Beauty has over this is the strength of the animation. This doesn’t look as good as that. But, story-wise, and song-wise — this wins easily. I had to put this one in the top five. (Also, it was actually #5 until two days ago, when I realized that, while I love The Little Mermaid more because I grew up with it — this is just better.)
I couldn’t put this any higher, even though I wish I could. It’s just — the top three are the top three. Still — we know what this is. If you had to pick the top five most classic Disney movies, I’d say the three that would go on everybody’s lists were Snow White, Fantasia and this. (The other two would be up for debate.)