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.)
On purely animation terms, Sleeping Beauty might be the best thing they’ve ever done. I am in awe of every frame of this movie. Narratively, it’s not top five. But putting the two together — this is about right. Maybe I’m putting it a little high, due to my love of the visuals (plus, I’m aware Snow White is a top five, so, by default I’m putting it a bit high), but I still contend this is one of the top six or seven films Disney has ever made. This (along with Snow White and Cinderella) is really the template for all the Disney princess films.
This is also the film, I feel, that a lot of people think highly of, and go, “Oh, yeah, it’s a classic,” but no one really watches it all that much. I feel like most people (especially those who grew up in the 90s, like I did) would find it kind of slow. I understand that criticism and all, but — watch this film in 1080p, and you let me know whether or not this remains one of the best things they’ve ever made. Wait until you see these screenshots.