Hi-diddle-dee-dee, it’s the collector’s life for us! If you’re a Disney fan like we are, you’ve surely got a few — or maybe a lot — of Disney DVDs and possibly VHS tapes tucked away. Here’s where it gets a little tricky though. When it comes to Disney movies, do you collect the classics or modern releases? Which in turn, of course, begs the questions: what exactly are Disney classics and where is the line drawn between classic and new? Now that we’ve got your wheels turning, you’ve probably started wondering why some Disney movies can be so hard to get your eager little hands on. Read on, we’ve got you covered.
So where does a fan of the House of Mouse draw the distinction between classic movies versus modern? We’ll let you know how we settled on our strict classification methodology in due time, but first, let’s take a look at some of the ways fans choose to draw the line. Let’s go down the rabbit hole, if you will!
We love us some Pixar movies, but purists consider Disney classics to be, well, just Disney. Eliminating joint Disney and Pixar films rules out beloved hits like Monsters, Inc and the tear-jerker, Up. Next, we took a look at release dates and tried drawing the line at the end of the ’80s. We considered anything released before 1990 to be a classic — but that left out one of our personal favorites, Beauty and the Beast. It seems our glass slipper just would not fit — until we looked to Disney itself for guidance.
Back in the days of yore (aka before streaming services), movies were consumed via VHS tapes and were a huge revenue source for Disney. Oddly enough, it was the launch of the branded Disney television channel that spurred Disney to slap a label on VHS releases. The powers that be deemed that only animated films released on VHS between 1984 and 1994 could officially be “Walt Disney Classics.” (Not to be confused with the Gold Classic Collection.) So there you have it, strict guidelines and clear labeling by Walt Disney. Now, how can you get your hands on these Walt-approved classics?!
In short, if you want to add Disney classics to your collection, you’re going to need patience. Like, seven years worth of patience. Disney used to take their much-loved films away and whisk them off into a vault, not to be seen again for seven years. Even a kiss from Prince Charming himself couldn’t release the films! Legend has it that Disney is keeping its films fresh for future generations — and creating scarcity to drive up prices. However, that’s about to change. Disney announced that their upcoming Disney streaming service, Disney+, will have ALL of the Disney classics. AND that they are doing away with the vault! We wished on the star long and hard enough — and our dreams came true!
Drum roll, please! Without further ado, and in no paricular order, we officially announce the 20 films that have met the criteria to qualify as Disney Classics!
Released on VHS 35 years ago, Robin Hood retells the British legend with anthropomorphized animals. The story heavily features Robin Hood, Little John, and the hilariously bungling Prince John.
Pinocchio may have been originally released in 1940, but it wouldn’t be until the middle of the ‘80s that fans could enjoy the movie in the comfort of their own homes on VHS. Rumor has it there’s a new live-action version coming out…starring Tom Hanks!
Dumbo did so well for Disney, there’s a live-action remake recently released in theaters. Can it top the animated classic that first hit theaters way back in 1941? The jury’s still out!
The Sword in the Stone
Based on the 1938 British novel, The Sword in the Stone came out Christmas Day in 1963. Audiences were delighted to meet a young King Arthur and his temperamental mentor, Merlin.
Alice in Wonderland
Another beloved Disney classic based on a British novel, Alice in Wonderland is still a perennial trippy favorite. We’re all mad here on Gemr — mad about this movie!
Did your household snap up one of the 1.2 MILLION copies sold on VHS in 1986? Don’t sleep on seeing Sleeping Beauty any chance you get!
Lady and the Tramp
In 1987, children everywhere begged their parents for a dog when Lady and the Tramp came out on VHS for the first time. Details are still vague, but there’s a live-action/CGI hybrid remake coming out featuring the voice talents of Justin Theroux and Tessa Thompson!
Oh, sugarplums! We hope you got your hands on the classic story of a mistreated young girl and her evil stepmother before it got sent back to the vault in 2017. Cinderella is a must have for every Disney fanatic!
Surprisingly, Bambi was not a box office success when if first debuted. Views have changed, and in 2011 the animated film was added to the venerable National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.
The Little Mermaid
For now it’s tucked safely inside Disney’s vault, but The Little Mermaid first splashed into theaters in 1990 — and was released on VHS the same year! Hey, isn’t that neat? Your collection would be complete with this classic!
Peter Pan never wanted to grow up, and we’re never going to give up hope of owning our own fairy dust! Last inducted into Disney’s vault in 2014, we’re just excited we get to see it again before 2021.
The Jungle Book
Whelp, here’s another movie we hope you were able to snap up, because in 2017, The Jungle Book was sent back to the vault! Originally released to theaters in 1967, Mowgli’s jungle adventure is still a fan favorite. So much so, it’s spurred numerous remakes and reimaginings.
The Rescuers Down Under
One of the more “recent” releases, The Rescuers Down Under tanked at the box office but is currently sought after by collectors and fans. Featuring tiny mice Bianca and Bernard, this movie is the only sequel to make the classics list.
Perhaps most famous for launching the iconic image of Mickey Mouse as a wizard, Fantasia was loved by the Disney family. The musical masterpiece imagines classical songs as animation, and does so beautifully. They eventually produced a sequel titled Fantasia 2000 — but you can probably guess that it didn’t make the list.
Yet ANOTHER Disney classic based on a British novel, the 1961 release has led to at least 101 children begging their parents for a Dalmatian (which we do not advise — they are very high strung and not always great with kids!). The movie was so popular, it spawned a live-action remake in 1996.
The Great Mouse Detective
Even though The Great Mouse Detective first came out on VHS in 1992, it’s still one of the best retellings of Sherlock Holmes you can find! It makes the brilliant detective make sense to kids — and didn’t spend so much time making him hard to like. We love the characters, especially the RAT — oops, we mean “mouse villain,” Ratigan.
Who doesn’t love following the delightful mouse-capades of Bianca and Bernard as they help a lonely orphan! This movie was released before the Rescuers Down Under and shows the beginnings of our favorite mouse duo. Helping children is what these mice are best at, and it should be on your watch list!
Beauty and the Beast
Tale as old as time — a Disney fan and their classic animated films! Beauty and the Beast proved to be so popular, it was made into a highly successful live-action film in 2017. Many fans agree that Beauty and the Beast is one of the best Disney films of all time — and we’re pretty inclined to agree.
Aladdin first came out in 1992 as an animated movie. A live-action reimagining of the Arabic folk tale is coming to theaters in 2019. We’re not sure how we feel about Will Smith replacing the iconic performance of Robin Williams, but we’re willing to check it out and see what we think.
The Fox and the Hound
The Fox and the Hound is also based on a novel of the same name and tells the story of the unlikely friendship between a fox and a hound dog. The story is about how prejudice can cause even the best of friends to drift apart, but in the end, love and kindness always wins.