In honor of March, the bracket-iest month of the year, The Wire decided to go all out and create a tournament for everything. Every weekday for the rest of the month, we're presenting a different tournament to determine the very best (or worst) thing in a given field. And we're doing it the way that God intended: Bracket showdowns.
We picked the field, but you vote for the winner. Fill out our interactive bracket, round-by-round, to determine the people's champion, then read through our choices to find out who we think is the best of the best. Each day is a new champion!
Today we evaluate a contentious topic: What animated Disney movie is the best of the bunch? Do you root for the old classics like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty? Or are you a '90s kid with fond memories of The Lion King and Aladdin. Start your engines and get nostalgic for childhood.
Important note! We are not including Pixar movies, nor are we including non-animated Disney movies. Sorry, The Mighty Ducks.
The Little Mermaid: The movie about a redhead with “gadgets and gizmos a plenty” that changed it all for Disney. After a lackluster period in the 1980s, the studio brought in Broadway talents. It worked.
Aladdin: Aladdin courted controversy for racism, but that hasn’t stopped it from becoming a classic. That’s thanks in no small part to its incredibly catchy songs from Menken, Ashman, and Tim Rice, who stepped in to contribute lyrics when Ashman died of complications from AIDS.
The Lion King: The Lion King, with its music from Elton John, just couldn’t wait to be king. It was the highest-grossing Disney animated feature until Frozen came along. The Broadway musical version was the top-grossing show of 2013, proving it’s still a box office force to be reckoned with.
Hercules: One of the latter entries during the Renaissance period, Hercules was beautifully animated, making its characters look like Greek vase paintings. It featured The Muses as a '60s-style girl group.
Mulan: Beloved by millennials for featuring Donny Osmond singing about defeating Huns.
Pocahontas: Perhaps the weakest link of all the Renaissance-era movies. Messing around with a troubling period in American history was probably not in Disney’s best interest.
Frozen: After a long dry spell, Disney finally hit it big again thanks to catchy songs, Idina Menzel’s belt, a girl power message, and a return to classic storytelling.
Sleeping Beauty: Sleeping Beauty is probably one of the most genuinely terrifying pieces of Disney animation. Hence, Maleficent. The score and songs however are lovely, adapted from Tchaikovsky’s ballet.
Alice in Wonderland: Do you want your Disney animation trippy? Well, Disney plus Lewis Carroll gives you that.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: You have to give credit to the original: The 1937 film was the first full-length animated feature. Heigh Ho.
Tarzan: The studio hit gold by bringing in Elton John for The Lion King, why not try Phil Collins? This one will always be in our hearts. (Okay, we like Phil Collins. We have two ears and a heart, don’t we?)
Dumbo: Dumbo will always be a classic. It will also always be racist. Have you listened to "Song of the Roustabouts" lately?
Lady and the Tramp: Some of us named their first dog Lady, okay.
Pinocchio: Not unlike Sleeping Beauty, this is another Disney movie that was made to give kids nightmares.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame: Quasimodo didn’t live up to the expectations set by his contemporaries — at least Pocahontas had “Colors of the Wind” — and is often forgotten despite an over $300 million take at the box office and a warm critical reception. Still, the Hunchback is the ugly stepchild of Disney’s early-90s resurgence.
Robin Hood: A sleeper pick if there ever was one, Disney’s anthropomorphic Robin Hood has a small, but intensely loyal fanbase. Potentially the Dayton of the Disney bracket, don’t count out this fox in the first round.
Peter Pan: The best telling of the Pan story, despite diehard Hook fans trying to convince you otherwise. Maybe Pan fans have to turn any happy little thought into one shining moment.
Cinderella: There are Disney princesses, and then there is The Disney Princess. Often imitated, but never duplicated, Cinderella has some of the best animation and songs in the bracket. A bonafide classic that deserves respect.
One Hundred and One Dalmatians: Cruella Deville is the one of the most enduring faces of contemporary evil, because villains who threaten dogs are the most irredeemable. Kind of like Coach K.
The Jungle Book :If the farm-to-table conservationists were as cool and chill as Baloo then totally sustainable living would be achievable in, like five years. That ol’ bear taught you to appreciate the small things in life. He was ahead of his time.
The Aristocats: A family of cats walk into an old vaudeville agent’s office. There’s a mom, a dad, two kids, and a baby. They perform a stunning rendition of “Everybody Wants to be a Cat,” and amaze the agent, who previously thought he had seen everything. The agent asks, “so what do you call yourself?” The dad says…
The Fox and the Hound: Friendship and loyalty triumphing over circumstance and societal roles are important themes, but Kurt Russell is prominently involved.
The Princess and the Frog: Disney finally returned to traditional animation for a theatrical release after nearly a decade spent toying with CG animation to replicate even an ounce of Pixar’s success, to no avail. And it worked! The first sign Disney still had that magic that could produce something like Frozen’s world-beating success.
The Sword in the Stone: The Disney VHS all of your friends owned that you had never seen.
The Rescuers: No one remembers the original, but everyone loves the sequel. Well, the sequel did not make the bracket. Tough luck.
Oliver and Company: New York has always been a tale of two cities, even in the late 80s. Class differences are set aside when a gang of down-on-their-luck dogs agree to help rescue a rich dog’s owner — a real Fifth Avenue, Bloomberg type — after the two sides bond over a precocious orphan kitten. Why should you worry? Why should you care? Because you’re a compassionate human, darnit.
Lilo and Stitch: Probably the most GIF’d Disney movie ever so it’ll do better than you expect.
Tangled: The warm-up before Frozen.
The Black Cauldron: A prequel to Breaking Bad? Or Weeds? I dunno, I think I smoked “black cauldron” once.
Fantasia: Making classical music fun with probably the most iconic image in all of Disney: Mickey in the wizard hat.
Your vote: Beauty and the Beast
The Wire's vote:
Round of 32
Beauty and the Beast vs. Pocahontas :There may be some lingering millennial affection for Pochantas, but it is not deserved. Aside from getting the history wrong, it’s just not very good. Think of it this way: “Colors of the Wind” vs. ANY SONG in Beauty. Yeah, it’s a rout. Winner: Beauty and the Beast
Mulan vs. Robin Hood: Robin of Loxley wins based on his superior choice in friends (not Eddie Murphy) and songs. Winner: Robin Hood
Lady and the Tramp vs. 101 Dalmatians: Esther named her first dog Lady. She’s biased. Winner: Lady and the Tramp
The Jungle Book vs. Tarzan: As big a soft spot we have for Phil Collins — who doesn’t?! — The Jungle Book, with it’s swinging soundtrack, is a classic, and Tarzan is a footnote. Winner: Jungle Book
Snow White vs. Dumbo: Snow White was the first, also it wasn’t as horribly racist as we can all see Dumbo now is. Winner: Snow White
Alice in Wonderland vs. Pinocchio: Pinocchio did give Disney what is essentially its theme song: “When You Wish Upon a Star.” Still, Alice is a visually stunning, fearlessly trippy ride. Winner: Alice in Wonderland
Hunchback of Notre Dame vs. The Fox and the Hound: Both movies are about unlikely friends overcoming circumstance to learn about acceptance. Only one has a dog. Only one will make you cry. Only one has Kurt Russell. Winner: Fox and the Hound
The Little Mermaid vs. The Sword in the Stone :Sword and the Stone has its charming moments, but The Little Mermaid is both fantastic and seriously turned things around for the studio. Winner: The Little Mermaid
The Lion King vs. Aristocats: The king of the jungle is already a cat so there is no contest here. Just wait 'til you hear that roar. Winner: Lion King
Lilo and Stitch vs. Hercules: GIFs will not help you against a greek god, or his surprisingly catchy songs. Hercules has one of the most underrated musical selections of any Disney movie. He could possibly slay a giant. Winner: Hercules
Frozen vs. Princess and the Frog: The Princess and the Frog, unfortunately, will always be looked at as something of a warm up for Frozen as the studio regained its footing. You’ve heard “Let it Go” right? Winner: Frozen
Fantasia vs. Black Cauldron: The Black Cauldron will have its cult fans, but Fantasia made going to the symphony fun. Also, as scary as The Black Cauldron was, the “Night on Bald Mountain” sequence of Fantasia was an early terrifying Disney creation. Winner: Fantasia
Peter Pan vs. Tangled : Whenever someone mentions Tinkerbell what do you see? Yeah. Winner: Peter Pan
Sleeping Beauty vs. Cinderella: We like our classic princess movies with a little bit of bite, Sleeping Beauty had that, Cinderella was all sweetness Winner: Sleeping Beauty
Bambi vs. The Rescuers: Thumper alone could catch these two mice. The Rescuers does not have a moment as culturally enduring as Bambi’s finale. You never forget the first time you cried so hard your face hurt. Winner: Bambi
Aladdin vs. Oliver and Company: In the ultimate battle of street savoir-faire, Dodger and his crew are no match for the street rat. Agrabah seems harder to survive in than 1980s New York City. Winner: Aladdin
Beauty and the Beast vs. Robin Hood: As cute as an anthropomorphized Fox Robin Hood is, a Busby Berkeley-style number led by a dancing candlestick wins any day. Winner: Beauty and the Beast
Lady and the Tramp vs. Jungle Book: How many times have you found yourself humming “Bare Necessities” at your desk on a sunny summer day? Lots of times, I bet. Has anyone ever successfully executed a spaghetti kiss? Winner: Jungle Book
Snow White vs. Alice in Wonderland: Snow White may have started it all, but Alice in Wonderland is just more entertaining. Winner: Alice in Wonderland
The Fox and the Hound vs. The Little Mermaid: Can you really remember anything about The Fox and the Hound? Okay, now sing “Under the Sea.” Winner: Little Mermaid
The Lion King vs. Hercules: As fun as Hercules is, and who can argue with Michael Bolton, it was never going to match up against Disney’s take on Hamlet. “Zero to Hero” cannot compete with “I Just Can’t Wait to be King.” Winner: Lion King
Frozen vs. Fantasia: Classical music is great, but contributing the first new song to the Disney canon in nearly a decade trumps any magic Mickey can conjure. Winner: Frozen
Peter Pan vs. Sleeping Beauty: Peter Pan is a classic story but, if we’re being honest, Maleficent is a much more dangerous and clever villain than Captain Hook. That Sleeping Beauty could defeat her earns her a spot in the Final Four. Winner: Sleeping Beauty
Bambi vs. Aladdin: The street rat only stole to survive in the mean streets of Agrabah. That resourcefulness gets him past the doe-eyed deer. Plus, the love story doesn’t hurt. Winner: Aladdin
Beauty and the Beast vs. Jungle Book: Look, there’s a reason Beauty and the Beast was nominated for Best Picture. Jungle Book is fun, but Beauty has gravitas. Winner: Beauty and the Beast
Alice in Wonderland vs. The Little Mermaid: Call us children of the 1990s (we are) but even some of Disney’s most psychedelic images can’t wipe away the fact that we always sing “Part of Your World” in the shower. Winner: The Little Mermaid
The Lion King vs. Frozen: Elsa has made more money than Simba — before inflation, of course — but that is not enough to advance. If you have dry eyes at the end of “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” you’re probably a robot. “Love is an Open Door” is fun and all, but Prince Hans is not the best suitor. Winner: The Lion King
Sleeping Beauty vs. Aladdin: Fifty years can give you such a crick in the neck. Or, in this case, major advancements in animation and some timely jokes that help Aladdin squeak out the win here. Plus, a couple kept apart by circumstance is a better story than an arranged marriage felled by a spurned fairy. Who relates to that? Winner: Aladdin
The Final Four
Beauty and the Beast vs. The Little Mermaid :The Little Mermaid just feels a bit slighter than it’s follow-up Beauty and the Beast, which perfected the form. Winner: Beauty and the Beast
The Lion King vs. Aladdin: Aladdin is far more uneven than The Lion King, and some of its brazen cultural insensitivity still rubs the wrong way. To make matters even worse for Aladdin, none of the images in that movie can match the beauty of “Circle of Life.” Winner: The Lion King
Beauty and the Beast vs. The Lion King We love you, Lion King. You’re gorgeous. You’re wonderful. You make us sob. But pair Howard Ashman’s ingeniously clever lyrics (“I use antlers in all of my decorating”) with Alan Menken’s best melodies with Disney animators at their most playful and you’ve got something that deserves its status and the best ever. Winner: Beauty and the Beast
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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