At the screening I attended for the Disney documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty, an audience member got up during the filmmaker Q&A and brought up this opinion: immediately following the events in the film (ending with the release of The Lion King in 1994) the studio's animated features began to suck again. It's true they went into another decline and ultimately led to a hiatus in traditionally animated works, but when did things begin to go downhill again? The "Disney Renaissance" technically lasted through the end of the '90s, arguably ending with Tarzan. However, relatively speaking, nothing could ever compare financially or critically to the power quartet of The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdinand The Lion King. The disappointing two films that followed, Pocahontasand The Hunchback of Notre Dame, put a stop to the excitement with the revival.

Add the fact that Pixar's Toy Storyshadowed the quality and box office of the non-computer-animated films being produced by Disney and the question of whether Jeffrey Katzenberg's departure contributed to the decline, and there's plenty of room to wonder if the Renaissance was more short-lived than we give credit for. Or are there fans out there who will defend Mulan enough to argue that the studio's eminence held on through the decade? And for those who've finally seen The Princess and the Frog now that's out on video, is the studio potentially entering another upturn?
I realized after watching Waking Sleeping Beauty that I haven't seen a whole lot of the non-Pixar animated features from Disney since the mid-1990s, and the Q&A guy's question had me a bit curious. Especially since director Don Hahn completely disagreed with the opinion (understandable; he does work for the studio, after all). Also, I meant to raise this discussion when the doc opened, but it slipped my mind until the news involving Henry Selick reminded me (and inspired another post, as well). I'll begin by offering my favorite, of those I have seen: Lilo & Stitch.

What's yours? If you need help, here's a list of all theatrically released Disney animated features (Pixar films don't count). And make sure to see Waking Sleeping Beauty when you get a chance.
categories Cinematical