The problem with being the movie studio that puts out all-time classics like "Beauty and the Beast" and "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" is that not every film can have that same level of impact. These are the underappreciated gems in the Disney catalog -- both live-action and animated -- the ones that should have gotten more love than they did when they hit theaters.
'The Aristocats' (1970)
The '70s weren't a great time for Disney in general, and most of their animated efforts in this period were consigned to the dustbin of history. "The Aristocats" was reasonably successful, but critics also tended to dismiss it because of its plot similarities to past Disney movies. Only in recent decades, thanks to home video re-releases, does it feel like this jazzy feline adventure is getting its due.
'Bedknobs and Broomsticks' (1971)
The comparisons between "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" and "Mary Poppins" were inevitable given the plot similarities between the two, the effort to blend live-action with animation and the fact that they share the same director and songwriting team. But "Bedknobs" never got the credit it deserved for being so much weirder and psychedelic than its predecessor.
'The Great Mouse Detective' (1986)
One of the best Sherlock Holmes movies of all time doesn't actually feature Holmes and Watson, but rather the mystery-solving mice who live underneath their flat. This film is generally treated as a minor footnote in Disney's animated catalog, despite the fact that it helped pave the way for the Disney Renaissance of the early '90s.
'The Rescuers Down Under' (1990)
"The Rescuers Down Under" had the misfortune to be sandwiched in between twin juggernauts "The Little Mermaid" and "Beauty and the Beast." It was treated as a lesser effort at the time, but the truth is that this film often exceeds the standard of the 1977 original. It's a welcome reminder that Disney's animated movies don't need musical numbers as long as they have great characters and lush animation.
'The Rocketeer' (1991)
"The Rocketeer" has mostly been forgotten in the era of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but the MCU may never have come to be if not for this early superhero adventure lighting the way. And in a decade that gave us so many lousy superhero movies, it's good to know at least one of them got the formula right.
'Iron Will' (1994)
There's a lot to like in this coming-of-age story about a young man embarking on a dangerous cross-country dogsled race in order to save his family's farm. Sure, it trades in a lot of underdog movie stereotypes, but it does the formula well and delivers ample thrills along the way.
'A Goofy Movie' (1995)
"Pocahontas" turned out to be a disappointment in 1995, showing that the Disney Renaissance was starting to run its course. But at least Disney fanatics had "A Goofy Movie" to fall back on. This father/son story didn't make a huge splash when it first hit, but over time seems to have developed a surprisingly devoted fanbase among the Millennial crowd.
'James and the Giant Peach' (1996)
Stop-motion animation is always a tough sell for American audiences, so it's not surprising that this film didn't light the box office on fire in 1996. Even so, it's a gorgeously crafted animated film that stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the studio's best work of the '90s.
Despite high expectations, "Hercules" wound up being one of Disney's bigger box office disappointments of the '90s. In hindsight, it's hard to understand why audiences didn't take to this peppy, upbeat take on Greek mythology (especially given that one of the alternatives at the time of its Summer 1997 release was "Batman & Robin"). The film deserves its place in the Disney pantheon for James Woods' maniacal Hades alone.
"Mulan" was very much a Disney movie ahead of its time when it hit theaters in 1998. Long before movies like "Brave" came along, it was giving moviegoers the assertive, capable heroine they had been waiting to see. It was a respectable hit with critics and audiences, but only in recent years does it seem like Disney fans have come to truly appreciate "Mulan" for what it offers.
'Fantasia 2000' (2000)
This worthy follow-up to the original 1940 Disney classic features gorgeous 2D animation and stunning sequences set to Beethoven and Gershwin. And, if also includes the famous sequence from the first film, “The Sorcerer's Apprentice,” with Mickey Mouse fighting evil those evil enchanted brooms, for nostalgia's sake.
'The Straight Story' (1999)
The only thing more bizarre than the fact that David Lynch directed a Disney movie is the fact that it earned a G-rating. No disgusting dumpster zombie jump-scares in this one, just a good, simple story of an elderly man traveling the country on a tractor in order to visit his dying brother. It's too bad this one failed to make much headway at the box office.
'The Emperor's New Groove' (2000)
This film is infamous for the production troubles that plagued it behind the scenes. Perhaps the end result isn't quite as ambitious as what was originally envisioned (nor does it feature as much Sting music as original promised), but it's a fun buddy comedy movie on its own merits. It's also one that seemed to find its audience with time, spawning both a direct-to-video sequel and a TV spinoff.
'Treasure Planet' (2001)
The rise of Pixar meant that audiences had less and less attention to devote to Disney's traditional animated fare. The sad result of that is that far too few moviegoers saw this sweeping sci-fi overhaul of Robert Louis Stevenson's classic book. It was a box office bomb despite earning a well-deserved Oscar nomination for Best Animated Film.
'The Princess and the Frog' (2009)
This film represents one of Disney's last traditional 2D animated films. It's a shame, too, as it's a gorgeous film that offers a clever, Jazz Age-infused update to a familiar story. "The Princess and the Frog" earned respectable box office numbers and three Oscar nominations, but it still turned out to be part of a dying breed of Disney movie.