Franchise: Disney Animated Canon
The animated feature films produced by Disney
's main feature animation studio, currently known as Walt Disney Animation Studios.
In 1937, Walt Disney
released the first feature-length animated film in the English-speaking world and the first feature film made completely with hand-drawn animation. However, it wasn't
, as many claim
, the first feature-length animated film ever
. Foreign examples predating Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
and using other kinds of animation include Argentina's The Apostle
(combining hand-drawn with cutout animation
) in 1917, Germany's The Adventures of Prince Achmed
(done with silhouette animation
) in 1926, and The Soviet Union's The New Gulliver
(done with Stop Motion
) in 1935.
This category does not include Pixar
productions, nor does it include every animated feature released by Disney (such as those created by
DisneyToon Studios, Direct-to-Video
Sequels, Studio Ghibli
dubs, animated films made under a different Disney banner such as The Nightmare Before Christmas
or animated films distributed by Disney but produced by non-Disney studios). There don't seem to be any hard-and-fast rules as to which movies get to be part of the canon and which don't, but generally, the canon films are made by the Disney feature animation unit (live-action/animation hybrids like Song of the South
and Mary Poppins
tend not to count unless the animation is the bulk of the film). The Other Wiki
has a set of lists
for both the canon and non-canon films.
See also Disney Princess
(an Affectionate Parody
of Disney's own films), Kingdom Hearts
, a video game series which also seems to follow the rule of only using canonical characters from nearly all of these films (and then some!
), or House of Mouse
which represents almost every canonical movie with at least a cameo appearance. Once Upon a Time
is a live-action fairy tale Massive Multiplayer Crossover
shown on Disney-owned ABC, with versions of the fairy tale characters heavily and obviously indebted to the Disney animated film versions. Who Framed Roger Rabbit
and The Nightmare Before Christmas
were both produced and released by Disney under its Touchstone Pictures banner (the latter's 3D
rereleases were under the Disney banner). Compare the works of former Disney animator Don Bluth
, as well as the two feature length animated films made by Fleischer Studios
. For notable Disney staff, go here
The Films (In Chronological Order)
- Zootopia (2016)
- Moana (2016)
- Giants (TBA)
- King of the Elves (TBA; was announced in 2008, but has been in development hell since)
- The Name Game (TBA)
- Teen Space Race (TBA)
- The Wizard Of Oz (the studio did some conceptual art for it shortly after Snow White but it was canceled in preproduction after MGM released their own version. Incidentally, Disney would much later release an "unofficial" sequel and prequel to the MGM version.)
- Chanticleer (some ideas from development migrated into Don Bluth's Rock-A-Doodle)
- The Gremlins (Based on Roald Dahl's book. Questions of whether plane sabotaging creatures could be made sympathetic and development running late into the war leading to a cancellation due to possibly becoming dated. Some Gremlins would later appear in the 2010 video game Epic Mickey.)
- Don Quixote (just like several other attempts to adapt that story into a movie have been canceled)
- Fraidy Cat (a homage to the work of Alfred Hitchcock focused around house pets, was supposed to be Ron Clement's and John Muskers' next film after Treasure Planet)
- Wild Life (a Pygmalion-type story about a nightclub recruiting a singing zoo elephant to hype into the next big thing to discredit a critic, cancelled due to concerns about more mature content)
- My Peoples (Loose Applachian set adaptation of The Canterville Ghost, cancelled due to the closure of the Florida studio, which was the only one making the movie)
- Fantasia 2006 (due to shifting management; several shorts were completed and released separately)
- Mort (Disney couldn't get the adaptation rights, which were sold as one large package rather than individually)
- The Search For Mickey Mouse (Was going to be Disney's first Crossover of all their characters, centering around Mickey getting kidnapped and Minnie recruiting a group to find him. It was also going to be their 50th animated film until new management restructured everything.)
- Sequels were also planned for films such as The Jungle Book and Bambi during earlier phases, though didn't get past early production stages (allegedly due to Walt not being a fan of sequels). Actual follow ups were made much later on, though are not made part of Disney canon.
- In their line of Direct-to-Video sequels, Disney had plans to make Dumbo 2, The Jungle Book 3, The Aristocats 2, Chicken Little 2, and Meet the Robinsons 2. Dumbo 2 was in on-and-off development for a while (even though it was promoted on the 2001 DVD of Dumbo) before being cancelled altogether, while The Jungle Book 3 was cancelled after the under-performance of The Jungle Book 2. The remaining three projects were cancelled under order of John Lasseter after Walt Disney Animation Studios was given control over DisneyToon Studios (the division making the sequels) in 2007.
- The Kingdom of the Sun, an Inca-era prince and the pauper type story, which was later retooled into The Emperor's New Groove.
Tropes common to the Disney Animated Canon:
- An Aesop: Most of the films in the line-up have one, though how prevalent and deeply tied into the story it is varies from film to film.
- Animated Adaptation:
- Animated Musical: Most of the movies in the canon are this, though there are exceptions such as Tarzan, Wreck-it-Ralph and Lilo & Stitch.
- Animation Bump: Generally in the musical numbers.
- Audience Shift:
- Wreck-It Ralph was made to appeal to gamers along with traditional family audiences.
- Big Hero 6 is aimed at Marvel superhero fans and the general boy demographic.
- Atlantis The Lost Empire and Treasure Planet were designed to appeal to teenagers more than just children.
- The Great Mouse Detective, Oliver & Company and The Little Mermaid were intended by Roy E. Disney and (then-new) studio heads Jeffrey Katzenberg and Peter Schneider to take Disney animation in a lighter, more 1980s direction after former studio head Ron Miller's attempts in the late 1970s/early 1980s to take the studio in a darker and moodier direction with The Rescuers, The Fox and the Hound and The Black Cauldron pretty much ended in failure. The Great Mouse Detective itself was retitled from Basil of Baker Street after Michael Eisner decided that the original name was "too English" for American kids, which led to a major backlash from the animators who were working on the film.
- On a similar note, recently and not without backlash, Tangled and Frozen received their title changes from Rapunzel and The Snow Queen respectively as well as a whole new marketing strategy to make sure their more princess-central films can still net young males. Notably this came after the presumed failings of The Princess and the Frog. Though admittedly it was for the better as far as Frozen is concerned, seeing as the title fits the setting and theme a lot more than The Snow Queen does (it was also initially going to be an adaptation of The Snow Queen, but ended up being inspired by it instead).
- Of course, the MPAA rating system didn't exist until 1968, so everything released before then (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs through The Jungle Book) had the G rating applied to them retroactively on their post-'68 re-releases.
- Beauty Equals Goodness
- Big Bad: See this page for the entire list.
- Big Good: See the trope's page for the entire list.
- Black and White Morality
- Black Magic
- Brains: Evil; Brawn: Good:
- Cats Are Mean: Used, subverted (Bolt) and averted (The Aristocats).
- Clap Your Hands If You Believe
- Classic Villain
- Cover Version: DisneyMania, for a number of hits from movie soundtracks. In some cases, song covers are included in DVD sets. It's also fairly common for a contemporary artist to cover a song from a movie.
- Darker and Edgier: Nearly all the films waver between whimsical and hauntingly dramatic, however, Pinocchio, The Black Cauldron, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame are frequently considered to have some of the grimmest story content in Disney's entire filmography.
- Frozen is a major, major contender for this, despite having a bodycount of only 2 minor characters (King Agdar and Queen Idun), and the villains punished justly without death. The film features childhood trauma, dead parents, murderous noblemen, a comic relief character who spends the movie dreaming about what would kill him, and the entire cast nearly dying in a massive snowstorm near the end.
- While The Black Cauldron features animate skeletons and self-sacrifice, it doesn't quite touch on the darkness that was Hunchback... which, as you remember, had an older man lustfully sniff a young woman's hair and then singing about his uncontainable lust.
- Atlantis: The Lost Empire does away with the color, Non Human Sidekicks, and songs of previous features, and replaces them with action, explosions, and the death of many a background character.
- Pocahontas is one of the few without a complete resolution for the main characters. The villain has admittedly been defeated but John Smith's fate is left uncertain.
- Darkest Hour: A favored technique by Disney that happens in almost every movie near the climax. Most notably Aladdin, The Lion King and Hercules.
- Deal with the Devil: How Ursula from The Little Mermaid, Hades from Hercules and Dr. Facilier from The Princess and the Frog all work. Is it telling that all these share the same directors?
- Death by Cameo
- Deconstruction: This along with subversions have become a growing trait of the newer films, what with Disney having been around for so long that telling something completely and entirely new gets understandably difficult. As such, they've begun taking what's been done and ...toying with it. Heavily prevalent in the three most recent princess-centric films: The Princess and the Frog, Tangled, and Frozen.
- Denser and Wackier: The tone of the films constantly vary, the majority of films made in the 1960s and early 1970s use a much more offbeat and wacky tone than usual however, with less drama and more comedic and sympathetic villains. The Rescuers began the return to more darker and earnest story telling (albeit with Disney's usual whimsy).
- Disney Princess: A title given to the lead female character in several films in the canon, as a big marketing ploy for girls that more or less took on a life of its own.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: At least eight different characters in the animated canon have had to fall from grace, hard, and crawl their way to victory. Here's a list so far:
- Empathy Pet
- Everything's Better with Princesses:
- Evil Is Hammy: With a few exceptions.
- Evil Laugh: Another thing many of the villains have in common.
- Evil Minions: Most of the Big Bads have at least one.
- Evil Sorcerer
- Fairy Companion
- Fairy Tale: A number of films in the canon are directly inspired by various literary classics, several are tapped for the Disney Princess lineup.
- Family-Unfriendly Death: Most of the villains and then some.
- Follow the Bouncing Ball: The "Sing Along Songs" series.
- Furry Confusion
- Genre Savvy: Oftentimes one of the sidekicks to the hero or the villain will cater to this, and there have even been some main protagonists as well.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: The franchise has a healthy amount of entries on this page. The level is variable, but in some cases it's pretty blatant.
- God Save Us from the Queen!: A lot of Disney queens are often portrayed as villains, especially in guess which film. Also, positive queens are either killed off early or shoved in the background.
- The High Queen: At the end of Atlantis: The Lost Empire, where its princess becomes Queen by the end of the movie. Frozen also features one of the two princess characters become a queen by the beginning of the movie and be good.
- The Good Guys Always Win: Except maybe in the "Ichabod" half of The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.
- None of the villains in Pinocchio are ever punished — Pinocchio just escapes from them. The loss of just one boy presumably not being significant, it can even be said that the Coachman won as far as his scheme went.
- Happily Ever After: Averted with both The Fox and the Hound and Pocahontas, however.
- Held Gaze: Has been used in several of the romance-focused movies to imply the underlying UST of the characters. Notable films that use this trope are Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and Tangled.
- Humans Are Bastards: Played with on several occasions such as in Bambi, The Little Mermaid or The Jungle Book.
- Karmic Death: Happens to many if not most of the villains.
- Killed Off for Real: The films tend to avoid this with good guys, and greatly enforce this with villains.
- Disney Villains who play it straight: click here
- Disney Villains who avert it (Karma Houdini examples marked with *): click here
- Some non-villainous Disney characters (heroic, neutral and villainous alike) who really did bite the dust: Bambi's mom, Willie the Whale, Slew Foot Sue, Cinderella's dad, Tod's mother, Bartholomew the mouse and Felicia the cat, Flotsam and Jetsam, Kocoum, Quasimodo's mother, Kerchak, Sitka, Tiana's father, Ray the Firefly ,King Agdar and Queen Idun, and Tadashi Hamada .
- Knight of Cerebus: Though some may still be somewhat comedic, a lot of villains have a very menacing tone (especially in the earliest examples) and are responsible for a lot of Mood Whiplash away from Disney's usual whimsy. See this page for their rather haunting effect on many audiences.
- Light Is Good and Dark Is Evil: Both tropes are played straight in most of the movies.
- Limited Special Collector's Ultimate Edition: The "Black Diamond" Classics, the Masterpiece Collection, the Gold Collection, the Platinum Editions and the Diamond Editions, all of these sets being released in a wide variety of home video formats, with VHS, DVD, Blu-ray and LaserDisc being the most popular. And of course, the Disney Vault that these all get shoved into if you don't buy them now!
- Special mention goes to the Masterpiece Collection, which included every VHS release at the time that was part of the Canon, including the stuff nobody remembers (like the compilation films) and the brand-new movies. From Tarzan on, they just put "Walt Disney Pictures Presents" on new releases.
- Long Runner: Since 1937.
- Love at First Sight: Ubiquitous; we might as well just focus on the ones that avert it.
- Deconstructed and later averted with Frozen.
- Marry for Love
- Misplaced Wildlife
- Never A Self-Made Hero/Heroine: Surprisingly often, the hero/heroine or heroes have a connection to a relative who is greatly revered (in most cases, a royal parent; but in other cases, a war hero dad or a renowned scientist grandfather will do just as well.
- Only a handful Disney movies subvert or avert this trope. In some examples, John Smith (explorer), Taran (pigkeeper/peasant) and the main characters of The Hunchback of Notre Dame (soldier, son of a gypsy, gypsy performer) are self made heroes.
- Non-Human Sidekick: Most of the main characters and/or their love interests have one, as do some villains.
- One-Winged Angel: Their use of this trope is only surpassed by Square Enix.
- Outside-Context Villain: Prince Hans from Frozen is this for the entire canon. Unlike every other villain in the canon, there is no indication whatsoever that he is even morally suspect until the Motive Rant at the climax. In a canon defined by hammy Classic Villains, he is entirely defined by Pragmatic Villainy, a flawless mask and skill at manipulation to which even the audience is not immune.
- Parental Abandonment
- Period Piece: Most of the films in the canon take place at some time in the past. Only ten films are set in The Present Day of when they were made: Dumbo (which is dated only by the modern-ish train car at the end), 101 Dalmatians, The Rescuers, Oliver & Company, The Rescuers Down Under, Lilo & Stitch, Chicken Little, Meet the Robinsons, Bolt and Wreck-It Ralph. Well, Bambi and The Lion King take place in an unknown time period (Bambi can be narrowed down to anytime in the last 2-3 centuries), and Treasure Planet and Big Hero 6 are set in a constructed universe.
- Pigeonholed Voice Actor: Phil Harris (The Jungle Book, The Aristocats, Robin Hood) and Cheech Marin (Oliver & Company, The Lion King) are particularly glaring examples of this.
- Kathryn Beaumont (Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan) who voiced both Alice and Wendy Darling (respectively).
- Verna Felton only ever voiced either energetic/stuffy villains (Dumbo, Alice in Wonderland, Lady and the Tramp) or kindly matriarchs (Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, The Jungle Book).
- Pat Buttram (The Aristocats, Robin Hood, The Rescuers, The Fox and the Hound) used his own distinct rural Alabama accent for every character he voiced.
- Alan Tudyk (Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen, Big Hero 6) is a more recent example, if only for playing antagonists in 3 movies in a row!
- Plucky Comic Relief
- The Power of Friendship
- The Power of Love
- Prince Charming: Played straight for early Disney classics...
- Public Domain Character
- Reptiles Are Abhorrent: But there are a few exceptions, including Bill the lizard from Alice in Wonderland, Louis the alligator and JuJu the snake from The Princess and the Frog, and Pascal the chameleon from Tangled.
- Reused Character Design: Very common. Compare...
- Running Gag: Recycled: The Series, as well as importing (usually faster-paced) songs to serve as theme songs for the same.
- Scenery Porn
- Shoo Out the Clowns: During most intense climaxes, comic relief aren't usually present.
- The Sociopath: A recurring characteristic of the villains. Notable examples include Lady Tremaine, Percival C. McLeach, Gaston, Scar, Mother Gothel, King Candy /Turbo and Prince Hans.
- Stock Footage: See this video for examples, with Robin Hood being the worst offender.
- Storybook Opening: Trope Maker.
- Strictly Formula: During the 1990s, Disney had a very successful run from 1989 till 1994, but after that they were often accused of enforcing this trope. Rebellious princesses who want to marry for love, heroines looking for something beyond what they know, bumbling or fantasy-forbidding fathers, bad guys falling off great heights. Pocahontas especially was accused of adhering to Disney formula, which admittedly is not entirely untrue. Ironically though, the problem seems to have been that all these movies came out in succession, as every single movie of the Disney Renaissance has been Vindicated by History and is now well-loved (some more than others: Pocahontas is still not thought of as a great movie, and The Rescuers Down Under has gained a cult following but isn't anywhere near mainstream).
- Talking Animal
- That Reminds Me of a Song: Surprisingly, avoided for the most part. Though some have argued that "Trashing the Camp" from Tarzan qualifies. There's also "Everybody Wants To Be A Cat" from The Aristocats and "Whistle While You Work" from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
- "Human Again" from Beauty and the Beast and "Morning Report" from The Lion King were un-needed additions to their respective films, since the movies didn't have them originally. They aren't terrible songs, nor completely irrelevant (they're both in the stage versions of the respective movies, too). Neither of them exactly advanced the plot or provided much if any character development, but both were intended to be in the original production (and are in the Special Editions).
- Time Skip: Several movies in the canon started adopting this measure beginning in the Disney Renaissance period (though it had been used since the earliest movies), and continuing to this day. It got really egregious during the height of the Disney Renaissance period, when films like Hercules and Tarzan would have two or more timeskips within the expanse of a 3-minute song.
- Training Montage
- The End: Prior to 1985's The Black Cauldron, every Disney animated film (as well as most live-action films and theatrical shorts) ended with a screen saying "The End", and below that, "A Walt Disney Production" (during Walt's lifetime) or "Walt Disney Productions" (after his death). The Great Mouse Detective (1986) and Aladdin (1992) also had "The End" screens, without the Walt Disney credit.
- The Verse: Possibly with all the cameos and easter eggs and what not.
- Tangled and Frozen are all but explicitly confirmed to exist in the same universe, with Fanon generally accepting Rapunzel, Anna, and Elsa to be cousins by way of their respective mothers being sisters. A common theory also places The Little Mermaid in this same universe with the sunken ship Ariel explores at the beginning being the same one that carried the king and queen of Arendellenote .
- Vanity Plate: With Lasseter's arrival at Disney, newer films (starting with Meet the Robinsons) now have a vanity plate paying homage to the studio's roots in traditional animation and Mickey Mouse's first hit short Steamboat Willie.
- Victorious Chorus: Commonly used at the end of some films.
- Vile Villain, Saccharine Show: However the "Saccharine Show" becomes less notable with its more mature films.
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: There are things that anthropomorphic animals do in Oliver & Company, Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King that Disney would never allow in human portrayal.
- White Magic