16 Beloved Classic Disney Movies Locked Away in their Vault


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Despite the fact that Disney has a surefire plan for video sales by offering some of its movies on a limited basis, the company swears that isn’t the reason for the “Disney Vault.” Instead, it a way to keep some of Disney’s classics – classic. The idea is to re-issue a select grouping of Disney animated films for home viewing every 7-10 years. The theory is that Disney wants to keep these certain films special by limiting how they are viewed. The fact that these movies have all come out on VHS, then DVD, and now Blu-Ray doesn’t matter. Each new release comes with special extras not found in the previous versions. So which animated films have won this distinction worthy of looking them up for years at a time?

1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)


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This was Walt Disney’s first full-length animated movie. It took three years and more than 750 artists to bring Snow White to life. Some critics at the time dubbed this movie, “Walt’s Folly” as the idea that an adult audience would sit through a full-length animated movie seemed ridiculous. The movie has been re-issued eight times in theaters. It received a special Academy Award, complete with one full-size Oscar and seven little ones, in 1939. When the film was screened in England, it was deemed too scary for anyone under the age of 16.

2. Pinocchio (1940)


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Disney’s second full-length animated film about a wooden puppet with dreams of becoming a real boy has been described by some film historians of one of the most technically advanced of all Disney animated movies. The character of Jiminy Cricket is the most well-known, but he wasn’t introduced in the script until ninth months into the process and in the original novel, he was killed by Pinocchio. Walt Disney’s favorite character was Figaro the kitten and pushed to have him seen often. After the film, he “starred” in a few Minnie Mouse cartoons as her pet.

3. Fantasia (1940)


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Unlike most other Disney films, this one featured eight short animated vignettes set to various classical music played by the Philadelphia Orchestra and led by Leopold Stokowski. Originally, the film was recorded in “Fantasound” which required theaters to make a hefty expense to show the film, so it only opened in 14 theaters. The film is famous for the “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” sequence that starred Mickey Mouse. Disney had planned to re-release the film every year by swapping out some of the sequences with new ones. That didn’t happen of course, but a sequel did come to theaters in the form of Fantasia 2000.


4. Dumbo (1941)


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After the expensive productions of Pinocchio and Fantasia, Dumbo was made with a much smaller budget and about half the screen time length of Fantasia. As such, the background and characters were not drawn as detailed as previous works. The film found favor with the audiences and helped to bring in a nice profit for the studio. Dumbo won the Oscar for Best Scoring and the song, “Baby Mine,” was nominated for Best Song. Dumbo was released in December of that year and was to be featured on the cover of Time magazine, but was pushed out due to the bombing of Pearl Harbor.


5. Bambi (1942)


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Pre-production of Bambi began in 1936 and was intended to be Disney’s second animated movie. However, with the story’s realistic setting, it took much longer to finish. The artists took many field trips to the zoo to study animals and much detail was given to things the viewer just takes for granted like the spots on the deer’s coat. The hand-drawn illustrations had to be perfect in order for the spots not to “jump” around. The American Film Institute has ranked “man” as the #20 villain in the “100 Greatest Heroes and Villains” list. The death of Bambi’s mother is also considered one of the saddest scenes in cinema history.


6. Cinderella (1950)


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Disney’s second princess movie, and probably the most famous, arrived eight years after Bambi due to wartime economics. The film itself was a financial gamble that came with a threat of sheer ruin for Disney if the film had failed at the box office. The film became the most profitable since Snow White and helped to fund the production of many future movies. According to one animator, Ward Kimbal, 90% of the movie was filmed first with live action models including the carriage. The song “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” was nominated for an Oscar for best song.


7. Alice in Wonderland (1951)

Alice in Wonderland

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Both Alice in Wonderland and Dumbo were the first two animated films made available for home viewing and are probably the two that spend the most time “out of the vault.” Alice is a strange and short film filled with incredible characters and settings. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Score. It is one of those films that is very popular, but rarely do people consider it their favorite. Walt himself said that he was disappointed in the end product stating that it had “no heart.” The story of Alice differs from others in that no real friendship is established within it.


8. Peter Pan (1953)

Peter Pan

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While most of Disney’s animated features were based on a previous work, many have been “Disney-fied” to make the story uniquely its own. Peter Pan however, is one of the few that remains fairly faithful to its original source, a play by James M. Barrie. The film includes using the same voice actor (Hans Conried) for both Mr. Darling and Captain Hook. The original play traditionally uses the same actor to portray both parts. The play also requires Nanna the dog and Tick Tock the crocodile to be played by the same actor, and so the Tick Tock of the cartoon has some dog quantities.


9. Lady and the Tramp (1955)

Lady and the Tramp

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This romantic film is told mostly from the a dog’s point of view. In the beginning, Jim Dear bring’s Lady home in a hat box which was inspired from a real event in Walt’s marriage. It has also been told that Walt didn’t like the scene where the dogs eat spaghetti while being serenaded in the alley. The scene has become the most iconic of the movie. Singer Peggy Lee voiced not only Peg, the show dog found in the dog pound, but also Si and Am, the twin Siamese cats and Mrs. Darling.


10. Sleeping Beauty (1959)

Sleeping Beauty

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Walt Disney’s third princess movie was also his most expensive and longest to make. It had a budget of $6 million dollars and took ten years to create. Much of the film’s score is taken directly from Tchaikovsky’s ballet, “The Sleeping Beauty.” The illustrations had it’s own unique and stylistic design that was designed by artist Eyvind Earle and has been suggested that Princess Aurora was inspired by actress Audrey Hepburn. Though Aurora is the title character, she only has about 18 lines and only appears for about 18 minutes of 75 minute film.


11. 101 Dalmatians (1961)

101 Dalmatians

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Just like Sleeping Beauty had its own unique look, 101 Dalmatians took the opposite approach looking more rough and low-tech. It was the first Disney film to be entirely created using the Xerox process of transferring the animators drawings to the cells instead of hand-drawing the ink on every cell. Since the subject matter consisted of so many spotted dogs, it was a necessity. The cost of Sleeping Beauty was so expensive and received little back in the form of paid tickets, the pressure was on to make 101 Dalmatians a financial hit. Just like Cinderella, it is credited for saving the company.


12. The Jungle Book (1967)

The Jungle Book

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Loosely based on the Rudyard Kipling classic of the same name, this was the last animated movie that Walt Disney himself supervised. The movie’s storyline is very different from the book’s and Walt told his animators to forget everything they knew from the original stories. For instance, Kaa the snake, is seen as a friend and adviser to Mogli in the book, but in the movie, he’s a villain. The vultures in the film were stylized after the Beatles who were approached about voicing the parts, but they refused. It is said that the song, “Bare Necessities” was inspiration for Elton John when writing “Hakuna Matata” for The Lion King years later.


13. The Little Mermaid (1989)

The Little Mermaid

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The Little Mermaid is the first film to be inducted into the Disney Vault with the distinction of being the first film to do so that Walt had no part in. The others include Beauty and Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King. The film also marked the return of princess fairy tales and musicals. Disney himself had planned on creating a Little Mermaid story in the 1930’s and even had one of his illustrators, Kay Nielsen, draw up some sketches for it. Many years later, those same sketches served as inspiration of the 1989 project.


14. Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Beauty and the Beast

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This spectacle of a movie became the most successful animated movie up until that time creating box office revenues of $140 million. The film was a hit with critics and fans alike. It was nominated for Best Picture at the 1992 Academy Awards and won for Best Original Score and Best Song for “Beauty and the Beast.” Art director Brian McEntee designed Belle to be the only character to wear the color blue, helping her to not “fit in” with the rest of the townspeople. Ironically, the Beast also wears blue. The color blue was also a symbol of “good” while red symbolized “evil.”


15. Aladdin (1992)


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Just like Beauty and the Beast which proceeded it, Aladdin was the highest grossing animated movie to date and was hailed by critics and fans alike. It too won the Academy Award for Best Song (“A Whole New World”) and for Best Score. Actor Robin Williams who was the voice of Genie ad-libbed so many of his lines that the studio had almost 16 hours worth of material from the star. For this same reason, the studio was unable to be nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay Academy Award. Williams also voiced the street merchant at the beginning of the film which is meant to be a disguise of Genie.


16. The Lion King (1994)

The Lion King

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Elton John worked with Tim Rice on The Lion King and was treated to a pre-screening of the film a few weeks before its release. That is when he learned that his love song, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” was left out. He was able to lobby to have the song put back in and he won himself an Oscar for Best Original Song to boot. It is rumored that The Lion King crew were considered “Team B” while “Team A” worked on Pocahontas, the film they thought would fare better in the theaters. They were wrong.