"Rank the modern Disney animations," Film.com told me, and I thought, Suckers. This'll be easy.
Turns out, not so much.
The first question is, What's a Disney film? Do you count Pixar films? I decided I would, because even though Pixar and Disney have been at each other's throats forever -- or at least until Disney outright bought Pixar in 2006 -- Pixar has partnered exclusively with The Mouse since it got into the feature film business. And to the layman's mind, Pixar means Disney. (Or, to Disney's chagrin, Disney may, these days, mean Pixar. Ouch.) So Pixar is in.
Do you count Studio Ghibli films, such as Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away? I decided not to, because Disney's deal with the Japanese studio is purely one concerning distribution. Because Disney has no say in how these movies get made -- probably something we should be grateful for -- Studio Ghibli flicks don't really feel like Disney flicks, whereas the Pixar ones do.
I did not count the cheesy direct-to-DVD movies Disney tosses out on a regular basis.
Last bone of contention: Define modern. I'm dating myself by going as far back as I am, but I remember that wonderful feeling of goosebumpy thrills when I saw 1989's The Little Mermaid, and felt like I was seeing something entirely new from the studio whose cartoons and live-action movies I had grown up with in the 1970s and early '80s. So that's where I'm starting.
There are 33 films I'm counting as "modern Disney" -- here's how I rank them, with commentary on some.
1.The Lion King (1994): Simply one of the best movies ever made. I will never forget the chills I felt seeing that "Circle of Life" opener -- wow.
3.Toy Story 2 (1999): This movie gets the joys and pitfalls of fandom more than almost any other movie I've ever seen.
6.The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
8.The Incredibles (2004)
9.Toy Story (1995)
10.Fantasia 2000 (1999): Almost as rich and as wondrous as its 60-years-prior predecessor.
11.Lilo & Stitch (2002): Love the Elvis soundtrack.
12.Treasure Planet (2002): I'm in a minority here, but I really, really like this movie.
14.Meet the Robinsons (2007)
16.Monsters, Inc. (2001): It's only really brilliant in that mind-bending finale with all the doors, but that's enough.
17.A Bug's Life (1998)
18.Finding Nemo (2003)
20.Chicken Little (2005)
21.The Little Mermaid (1989): Nice songs, but the message is antifeminist.
24.Home on the Range (2004)
25.The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
29.Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
30.Brother Bear (2003)
31.Cars (2006): These car-people are freakin' creepy.
32.Dinosaur (2000): The circle of life is broken here -- hello, meteor! -- but the people who made the movie don't seem to realize it.
33.A Christmas Carol (2009): Dickens did not need to be turned into a theme park ride.