From The Lion King (1994) to Moana (2016), these are the best Disney movies for toddlers.
Disney films are a source of childhood nostalgia for many. For some, they were the first movies they ever saw in a theater. Others grew up watching them on VHS or DVD. Regardless of how you first experienced Disney movies, they have a special place in your heart. And while there are plenty of great live-action remakes, there’s nothing quite like the original animated classics. Here are just a few reasons why Disney movies are the best.
The characters are unforgettable. From Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck to Ariel and Belle, the characters in Disney movies are iconic. They’re also relatable and lovable, which is why we keep coming back to them again and again.
The songs are catchy. Whether you’re belting out Let it Go in the shower or humming A Whole New World while you work, it’s impossible to forget the songs from Disney movies. They’re so catchy that they’ll stay stuck in your head for days.
The animation is stunning. The level of detail in Disney animated movies is incredible. From the way snowflakes fall on Elsa’s hair to the shifting expressions on Buzz Lightyear’s face, every frame is a work of art.
But above all, the stories are timeless. The best Disney movies are the ones with timeless stories that can be enjoyed by people of all ages – toddlers to adults. From Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to Toy Story, these movies will never get old. They are colorful, full of life, and will put a smile on your face. But with so many options, it can be hard to decide which ones to watch. Very quickly then, here are some of the best Disney movies for toddlers:
1. Snow White and The Seven Dwarves (1937)
The first full-length traditionally animated feature, Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs was a game-changer for the film industry. Not only did it prove that animation could be a viable commercial enterprise, but it also set a new standard for quality and artistry. The film’s success ushered in an era of animated features from Disney and other studios, which continue to this day.
Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs tells the classic fairy tale of a beautiful princess who is banished to the forest by her wicked stepmother. There she meets seven friendly dwarves, who protect her from the Queen’s evil schemes. With its memorable characters, iconic songs, and breathtaking visuals, Snow White and The Seven Dwarves is a true classic.
When the studio embarked on this project, it was said that no one would ever sit through a cartoon flick for 90 minutes. However, it was a huge commercial success, and critics hailed it as a supreme achievement in the history of motion picture. It took almost four years to complete the project. Disney pioneered many techniques that were later adapted by animation filmmakers. For instance, the use of multiplane camera to create an illusion of depth in the frame.
2. Bambi (1942)
Disney’s fifth animated feature Bambi, was released to theaters in 1942. Based on the book by Felix Salten, Bambi tells the story of a young deer who must learn to survive in the forest after his mother is killed by a hunter. The film features some of Disney’s most iconic characters, including Bambi himself, his father (the Great Prince), and his friends Thumper and Flower. Bambi was groundbreaking for its time, with realistic visuals and emotionally resonant storytelling.
When Walt Disney first started working on Bambi in the early 1940s, he wanted to create a realistic and emotionally believable animal character. To achieve this, Disney and his team studied real deer in the forests of Washington state. They also consulted with experts on animal behavior, including a retired forest ranger named Adolph Murie.
Murie’s work was instrumental in helping Disney create a believable and sympathetic main character. Bambi‘s design is based on that of a mule deer, with large eyes and long lashes to convey innocence and vulnerability.
Landing 3 Oscar nominations back in the day, Bambi went on to become a classic. Interestingly, the film was a flop when it was originally released. Multiple re-releases eventually helped recoup its cost.
3. Cinderella (1950)
Disney’s animated classic Cinderella was released in 1950. Based on the fairy tale by Charles Perrault, Cinderella tells the story of a young woman who is forced into servitude by her stepmother and stepsisters. With the help of her Fairy Godmother, she attends a royal ball where she meets Prince Charming and falls in love.
Cinderella was one of Disney’s first animated features to be based on a traditional fairy tale. The studio had great success with Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs, but Cinderella presented some unique challenges. One of the biggest challenges was creating believable human characters. To achieve this, Disney’s animators studied live-action footage of people walking and moving. This gave them a better understanding of how humans move, and they were able to apply this knowledge to the animated characters in Cinderella.
Cinderella was a huge success upon its release, and after Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella was Disney’s next biggest critical and commercial hit, bringing the studio back from the brink. The Disney studio was $4 million in debt before the release of Cinderella. Over the previous decade, Fantasia, Pinocchio, and Bambi had all been box-office flops.
4. Peter Pan (1953)
Peter Pan is a 1953 American animated fantasy-adventure film produced by Walt Disney and based on the play Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up by J. M. Barrie. It was Disney’s 14th and final animated feature released through RKO Radio Pictures (Disney’s distributor for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo, Bambi, and Cinderella). The film was directed by Clyde Geronimi with songs written by Sammy Cahn and Music composed by Paul Smith.
The voice cast includes Bobby Driscoll as Peter Pan, Kathryn Beaumont as Wendy Darling, Hans Conried as Captain Hook, and Bill Thompson as Mr. Smee.
A critical and commercial success, Peter Pan grossed $87 million at the box office on a budget of US $4 million. The film received mixed reviews from critics but is considered by many to be one of Disney’s finest animated features ever made.
On July 17, 1953, Walt Disney was awarded an honorary Oscar for “his outstanding contribution to the field of entertainment.” This was presented to him by Jean Hersholt (then-president of the Academy). The award recognized not only Peter Pan but also all of Disney’s past achievements in animated filmmaking up to that point.
5. The Jungle Book (1967)
In 1967, The Jungle Book was released to critical acclaim. Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman, the animated musical comedy film was based on Rudyard Kipling’s book of the same name. The Jungle Book tells the story of Mowgli, a feral child who is raised by wolves in the jungle. When Shere Khan, a tiger who threatens his life, forces Mowgli to leave his home, he embarks on a journey of self-discovery. Along the way, he meets a variety of characters who help him learn about himself and where he belongs in the world.
The film stars Jason Scott Lee, Cary Elwes, Lena Headey, Sam Neill, and John Cleese. Jungle Book’s episodic structure and musical numbers followed the more traditional Disney route, reminding us of Fantasia (1940) and Bambi (1942). The hypnotizing snake and the deadly tiger can be intimidating for kids. Otherwise, it’s a beautifully and painstakingly crafted film for Disney lovers.
6. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)
This a collection of three stories about Winnie the Pooh, originally published in 1926, 1928, and 1932. The stories were adapted into an animated feature film by Disney in 1977.
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is notable for its storybook feel and timeless appeal. The characters and setting have been praised by critics and audiences alike for their simplicity and down-to-earth nature.
The film was directed by John Lounsbery and Wolfgang Reitherman, with songs written by Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman.The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh was a box office success, grossing over $39 million in the United States. The film received mixed reviews from critics but is generally considered to be one of Disney’s classic films.
If you’re looking for a feel-good movie that will take you back to your childhood, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is the perfect choice. It’s great for kids as it opens them up to uplifting themes like companionship and love.
7. The Lion King (1994)
For toddlers who love animals, The Lion King is a must-watch. The 1994 American animated musical drama tells the story of Simba, a young lion who is heir to the throne of his father, Mufasa. When Mufasa is killed in a stampede, Simba is blamed for his death and forced to flee his home. He eventually meets up with Timon and Pumbaa, two unlikely friends who teach him the “Hakuna Matata” lifestyle.
Simba eventually learns the truth about his father’s death and returns to take his rightful place as king. The film stars Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, Whoopi Goldberg, Jeremy Irons, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Moira Kelly, Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, Rowan Atkinson, Robert Guillaume, Madge Sinclair.
The film was directed by Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff, with a screenplay written by Irene Mecchi, Jonathan Roberts, and Linda Woolverton.
If you’re looking for a classic Disney movie to watch with your family, The Lion King is the perfect pick. This heartwarming film will have you singing along with the catchy songs and cheering for Simba as he takes his rightful place as king of the Pride Lands.
8. Toy Story (1995)
Toy Story is a 1995 American computer-animated buddy comedy film produced by Pixar Animation Studios for Walt Disney Pictures. The first installment in the Toy Story franchise, the film was directed by John Lasseter from a screenplay by Andrew Stanton, Joel Cohen, Alec Sokolow, and Joss Whedon.
Toy Story created a revolution in animation filmmaking similar to Disney’s groundbreaking 1937 feature Snow White and Seven Dwarfs. While the latter was one of the earliest and most successful feature-length animated films, the former was the first digitally enhanced CGI animated feature film. Moreover, nothing about these two films feels dated. Toy Story revolves around two toys’ spectacle-filled battle for the love of a kid who owns them. The film could perfectly work for toddlers. There’s no moment that’s stretched too far and every animated character would capture their attention. Toy Story also features great facial animation that allows you to greatly relate with the characters.
9. Finding Nemo (2003)/Finding Dory (2016)
Finding Nemo is a 2003 American computer-animated comedy-drama adventure film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. The film was directed by Andrew Stanton from a screenplay by Stanton and Bob Peterson, and stars the voices of Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Alexander Gould, and Willem Dafoe.
The plot follows Marlin (Brooks), a clownfish who becomes overprotective of his son Nemo (Gould) after he becomes separated from him in the Great Barrier Reef. With the help of Dory (DeGeneres), a blue tang fish with short-term memory loss, Marlin sets out on a journey to find his son.
Finding Nemo was a critical and commercial success, grossing over $940 million worldwide. Kids fell so much in love with the clownfish after the film’s release that the demand for them suddenly skyrocketed.
The long-awaited sequel to Finding Nemo, Finding Dory follows the forgetful blue tang fish as she searches for her family. The film features an all-star cast, including Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, and Ed O’Neill. Both Finding Nemo and Finding Dory are about outsiders achieving their dreams and wishes despite the many obstacles, and this has been narrated in the most pleasing and kid-friendly manner.
10. Tangled (2010)
The computer-animated musical fantasy-comedy is the 50th animated feature in the Disney Animated Canon. It’s loosely based on the German fairy tale “Rapunzel” in the collection of folk tales published by the Brothers Grimm.
The film tells the story of Rapunzel (Mandy Moore), a princess with long, magical hair who is imprisoned in a tower by her mother Gothel (Donna Murphy). When a thief named Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi) attempts to steal Rapunzel’s crown, she strikes a deal with him and persuades him to take her out into the world for the first time.
Tangled was the first CGI-animated Disney princess. While it didn’t have catchy and powerful songs like ‘Let It Go’ in Frozen, from a narrative and aesthetic standpoint, Tangled set the benchmark for the new-age princess narratives. Moreover, Rapunzel’s naivete and curiosity as she discovers the world anew can be hilarious and relatable for its youngest viewers.
11. Frozen/Frozen 2 (2013, 2019)
Frozen tells the story of Anna (Kristen Bell), a princess who sets off on a journey to find her estranged sister Elsa (Idina Menzel), whose magical powers have trapped their kingdom in an eternal winter.
Frozen was a critical and commercial success, grossing over $673 million worldwide. The long-awaited sequel to Frozen, Frozen II was released in 2019. The film sees Anna, Elsa, and their friends travel to an enchanted forest to find the source of Elsa’s magical powers.
Both Frozen films are must-watch family classics that will have you laughing, crying, and cheering for the characters. If you’re looking for a feel-good movie to watch with your loved ones, Frozen is the perfect choice.
12. Wreck-It Ralph/Ralph Breaks the Internet (2012, 2018)
The 52nd animated feature in the Disney Animated Canon, the film tells the story of Ralph (John C. Reilly), a video game villain who sets out on a journey to become a hero. Wreck-It Ralph was a critical and commercial success, grossing over $471 million worldwide. This classic film will have you rooting for Ralph as he attempts to become a hero.
Both the Ralph movies are highly colorful, fast paced and have slapstick comedy which can work wonders with the kids. While some of the themes can be too overwhelming for the kids, Ralph’s mood swings can lead to a fruitful conversation between adults and kids.
The long-awaited sequel to Wreck-It Ralph, Ralph Breaks the Internet was released in 2018. The film sees Ralph and his friend Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman) travel to the internet in search of a replacement part for Vanellope’s game.
Ralph Breaks the Internet is a must-watch for fans of the first film. Be sure to bring your tissues, as this heartwarming sequel will have you laughing and crying. Both the animated works can educate kids on the importance of self-improvement and mutual respect.
13. Moana (2016)
Moana is a 2016 American computer-animated musical fantasy film produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. The film is loosely based on the Hawaiian myth of Moana Waialiki, a daughter of Chief Tui who sets out on a journey to find the demigod Maui and save her people.
The film features an all-star cast, including Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, Temuera Morrison, Jemaine Clement, Nicole Scherzinger, and Chris Jackson.
Similar to Frozen movies, Moana is a revisionist take on Disney’s traditional princess narrative. Moana is a more complex character than our average animated princess figures. Her adventures are purely exciting and the ocean, island backgrounds are absolutely enchanting. Even the animal sidekick character here is endearingly quirky and can totally capture the toddler’s attention.
This heartwarming tale will have you cheering for Moana as she sets out on her journey. Moana is a must-watch for fans of Disney’s princess movies.
I hope you enjoyed this quick trip down the memory lane with some of Disney’s animated classics. These are some of the best Disney movies for toddlers. The heartwarming tales will have you cheering for the characters as they set out on their journey. So grab some popcorn and snuggle up with your loved ones for a fun-filled movie night. If you are done watching toddler-friendly films, you can try Lady and the Tramp (1955), The Little Mermaid (1989), Curious George (2006), Horton Hears a Who! (2008), and Thomas & Friends: The Adventure Begins (2015),
What’s your favorite Disney movie? Let me know in the comments below!