Disney’s Experimental Animation Era ran from 1999 to 2008. During this time, Disney moved away from the musical formula that had worked so well during the ’90s Renaissance and continued to try new types of animation and narration. Also referred to as Post Renaissance, Dark Age of Animation or Second Dark Age of Animation, Disney had a tough time at the box office, but the changes made during this period paved the way for the Disney Revival of the 2010s. Let’s rank the 11 films from the experimental era of animation.
11. HOUSE ON THE RANGE
It’s not just the worst movie of the experimental era of animation, it’s the worst Disney movie I’ve ever seen. This is possibly the worst movie I have ever seen. The cattle rustling plot had potential, but this film completely wastes the talents of Dame Judi Dench. She tries to make it work, but anything with Roseanne voicing the title character is hard to come by.
This is the movie where Disney went all out with 3D animation. By 2000 standards, this film was magnificent. By 2022 standards, some parts are still beautiful while other parts have aged poorly. While the animation has its bright spots, the plot does not. It’s too thin to distract you from the parts that have aged well, and the animation isn’t good enough to distract you from the bad plot.
9. SMALL CHICKEN
It’s a beautifully animated film, but like the two lower-tier films, its plot is thin. “Chicken Little” has a lot more potential than “Home on the Range” or “Dinosaur,” but it stretches too much by combining the alien invasion plot with the adult father-son bonding plot.
8. TREASURE PLANET
This movie should be so much better than it is. The animation looks good overall, though some of it hasn’t aged well. It is based on one of the best books of all time, “Treasure Island”. It has the potential to be a great futuristic twist on a literary classic, but it falls flat. It’s better than I thought it would be when I was 17 and got out of theater because I hated it so much back then. But, that still leaves a lot to be desired.
7. LILO AND DOT
Disney combines Polynesian heritage, the story of sisters who choose each other and an alien adventure and gives us a fun, but still disappointing film. Disney would enhance the Polynesian story in “Moana” and the sister story in “Frozen”. This extraterrestrial adventure is still better than the one offered in “Chicken Little”.
6. FANTASY 2000
Disney’s return to classical music is vastly superior to its predecessor but could still be better. The presentation is more viewer-friendly in “Fantasia 2000”, with better animation and better song choices. Still, “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” is a classic version of Mickey, and it makes sense that it’s the only segment from the original “Fantasia” to be brought back. It’s a solid outing during an otherwise dark time for Disney.
5. BROTHER BEAR
Now we get into the five movies from this era of animation that I enjoy the most. “Brother Bear” takes another excellent Phil Collins soundtrack and adds a coming-of-age story about brothers, love, and caring for nature. This movie does everything “Chicken Little” tried and failed to do. It is perfectly blended to make a gripping story.
4. MEET THE ROBINSONS
It’s a fun adventure that doesn’t get enough love, in my opinion. It’s definitely fast paced and it may lose some people, but I think it does a great job of mixing that fast pace with a likeable protagonist and an engaging story. It’s a movie from this era that Disney should release more often.
3. ATLANTIS: THE LOST EMPIRE
The very slogan of this film tells you that you are no longer in the Renaissance. “Less songs, more explosions.” This film also offers a good story and excellent voice acting. This might be Jim Varney’s best performance and it’s a shame he never got to see it. The movie failed to deliver at the box office, but it delivers every time I watch it.
2. THE EMPEROR’S NEW GROOVE
“KUZCO!!!!” This film delivers on all counts. It has great music without really being a musical. It has incredible performances from David Spade, John Goodman, Patrick Warburton and Eartha Kitt. It gave us one of the biggest supporting characters in the Disney canon in Kronk. It may not be a box office hit, but it’s a cult favorite for a reason.
This is my favorite movie from the experimental era of animation. This is the movie where it looked like Walt Disney Animation Studios could constantly compete with Pixar. “Bolt” tells a great story with great animation and great voice acting. There’s a reason this is the last movie of the experimental era. It was the gateway to Revival.
This is my ranking. The 2000s had some great movies, but there were also some duds. Let’s throw it to you. How would you classify the films of Disney’s Experimental Age of Animation?