From 2000 to 2009, Disney went off the rails a little bit.
By that, I mean that they decided they didn’t need the usual Broadway-Esque musical formula that had brought them so much success. They started to experiment, and find new storytelling methods.
The result? A lot of oddball movies. Some were great. Others, not so much.
While this time period in Disney animation isn’t the most popular, it does contain a handful of really great movies that have stood the test of time. Of course, we have to get through entries like Home on the Range and Dinosaur to get there!
11. Home on the Range (2004)
Home on the Range centers on a trio of dairy cows in the Old West. They’re on a mission to capture a wanted cattle rustler (aka someone who steals cows from farms), so they can use the bounty to save their farm from foreclosure. The cows were voiced by Roseanne Barr, Judi Dench, and Jennifer Tilly, while the outlaw cow thief was voiced by Randy Quaid.
Is this the worst animated film that Disney ever created? Some say it is. Whether or not it tops the likes of The Jungle Book 2 or Peter Pan: Return to Never Land, though, is a topic for another time. But in any case, it’s definitely the worst animated film from Disney’s Post-Renaissance Era and has largely been forgotten about at this point. The plot is so dull and unoriginal that many viewers probably forgot about it the second they walked out of the movie theater in 2004.
10. Chicken Little (2005)
In this film, the titular character is ridiculed for causing a panic, thinking that the sky was falling. Of course, after his reputation was ruined, he’s the one that has to come to the rescue after aliens start an invasion. Chicken Little was voiced by Zach Braff, while other familiar names like Joan Cusack, Don Knotts, Patrick Stewart, and Amy Sedaris voiced other characters.
Chicken Little was Disney’s first fully computer-animated feature film, and boy they were focused on that – so focused, in fact, they ignored a lot of other important aspects of a movie. It feels like Disney spent more time trying to figure out CGI than they did crafting a storyline. You would think the plot would have been better, considering that Chicken Little, aka Henny Penny, is an already existing folk tale. Not only that, but Disney made another Chicken Little adaptation back in 1943.
9. Dinosaur (2000)
2000’s Dinosaur centers on Aladar, a dinosaur that was raised by lemurs (no, really) on a tropical island. After a meteor destroys everything, he must try to find a new place for his family and other dinosaurs to live.
The movie was certainly a bold, ambitious project in terms of how it was made. The live-action/animation hybrid featured realistically animated CGI characters set against live-action backgrounds. And while critics praised the animation when it was released, the whole thing is boooooring. The first ten minutes is a wordless, action-packed opening sequence that is visually stunning… and that’s about where the good stuff ends.
The characters and plot are mundane, everything falls flat, and it feels eerily similar to Land Before Time. The dinosaurs featured in the film didn’t live during the same time periods, and lemurs didn’t show up until millions of years after dinosaurs.
8. Fantasia 2000 (1999)
Just like its predecessor, Fantasia 2000 is a collection of animated segments that are set to pieces of classical music. Unlike the original Fantasia, the animation here combines traditional animation with computer-generated imagery. Live-action scenes featuring well-known celebs introduce each segment. You’ll recognize the likes of Steve Martin, Quincy Jones, Bette Midler, and more.
Although Fantasia 2000 received some praise for several of its sequences, critics were quick to point out that its overall quality was uneven in comparison to the original Fantasia. It wasn’t profitable for Disney at the box office. It has grossed a little over $90 million since its release, against its initial $90 million price tag.
7. Brother Bear (2003)
After a young Inuit boy named Kenai needlessly kills a grizzly bear, he is magically transformed into a bear himself by the Spirits. He then befriends a young bear cub named Koda and must travel to where the Northern lights touch the earth in order to become human again. Joaquin Phoenix is the voice of Kenai.
While Brother Bear was one of the more profitable movies of this era in Disney animation, that’s partly thanks to its small $46 million budget. The movie itself is good, but it wasn’t great. We’re looking at so-so animation and a generic plot, leaving viewers with a pleasant and unremarkable experience.
6. Meet the Robinsons (2007)
One of the final films released during the Post-Renaissance Era, Meet the Robinsons followed Lewis, a young inventor. He is visited by a future relative who warns him about a guy in a bowler hat and wants him to help save the day.
Meet the Robinsons is one of the more memorable films from Disney’s Post-Renaissance Era. To be honest, some people find this movie great, while others think it’s just so-so. That’s why it sits smack-dab in the middle of this list. It’s no Lilo & Stitch, but it’s certainly no Home on the Range, either. It does contain a lot of fun Tomorrowland shoutouts, for Disney World enthusiasts to pick up!
5. Treasure Planet (2002)
Treasure Planet is basically Treasure Island in space. This animated science fiction action-adventure film centers on young Jim Hawkins, who has become captivated by stories of the legendary pirate Captain Nathaniel Flint. After pirates burn down his family’s inn, he sets out to find the greatest pirate treasure in the universe: Flint’s Treasure Island.
Although Treasure Planet was actually nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, the movie was a box office failure. This is partly due to how expensive the film was to make, costing an estimated $140 million. It was the most expensive traditionally animated movie ever made at the time of its release–and so far, it still holds that title!
4. Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
It feels like Disney was really into exploring science fiction during the Post-Renaissance Era. This sci-fi action-adventure follows Milo Thatch, who gains possession of a sacred book and jumps at the chance to solve an ancient mystery that his grandfather began. He and his crew set out to find the lost city of Atlantis.
It might be a fast-paced spectacle, but there’s somewhat of a lack of character development. At least it has more of a cohesive plot than Treasure Planet. It could have used a sequel, but any further projects were quietly canceled by Disney execs after a lackluster box office response. Despite initial reception, it has gained a cult following, and has been labeled a “mistreated classic.”
3. Bolt (2008)
Bolt is a dog that has spent his entire life on the set of a sci-fi television series and believes that his superpowers are real. After his co-star is “kidnapped” on the show, he embarks on a journey to save her. He winds up teaming up with a sarcastic alley cat named Mittens and a hamster named Rhino on a cross-country journey.
Although Bolt may not be the most memorable Disney movie ever, it’s definitely one of the studio’s more underrated animated movies. It was nominated for several awards and features some of the best 3D animation from Disney at the time. This last film of the Post-Renaissance Age started Disney in a new creative direction that would lead to successful Revival Era films like Tangled.
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2. The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)
Selfish emperor Kuzco is turned into a llama after a plot on his life by his ex-administrator Yzma goes wrong. He entrusts village leader Pacha to escort him back to his palace in hopes of turning back into a human.
The movie didn’t perform so well at the box office, especially when compared to the massive successes that Disney animated films saw in the ‘90s. However, it saw plenty of success after it went to home video and has continued to remain popular since. Disney stepped a little out of the box for The Emperor’s New Groove, and this is one of those rare times when stepping away from their traditional formula worked extremely well. Admit it: this movie might be bonkers, but it’s hilarious!
1. Lilo & Stitch (2002)
Set in Hawaii, this film sees Stitch, a blue genetically-engineered alien, crash land on Earth. He befriends Lilo, a young girl who doesn’t have many friends and is having a hard time. The two mischievous individuals develop a close bond, and together they learn the meaning of the Hawaiian concept of ohana.
Much like other Disney animated movies during this time, Lilo & Stitch definitely strays from Disney’s usual formula. And like The Emperor’s New Groove, it worked out splendidly. It’s both charming and weird, and I love it.
This is, without a doubt, the most memorable and most popular Post-Renaissance movie. It saw success at the box office, but it has grown in popularity even more since. The charming flick has remained popular enough to spawn an entire franchise, including three sequels and three television series.