Starting with 2009’s The Princess and the Frog, Disney broke away from the experimental animated films of the Post-Renaissance Era. Although we got a few good oddball movies, like The Emperor’s New Groove, those films didn’t quite see the same success as some of Disney’s other entries.
With the Revival Era — which is where we are at right now — Disney returned to the usual Broadway-inspired musical formula. And while some of the films here are princess flicks, some surprisingly are not!
All 12 of the movies we’ve seen in the Revival Era are delightful, so let’s take a look at how they stack up against each other. The ranking here is entirely subjective. I don’t have any fancy point systems, and I’m not basing it on box office performances, either. But it’s fun, so let’s do it!
12. Winnie the Pooh (2011)
In 2011, Disney revisited the adventures of this silly old bear and the other residents of the Hundred Acre Wood. They are on a quest to save Christopher Robin from the mysterious Backson, while Pooh deals with his hunger for honey. Traditional animation paired with familiar characters makes for a charming, nostalgic movie for the whole family.
Although this movie is at the bottom of my list, it’s definitely not because the movie isn’t good. Winnie the Pooh is well-written and enjoyable. This heartwarming tale just happens to be up against some very steep competition! It may be last when ranked against all the movies from the Revival era, but it’s certainly not last in Disney’s catalog.
11. Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)
Six years after the events of Wreck-It Ralph, Ralph and Vanellope have stayed best friends. And while Ralph is content, Vanellope is ready for a little excitement. After Sugar Rush breaks, Ralph and Venellope embark on an adventure through the arcade’s new Wi-Fi router.
Although the two protagonists are awesome as usual–and the Disney Princesses show up to steal the show–the movie does have some pacing problems and the supporting characters aren’t particularly good. It’s still pretty entertaining, and it’s nice to see Ralph and Vanellope again.
10. Wreck-It Ralph (2012)
Ralph is the villain in the video game Fix-It Felix, but he is tired of always being the bad guy. He sets out to fulfill his dream of being a hero but throws the entire arcade into chaos. During his quest, he meets Vanellope von Schweetz, and they forge an unlikely friendship.
Taking audiences away from princesses and into the world of video games was definitely a gamble on Disney’s part. Luckily, it looks like the studio learned from previous attempts to break away from the usual formula. In case you’re wondering what I’m talking about, check out all the experimentation in Disney’s Post-Renaissance Era that came right ahead of the Revival Age. This time, though, it paid off, and I think the original Wreck-It Ralph just barely inches ahead of its sequel.
9. Big Hero 6 (2014)
Hiro Hamada is a robotics prodigy who forms an unlikely bond with Baymax, an inflatable healthcare provider robot that was created by his late brother. After discovering a masked villain has stolen his invention and was responsible for his brother’s death, Hiro and Baymax team up with a group of friends as a group of high-tech heroes to save the day.
Much like with Wreck-It Ralph, Disney ditched their usual Broadway-style fairytales with Big Hero 6, and it is a fantastic entry to the studio’s catalog. Although it’s one of the most emotional stories in Disney’s recent history, thanks to all the action and the humor, the movie is fun to watch. It went on to become the highest-grossing animated film of 2014 and picked up an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
8. Zootopia (2016)
Think of Zootopia as a buddy cop film – but with anthropomorphic animals. There’s a criminal conspiracy involving predators in Zootopia, where they go “savage” and then disappear. A rookie rabbit cop and a cynical con artist fox must partner up to uncover the scheme.
This is another unique entry that breaks away from the profitable Disney formula and still manages to do it well. The storyline here is well-written, and there are plenty of hidden details and gags that keep it fresh no matter how many times you watch it. It earned over $1 billion worldwide and also received an Academy Award, Golden Globe, and other accolades.
7. The Princess and the Frog (2009)
A hardworking New Orleans waitress named Tiana dreams of opening up her own restaurant, but all that is put on hold thanks to a prince and a witch doctor. Dr. Facilier turns the prince into a frog, and Tiana becomes a frog herself after kissing him. She then finds herself on a journey through the bayou as she tries to turn back into a human before it’s too late.
Clearly, this isn’t a straightforward retelling of the fairytale classic, with voodoo and a selfish prince set in New Orleans. These changes worked so well to refresh the story. It combines wonderful music, charming hand-drawn animation, and well-written characters to create a must-see movie.
6. Frozen (2013)
Elsa has managed to keep her supernatural powers hidden for most of her life, but after she accidentally traps her kingdom in an eternal winter, she flees to the North Mountain to isolate herself. Her sister, Anna, teams up with Kristoff, his reindeer Sven, and Olaf the snowman to find Elsa. At the same time, Anna’s love interest, Hans, is doing everything he can to seize Elsa’s throne.
It’s been several years, but I’m willing to bet that you still haven’t gotten “Let it Go” out of your head yet. Kids and adults alike loved this movie for the departure from the traditional love story, and instead focusing on the love between sisters. Frozen was a smash hit, becoming the highest-grossing film of 2013 and is currently the fifth highest-grossing film of all time.
5. Moana (2016)
Moana is the strong-willed daughter of the chief in a Polynesian village. Things start going wrong, as the fish population shrinks and vegetation is dying, but the chief doesn’t allow anyone to go beyond the reef. Moana defies this rule and answers the ocean’s call to set things right. She sets sail in search of the demigod Maui so that he can return the heart to the goddess Te Fiti.
This movie works on all levels. There are funny sidekicks, emotional moments, catchy songs, and beautiful animation–everything we expect from a Disney movie. Moana went on to gross more than $645 million globally and was praised for its animation, music, and vocal performances.
4. Frozen II (2019)
Sisters Anna and Elsa are back, along with Kristoff, Sven, and Olaf. A mysterious voice keeps calling out to Queen Elsa. She follows it, accidentally awakening the elemental spirits and forcing the kingdom to evacuate. They travel into the Enchanted Forest to uncover the truth about the past and unravel the origins of Elsa’s powers in order to save the kingdom and set things right.
Fans are split on whether or not Frozen II is better than its predecessor. It’s true that this movie spends less time developing characters – because Disney could rely on audiences already knowing them – but that left more time for story and action. It went on to earn nearly $200 million more than Frozen, pulling $1.45 billion globally.
But the real reason that Frozen II sits so high on my list? That ‘80s power ballad “Lost in the Woods” from Kristoff.
3. Raya and the Last Dragon (2021)
A young warrior named Raya of the Heart tribe is seeking the fabled last dragon in an effort to restore the dragon gem. She hopes that this magical gem will bring back her father and banish the evil spirits known as the Druun. She finds the dragon, Sisu, along with several others from across Kumandra who help Raya on her mission.
After a string of sequels, this original story was a welcome change and did not disappoint. The film had an unfortunate release, though. It was first delayed due to the pandemic and was then released simultaneously on Disney+. Although this affected box office numbers, the film became the second most-viewed streaming title on the platform.
2. Tangled (2010)
This movie is loosely based on the German fairytale of Rapunzel. In Tangled, Rapunzel has spent her entire life in a tower, afraid of the outside world. But once she leaves the secluded tower against the wishes of her “mother,” she discovers the world and who she really is. Along for the ride are Flynn Rider, a wanted thief who accidentally stumbles onto Rapunzel’s tower, and a palace horse named Maximus.
Revamping the tale of Rapunzel, this more modern take is brilliantly done. And can we talk about how Mother Gothel is the strongest villain in the Revival Era? As Disney’s first CGI princess, they really wanted to get it right – and Tangled is actually the most expensive animated film ever made. Luckily, audiences flocked to the theaters, and the film grossed $592 million worldwide.
1. Encanto (2022)
The members of a multigenerational Colombian family have received magical powers that they use to help the people in their community. However, Mirabel is the only member who mysteriously didn’t receive a magical gift. When she discovers that the rest of the family is losing their magic, she sets out to save her family and their magical house.
Encanto is brilliant! Easily one of my favorite animated movies. It’s received critical acclaim for animation, music, characterization, and cultural fidelity. The movie is beautifully animated, the songs are so catchy, and the characters are well-developed – all while dealing with deep issues like transgenerational trauma. Encanto won the Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature Film, and the songs are still on the Billboard charts.