10 Disney Animated Films with Low Rotten Tomato Scores [That Deserve Better]
We all know that the overlords at the Walt Disney Company do not make mistakes and only ever make amazingly successful and well loved family films, right? Well, Rotten Tomatoes seems to disagree with this.
Some films are childhood classics but don’t land well with the critics. Others are insane ideas from the Walt Disney vault that probably shouldn’t have seen the light of day anyway.
This list is only films that were released under the main Disney banner either as the sole production company or as a co-production. The list doesn’t include films made by its subsidiaries and then distributed by Disney (So no Star Wars hate here).
Here are 10 animated Disney films that are certified rotten, but maybe just shouldn’t’ be.
10. Disney’s A Christmas Carol (2009) 52%
Ebenezer Scrooge begins the Christmas holiday with his usual miserly contempt, barking at his faithful clerk and his cheery nephew. But, when the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come take him on an eye-opening journey revealing truths Old Scrooge is reluctant to face, he must open his heart to undo years of ill will before it’s too late.
Critics Quote: “A Christmas Carol should be as cosy and familiar as piping-hot tea and buttered, toasted crumpets, not a brain-battering sensory assault that feels like downing tequila shots on a rollercoaster.”
Another Dickens’ classic, Disney’s A Christmas Carol is different to what we are used to seeing as it is a motion-captured 3-D CGI film. The use of new technology should be commended and it is a visually stunning film overall. This is a little darker than some other Disney films but if it wasn’t it wouldn’t be honoring its source material. A lot of the dialogue is taken directly from the original novel and it stays true to the incredible story. It may never be a top tier Christmas classic but it’s definitely worth another watch.
9. A Goofy Movie (1995) 58%
This animated Disney feature centers on Goofy’s teenage son Max, who is dragged off on vacation just as he was about to ask his dreamgirl, Roxanne, on a date. As Max and Goofy head to the forest for some camping, Max schemes to get them to a concert in L.A.
Critic Quote: “Maybe three moments of inspired gags keep the thing going, and that’s being kind. Overall, “A Goofy Movie” is an incoherent mess that jumps from one unlikely, brainless, crash-bang situation to another, with each element of a protracted father-son bonding story increasingly out of synch with the others.”
A Goofy Movie may not be Disney gold but it’s a fun, 90’s nostalgia film that brings back childhood memories. Goofy is a well-loved character and deserved his own film, even if this one focuses a little more on Max. There’s a lot going on here concerning father son relationships and the pitfalls of teen angst and parental embarrassment. Clearly it was, and still is, well loved by audiences with a 70% audience score, worth a re-watch to celebrate its 25th Anniversary.
8. Planes (2013) 26%
A cropdusting plane with a fear of heights lives his dream of competing in a famous around-the-world aerial race.
Critic Quote: “”Planes” borrows a world from “Cars,” but even compared to that soulless exercise in well-merchandised animated automotive adventure, “Planes” is dead in its big, googly eyes and hollow inside.”
Maybe this animated film would have had less hate thrown its way if it had been released direct-to-video, but then again maybe it was just unfairly held up against the popular film Cars that came before it. With a positive message about never giving up and a fun ‘round the world’ plot this is sweet slice of family friendly entertainment. It’s highflying fun for a young audience, remember, Disney is allowed to be just for kids sometimes.
7. Brother Bear (2003) 37%
When a young Inuit hunter needlessly kills a bear, he is magically changed into a bear himself as punishment with a talkative cub being his only guide to changing back.
Critic Quote: “Brother Bear should please most kids, but its formulaic story and predictable animation prove Disney needs to try a little harder next time.” And the pun-tastic “Oh, brother, what a bore…”
Brother Bear may have a low critic rating but it also has an Oscar nomination under its belt and a solid 65% audience score, so clearly it isn’t the flop some presume it to be. It is a morality tale with heart that has some brilliantly funny characters and a great soundtrack. It has a touching plot that will resonate with an older audience and enough slapstick adventure to keep kids happy as well.
6. Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001) 49%
A young adventurer named Milo Thatch joins an intrepid group of explorers to find the mysterious lost continent of Atlantis.
Critic Quote: “It’s like watching a Michael Bay movie without the live actors — not necessarily a bad idea, but not really a new one either.”
For Disney’s first science fiction film, Atlantis: The Lost Empire is a damn decent film. Inspired by the works of Jules Verne it is a unique outing from Disney, different to many of their other films, which garnered them praise from some and confusion from others. The visuals are stunning and the characters are all interesting and not the cookie cutter tropes often expected of Disney. The narrative may be a little mixed up but it’s an entertaining action adventure film that was well researched and a rightful cult classic.
5. Chicken Little (2005) 37%
After ruining his reputation with the town, a courageous chicken must come to the rescue of his fellow citizens when aliens start an invasion.
Critic Quote: “Chicken Little is much too glib to make us feel what its characters are experiencing; the filmmakers would much rather explode their animated sets and vaporize their talking creatures.”
Based on the fable of the same name this little chicken thinks that the sky is falling. It’s an old fable that’s been retold numerous times but with the magic of Disney animation it modernizes the story and spreads a positive message to a young audience. The little underdogs in this story get the respect they have craved and it makes sure that children know they can be the ‘nerd’ or ‘outsider’ and still save the day.
4. Oliver & Company (1988) 51%
This animated musical retells Dickens’s Oliver Twist amongst animals in New York City, with Oliver as an innocent kitten who joins a gang of law-breaking dogs. When a wealthy young woman adopts Oliver, the gang’s evil human owner hatches a kidnapping scheme to tap into the girl’s fortune.
Critic Quote: “Surely one of Disney’s weakest full-length animated features, Oliver and Company features terrible, badly dated songs and some shoddy, patchwork animation with precious few dazzling moments.”
Disney is well know for introducing a young audience to classic literature, folktale and fairytale stories in a child friendly, easily digestible way, Oliver & Company is no different. Retelling Oliver Twist through the guise of animals and with the help of some incredibly catchy songs is a perfect way to introduce a classis story to a young generation. Don’t deny that ‘Why Should I Worry?’ is a hit!
3. Cars 2 (2011) 39%
Star racecar Lightning McQueen and his pal Mater head overseas to compete in the World Grand Prix race. But the road to the championship becomes rocky as Mater gets caught up in an intriguing adventure of his own: international espionage.
Critic Quote: “Cars 2 runs out of gas. It’s on fumes — and some of them pretty noxious. There may be enough color and motion to initially interest children, but the plot will lose them, and boredom may follow.”
After the success of the original is made sense to create a sequel, yet Cars 2 is the only Pixar film with a rotten score. Of course it can boast the incredible animation all Pixar films have but it also has an action packed story that takes us from the racetrack to a ‘James Bond’ esque overseas adventure. Cars 2 is a fun and enjoyable sequel that doesn’t just spit out the same idea as the original, it’s downfall may simply be in the fact it is a Pixar sequel and expectations are held incredibly high for the studio.
2. Robin Hood (1973) 54%
The story follows the adventures of Robin Hood, Little John, and the inhabitants of Nottingham as they fight against the excessive taxation of Prince John, and Robin Hood wins the hand of Maid Marian.
Critic Quote: “Of all the animated Disney movies from the ’70s, Robin Hood had perhaps the most potential, but suffers from a mild case of “averageitis.”
Robin Hood was one of my childhood favorites from Disney, and I clearly wasn’t alone as it boasts an 81% audience score. I mean, there’s even internet groups about how foxy (sorry) Robin was, he was a first crush for many a young girl, that’s some cultural impact right there. The animation is great for the time, the voice actors are charming and it’s full of good natured humour and some brilliant songs. It’s a lovely take on the original story that humanizes the animals and gives each perfect personality.
1. Pocahontas (1995) 55%
An English soldier and the daughter of an Algonquin chief share a romance when English colonists invade seventeenth century Virginia.
Critic Quote: “One of the worst animated films in Disney history, you’ll get more genuine history out of a pop-up book.”
The low score for this one baffles me; I always assumed this was as well loved as other Disney classics, but apparently not. Disney has always taken liberties with the stories it tells and this film is no different, it has historical and racial issues that cannot simply be swept away but it still stands as having some good messages. A history lesson it is not, but Pocahontas has more agency than some other princesses and has a strong opinion on the connection between nature and humans. There are some good messages about environmentalism and some beautifully crafted songs. Pocahontas deserves her place in the Disney Princess hall of fame.