Disney has been doing really well of late. With recent successes like Zootopia, The Jungle Book, and Frozen, it seems as if the Mouse House has finally hit their stride. This change in fortune for them has even pushed them to announce more sequels and live-action reboots along the way including Beauty and the Beast, Wreck It Ralph 2, and the soon to be released Moana. That’s not even including all of the hotly anticipated Pixar movies that are set to be released in a few years (save for Cars 3 of course).
Despite these successes, even the biggest Disney fans will tell you that it wasn’t always this good. The early 2000s were a dark time for Disney (that period in between The Lion King and Tangled), where Disney Channel started going live action and their animated features lacked the quality of their predecessors. They were running out of steam and plummeting fast.
Fortunately for them and for us moviegoers, those days are long over, and Disney has since tried to sweep their mistakes under the rug. But while they’ve moved on, we haven’t forgotten those days. We cautiously look back, hoping and praying that we never have to see anything like the atrocities that came out of there. If you’ve never seen any of these obscure and abysmal flicks, here are fifteen awful movies that Disney wants you to forget. But if you’ve seen them, sadly, they will forever leave a scar in your mind.
15. Chicken Little
The sky is falling! The sky is falling! Oh, never mind, that’s just your review scores. Chicken Little was an attempt to be a clever hodgepodge between multiple fables such as the Ugly Duckling and Henny Penny. It was also the first Disney movie to go fully CGI animated, as they had only been doing 2D up until that point. Unfortunately, Disney put more effort in their technical presentation than they did their storytelling, as Chicken Little seemed to fall flat on its face. There was an odd level of pacing throughout, but the real travesty came in how they developed some of their characters, Chicken Little’s dad, Buck, in particular. What’s even more sad about Buck is that he was the only character that really had any depth, but he still managed to be one of the most unlikable fathers in film history. He was unsupportive in every way and managed to make his son feel even worse at the end of the day. If you’ve seen the film, then if nothing else, take it as an example of not how to make a good father figure. There’s also the whole in-the-moment romance and an incredibly anticlimactic finale, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg with this movie.
14. Mars Needs Moms
I still remember when this movie came out. The only other notable Disney movie to come out (made by Pixar) at the time was Cars 2. It seemed like there was a drought in good Disney movies, and it was made even clearer to me when I heard about this film. Even the name itself sounds strange and unfinished. But, after seeing Tangled the previous year, I had a bit of hope for this one. I put it in, hit play, and was immediately appalled. Their first mistake was using the same live action technology in an animated movie that the Polar Express used. It’s too realistic for a cartoon, and makes the entire thing look ugly and/or creepy. Mars Needs Moms also has more plot-holes and continuity errors than you can put in outer space. It seems like too great of an attempt by Disney to tell a meaningful story again, and if you try too hard, you’ll probably end out even worse when all is said and done. If anything, the film is just unoriginal and boring. There’s nothing about the story that stands out to me; and the way those Martians are designed still give me nightmares from time to time.
13. Home On The Range
If you hear an old children’s song, does it seem like a good idea to make an entire movie out of it? Not at all, you say? Well, please tell Disney that, then! You know, when I put it that way, I should give Disney a little bit of credit there because Home on the Range could’ve turned out a lot worse based on the concept. Unfortunately, it didn’t exactly turn out very good either. The entire premise of the film is that three cows with differing personalities are potentially going to lose their home due to foreclosure. In order to save their… ahem… home on the range, they decide to capture a wanted bounty hunter in order to get the cash reward and save the farm. Right from the plot, you can tell there are going to be problems with this movie. Top that with a not-so-good-to-look-at movie (which is unheard of with Disney), and you’ve got one of the most forgettable and unwanted movies in Disney history. To be honest, it looks like something that should have been a direct-to-video project.
It hurts my heart to put this movie on the list, because Dinosaur was one of my favorite and most watched movies as a kid. The problem with Dinosaur is not with its visuals by any means, though. Disney filmed the backgrounds and set pieces in live action, but animated all of the Dinosaurs in a result that is gorgeous to look at. The problems come more in its plot and voicing on the dinos themselves. The plot is very basic and features nothing of interest or memory. Just from the best of my recollection, I hardly remember anything about the story myself. Then there’s the voice casting. Dinosaur literally means “terrible lizard”, so when you hear them talk, you would expect them to sound a bit more powerful, and less like Matthew Broderick in The Lion King. Top that off with Disney not making the best use with all of their backgrounds, as many of the set pieces are just an ugly gray, and you’ve got a beautiful movie with a lot of promise that didn’t live up to its potential. Kind of sounds like The Good Dinosaur to me. What is it with Disney and their dinosaur movies?
11. Oliver and Company
Oliver and Company was an attempt to capitalize on the classic style of Disney tales such as Lady and the Tramp and The Aristocats. Like many other entries on this list, Oliver and Company ended up an unoriginal tale that looks like something they should have just put on video straight away. The movie is a musical, let me clarify that, but after having seen the movie a few times, I couldn’t sing to you a single line from any of the songs: that’s how forgettable they are. Let me rephrase: Disney made a movie where I can’t remember the songs at all. Need I say more? In all seriousness, Oliver and Company is one of those rare cases where you get exactly what was promised in the movie trailer, and in this film’s case, that’s not a good thing. There was nothing unique or different about it. It’s your typical “fish out of water” movie, with gruff characters, and a timid protagonist. The final nail in the coffin for this movie is that it wasn’t even released in the early 2000s, it was released in 1988, when Disney was still pumping out really good movies. I guess Disney wasn’t all good then either.
10. Planes/Planes: Fire and Rescue
When starting this list, I knew Planes would make the cut, but I knew that I would have to include the second one somehow. Cars and Cars 2 are already the least loved Pixar movies to date, but Disney decided to pick up some of the rights to be able to make the Planes movie, which is set in the same universe. Now, bear with me here. Planes was originally intended to be a direct-to-TV release, and premiere on Disney Channel for the younger kids to watch and enjoy. But the studio “liked it so much” that they decided to give it a full theatrical release. Granted, the film did well, but mostly because audiences were probably expecting something from Pixar. However, Planes was a pretty boring movie that took all of the problems Cars had and made them ten times worse. It’s predictable, tensionless, and lacks most if not all of the heart you would expect from a Disney film. Then there’s Planes: Fire and Rescue, a sequel released only two years later. No surprise: it maintains much of the problems from the first movie, and that definitely showed up in its box office numbers. Both movies are a direct result of Disney wanting to be able to make more money, and those choices never end out well, especially in terms of film quality.
Disney is usually very good about creating family-friendly movies that are both serious and accurate to their respective inspiration. That is definitely not the case with Pocahontas. While there is a lot to be said about the memorability of the music and visuals, the foundation is where this movie starts to falter. Not only is it incredibly run-of-the-mill, but there wasn’t nearly as much care put into it as say The Lion King. For example, when Disney made The Lion King, they actually studied lions, how they interact, what they eat, etc. to be able to tell a much more believable story. Pocahontas is based upon a real historical figure, but the story they tell in the movie is vastly different from what we knew from the books. The British heavily mistreated her, and she wasn’t nearly as “perfect looking” as the film would suggest. On top of that, many of Pocahontas’s friends and relatives were turned into animals for the sake of making the movie more marketable to kids. It seems like such a sudden step backwards for Disney with all of the choices they made for this movie.
It took Disney a while to perfect their formula when it came to making good animated movies, but it took them even longer to perfect their live action films, such as the case of G-Force. The film centers around a group of guinea pigs (called the G-Force) who are secret agents that use little devices to communicate with humans. It sounds both cute and contrived, but as the story progresses, it’s clear what kind of movie you’re going to get. G-Force is as over the top and clumsy as its premise suggests and lacks anything of real substance or originality. It gets even worse near the end. For all of their services in saving the world, the G-Force is honored as special agents for the FBI. It amazes me how much Hollywood tries to suspend our disbelief sometimes. No doubt that the kids will definitely be entertained because there are talking guinea pigs and childlike jokes all around, but people looking for anything more than that would better off turning their gaze elsewhere.
7. The Wild
Anyone who knows their comics knows that Marvel and DC have a tendency to rip off each other. The same could be said of Disney and Dreamworks, except Disney is easily the culprit this time. Dreamworks had a hit on their hands with Madagascar, and their movies had only gotten better from that point, so Disney decided to capitalize on the success of Madagascar and make their own “zoo animals escape the zoo” adventure. Dubbed The Wild, Disney wanted to take what Dreamworks did and make it better. Unfortunately for them, the result was a lot worse. Anybody who saw the marketing immediately knew that they were playing off of Madagascar. Then there’s the animation quality. It was just unavoidably bad. Disney, if you’re going to rip off of a successful movie, at least try to do it better. Care about the plot, and make the animation much more pleasing to look at. It was almost as if they were trying to make a worse copy so that more people would want to go watch Madagascar again. In the end, Madagascar was able to make a complete trilogy (and the Penguins movie), while Disney merely left The Wild in the dust where it belongs.
6. The Lion King 1 1/2
The Lion King is my favorite Disney movie of all time for multiple reasons, and Pride Rock will always hold a dear place in my heart forever. The Lion King 2 came out, and I was severely unimpressed, but the real horror came with The Lion King 1 1/2. The problem with The Lion King 1 1/2 is that it takes the events of The Lion King and puts them in the perspective of Timon and Pumbaa. Granted that sounds like a good premise, seeing as how I love those characters. Unfortunately, that setting ruins some of my favorite scenes in cinematic history. For example, according to The Lion King 1 1/2, the real reason the animals started bowing when Simba was presented as Pride Rock was because Pumbaa couldn’t hold in his fart and the animals collapsed because of it. Then Disney decided to make decisions that were not reflective of the original film, such as adding in new characters that were never seen, and making Timon a surrogate father for Simba. It’s not an all around terrible film, but it manages to taint most of the amazing scenes that makes The Lion King so great for me. Naturally, I don’t consider The Lion King 1 1/2 canon.
5. John Carter
It was really cute how when people were marketing this movie, they claimed it was going to be the next Star Wars. Yes, there were certainly high expectations set when it was announced that John Carter of Mars was going to made into a movie. Right away from the first watch of the movie, you can tell they planned to make sequels out of this one, but they didn’t exactly hit the nail on the head. John Carter ultimately suffers from plot conveniences, lackluster action, and a story that was better in concept than execution. Going hand in hand with that is how the film calls back to the cheesy movies of yesteryear but relies on that so much that it sometimes forgets what era it’s really in. Their next “Star Wars” didn’t work out too well, but luckily for Disney, they did eventually acquire the rights to Star Wars, so I guess it worked out in the end for them. John Carter will forever remain an example of another attempt by Disney at a smashing live action success, and while the movie garners some interesting visuals, the end result will leave you underwhelmed.
4. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Where most video game movies are unwatchably disgusting, Prince of Persia is only not very good. I still stand by my statement that I have yet to see a genuinely good video game movie. Granted, I was incredibly shocked that Disney would pick up the rights for this movie and try their hand at the ever terrible video game adaptation. Jake Gyllenhal, while a great actor, doesn’t exactly play the ever-loved Dastan to full effect, and the rest of the cast definitely follows suit. The adventure is reminiscent of the first Pirates of the Caribbean in terms of tone, but it never fully delivers. Top that with an ending that feels so disappointing and completely wastes all of the time we spent watching the film, and you’ve got a movie that Disney pretty much doesn’t acknowledge anymore. If there’s anything I have to say positive about this movie, it’s that Ben Kingsley didn’t turn out to be some fun-loving actor who was only pretending to be the villain while a much less-interesting guy was really planning to kill Dastan. The Parkour scenes weren’t half bad either.
3. Mulan II
Oh Mulan, the diamond in the rough of movies that came after The Lion King. I could still sing “Make a Man Out of You” effortlessly. It was a captivating tale about the woman who masqueraded as a man to fight in the war in the place of her father. While not perfect, this is one of the best examples of making a movie with a strong female lead. When a sequel was announced, thoughts were had of what grand adventure our female soldier could have next. Then our thoughts were ultimately helpless for what followed. Mulan II instead showcased our favorite Chinese heroes escorting princesses to another kingdom to be married. But on the way they fall in love. Then for some selfish reason, Mushu tries to break up Mulan and Shang. What more can I say? The voice acting is terrible, the plot is boring at best, but it’s the songs that are the real sin here. Where the first Mulan had incredibly memorable and upbeat tunes, Mulan II has awkward notes and beats that just don’t sound pleasing to the ear. If you don’t believe me, go listen to “I Wanna Be Like Other Girls”. Trust me, it’s bad.
2. Gnomeo and Juliet
What happens when you combine Disney, Shakespeare, and garden gnomes? Well, the Mouse House was hoping it would make a smashing success at the box office and the reviews. Unfortunately, what we all ended up with was Gnomeo and Juliet. Telling the classic tale of boy and girl who fall in love but their families hate each other, you know exactly what to expect when you see this film. However, the twist is that it centers around little garden gnomes who all live in a backyard. The gnomes in love are both aided by a lawn flamingo with what I think is supposed to be a Hispanic accent. Is it starting to sound weird? It should, because all in all, that is what this movie is. Simply weird. Sadly enough, it seemed for a while that Disney was sweeping this one under the rug, but it came out just recently that Gnomeo and Juliet: Sherlock Gnomes will be coming out two years from now. At least this time, we’ll know exactly what to expect when it comes around. Be prepared for a strange adaptation of the “World’s Greatest Detective.”
1. High School Musical, Camp Rock, Twitches
When I was making this list, I knew I had to include at least one Disney Channel original movie, but there are just too many to pick from- this would be an entirely different list if I gave them all their own separate entries. Anybody who has seen any of these movies knows that they are generally pretty bad. Even the ones that end up being good are only good by Disney Channel standards and wouldn’t hold a candle to some of the more well-thought out movies of today. The worst about most of these movies (the bad ones anyways) is that they’re all formulaic. The main character always falls in love, there’s always an issue with the relationship, there’s always a jerk character who likes to stir things up, but when all is said and done, everyone likes to hug it out either through some emotional crap or through a terrible song. It’s very hard to believe that the studio behind “A Whole New World” “Be Our Guest” “Hakuna Matata” and “Let it Go” could also create songs like “Camp Rock” and “We’re All in This Together”. Yes, most of these Disney Channel movies will be long forgotten, but Disney has no intentions of continuing to try to strike gold. I’m still waiting for when they finally pull it off.