Disney has been in the business of making films for a long time now. The entertainment giant released its first full-length animated feature in 1937. Disney had a budget of almost $1.5 million with which to bring an old German fairy tale to life on the big screen. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was an adaptation of a fairy tale originally written by the Brothers Grimm and first published in 1812, titled “Sneewittchen.”
Disney was met with critics and skepticism at his idea of such an undertaking. Many thought it would be a financial flop. To their surprise and Walt’s credit, the film was released on December 21,1937 and grossed over $66 million. The film was re-released in 1983, 1987 and 1993, with a total combined gross of over $118 million, taking its total gross to over $184 million. Not bad for a film with a tiny budget of $1.5 million!
With the wild success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs under his belt, Walt set out to bring even more full-length animated films to the big screen. With no shortage of Disney films to choose from, it’s challenging to narrow them down to only a handful that bring sunshine to a cloudy day and smiles to a saddened face, but here are ten for you to pop into the DVD player the next time your day is just not going your way.
10. Cinderella (February 15, 1950)
Cinderella is the go-to Disney film for those days when you feel like you’ve been treated unfairly. Did you have a day on the job during which you did most of the work while others ordered you around, criticized you unmercifully and then got the reward in the end? It happens to a lot of people, and Cinderella would certainly understand! During this feature film, Cinderella, the step-daughter of Lady Tremaine, suffers the loss of her father and then must live in the home she shared with him, but with her evil step-mother and two evil step-sisters. Her step-family forces Cinderella to become a servant and slave in her own home, and nothing she does is good enough for them.
Take heart, however! Thanks to the benevolence of her Fairy Godmother, Cinderella is afforded the opportunity to go to the ball given in honor of the prince, and she even dances with him! The movie concludes, of course, with the wedding of the prince and Cinderella after the Grand Duke spends hours and hours on an exhaustive search for the girl with whom the prince danced. Be cheered by the fact that hard work pays off, and good always wins over evil!
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9. Peter Pan (1953)
Having a rough day? Join Peter Pan, Wendy and the Lost Boys on a journey into Neverland, and cast your cares away as you immerse yourself in a film all about never growing up. Even Captain Hook is no match for you as you enjoy this feature film from the mid-1950s. In the story, Wendy and her brothers are misunderstood when they share with their father about their friend Peter Pan. Their father thinks such nonsense is “poppycock” and dismisses their stories altogether.
But Wendy and her brothers, John and Michael, know that Peter Pan is not merely a figment of their childhood imaginations, but rather an actual person who relishes the idea of never growing up. He even faces trials with his nemesis Captain Hook. But, as is fitting, good triumphs over evil in this heart-warming film and is a sure cure to the “got-me-down blues.”
8. Lady and the Tramp (June 22, 1955)
Is there a sweeter story among the Disney films to cure a sour day than that of Lady and the Tramp? Of course not. What could be sweeter than the love story between a pampered Cocker Spaniel and a street-smart mutt? Not too many things. Lady lives the life of luxury, beloved by her owners, Jim Dear and Darling, until one day, she’s no longer the apple of their eyes as they make room in their hearts and home for a new baby. It’s during this time that Lady meets Tramp, a dog around town who makes it his mission to never settle down with just one family. That is, until he falls head over paws for Lady and ends up settling down for good and starting a family of his own with her.
7. Sleeping Beauty (January 29, 1959)
The colors in this movie alone make the film cheery and uplifting. The bright blues, greens, pinks and reds used in the film give it a happy feeling from the very first scene. Aurora is the baby princess of King Stefan and his wife. They are elated at her birth because they had longed for a child for many years. A huge celebration is held in the princess’s honor, and all is going well until the evil Maleficent shows up, insulted that she hadn’t received an invitation to the celebration.
Seeking revenge on the King and his wife for this indiscretion, Maleficent bestows a “gift” on the child, as did two of the good fairies before her. But this gift is no gift at all. Rather, the evil villain curses the child, professing that one day, at the age of sixteen, Aurora would prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and die. Lucky for the princess, the third good fairy was able to bestow her gift after Maleficent’s evil curse, which called for a slumber after the prick of the princess’s finger, not her impending death. There’s a catch, though. She would only wake from her sleep with the kiss of true love.
To keep the princess safe, all the spinning wheels in the kingdom were burned, and the three good fairies took the princess into their care deep in the forest. They called her “Briar Rose,” and on her sixteenth birthday, while picking berries, she meets a young man in the forest who we later discover is actually Prince Philip. A prick of the princess’s finger and a few scenes later, the prince battles Maleficent in her dragon form, and good once again wins. You’ll feel an instant “lift” in your day as the film ends with the Prince and Princess dancing, and the famous dress changing from pink to blue to pink to blue…
6. Mary Poppins (1964)
Mary Poppins is one of the more under-appreciated Disney films that has an uplifting message to it. Set in London, England, in 1910, this film tells the story of Jane and Michael Banks, and their aloof father, banker George Banks. Mr. Banks’ mind is always on his work, and he leaves the care of his children to a nanny. The only trouble is that his children can’t seem to keep a nanny because of their behaviors. But in this story, the winds change, and Mary Poppins arrives at the front door of the Banks’ home to answer an advertisement for a nanny. She assumes the position before even being offered the job.
The film tells the tale of the children’s outings with Mary Poppins and how, slowly but surely, the nanny gives the children’s father the opportunity to be more involved in the lives of his children. Once Mr. Banks begins to see his children as more valuable than his job, the winds change again, and Mary Poppins is gone. Perhaps the father needed the nanny more than his children did.
5. Aristocats (1970)
Have you ever had a day when someone wants to take what’s rightfully yours? Even some of the most diehard Disney fans haven’t seen this film, but it’s definitely a go-to film on a hard day. Like Mary Poppins, Aristocats is also set in 1910, but in Paris, France, and tells the story of a family of cats—Duchess, the mother, and her three kittens, Marie, Berlioz and Toulouse. The cats live with their elderly, well-to-do owner, Madame Adelaide Bonfamille and her butler Edgar. When Madame Adelaide begins to write out her will, Edgar overhears that the bulk of her fortune will be left to the cats, so he decides to do away with them.
But his plan fails, and the story of the feline family’s exciting journey back to their grieving owner ensues. The jazz cats and their music are also great pick-me-ups. After all, doesn’t everybody want to be a cat?
4. Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Toy Story 3 and Toy Story 4 (1995, 1999, 2010 and 2019)
Let’s be honest, most anything Disney/PIXAR produces makes a bad day brighter. But movies about toys actually being alive, completing missions, becoming friends and overcoming the odds? That’s just a dynamic movie experience—one from which no one can return feeling down! In this film franchise, the brave sheriff Woody feels on top of the world since he’s looked up to by the other toys. After all, he is his owner, Andy’s, favorite toy. That is, until Andy receives Buzz Lightyear as a birthday gift. Buzz has gadgets and features that Woody doesn’t have. This sets up a temporary rivalry that is dissolved when the two toys must work together to escape the grip of the terrible toy-mutilating kid next door named Sid. (You know, the common enemy scenario.)
This is one of the few film franchises in which the sequels are just as good as—if not better than—the original. Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3 tell the tales of the kidnapping of Woody by a toy collector and the accidental donation of all of Andy’s toys to a daycare with a scary pink power-hungry teddy bear in charge, respectively. Toy Story 4 introduces a Forky and shows how Woody and friends begin a new path. In each of the films, love and good conquer all, and friendships form between the most unlikely of characters. You’ll be laughing, smiling and feeling genuinely good throughout each of the films, even despite the tears you’ll have at the end of Toy Story 3 and Toy Story 4. (Don’t worry; they’re good tears!)
3. Monsters, Inc. (November 2, 2001)
Are you the employee in the office who does the best job, only to have others jealous of you? Are you the guy/girl who pushes the envelope, questions the status quo and finds a better way of doing things? You have something in common with James P. Sullivan, aka “Sulley,” and his pal Mike Wazowski, who work at the energy-producing factory called Monsters, Inc. Their goal in life is to scare kids because scaring kids creates energy that powers their city. But one day, they discover that making kids laugh actually produces more energy than scaring them, and it makes kids happy at the same time. After all, despite what they’d always been told, kids are not toxic.
You’ll laugh out loud at this silly but smart comedy that’s a sure solution to any problematic day.
2. Princess and the Frog (December 11, 2009)
Have you ever had a dream in life? Have you invested all your time, money and energy into that dream, only to have it seem to slip through your fingers at the last moment? You may have a little “Tiana” in you! Tiana is the hard-working waitress who holds down two jobs and saves every penny she makes toward the purchase of an old building that she intends to turn into a restaurant. But at the last moment, it is taken by another buyer, and her dreams are crushed.
Only moments later, after a slimy kiss, Tiana is turned into a frog and must endure the life of an amphibian until she learns about what she really needs in life. She regains her girly figure and catches her prince as well. The two are married, and Tiana finally gets to open “Tiana’s Place”—the restaurant she had dreamed of opening in honor of her late father.
1. Cars 3 (June 16, 2017)
The most recently-released film from the Cars film franchise is another great film to watch on those feeling-blue days. Lightning McQueen has been racing for a long time, and there are newer, faster, more state-of-the-art cars on the track now. He has a decision to make. Does he continue racing? Does he retire? Does he have what it takes to continue, if he decides to do so? Things only get worse for McQueen as he notices all the hype about the new kid in town—Jackson Storm—a state-of-the-art racing machine that McQueen feels threatened by and compared to.
McQueen gets help from a trainer—Cruz Ramirez—who is no old hat herself. No spoilers here, but let’s just say that McQueen, as well as Cruz, learns a valuable lesson in this very well-thought-out sequel to the film that first made us wonder if our vehicles are really alive. If you’re having a day when you feel like the underdog, you need to watch Cars 3, and you’ll feel like a winner all over again!
No Disney film has ever been a flop, in my humble opinion. After all, Disney has the Midas touch. And any Disney movie promises to bring a smile to your face, no matter what kind of day you’re facing. What Disney films cheer you up? Here’s hoping today is a good day, but if not, be sure to pop in your favorite Disney movie as soon as you get home!