The Little Mermaid
- the one that started it all. Some great songs, memorable villain; bland love interest. I didn't see this one until I was in high school, so I don't feel the same attachment to it as to the others.
Beauty and the Beast
- a deserved Best Picture nominee; pretty much every song is a genuine classic. One of the better male leads, and Belle is probably the most fully-realized form of the spunky Disney female lead.
- revolutionary in its impact on animation due to Robin Williams, again, great songs. Also gets some nostalgia points from me for the awesome animated series that I watched religiously, so in a way I feel most familiar with this set of characters.
The Lion King
- I was born in 1987, so this movie was pretty much a god in its own right in my childhood. Every song is a classic, and it has some of the most epic and iconic imagery in any Disney film.
- suffers a bit from earnestness/a sense of its own importance, but quite enjoyable.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
- a flawed masterpiece, the film most likely to be seriously reappraised when you reach adulthood and appreciate some aspects of it more. Because, really, this movie takes on subject matter that is more serious than anything Pixar has ever done. The comedic stuff with the Gargoyles muddies the tone and doesn't mix well with the more potent dramatic elements; it's stuck between being much lighter than the book and much darker than a normal Disney film. Frollo is the greatest villain in Disney canon.
- fun, if probably the slightest film here. Guaranteed to annoy mythology purists, but speaking as a myth fan, it's not like the originals were renowned for their rock-solid continuity. Greek myth has more inconsistencies than the DC comics universe. One of the most fun villains ever.
- the strongest and most consistent package since The Lion King
(not quite as serious as Hunchback
, but in complete command of its tone). Mulan has deservedly gone down as perhaps Disney's most ass-kicking female lead. And Disney beats Dreamworks to the Eddie Murphy comedy sidekick.
- this feels the most distinctly different from the rest of them, what with the non-integrated soundtrack of rock music, etc. Not as remembered as Mulan
, but I'd place it on a similar level. They do a good spin on the Tarzan mythos, and being animated allows them to explore a lot of aspects of it (such as Tarzan's interaction with the apes and his childhood) that live action films can't. In a way, it's too bad that Disney made this movie in 1999, because it's the sort of male-friendly property that would be very useful to release now.
I'll give my vote to The Lion King