The 80s seemed like it lasted forever, so that’s what makes it surprising that Disney only released five animated features during that time. Disney was spending a lot of time with live-action movies during the 80s and it seemed as though the animated movies were not making the box office that previous Disney classics had before. None of the Disney animated films of the 80s were hugely successful at the box office until The Little Mermaid scored a big hit at the very end of the decade. However, a lot of these films hold a special place in people’s childhood memories. Here’s our ranking of the Disney Animated Features from 1980-1989.
The Little Mermaid arrived at the very end of the 1980s and brought Disney a much-needed box office hit. The film resonated with little girls and brought Ariel into the world of Disney Princesses. Supporting characters like Sebastian and Flounder made it a fun movie for both boys and girls. The Little Mermaid is often credited with helping Disney return to making classic animated features in the years following its release. When the film was released on VHS videotape it caused quite a controversy, with what looks like a rather obvious phallic symbol visible on the castle of the cover.
(2) The Fox And The Hound (1981)
Two unlikely friends, a red fox named Tod and a hound dog named Copper, struggle to preserve their friendship despite their emerging instincts and the surrounding social pressures demanding them to be adversaries. Essentially, a tale of how innocence is often lost by other people’s influence and society’s role in attempting to dictate the norms. Featuring the voices of Kurt Rusell, Mickey Rooney, and Corey Feldman, The Fox and the Hound was a modest success for Disney at the box office which has later been recognized as a classic of the time.
(3) The Great Mouse Detective (1986)
This story of mice and rats living in Old London is somewhat of a take-off on The Sherlock Holmes stories. Basil, The Great Mouse Detective, solves mysteries with the aid of his friends. The movie was successful at the box office without the aid of major voice actors and helped saved Disney’s struggling animation department. The Disney animation team would soon release “The Little Mermaid” and bring Disney back from the brink, to the forefront of the animated feature again.
(4) Oliver & Company (1988)
Based on the classic story of Oliver Twist with well…a twist. It was set in modern-day New York and it’s star, Oliver is a homeless kitten who joins a gang of dogs to survive in the streets. Voice talents included a cast of eighties favorites including Billy Joel, Huey Lewis, Bette Midler, Joey Lawrence, Dom Deluise, and Cheech Marin of Cheech & Chong fame. Oliver and Company proved successful at the box office but was panned by critics for being unoriginal. It has been considered a classic by man fans after years of being brushed aside for other Disney favorites.
(5) The Black Cauldron (1985)
The Black Cauldron is a sword and sorcery tale wasn’t as bad as the reviews it received. The biggest problem was with a budget of $25–44 million, it was the most expensive animated film ever made at the time. The film only grossed $21.3 million domestically. It was the first Disney animated film to feature some computer-generated graphics and the first to receive a PG rating. The movie has been criticized for lacking interesting characters, while the animation was quite good. Even though it ranks last on our list, it still has a fan following that has supported the film and held it high regard.