Welcome back to the Top 30 Animated Films countdown! This week we’ll be covering numbers #27 and #26 on the list. Believe me, they will probably surprise you – but hopefully not anger you. Let’s keep our fingers crossed on that one, shall we?

27. The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)

Yahoo’s #27: Over the Hedge

Director: Mark Dindal

Studio: Disney

It’s easy to forget The Emperor’s New Groove.  It came at a dubious time for Disney – stuck between the commercial success of Tarzan and the harbinger of doom that was Atlantis, signaling the end of the golden era of the 1990s and the turbulent movie cycle of the 2000s.  Emperor’s New Groove is still good, despite its odd placement in the Disney canon.  It’s a radical departure from the taken-for-granted traditional Disney and is better for it.  Emperor Kuzco (David Spade) fires Yzma (Eartha Kitt), his advisor, in true modern corporate fashion.  Yzma seeks revenge against the narcisitic Kuzco and plans to poison him, but instead turns him into a llama.  The rest of the movie is the hilarious recounting of Kuzco’s rise to power and the permanent changes in his personality caused by his days without a crown.

The Emperor’s New Groove will be left off many lists because it’s too strange to be anything truly a part of the Disney canon.  In fact, it’s irreverence for its own integrity as well as other Disney movies make it the blasphemer in the church.  Yet its fresh look at what it means to be worthy of being a Disney film is a lesson worth learning by other films.  It’s postmodern method of poking fun at its own premise and at animated film conventions that have been proven by time completely jar the genre into seeing both its strengths and its silliness.

While other movies could have had this spot and held it solidly, the fact that The Emperor’s New Groove is so often overlooked means it had been waiting far too long for its due.

26. The Rescuers Down Under (1990)

Yahoo’s #26:The Simpsons Movie

Director: Hendel Butoy and Mike Gabriel

Studio: Disney

Few sequels can ever claim to be better than their predecessors, but The Rescuers Down Under is certainly in that league.  Trailing behind The Rescuers by thirteen years, Down Under had time to become one of the best animated films to come before the 1989/1990s renaisance that began with The Little Mermaid.  Although its style and flavor were definitely more of the old-school Disney that nostalgic crowds and young ones alike have flocked to, it signified the end of a long era of what could be called “dirty” animation – the seemingly uninspired heavy black lines, the often dull colors, and caricatured characters that are often parodies of themselves – much like the first Rescuers film.

Down Under tries hard to kick old habits, and succeeds somewhat.  The animation is a lot smoother and is visually stunning and compelling.  It’s hard to empathize with characters who are gritty and one-dimensional.  Bernard and Bianco (Paul Newman and Eva Gabor, respectively), the mice from the Rescuers agency, are cleaner figures, and the greedy poacher MacLeach (George C. Scott) is animated perfectly, his every movement accenting his villainy.  However, the main focus of the story, the Golden Eagle, MacLeach’s sought-after trophy, is the true beneficiary of the new sheen.  The Golden Feathers nearly leap off of the screen, and says without explanation why it would be such a prize to the hunter and why it should be left in peace.  The whole movie is lively and offers grand adventure, not quite like any other Disney movie.  The plot is solid (the mice have to save the Eagle, save the kid, and save their own tails), the voice-acting warm and believable (John Candy as Wilbur the Albatross is still a great moment in animation history), and the characters memorable without exception (did I mention George C. Scott was MacLeach?).

Down Under came at a rough spot for a movie with its nostalgic tendencies.  It was good, but it wasn’t good enough to keep from being blistered by The Little Mermaid (1989) in all its radiance and glory.  Beauty and the Beast was tight on Down Under‘s heels and made it look like it needed a fresh coat of paint.  The 1989-1991 period was a coinciding of two totally different purposes and missions.  The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast were new and beautiful and in some ways drastically different takes on Disney and what could keep the audiences coming back.  Down Under was a throwback to early days (it is a sequel of a 1977 film), but tried to reinvent little, deciding to capitalize on what had made Disney famous without completely changing direction.  The public voted with its dollars, and the new way won out.  Down Under is forgotten on lists like these, but as a beautiful movie and the last of a dying breed, it deserves its place here.

Come back next week for #25 and #24!

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