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The 10 Most Underrated Live-Action Disney Films

Some Disney films just don't get the love that they deserve.

by
Chris Queen

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August 9, 2014 - 9:00 am
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Last week I shared my picks for the ten most overrated films in Disney’s live-action canon. This week, we’re going to take a look at the flip side and explore the most underrated live-action Disney movies.

Believe it or not, some Disney productions just don’t get the respect that they deserve. That fact could be for a number of reasons: the movie didn’t make enough of a dent at the box office, the picture was overshadowed by another film, or the release just hasn’t had time for fans to consider it a classic. Whatever the reason, these ten films have gone underrated for too long. Enjoy!

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10. Pete’s Dragon (1977)

The first movie I remember seeing in the theater was Pete’s Dragon.  (I had to have seen Star Wars earlier in the year, because I remember the excitement of a Star Wars watch I received for Christmas, but I just don’t remember it.) Disney first optioned the story of an orphan boy and the dragon he befriends back in the ‘50s, but sat on the property for two decades.

The film contains the hallmarks of a classic – great songs, an Oscar-nominated score, plenty of talent in the cast. Unfortunately, it came near the tail end of the Ron Miller area, which was a low point in quality for the studio. I can’t help but believe that had it debuted at another time in company history, people might remember it more fondly today. Still, it’s worth checking out.

All Comments   (15)
All Comments   (15)
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I agree with you about the Swiss Family Treehouse. I always took the trip to the top and marveled at the replicas alluding to the movie. I found it very nostalgic and would not put Tarzan's Treehouse in the same category.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
I like the first Parent Trap, but I disagree that the second Parent Trap was bad or shouldn't have been made. My daughter liked them both, but I doubt if she would have watched the original if she not seen the remake first. The original was good, but it was obviously dated.

For instance, when Brian Keith was driving Haley Mills home from camp there was an obvious screen shot in the background behind the car. You could easily see it was just a film projection of the scenery, shot in a studio. A scene like that wouldn't work today.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
What happened to 'Pollyanna' arguably the Best of Dizzy's Live Actioners.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
Unidentified Flying Oddball would be my pick.

Basically it's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court only with an astronaut...
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
I fail to see how most of these are "underrated" as most are time-honored, beloved classics. The main exception is Song of the South. I was fortunate enough to see it as a boy, but it's been rewritten out of Disney history with all the thoroughness of a Soviet Politburo project. It was a lovely film, and not racist at all.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
John Carter could have been awesome. Instead it was awful. The over did it and underwrote it.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
I have fond memories of Swiss Family Robinson. I saw it as a child with my friends in the neighborhood theater on a re-release. I thought it was a great adventure and I so very much wanted to be there with them.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Loved it too! My sons (all 3) gave it to many for Fathers' Day years ago.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Minor quibble about the write-up of "Swiss Family Robinson" - the Robinsons are not the only Swiss people in history to fight a battle - for centuries, the main export of Switzerland were their famous - and very effective - mercenary pikemen.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's not so much that John Carter is overrated. It's more like it was over budgeted. A lot. An inventive filmmaker and production company could've given us the same story, kept the fun, and made it fantastic to look at on a big screen at about a quarter of the budget. It would've made a ton of black ink and the trilogy (or more) would've happened. Damned modern Disney; nowadays they kill a golden goose by smothering it with more gold. My God, it's as if their business model is now geared mostly toward tax write-offs. (Y'know, The Producers wasn't meant to be an instructional video. We digress...)

As for Song Of the South, it's got that whole "forbidden fruit" thing happening for it right now. Film freaks like us are going to talk about how good it is because we're not supposed to see it, let alone say nice things about it; ergo, we're inclined to seek it out and then come to its defense. Not that there aren't nice things to say about it -- there are, both cinematically and culturally. And I'm glad I got to see it in a real theater when it got a re-release in the early seventies, because this thing was made for a big screen, not watched in hiding on a small computer monitor in the dark. But really, when we get down to it, it IS good, but it's not GREAT. And if this ever gets a proper DVD release, it will drop in appreciation like every other movie that was hard to find and had a bump up bonus in its reviews because many reviewers were nostalgically remembering it from then (like me, I suppose) but hadn't seen it recently. Put this movie out there now, and watch critics go from amazed (first week) to jaded (second week and beyond).

PS - It is with relief that during conversations about overrated and underrated live action Disney movies, I haven't seen anybody champion the cause of Lt. Robin Crusoe USN ....
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Minor correction: It's not so much that John Carter is overrated. should be It's not so much that John Carter is underrated. Apologies for the non sequitur.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
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