Ranking All the Disney Movies of the 2000s from Worst to Best
By: Preston Simmons | Written: March 27, 2022
The Disney Movies of the 2000s
Disney in the 2000s had an interesting dilemma coming into the new century. The Renaissance Era of Disney with movies like Beauty and the Beast, Lion King, and The Little Mermaid was ending. With the advancement of technology and the beginning of the computer animation boom, which direction Disney would take their movies was the question on everyone’s mind.
As it turned out, the 2000s were a decade of experimentation for Disney. Disney Animation Studios released 12 movies during those ten years, all very different. Some were hand-drawn, like their movies in the past, while others utilized the new computer animation software that companies like Pixar used for their films.
These 12 movies include:
- Fantasia 2000 (2000)
- Dinosaur (2000)
- The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)
- Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
- Lilo and Stitch (2002)
- Treasure Planet (2002)
- Brother Bear (2003)
- Home on the Range (2004)
- Chicken Little (2005)
- Meet the Robinsons (2007)
- Bolt (2008)
- The Princess and the Frog (2009)
History dubs this Era of Disney as the “Post Renessaince Era.” In other words, it’s full of largely forgotten movies that received either mixed or negative reviews from critics and audiences at the time. However, a decade after the “Post Renessaince Era,” the love of some of these movies has been rightfully rekindled. Some of these movies are gems just as high in quality as the Renaissance Disney movies.
But which are they?
Here are the Disney Movies of the 2000s ranked from worst to best!
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#12 – Chicken Little (2005)
Chicken Little is one of Disney Animation Studios’ earliest attempts at a fully CGI movie, and it shows. Remember, this is Disney Animation, not Pixar, so the technology utilized in the film is different from what Pixar was using.
So, even though Pixar was releasing movies like Finding Nemo and Monster’s Inc (which looked great) by 2005, this was Disney’s first attempt at recreating the same success.
Honestly, there’s not much to like about the movie. It’s supposed to be a comedy, but all jokes fall flat. The writing in the film is not good at all. Maybe it’s because the movie was made for kids under ten without adults in mind that it feels so juvenile. That would explain all the butt jokes throughout the film and the lack of any clever lines.
In terms of the animation, most of the movie feels like it was made by Disney’s D team or unpaid interns rather than their A-Team. But then, strangely, other parts of the film look surprisingly good.
For example, when Chicken Little and his friends attempt to rescue his other friend, Fish, from a spaceship, the spaceship looks good. Not amazing, but good, at least compared to the rest of the film.
Another problem I had was the amount of unnecessary yelling in the movie. This is regarding both plot-related yelling when a character comes across something “scary” and non-plot-relevant yelling that happens for comedic effect.
It felt as if the voice actors read every line of dialogue, or rather, yelled by the voice actors. Yelling isn’t funny when that’s the entire movie. It was a wholly unnecessary and poor decision on the director’s part.
But those are all technical issues. If the story was good, I could maybe look past those negatives. Then it could be gold in poor packaging. But, that’s not the case. The plot of Chicken Little isn’t good either. It feels all over the place and almost like they didn’t know what story they wanted to tell.
If there is one saving grace to the movie, it’s the last 5 minutes. The film within the movie was pretty good.
But honestly, this is not a good movie and one of Disney’s worst (in all eras).
#11 – Home on the Range (2004)
Home on the Range does not feel up to par with Disney’s usual standards. It’s pretty surprising that in 2004 this movie was released in theaters. It felt more like a high-quality tv movie rather than a theater production. If the Netflix of today existed in 2004, I bet this would have been a straight-to Netflix movie.
The main problem I had with the film was that it felt all over the place, but the movie felt meaningless. There was no grand theme surrounding the movie.
I’m assuming the main takeaway from the film was supposed to be that you can accomplish anything if you put your mind to it, but the movie did a poor job in showing that theme plays out.
Also, the animation was nowhere near Disney’s best. The drawings were flat, the detail lacking, and the characters were typically underwhelming to look at.
Not a single main character in the film was likable, even though they were meant to be. Each of the different cows was annoying in their way, except for Grace. She was the only cow I enjoyed because she was never mean to anyone. But instead, the other cows looked down on her for her bubbly personality.
One of the only saving graces of the movie was the insert songs. Most were pretty good, but honestly, nothing was memorable about them. The Yodeling song was good, though, with a surprising jump in animation quality when the musical number happened.
Overall, though, maybe the worst part about the movie was that it was boring. I caught myself losing focus throughout the film, which is strange considering there is only a runtime of 1 hour and 10 minutes before the credits started.
Unfortunately, Home On The Range is not that great of a movie. It’s one of the worst Disney movies of the 2000s.
#10 – Dinosaur (2000)
The very first thing that stands out about this movie is the mix of CGI and live-action. Because the CGI isn’t that advanced, it borders on jarring when the live-action and CGI are placed in the same scene.
Though somehow, the mixed worked when the CGI was more in the background, and the focus was on the live-action environment, like during the world establishing sequence at the beginning of the film.
Surprisingly, Dinosaur is a good movie, considering it’s one of the most forgotten Disney movies of the 2000s. One thing about the film, it got better as it went along, as did the CGI animation.
However, there is a reason why the movie hasn’t lasted the test of time. Overall, nothing about it seemed memorable after the intense first 15 minutes. After that happens, the movie becomes relatively slow, revolving around the main plot of finding the nesting ground with the dinosaur herd—decent enough film, but not enough to watch multiple times.
#9 – Brother Bear (2003)
Brother Bear is one of the most aesthetically pleasing Disney movies of the 2000s. The art in this movie is fantastic. Each frame could be a painting, with the vast, mountainous landscapes, beautiful rivers, and glaciers all creating a beautiful world during the ice age era.
Another exciting part of the film is the director’s unique aspect ratio choices. The viewer can separate this movie into two parts; the human part grounded in reality and the bear part in a more fantasy setting.
These two parts are made clear because the aspect ratio, and even art style, feel different. During the human scenes, the aspect ratio is 1.75:1, giving the film an almost dreamlike feel (even though it is the most realistic moment in the movie).
When Kenai transforms into a bear and the aspect ratio changes to 2.35:1, the wider aspect gives the viewers a new perspective of the film, just like how Kenai now has a new view of his world.
The colors are brighter, the picture is crisper, and the art style of the focus characters (now animals rather than humans) are drawn in a more cartoonish, Disney style rather than in a realistic way. It wasn’t a necessary stylistic choice, but it was the right one.
Out of almost all of the Disney films of the 2000s (save for Princess and the Frog), Brother Bear feels like it could have been a part of the Disney Renaissance movies. As the title suggests, Brother Bear is about brotherhood and, more importantly, love.
When the movie opens, Kenai, the protagonist, is a free-spirited young man who wants to be respected but can’t help himself from acting like a little brother to his two older brothers. After his manhood ceremony doesn’t go as he hoped, and certain events happen, Kenai’s free-spirited personality changes.
Then, magically he is transformed into a bear. To turn himself back into a human, he must take a journey of self-discovery along with a baby bear cub named Koda. Through Koda, Kenai learns how powerful of a force love can be.
The story of Kenai’s relationship with Koda is fantastic and the best part of the film. Their story’s connection might be a little obvious, but it’s nevertheless well done.
However, some things don’t work in the film, namely the side characters. The side characters in the movie are mainly used as comedic devices rather than meaningful additions that help the plot along.
Some of the side characters are just tagalongs that if they were eliminated from the film altogether, nothing would change. But, the disappointing side characters aren’t enough to detract from the movie’s good.
Also worth mentioning is the fantastic soundtrack created by Phil Collins. The music and score of the movie are top-notch.
Overall, Brother Bear is another excellent film in the Disney movies of the 2000s.
#8 – Bolt (2008)
Bolt is what I consider a significant turning point for Disney Animation Studios. In the previous year with Meet the Robinsons, Disney proved that they can still tell decent stories with their movies. The animation for Meet the Robinsons was pretty good, but there were still remnants of a dated technology in the seams.
With Bolt, Disney seems to have figured out exactly what they need to do to create their unmistakably Disney style that will be later seen throughout the 2010s and on. In a way, Bolt also feels like the most Pixar-like Disney film of the 2000s.
Bolt, a superhero television star dog who doesn’t realize he’s a television star, gets lost one day after a shoot. Because he genuinely believes he’s a superhero, the reality of the real world hits him hard when he realizes his powers don’t work.
Looking for a way back to his home to reunite with his owner, Penny, he enlists the help of the cat, Mittens, to help him on his journey. Along the way, Mittens teaches Bolt what it means to be a dog.
It’s a very Pixaresque type of story, and it’s executed with the quality of a Pixar movie as well. Bolt is such a fun movie with a lot of heart. Bolt and Mittens are great characters, and together they make a great team. Both characters are tragic in their way. For Bolt, he’s a dog who was put into his own Truman Show, and his entire life was one big lie.
On top of that, he never had a chance to experience a dog’s life. Mitten’s story is even more tragic and much more realistic as well. It’s heartbreaking learning her background, and once you understand it, all of her actions in the movie make much more sense. As these are the main characters, it’s great watching a movie where the main characters are the best part.
Even the hamster, Rhino, is a good character. Typically, characters like Rhino are only used for comedic relief. Instead, Rhino is an excellent addition to Bolt and Mittens.
Though he also believes that Bolt is a superhero, as he’s a fan of the show Bolt is on, he helps teach Mittens and Bolt essential lessons that help each character grow. In other words, even the side characters in Bolt are great.
The Animation in Bolt, likewise, is superb. Compared to the 2020s standard of Disney Animation Movies, Bolt somehow doesn’t feel dated. There is so much detail in the animation, from the fur of the animals to the garbage on the streets of New York. It’s a beautiful film through and through.
Overall, Bolt is another excellent movie.
#7 – Treasure Planet (2002)
Treasure Planet is the Disney reimagining of the famous coming of age novel by Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island. As with Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Treasure Planet is considered one of the beloved forgotten films of the early 2000s. Many loved it for a good reason; it’s a great film.
The movie follows the same story as the original 1883 book, with the same characters fulfilling their respective roles, such as Jim Hawkins, the protagonist, and Long John Silver, the pirate.
However, while not straying from the novel, the Disney version of these characters are different enough to feel like a fresh take. Primarily, the differences come from the movie being in the science fiction/pirate genre, rather than just pirate.
You’ll see flying pirate ships, different planets, cyborgs and robots, and a ton of unique aliens like something from Star Wars. The unique setting of this movie is what separates it from all of the other adaptations of Treasure Island.
The best part of the movie is the developing relationship between Jim and Long John Silver. Both Jim and Silver grow and change throughout the film because of one another.
Long John becomes the father Jim has always wanted, and Jim is the son that Long John never realized he needed. But the two clash in their goals; they both want to find Treasure Planet. Treasure Planet is a surrogate father and son story at the end of the day.
Like with Atlantis, Treasure Planet would work amazingly well as a live-action film if made today. This is an excellent homage to the classic while being different in ways that keep it interesting to watch to the very end.
However, there’s only one blemish to this otherwise fantastic film. B.E.N, the robot companion, who thankfully is introduced in the latter half of the film, starts as an annoyingly loud character and never actually gets any better.
Unfortunately, his whole personality feels out of place in the movie, and it’s the only thing that does. Technically, his obnoxious character makes sense, as he has literally lost his mind. Still, his primary purpose was comedic relief that often missed the mark rather than making me laugh.
Overall, though, Treasure Planet is an excellent movie with a ton of adventure and exciting moments. Also, it has one of the best insert songs in the entire Disney collection. It’s a movie that I would love to watch again remade in live-action one day.
#6 – The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)
The Emperor’s New Groove is probably Disney’s most consistently funny movie even today. Most, if not all, of the jokes land (though they may be challenging to understand as a young watcher), and I found myself smiling throughout the entire hour and twenty-minute run-time.
But where the movie truly shines is in its characters. It’s not often when side characters are just as enjoyable to watch as the main characters are, but in The Emperor’s New Groove, the side characters, specifically Yzma and Kronk, might be the best part of the entire film.
In addition, the animation in this movie is incredible. The Mesopotamian-inspired stylistic choice in both the characters and the environment makes this a visually unique Disney movie while still staying true to the formula.
The color pallet of gold, green, blue, red, and purple is an interesting choice but helps provide the audience a visual idea of the separation of wealth in the world of The Emperor’s New Groove.
In a way, animation-wise, this is one of Disney’s last remnant of the Golden Age of Disney, as, after this movie, Disney begins to utilize CGI much more prominently in their films, in more significant ways.
Overall, The Emperor’s New Groove is a hilarious film and deservedly should be counted amongst Disney’s best. It might not be as great as the classics, but it’s one of the best compared to the Disney Animated Movies of the 2000s.
#5 – The Princess and the Frog (2009)
The first thing to note about the Princess and the Frog is how incredible the music is in the movie. Every song is catchy and meaningful to the plot. The establishing theme of “Down in New Orleans” helps the viewers see the Louisiana that Disney created, or “Ma Belle Evangeline, ” showing us how a firefly could fall in love with a star, signifying how love transcends boundaries.
It also explains how it could be possible for Tiana to fall in love with the frog prince. The music in Princess in the Frog may be the best part of the entire film, which is a good thing considering it’s a musical.
But the main takeaway from Princess and the Frog is the core message that Disney is trying to get across in the film, “Always keep sight of your dream. With a little work and perseverance, your dreams may one day come true.” For Tiana, the film’s main protagonist, her dream is to open up her restaurant one day.
It’s a dream she’s had ever since she was a kid. But, as she’s poor, she is constantly working multiple part-time jobs a day as a waitress, never getting any sleep or relaxation time with her friends.
She does it all for her dream, and even when events occur that turn her into a frog, she still never gives up on her hopes for her future restaurant. This all comes in a clash with the other movie’s main protagonist, Prince Naveen.
At the start of the movie, Prince Naveen is the opposite of Tiana. He’s a prince from a foreign nation who hadn’t worked a day in his life. He’s a man who’s always had everything given to him on a silver plate, and his goal in his life is to have fun.
Unfortunately, life can change for everyone. In Prince Naveen’s case, he’s been cut off from his money and is left with only two choices, marry a rich woman or get a job. Getting a job is obviously out of the picture for him, so marrying a rich woman is what he sets out to do. Things don’t go exactly as planned when he’s turned into a frog by the Voodoo Doctor, Facilier.
When he and Tiana meet, and their first kiss turns her into a frog instead of reverting him into a prince, they then go on a journey to become human again.
The journey they take is where Tiana teaches Naveen about true love, how a little work is good for you, money isn’t everything, and most importantly, how to survive on his own.
Naveen likewise teaches Tiana that too much work can be as damaging as no work at all and that it’s OK sometimes to have a little fun. Along the way, they meet a variety of different animal characters, each with their own seemingly impossible dreams. Louis, the hilarious alligator, wants to play jazz in a band, and the firefly, Ray, wants to marry a star.
The story is reminiscent of one of the Renaissance-era Disney films and the Disney Animated Movies of the 2000s; this movie is probably the most like them. This is further signified in the animation style used in the film.
The animation is very similar to Beauty and the Beast and other princess movies like Cinderella. Each frame is as if it was taken out of a watercolor painting. It feels beautifully handcrafted in a way that most of the Disney movies of the 2000s lack. The style works to its benefit as it’s meant to be a fantastical tale where magic exists.
Another aspect about the Princess and the Frog that I loved was the Louisiana culture bursting throughout the movie. It feels authentic, and it clearly shows that the animators put a ton of research into crafting the world.
But, I must also mention that at some points, the film does lean pretty heavily into stereotypes, mainly through the Cajun human swamp hunters.
Overall, The Princess and the Frog is an excellent movie with a fantastic soundtrack and a good message. I would say this movie is suited more for a younger audience than for adults (though granted, the villain in the film may be one of Disney’s scariest).
#4 – Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
Atlantis: The Lost Empire is Disney’s least “Disney” film in the entire collection. It’s, by far, the most adult Disney movie and one that’s most suitable for a live-action remake. Like most of the forgotten ones, it’s also a great film.
The best part about this movie is its story. Atlantis reminds me of those classic adventure movies of the early 1900s, which I think Disney was going for with their animation style. The stakes are high, the action is intense, and the sense of wonder is in practically every scene.
As a movie, I think Atlantis is one of Disney’s best, which is something I feel like I’ve been saying a lot in this article. However, I can quickly see how and why this movie didn’t receive the love it deserved (until a recent resurgence of appreciation of the film came about nearly 15 years after its initial release). The movie doesn’t have much to offer younger audiences.
It’s slower than most Disney movies, the humor would go over most kids’ heads, the plot might feel a little intense for a Disney movie, and none of the characters would be appealing to the kids either (except for Mole, the stand-out comedic relief). All of those complaints are pluses for my overall enjoyment of the film.
It felt fresh and different from everything else. And the main villain genuinely seemed evil without any redeeming qualities, something that most villains seem to have in Disney movies. In a way, it’s hard for me even to consider this a “kids” movie altogether. Sure, it’s made by Disney, and it’s animated, but other than that, it truly feels like an adult movie.
Overall, though Atlantis may not have become one of Disney’s most remembered films, it holds a special place in my memory.
#3 – Fantasia 2000 (2000)
It’s hard to say anything critical about Fantasia 2000. Each music piece showcased is a historic masterpiece ranging from The Pines of Rome to Symphony in Blue. So, the music, which is front and center in this movie, is perfect.
Therefore, the only commentary I can give is on the creative liberties that Disney takes to generate separate and complete stories based on the music. In that regard, Fantasia 2000 does not disappoint.
Each story is unique and wonderfully takes each song to another level. However, because the movie was made in 2000, in some aspects, its age shows. The infant staged computer animation used in some of the shorts is juxtaposed to the hand-drawn animation that looks breathtaking. However, it should be noted that the hand drawn animation, to this day, is some of the best in history.
This was Disney in its early stages of adopting CGI, as the technology to make that animation style as good as the hand-drawn style just wasn’t there yet. In a historical sense, it’s great to see how far Disney had come from the CGI of then to where it is now, like with Encanto, Raya, and Frozen 2.
On another note, the movie itself probably isn’t for everyone. I could see how it would be boring for younger audiences, considering the only dialogue is during the mini introductions each short gets. But, therein lies the beauty of Fantasia 2000.
There doesn’t need to be any dialogue to create multiple beautiful stories that are enjoyable and impactful. So much can be told through music alone, and this movie does a great job at showing how that’s done. Overall, Fantasia 2000 is one of the best Disney movies of the 2000s.
#2 – Meet the Robinsons (2007)
Meet the Robinsons, like Chicken Little, is a fully computer-animated film. The difference between the two movies, however, is night and day. There are so many things that Meet the Robinsons does right and so little that it does wrong.
In Meet the Robinsons, Disney’s animation has improved exponentially. It’s crazy how much of a difference two years can make, but visually, it’s like Disney made the movie in an entirely different era. The colors are vibrant, the character models are detailed, and the stunning environments. Meet the Robinsons truly is a massive improvement in all ways.
But where Meet the Robinsons is the best is its many characters and, more importantly, its story. This movie is about the beauty of family, acceptance, never giving up, learning from failure, and moving forward.
These concepts are shown in opposite parallels through the main character Lewis and the antagonist Bowler Hat Guy. As a 12-year-old orphan scientist, Lewis is used to nothing but failure. His entire life was filled with failed adoption interviews and failed experiments, leading to him questioning his worth and his purpose.
Nobody ever wanted him, and his failures meant that he was not any good. Through meeting the Robinsons, the eccentric family from the future, Lewis is taught many important lessons. The most important of them all is the motto of the family head, “keep moving forward.”
By being shown love for the first time in his life and being taught that failure leads to growth, Lewis learns to accept himself and embrace failure rather than internalize self-hate.
On the opposite spectrum is Bowler Hat Guy, the antagonist. He represents the path that Lewis could have taken if his journey was any different. Bowler Hat Guy’s story is tragic. Though it’s never outright said, by watching him closely, the viewer can piece together the puzzle of how horrible his life must have been after the past events.
However, the key to his story is how Bowler Hat Guy approached failure. Instead of learning from his past mistakes, he decided to embrace hate and anger. This led to him being stunted in life. Although he is the antagonist, it’s clear that he’s a struggling one. He doesn’t have an education past elementary grade. His clothes don’t fit him.
It’s constantly shown that he’s out of his depth. His entire situation is because instead of “moving forward,” he was stuck in the past. He literally represents why living in the past is an unhealthy and damaging mindset.
It’s an important lesson that is suitable and applicable to both kids and adults. For that reason, Meet the Robinsons is such a good movie. Eventually, the animation style may seem dated as the technology continuously improves, but the message found within the film is timeless. Meet the Robinsons is excellent and one of the best Disney Movies of the 2000s.
#1 – Lilo and Stitch (2002)
Lilo and Stitch is a masterpiece and, in my opinion, the best Disney Animation Movie of the 2000s. There are two interconnecting stories in the film; one made for the kids and one for the adults. One of the stories is that of Lilo and Stitch’s growing bond, and the other is Nani’s attempt to keep her family together as a young sister pushed into being a caretaker and a mother after her parents are killed.
The story of Lilo and Stitch is excellent because it entirely focuses on character growth. Stitch’s journey from being created to be bad to learning to be good is front and center in the film. He’s able to do this with the guidance of Lilo.
Lilo’s journey is a sad one as well. Lilo is an outcast amongst her peers. A lonely girl who lost her parents at an extremely young age, who’s just trying to find her place in the world. Unfortunately, although she means well, her actions often lead to more trouble for those around her, particularly her sister Nani.
Nani’s story is, in my opinion, the most interesting story in the whole movie. Nani is young herself, probably no older than her early twenties or late teens. As the older sister, after her parents were killed, she’s forced to raise Lilo on her own, even though she is wildly unprepared for the enormous task.
To make matters worse, child protective services threaten to take Lilo away. Nani tries her best to raise Lilo, but after Stitch comes into the picture, her task becomes exponentially more difficult.
With those three plot lines, the story unfolds. The theme of family and what it means drives the film forward. “Ohana means family, and family means nobody gets left behind” is the main takeaway of the film and the key to why and how Stitch grows and develops from the monster at the beginning of the film to the hero in the end.
It’s a genuinely great movie with something for everyone. For kids, Lilo and Stitch’s story will speak to them the most. For adults, Nani’s story is the most heartbreaking and relatable. When the kids who first watch this movie watch it later in life, it’s possible that they will see it with new lenses and grasp just how incredible the film is in totality.
Oh, and the music in the movie is outstanding as well. With a mix of Hawaiian songs like “Hawaiian Rollercoaster Ride” and “He Mele No Lilo” as well as Nani’s rendition of “Aloha ‘Oe,” and with Elvis Presley thrown in, Lilo and Stitch has one of the best soundtracks of the Disney Movies of the 2000s.
Overall, Lilo and Stitch is the best Disney Animation Movie of the 2000s.
These are what I consider the best and worst Disney movies of the 2000s. Save for Chicken Little and Home on the Range, most of these films are excellent. It’s truly a shame that most of them are considered the forgotten films of Disney. Fortunately, as the years went by, most of the movies regained the respect that they deserved. Maybe one day, this era of Disney movies will no longer be called the “Post Renaissance Era,” and instead will be known as something more befitting of the time, like the “Experimental Era”.