Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Watch This! Top Ten Best Romances in the Disney Universe

Disney movies. They are so iconic and so deeply imbedded in our culture that they are often the first stories children are exposed to. To extend that thought, they are probably the first love stories most of us are exposed to. Now, I'm not saying that's a great thing. It's a point of fact that Disney treats love in the most sanitized, watered-down, and in some cases slightly sexist manner possible. But they exist, and they are romance, so we have to talk about them. Because I say so.

Having said all of that, you might imagine that this "Best" list is more of a "Least Awful" list, but...that's mostly not true. Mostly.

#10: Sleeping Beauty (1959)

This is one that I've only seen a handful of times, and I actually had to rewatch it closely to decide if it really belonged on this list. It made it by virtue of the fact that it's not only intentionally a romance, but the romance actually has some (some, not a lot) set up and pay off. The set up is that Phillip and Aurora are promised to each other upon Aurora's birth. Aurora is cursed and then hidden away as a peasant girl, under the name Briar Rose. Sixteen years later, Phillip meets and unknowingly falls in love with Briar Rose. It's love at first sight and there's not much conversation, but there is a big battle with a dragon, and that's romantic, right? Right.

#9:Cinderella (1950)

You know, Cinderella gets a lot of bad press. I'll own to the fact that Sleeping Beauty deserves its reputation as one of the least pro-feminist stories of all time--the heroine literally does nothing except fall asleep. Cinderella though? She's just a sad, lonely, and frankly very patient girl who would like to go to a dance. And then she does. Good for her. Do I buy that she instantly falls in love with the prince and he's so enamored with her in return that he upends the kingdom trying to find her--after one dance and presumably a little conversation? Well no, not by real world standards, but it the logic of the 1950s Disney universe it's fine. I always imagined an epilogue to this story where the prince (Jesus, he doesn't even have a name) and Cinderella have to talk and come to terms with this insane attraction between them, and the ramifications of marrying outside their social standings, and they make it work in the end. That's how I justify the story to myself.

#8: Tarzan (1999)

This is one of those Disney movies I always tend to forget about, until I look at a list and I'm reminded--oh, yeah, Disney did Tarzan. I think it's because when it came out, I was at that weird age where I thought I was too old for children's movies and I didn't yet appreciate the idea that adults can enjoy them, too, and so I didn't see it until long after it came out. But I do like it. And, of course, it's on this list because of Tarzan and Jane, who are surprisingly sweet together. I put it low on the list because I've always felt that the chemistry between them is based largely on the fact that Jane is literally the first and only human woman Tarzan has ever encountered, and that kind of circumstantial togetherness is always a bit unsettling to me. Outside of that context, would they even like each other? I don't know, but it is an interesting story for all it's flaws.

#7: Lady and the Tramp (1955)

Why, yes, I did put non-humans on the list. Judge me if you will, but watch this movie and tell me it's not adorable. Go ahead. Yeah, I thought so. Lady and the Tramp is a classic opposites attract tale about a hero who shuns the idea of a home and a heroine who dearly loves hers. They go on adventures and have a little tryst, and eventually a happy ending. The spaghetti scene alone earns it a spot on the list (incidentally, eating pasta that way is far less romantic in reality).  And I'm pretty sure there's a secret baby plot in there too.

#6: The Little Mermaid (1989)

I struggled quite a bit with where to put this on the list because, truth be tole, this is probably my second or third favorite Disney movie of all time. But in terms of how well it works as a romance? It's pretty shallow, at least initially. Ariel's impulsive and obsessive need to be with Eric is based entirely on appearance. Any attraction Eric feels for Ariel is based on her pretty, pretty voice. This is all redeemed when they end up spending time together while she can't talk, and it becomes apparent that they have a legitimate connection.

#5: The Princess and the Frog (2009)

This might actually count at my second non-human romance on the list, since they spend the majority of the movie as frogs. This is a movie about working hard to achieve goals while not ignoring the importance of finding love. It's actually quite heavy handed with that message, but it's not necessarily a terrible thing. I like the adventure and the time that Tiana and Nevine share, and I like that they both work for their happy ending.    

#4: Aladdin (1992)

This is likely the most "boy oriented" movie on the list, but it nevertheless counts as a romance. Pretty much everything Aladdin does is motivated by a desire to get the girl. It's yet another case of two people who like each other regardless of social rank, and it addresses the issue more effectively than most. I like that Jasmine, despite not being at the center of the action, is not a wilting flower and does, in fact, display a mind of her own. It also happens to have one of the most memorable and romantic love songs in the Disney universe.

#3: Tangled (2010)

This movie is one of the most watchable, fun children's movies I've seen this decade. And, although the romance isn't necessarily the main point, it's there and it's spectacular. Flynn and Rapunzel get to know each other over their journey (witness, Flynn telling Rapunzel his real name), they fall in love, and they make huge sacrifices for each other. It's cute and funny when it needs to be, serious at other times, and everything comes together to make a very satisfying story.

#2: Up (2009)

Am I cheating with this one? Hell yes, I am. Up is decidedly not a romance, at least most of the movie isn't. But the first ten minutes or so? Oh God. Two people meet as children, become friends, fall in love, and share a big dream that they never quite get to realizing. But they have a life together, and they're mostly happy despite some huge disappointments. I cannot watch this part of the movie without crying. Everything that's happens after that point is motivated largely by that relationship and those dreams, so I actually think it is fair game to count it on this list. It's brilliant, and a testament to the principle that a simple love story is often the best.

#1: Beauty and the Beast (1991)

If you've been following this blog for awhile, this one probably doesn't surprise you. This is my very favorite Disney movie, and it likely ranks in my top 10 favorite movies of all time. But do I really think it's the most romantic? Absolutely, I do. It's a story about getting to know someone on a deeper level, and loving them based on an emotional connection rather than physical appearance. The Beast has to learn to be a decent person, and Bell only comes around to him after he figures out that he needs to treat her properly. It's pretty much a perfect movie in my mind, and I can't say enough about it.

So that's the list, folks. Feel free to agree and disagree with me in the comments. Have a romance-filled day.


  1. I cmopletly agree with you about Up. Its one of my favorite movies of all time. And I also cry when I watch the begining of it, especaily in the baby scene.
    It is also the only cartoon movie my mom has watched and loved. Since she often won't even watch a cartoon movie, let alone love one.

    1. You know what, that does not surprise me. I'm a child-at-heart fan of animated movies, but if I had to name some that I thought would appeal to even the most anit-animation people? Up would top that list.


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