Transforming Greek myth into one of the most beloved Disney projects of all time, Hercules brought a modern and heartfelt twist to an ancient classic. The voice talents of James Woods, Danny DeVito, and Tate Donovan brought this animated tour de force to life, and ensured its place among kid-friendly masterpieces for years to come.
While Disney’s transformation of classic English characters into animals may have seemed bizarre on paper, it feels both natural and light-hearted in this 1973 gem. This version of the long-told bandit’s tale is suitable for younger viewers, and manages to incorporate some intelligent comedy into the plot. Plus, who didn’t grow to love Little John the Bear?
Older viewers may have grown up reading the 1952 novel, but the children of today can enjoy the same heartwarming story in a live-action format. This 2006 production featured Dakota Fanning, Julia Roberts, Oprah Winfrey, and many others. If you’re looking for an old gem with high production values and a star-studded cast, this is the perfect choice.
High School Musical
Whether you loved or hated the High School Musical craze, there’s no doubt that your kids will enjoy the singing and choreography in these films. A handful of actors received their debut roles in this film, or were elevated to star status (including Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens). So sit down with the kids, throw on one of these musical adventures, and wish that your high school’s hallways had been as clean as East High School’s.
FernGully: The Last Rainforest
If any animated film has ever made an impactful statement, it’s FernGully. Championing the cause of environmentalism and preserving forests, the film also featured voice acting from Robin Williams, Tim Curry, and Christian Slater. Younger viewers will be enchanted by the richly-detailed forest sprawls, and older viewers will be able to embrace the film’s message about nature and activism.
Like Hercules, Mulan managed to take an old tale and give it a sparkling new coat. Instead of being based on legends that many kids already know, however, Mulan focuses on the Chinese tale of a young woman who took her father’s place in the conscripted army. Filled with messages of bravery, determination, and heroism, it teaches some excellent kid-friendly lessons alongside its doses of actions and slapstick comedy.
The animated version of this film is a true classic, but if you’re seeking a film that both you and your children can watch for the first time, then it’s this 1996 live-action production. With an eclectic and noteworthy cast (Glen Close, Jeff Daniels, and Hugh Laurie), the film makes full use of its talent to tell one of cinema’s most beloved dog stories.
Edgar Rice Burrough’s adventure novels presented Tarzan as a feral character among the trees, but this Disney legend shows off a more free-spirited and family-friendly side of the jungle native. Backed by one of Disney’s best musical scores (done by Phil Collins, no less), the film weaves both breathtaking action and emotional depth into a beautifully-animated world.
The Muppet Movie
This award-winning production dates back to 1979, but its charm keeps it alive and well for the modern viewer. Jim Henson’s animatronic companions truly came to life in this film, and their cross-country road trip is a fun and unexpectedly smart journey for kids of all ages.
Although the story of the real Anastasia is a tragic affair, this Don Bluth-produced film manages to transform the Russian Grand Duchess into a lovable and resilient character, and brings the world of early 20th century Russia to life. Anastasia has all of the ingredients for a thrilling kid’s movie: a truly despicable villain, a charming sidekick, and one of the best scores in a ‘90s animated production.