Disney Post-Renaissance/Experimental Era Films (+ Sequels) Ranked from Worst to Best

If you do not wish to read the entire post, here is the ranking as a tier list (made with TierMaker).

A+ (THE BEST): Lilo & Stitch

A/A- (EXCELLENT): The Emperor’s New Groove, Meet the Robinsons

B+/B (SOLID): Fantasia 2000

B-/C+ (FAIRLY DECENT): Lilo & Stitch 2: Stich Has a Glitch, Leroy & Stitch, Brother Bear 2, Atlantis: The Lost Empire

C/C- (MEDICORE): Atlantis: Milo’s Return, Treasure Planet, Stitch! The Movie, Dinosaur, Brother Bear

D+/D (BAD): Kronk’s New Groove, Home on the Range, Chicken Little

Recommended Films to Watch First: The Emperor’s New GrooveLilo & StitchMeet the Robinsons, Atlantis: The Lost Empire

Don’t worry! I didn’t forget about those of you who want a tier list for only the theatrical films:

A+ (THE BEST): Lilo & Stitch

A/A- (EXCELLENT): The Emperor’s New Groove, Meet the Robinsons

B+/B (SOLID): Fantasia 2000

B-/C+ (FAIRLY DECENT): Atlantis: The Lost Empire

C/C- (MEDICORE): Dinosaur, Brother Bear

D+/D (BAD): Home on the Range, Chicken Little


“Disney Post-Renaissance”?

Fantasia 2000.  Disney Animation’s first theatrical release of the new millennium.  Not only was this film a 21st Century update to its 1940 predecessor, but it was also the start of a new Disney era – an era that followed a series of highly-regarded animated classics that comprised the 1990s Disney Renaissance (OK, yes, I know The Little Mermaid was actually released in 1989).   

Gone was the era of iconic musical numbers, beautiful traditional animation, quirky humor, and touching, inspirational stories – original or adapted. 

Fantasia 2000 marked the beginning of an era that bears many names: “The Post-Renaissance Era”, “The Millennial Era”, “The Second Dark Age”, and “The Experimental Era”.  These names, describing Disney Animation’s theatrical releases from 2000’s Fantasia 2000 to 2007’s Meet the Robinsons, are all valid and appropriate, and these are the reasons why: 

  • Post-Renaissance
    • These films literally take place right after the Disney Renaissance; hence Post-Renaissance.  Next. 
  • Millennial
    • New millennium.  Next. 
  • Second Dark Age
    • (Okay, now we have a name that needs an actual explanation)
    • The original Disney Dark Age (or, less pejoratively, the Bronze Age) was from 1970 to 1988.  This Disney Animation era, which included The Aristocats and The Black Cauldron, followed the 1966 death of Walt Disney, and its films were not as well-received or financially successful as their counterparts in other eras.  Walt Disney did not die again in the 1990s, so all you need to do is go to Rotten Tomatoes (or keep scrolling) to see why the early 2000s was also considered a “Dark Age”. 
  • Experimental
    • This is probably my favorite name for this era, and I like it so much that I will devote the rest of this introduction to explaining it!

The one thing I appreciate the most about the Disney Experimental Era is how there was a conscious effort to move away from the traditionally-animated, romantic musicals that largely characterized the Renaissance.  In a time of rising popularity of computer-generated animation and the increasing success of rival studios such as DreamWorks, Disney Animation, more or less, did away with the traditional “Disney Film”.   

There is not a single movie I’ve seen in this marathon that completely epitomizes the Experimental Era.  These films span several genres, vastly different animation styles and techniques, and a wide assortment of stories and messages for their audiences. 

In concept, all this is welcoming for audiences who might be looking for something “different” from Disney movies, but unfortunately, this variety has also seeped into the quality of these films. 

As you already have already seen in my tier lists above, the Experimental Era, from a critical lens, is quite a mixed bag.  As someone born in the mid-to-late 1990s, I grew up watching many of these films.  While others a few years older than me can remember the releases of The Lion King and Mulan, I was among the generation of kids who more clearly recall the less-enthusiastic releases of Treasure Planet and Brother Bear.   

As much as I enjoyed these movies as a child, I hate to say that I must agree that the Experimental Era was indeed Disney’s Second Dark Age.  That, of course, does not mean all these films are terrible; in fact, I actually came out of this marathon with greater appreciation for Lilo & Stitch and Meet the Robinsons.  On the other hand, if any of you are having nostalgic Chicken LittleDinosaur, or Home on the Range watch parties, kindly count me out. 

Oh, and I also watched all the direct-to-video sequels to these films, and surprisingly, some of these are superior to some of the theatrical movies!

Quickly Addressing the Elephant Speedy Dog in the Room

“Wait, Miles!  What about Bolt?  Why are you skipping Bolt?  Doesn’t the next era start with The Princess and the Frog?  Why isn’t the John Travolta/Miley Cyrus dog movie in this marathon?”  

Alright, so after careful consideration and research, I decided not to include 2008’s Bolt in this marathon.  Bolt’s placement as Experimental Era or the subsequent Revival Era is heavily disputed among Disney Animation fans and historians.  I came across this official Disney Twenty-Three magazine cover featuring all the Revival Era lead characters, including Bolt, and I am taking this as proof that Bolt is, in fact, a Revival Era film.   

In other words, Bolt will be in my Disney Revival Era marathon, so tune in at some point to see how it stacks up against Frozen and Zootopia


And Heeere We Go!

BOTTOM 5TOP 5
12) Dinosaur 5) Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch 
13) Brother Bear 4) Fantasia 2000 
14) Kronk’s New Groove 3) Meet the Robinsons 
15) Home on the Range 2) The Emperor’s New Groove 
16) (THE WORST) Chicken Little 1) (THE BEST) Lilo & Stitch 

Once again, for those of you who want to see the ranking for only the theatrical films:

BOTTOM 5TOP 5
6) Treasure Planet 5) Atlantis: The Lost Empire 
7) Dinosaur4) Fantasia 2000
8) Brother Bear3) Meet the Robinsons 
9) Home on the Range 2) Home on the Range
10) (THE WORST) Chicken Little 1) (THE BEST) Lilo & Stitch 

16. Chicken Little (2005)

chicken little
Image via Walt Disney Animation Studios

TL;DR Review: Start the movie at 1:11:03, and end it at 1:13:30. If you do this, you will thank me later, and if you don’t, well, I hope you’re a fan of Shark Tale and bad parenting.

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 37%

Metascore: 48/100

My Grade: D

15. Home on the Range (2004)

Home On The Range
Image via Walt Disney Animation Studios

TL;DR Review:

Me: Can I just watch Chicken Run instead? No? *sigh* Fine, fine…alright, well I hope this movie is funny, at least.

Narrator: But he would soon find out that Home on the Range is, in fact, not funny.

Alternate TL;DR Review:

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 53%

Metascore: 50/100

My Grade: D+

14. Kronk’s New Groove (2005)

Kronk's New Groove
Image via DisneyToon Studios

TL;DR Review:

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 0% (you read that right)

Metascore: N/A

My Grade: D+

13. Brother Bear (2003)

Brother Bear
Image via Walt Disney Animation Studios

TL;DR Review:

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 37%

Metascore: 48/100

My Grade: C-

12. Dinosaur (2000)

Dinosaur
Image via Walt Disney Animation Studios

TL;DR Review: The animation – FOR ITS TIME – is impressive, but everything else about Dinosaur is not.

Alternate TL;DR Review:

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 64%

Metascore: 56/100

My Grade: C-

11. Stitch! The Movie (2003)

stitch!
Image via Walt Disney Television Animation

TL;DR Review:

I want to be the very best,
Like no one ever was.
To catch them is my real test,
To train return them [to Jumba] is my cause!

I will travel across the land Kauai,
Searching far and wide.
Each Pokemon
experiment to understand
The power that’s inside!

Pokemon Aliens!
Gotta catch em’ all!

It’s you and me [and Nani and Jumba and Pleakly],
I know it’s my destiny!

Pokemon My cousins!

Oh, you’re my best friend,
In a world galaxy we must defend [against a rodent-like alien with a German accent]!

Pokemon Aliens!
Gotta catch em’ all!

A heart so true,
Our courage will pull us through!

You teach me and I’ll teach you,

Po-ke-mon O-ha-na!
Gotta catch em’ all! Gotta catch em’ all!

[Not] Pokemon!

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 20%

Metascore: N/A

My Grade: C-

10. Treasure Planet (2002)

Treasure Planet
Image via Walt Disney Animation Studios

TL;DR Review: Treasure Planet blends traditional and computer-generated animation arguably better than any other 2-D Disney film. It’s too bad that its story and characters are painfully bland and generic. Perhaps this movie could have used a darker, more serious tone.

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 69%

Metascore: 60/100

My Grade: C

9. Atlantis: Milo’s Return (2003)

Atlantis: Milo's Return
Image via Walt Disney Television Animation, DisneyToon Studios

TL;DR Review: Atlantis: Milo’s Return, or more aptly, The Further Adventures of Milo, Kida, and Friends, is a decently-executed follow-up to the The Lost Empire. It expectedly bears several flaws and downgrades from its predecessor, but to be fair, we are left with what is probably among the best of the Disney direct-to-video-sequels-that-are-clearly-three-episodes-of-a-televsion-spinoff-series-stitched-together.

Rotten Tomatoes Score: N/A

Metascore: N/A

My Grade: C

8. Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)

Atlantis: The Lost Empire
Image via Walt Disney Animation Studios

TL;DR Review: Atlantis: The Lost Empire is well-animated and displays a degree of maturity not seen since The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Unfortunately, if only this film had an additional 20-30 more minutes in its runtime, then maybe we would have had something really great here.

Alternate TL;DR Review:

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 49%

Metascore: 52/100

My Grade: C+

7. Brother Bear 2 (2006)

Brother Bear 2
Image via DisneyToon Studios

TL;DR Review: “Yo, I correctly guessed the plot of this movie within its first 5 minutes! Where is my prize?” (Predictability aside, it is nice to see a direct-to-video sequel that is superior to the original, threatrical film.)

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 50%

Metascore: N/A

My Grade: C+

6. Leroy & Stitch (2006)

Leroy & Stitch
Image via Walt Disney Television Animation

TL;DR Review: Leroy & Stitch is an entertaining and suitable ending to the unnecessary, but decent Lilo & Stitch TV series. (Also, let’s just pretend that Disney did not follow this up with a Stitch anime.)

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 40%

Metascore: N/A

My Grade: C+

5. Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch (2005)

Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch
Image via DisneyToon Studios

TL;DR Review: This one-hour sequel is a harmless epilogue to the original Lilo & Stitch…even though we never needed a sequel.

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 40%

Metascore: N/A

My Grade: B-

4. Fantasia 2000 (2000)

Fantasia 2000
Image via Walt Disney Animation Studios

TL;DR Review: Flaunting a variety of animation techniques – traditional and modern – across its segments, Fanatasia 2000 is a decent follow-up to its 1940 predecessor, but it is not nearly as impactful.

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 81%

Metascore: 59/100

My Grade: B

3. Meet the Robinsons (2007)

Meet the Robinsons
Image via Walt Disney Animation Studios

TL;DR Review: Meet the Robinsons successfully executes satirical humor in a fashion similar to The Emperor’s New Groove (something Disney tried and failed to do two years ago with Chicken Little), and it touches on themes of loneliness and relationships in a manner similar to Lilo & Stitch. With a really great message about perseverance, this film is an underrated gem of Disney’s Experimental Era.

Alternate TL;DR Review:

Keep moving forward…

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 67%

Metascore: 61/100

My Grade: A-

2. The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)

The Emperor's New Groove
Image via Walt Disney Animation Studios

TL;DR Review: As the first traditionally-animated Post-Renaissance Disney film (trying saying that five times fast), The Emperor’s New Groove is a well-stylized and humorous take on a classic folktale.

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%

Metascore: 70/100

My Grade: A

1. Lilo & Stitch (2002)

Lilo & Stitch
Image via Walt Disney Animation Studios

TL;DR Review: This film is a careful blend of comedy and drama that effectively navigates serious themes of loss, loneliness, and most importantly, the healing and nurturing power of healthy relationships. Boasting a degree of charm and impact among the likes of Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King, Lilo & Stitch is Disney’s Post-Renaissance masterpiece.

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 86%

Metascore: 73/100

My Grade: A+

Published by Miles Ndukwe

Some guy with glasses.

2 thoughts on “Disney Post-Renaissance/Experimental Era Films (+ Sequels) Ranked from Worst to Best

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