#1

#1 - THE DRESS

Artful animation, captivating characters, a breathtaking princess and story for the ages: Cinderella captures the full brilliance of Disney. The lively animation sequences and enduring songs like “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” and the Oscar-nominated “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” keep Cinderella atop fans’ all-time “best of” lists. The 1950 feature film that took six years to produce has been reflected in Disney’s very fabric – from theme parks and beyond – ever since. When the Fairy Godmother adorned Cinderella with the gown, Disney’s ability to create timeless magic was undeniable. It’s no surprise Cinderella was the first film to be worked on by all nine of the legendary "Nine Old Men" of the Walt Disney animation department. When it comes to Disney moments, look no further than Cinderella.

Fun Fact: In the movie, Cinderella's dress is white, but in promotional material, it's blue.

#2

#2 - Truth Be Told

Prior to social media and the 24-news cycles, movie fans watched their characters' fates unfold before their eyes. When Luke Skywalker learned his father was the Sith Lord himself, Darth Vader, the Star Wars faithful's jaws dropped, screamed a collective "nooooo", then ran to tell anyone who'd listen. 

Fun fact: In order to keep Luke’s father news under wraps from the public, cast and crew, George Lucas instructed David Prowse (Darth Vader) deliver the line, “Obi-Wan killed your father” while shooting the scene. Only later, during final production was James Earl Jones, the voice of Darth Vader, given the script – which he couldn’t believe himself!

#3

#3 - Beginnings

"I only hope that we don't lose sight of one thing - that it was all started by a mouse." Walt Disney In 1928, the world said “hello” to Mickey & Minnie Mouse via Walt Disney’s first synchronized sound cartoon, Steamboat Willie. From here, the beloved characters and the Disney brand emerged to become one of the most recognizable on the planet. Iconic doesn’t do this piece justice. Historic may be more apropos, as it’s embedded into the fabric of Americana – all for the total production cost of $4,986.

Fun fact: Steamboat Willie premiered at Universal's Colony Theater in New York City and played ahead of the independent feature film Gang War, which is all but forgotten today.

#4

#4- The Forbidden Fruit

The Evil Queen. The woodland vultures and Old Hag. The manipulative cackled voice. “Just wait until you taste one, dearie…” The poison apple sequence in Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs is symbolic of Disney’s earliest animated storytelling brilliance. The poisoned apple which, when bitten, will send its victim into the “Sleeping Death” –  revived only by love's first kiss – became a foundation for countless plots to reflect a character’s dramatic demise and rebirth.

Fun fact: Lucille La Verne, the voice of the Wicked Queen, was able to achieve the raspy Old Hag’s voice by removing her dentures.

#5

#5 - Let It Go

Love it or leave it, Frozen’s “Let It Go” became an instant timeless classic, with the similar infectiousness as Disney’s “It’s A Small World.” There was simply no escape from Elsa, Anna, Olaf and friends in 2013 – or even today – with parents and children alike humming and singing the tune. Some out of affection. Others from disdain. Nonetheless, countless critics and adoring fans considered the animated feature the best in Disney’s storied history, which launched the film into a massive global box office phenomenon. Frozen became the highest grossing 2013 film and the third highest grossing film ever in Japan. The movie’s anthem was also awarded the Academy Award for Best Original Song. It seems nothing could stop beloved ice princess. But as we learned, the cold never bothered her anyway….

Fun Fact:  “Let It Go” was written in a day.

#6

Walt Disney Productions’ 1953 animated feature Peter Pan wasn’t only a huge box office success (and re-released theatrically in 1958, 1969, 1976, 1982, and 1989) but was also one of Walt’s personal favorite stories. In fact, Peter Pan was initially intended to be Disney’s second feature after Snow White, yet he wasn’t able to secure the rights until much later. The classic’s production was also caught in the midst of World War II.  After Pearl Harbor, the U.S military took control of the studio and commissioned them to produce war propaganda films, delaying Peter Pan as well as other Disney productions (Alice in Wonderland, Wind in the Willows, Song of the South, Mickey and the Beanstalk, etc.) to be put on hold.

In the end, Peter Pan continues to have social relevance and tremendous popularity, including  several subsequent film/television productions such as the Tinker Bell film series (at last count six feature-length films as well as a short film) and the Disney Channel television series Jake and the Never Land Pirates (includes Hook and Smee as the main characters, as well as being set in Never Land.) For decades, Disneyland’s Peter Pan’s Flight continues to anchor the Fantasyland attractions. Peter Pan certainly has generous portions of Disney’s pixie dust throughout, and appropriately so.

Fun Fact: The melody for "The Second Star to the Right" was originally written for Alice in Wonderland (1951) for a song that was to be called "Beyond the Laughing Sky.”

#7

#7 - FRIENDS FOREVER ...AND BEYOND

Let’s be honest, as Woody and pals headed down the conveyer belt toward the incinerator, there wasn’t a dry-eye.  This powerful sequence reminded us what personal connections we had built with our Pixar friends since the film’s first installment in 1995. Rather than struggle, the gang’s final traumatic moments were hand-in-hand, huddled closely, accepting of their ultimate destiny. It’s this insight into mortality, even if through the eyes of inanimate plastic toys, which makes this moment so relatable and personal.

Fun fact: Toy Story 3 is the first sequel to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar without any of its predecessors being nominated.

#8

#8 - THE CHOSEN ONE

The Lion King, Walt Disney’s 32nd animated feature released in 1994 became an instant classic. The epic musical had everything – dramatic animated panoramic landscapes, high profile voice actors (Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, etc.), memorable songs and gripping storytelling. The movie’s “circle of life” tale focuses on Simba, the young lion who is to succeed his father, Mufasa, as king. After uncle Scar murders the king and plays a few head games with the young cub, Simba runs away, only to ultimately return to take his rightful place on Pride Rock. Along the way, Simba encounters countless characters, many of whom remain as popular today. Simba, Timon, the hyenas, Nala, Rafiki, the list goes on. Through in Elton John, a couple Academy Awards and you’ve broken into the top 10 Disney Movie Moments! In 1997, The Lion King became a New York Broadway musical, which since has become the fourth longest-running show and highest grossing Broadway production in history.

Fun Fact: Until 2013 The Lion King held the record for being the highest grossing animated film in history, until it was surpassed by Frozen (2013), another Disney movie. 

#9

#9 - THE AWAKENING

True love’s kiss. A timeless tale, but not quite captured as well as Walt Disney Productions’ 1959 classic Sleeping Beauty. Ironically, at the time of original release, this was the last Disney fairy tale adaptation for several years due to lackluster box office receipts and mixed critical reception. Not until three decades later with The Little Mermaid, did Disney make another attempt. Today, Sleeping Beauty is regarded a true storytelling, visual masterpiece. Under the direction of some of Walt Disney’s most experienced animators – Les Clark, Eric Larson and Wolfgang Reitherman, the animated feature took nearly the entire decade of the 1950’s to complete. Sleeping Beauty was also the first animated film to be photographed in the Super Technirama 70 widescreen process, which allowed for more detailed and complex backgrounds and environments then ever before.

Fun Fact: Princess Aurora's long, thin, willowy body shape was inspired by that of Audrey Hepburn.

#10

#10 - A LONG TIME AGO

Few can deny the monumental effect that Star Wars has had on modern day culture, and in looking back to May 25, 1977 this epic opening scene sent galactic shockwaves throughout the world that changed cinema forever. Even today this scene seems to jump off the screen to capture a piece of us that is indescribable. George Lucas often said that the Flash Gordon series along with the films of Akira Kurosawa played a major role in creating this universe. With a massive 11 million dollar budget (at the time) he was quick to admit that all signs pointed to failure. 552 million dollars later its safe to say that he hit mark and brought us a space opera that has yet to be duplicated. This scene defines science fiction cinema as we know it and will never be matched.

Fun Fact: The original title of Star Wars was renamed to "Episode IV: A New Hope" in the theatrical re-release in 1981.

#11

#11 - WHEN YOU WISH

The 1940 animated classic was Disney’s second feature on the heels of Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs. The tale, based on the Italian children's novel The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi, is grounded in morality – honesty, integrity, hard work and values. Pinocchio also utilized new technology to reward audiences with dramatic new animation effects,  giving realistic movement to vehicles and movements to natural elements such as rain, lightning, snow, smoke, shadows and water. Despite two Academy Awards for Best Music and Original Score, upon its original release it was a box office failure, and didn’t turn a profit until its 1945 re-release. Today, however, Pinocchio is considered by many to be one of Disney’s finest work – still popular today – and integrated within the fabric of Americana.

Fun Fact: Pinocchio was the first Disney feature available on DVD. 

#12

This tale truly is as old as time, with the earliest known Beauty & the Beast work being Italian author Giovan Straparalo in 1550. Disney’s adaptation in 1991 took nearly four years to produce with the full time help of over 600 animators, artists, and technicians, over 226,000 individually painted cels and over one million drawings. Beauty and the Beast pioneered combining traditional animation with computer animation scenes together to create new visuals of grandeur for the audience. The ballroom sequence was a defining moment,  featuring the first computer-generated color background to be both animated and fully dimensional,  creating a more dramatic effect.

Fun Fact: Belle is the only person in her village who wears blue, which is meant to symbolize how different she is from everyone else.

#13

It would be hard to imagine a world without Mary Poppins and her famous words supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. The film, which was released in 1964, was the culmination of a 20 year journey that Walt Disney embarked on after a promise to his girls. This magical journey featured two of the darling of Disney in Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke at the pinnacles of their career. This film solidified Walt Disney Studios as a pioneer in the film industry as it introduced new generation of optical printer, which enabled the Studio to combine live-action and animated films together. Not only was the film a commercial success it also was a massive hit with critics with it being nominated for a Disney best 13 Academy Awards and ended up taking home 5.

Fun Facts: The illustrious Sherman brother wrote 30 songs for the movie, some of which didn’t debuted until the Broadway show in 2006 including the hit “Practically Perfect”.  The Movie also featured Walt’s favorite song “Feed the Birds”.

#14

Pixar visual magic + a life lesson storyline = favorite Disney moment. When a wayward Lightning McQueen gets sidetracked in Radiator Springs, he gains more than a few friends. His journey to find true friendship and family culminates in the Piston Cup’s final lap. With support from Doc Hudson, Mater and pals, McQueen realizes “it’s only an empty cup.”

Fun fact: Cars is Paul Newman’s final film. Newman, an ardent auto racing fan, had never lent his voice to any animated film until the Pixar classic, and was ultimately his final film before his passing in 2008. 

#15

#15 - The Lights

In 2010, Tangled became Disney’s 50th animated feature release. The film integrated a unique blend of both computer-generated imagery (CGI) and traditional animation, created the impression of a painting. At a reported cost of $260 million and six years to produce, Tangled became one of the most expensive animated films ever released, as well as the longest since Fantasia; however, the effort was quickly rewarded at the box office and with several Academy Award nominations. No scene better showcased this creative production method than the “I See the Light” sequence when Rapunzel and Flynn Rider gazed at the lit sky lanterns. 45,000 to be exact.

Fun Fact: Tangled was the first animated Disney "Princess" film to get a PG rating by the MPAA. All other Disney "Princess" films received a G rating.

#16

#16- The Lover, The Dreamer, and Me

In the new era of massive Disney acquisitions most of us don’t remember the Muppets as the one that started it all. In the mid 80’s Jim Henson was seeing his product fade from the public eye as kids began enjoying a different kind of entertainment with the likes of Transformers, GI Joe and My Little Pony. To help breath new life into his passion he turned to Disney to help revive the franchise. Stories of the partnership are well documented but terms were finally reached and Henson would be joining Disney and major plans were in place for a Muppet revival not only on the big screen but also at the Disney Parks. Well, as we know, Mr. Henson, the brilliant entertainer, passed shortly after this partnership and Disney seemed to be lost with what to do next. With a few less than impressive tries to get the franchise back on the map Disney finally broke through with “The Muppets” in 2010 and the much underrated “Muppets Most Wanted” in 2013.  The most recognizable songs that Kermit and friends brings to us can be recognized around the world. Rainbow Connection not only tugs at the heartstrings of us nostalgic fans but also continues to paint a picture of hope for the dreamers of the world. Nothing epitomizes that better than the line The Lover, The Dreamer and Me…..

Fun Fact:  The Muppets will be back this fall on ABC doing what they do best and that is television. It may take on a more contemporary style but at this point it looks like they haven’t missed a beat. 

#17

#17 - Puny god

In 2012 when The Avengers burst onto the scene, Mark Ruffalo’s reprise of the Incredible Hulk certainly stole the show. Ruffalo drew his inspiration for the role by watching Bill Bixby’s portrayal in the original 1970’s television series – purple jeans and all! And believe it or not, the green goliath only has one line in the entire movie, which during the initial screenings, many fans missed due to the laughter as Hulk thrashes Loki about. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Hulk’s performance was that it was the third attempt in a decade to make the character work on the big screen.

Fun Fact: Edward Norton was originally set to reprise his role from The Incredible Hulk (2008) but negotiations between him and Marvel Studios broke down. Norton was replaced with Mark Ruffalo who had also been considered for the role in the prior movie.

#18

#18 - Part of Your World

In 1989, Ariel and her quest to become human, became Disney's first animated fairy tale since Sleeping Beauty (1959). The Little Mermaid is widely credited for launching the Disney Renaissance, an era of renewed creativity, brilliance and box office success for the company's animated features. Mermaid was followed by several subsequent hits, including Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King. The Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California, were again relevant and profitable. In addition, the film earned three Academy Award nominations, making it the first Disney animated film to earn an Academy Award nomination since The Rescuers in 1977. The film won two of the awards - Best Song ("Under the Sea") and Best Score.
Ironically, the iconic tune "Part of Your World" was almost cut from the wildly popular 1989 animated film because test audiences thought it slowed the film.

Fun Fact: Jodi Benson, who performed both Ariel's speaking and singing voices, recorded "Part of Your World" with the studio lights turned down low to get a better underwater feel.

#19

#19 - The Great Escape

When Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom burst on the scene in 1981, college professor of archeology and quasi-hero Indiana Jones possessed a unique balance of cynicism, romance, imperfections and brilliance. Han Solo ~ I mean Harrison Ford ~ brilliantly embodied the believable treasure hunter. His pratfalls and near-misses only drew us closer to him, along with his abundance of strained relationships. With boulders crashing toward him, we cheered, we laughed, we were riveted.  Only moments later, we were equally drawn to the complex dramatic sequences on religion and faith. Indiana Jones is the complete package which has stood the test of time: just check the wait times for Indiana Jones Adventure attractions at Disney’s theme parks.

Fun Fact: Freeze-framing during the Well of Souls scene you can notice a golden pillar with a tiny engraving of R2D2 and C3PO from Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977). They are also on the wall behind Indy when they first approach the Ark.

#20

#21 - This is the Night

Lady & the Tramp holds a special place in Disney fans’ hearts. Released just a month prior to the opening of Disneyland in 1955, the feature checked all the boxes: animation, romance, music and comedy. It was also the first animated feature filmed in the CinemaScope widescreen film process, which created more realistic environments. Although the spaghetti eating sequence is now the best known scene from the entire film, Walt Disney was prepared to cut it, with the belief dogs eating spaghetti is not only not romantic, but would appear downright silly. Animator Frank Thomas was against Walt's decision and animated the entire scene himself without any lay-outs. So impressed with how Thomas romanticized the scene, it remained, and the rest is history. 

Fun Fact: The film's setting was partly inspired by Walt Disney's boyhood hometown of Marceline, Missouri.