Happy 110th Birthday, Walt Disney! What's His Most Underrated Moment in Film?

Waltdisney4-1.jpgHappy 110th birthday to Walt Disney, the man who single-handedly transformed moviemaking forever with whimsy and sheer imagination. Almost 75 years after Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs first hit theaters, his magical movie empire remains astonishing and prolific, and we stand cryogenically frozen in awe. Hard to believe a man who won 26 Oscars (only three less than Hilary Swank) could have underrated moments in film, but let's explore that strange idea now: What is Walt Disney's most under-heralded great moment on film?

Walt's uneven stretch between 1945-1950 probably has some underrated moments, but I'm going to credit One Hundred and One Dalmatians -- a revered work in the canon -- for its under-discussed perks, namely how fucking fabulous everything is.

1) Roger and Anita have a kickass marriage, and a photogenically quaint one that would inspire everyone from Diana Vreeland to Truman Capote. London is a picturesque Fisher Price village with glamorous pooches and owners sauntering about, and Roger and Anita are downright cosmopolitan canted above it all.

2) Roger is the most ideal man in Disney history. His improvisatory songwriting? His multi-instrumentalist flair? That's some Brill Building brio. Disney so often offers male characters who aspire to be kings or great champions; Roger just wants to be Gerry Goffin.

3) Rod Taylor ranks among the most underrated '60s heartthrobs, and his voice work as the valiant, but humble Pongo is perfect.

4) One Hundred and One Dalmatians has one of the most trenchant pop culture references in all of Disney history: When the evil dognappers Jasper and Horace watch television at their cramped abode, they're tuned into What's My Crime?, a parody of What's My Line? featuring criminals as mystery guests. The panelists' overly polite questions ("Did you do someone in?") and the hilarious grand prize ("Two weeks stay at a fashionable seaside resort, all expenses paid -- that is, of course, after you've paid your debt to society") are subtle classics. Click to 3:20 to see.

5) Cruella de Vil? Is Tallulah Bankhead as sprung from the skull of Athena. Miranda Priestley would buckle under her fearsomeness. She cackles, you die. Cigarette holders are cool. The end.

What's your favorite underrated Disney moment/film? Do you really want to bring down the room with a Fox and the Hound love letter?


  • Ryan says:

    Brilliant post! I love 101 Dalmations! It was the first Disney feature with only one writer--the fabulous Bill Peet. He brought to life an amazing piece of film.

  • SunnydaZe says:

    Fantasia is one of the biggest game changing risks ever produced. A bold avant-garde film proving feature length animation could be art. When released it fell into dangerous territory upsetting art/music snobs for being too commercial and alienating mainstream audiences for being to highbrow. "Night on Bald Mountain" must have been absolutely shocking to the religious conservatives of the day.
    It was also the first film with stereophonic sound. Fantasia didn't start to turn a profit until 1969 when it was re-released and marketed as "The Ultimate Trip" (along with 2001: A Space Odyssey). Many of the techniques used in the film would go on to be the inspiration for a new art form called the "Music Video".

  • Seeker3 says:

    "She cackles, you die. Cigarette holders are cool. The end."
    Excellent appraisal here, Mr. Virtue land just as entertaining as your subject.
    Thank you.

  • Debby says:

    I like Walt Disney. He is a great man and gave us many wonderful cartoons. I like his works.

  • My fav Disney piece is Cowboy Needs a Horse. Perfectly captures a boy's imaginative dreams, great western style song, and exciting as hell.

  • The WInchester says:

    Destino. The fact that Walt and Dali collaborated at all is simply amazing, and thankfully the end product was just as terrific.

  • G says:

    Roger is like an animated/musically talented Jim Halpert. AKA the perfect man.

  • Robert C Schuler says:

    Fox and Hounds is definitely underrated. The music was great!

  • Ray Cunneff says:

    We often forget about Walt Disney's live-action films. One of my favorites, one that still holds up very well almost sixty years later, is "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea".