#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.

#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.

#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.

#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.

#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.

#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.

#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.

#21

#21 - Flynn's New World

In many respects, the release of Tron in 1982 spawned the beginning  of the comic book, computer programming, video game and all-around geek cool culture. The revolutionary visual effects, coupled with the hybrid animation and live action sequences created a stunning adventure into the computer mainframe, better known as “the grid.” While the film was met with mixed reviews, the sensational special effects and computer graphics were a milestone in the industry, gaining appreciation and cult status over the years. In an era when Pac-Man and Pong were the extent of many people’s “grid” experience, Tron’s illuminated Frisbees, light cycles, fluorescent tank mazes and “bit” and “byte” references may well have been beyond our grasp and ahead of its time.

Fun Fact: The beloved arcade game Tron, which we all stood in line for hours to play, was a massive hit and actually outgrossed the film.

#22

#22- Again

After five years of production, Pixar released Monsters, Inc. in 2001. The film is centered in Monstropolis, where super-sized furry James P. "Sulley" Sullivan (John Goodman) and his one-eyed green partner and best friend Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) generate the city's power by scaring children. Then came Boo, the adorable child who wanders into Monstropolis, threatening to “contaminate” the entire city and striking fear into the monsters themselves. In early drafts, Boo was to be six years old, however writers ultimately decided to make Boo younger as it would make her more dependent on Sulley. Pixar animators also found new ways to render fur and cloth realistically for the film, which contributed to the instant box office success and popularity of the franchise.

Fun fact: About 3:26 into the movie, when the simulation is ended and the monster reaches for a knob on the control panel to review the videotape, just below and to the left of the knob is an indicator which reads "510-752-3000", Pixar's phone number.

#23

#23 - Some Imagination

Fantasia was Disney’s 1940 animated release comprised of eight animated segments set to pieces of classical music conducted by Leopold Stokowski. Those segments included live-action orchestral introductions. Most significantly, Fantasia was the first American film to use stereophonic sound.  Late in the production process, Disney decided to include an animated segment The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, which was designed to catapult Mickey Mouse’s waning popularity (believe it or not…). Here, Mickey Mouse, the young apprentice of the sorcerer Yen Sid (yes, it’s Disney backwards), attempts some of his master's magic tricks but doesn't know how to control them. For most, this segment represents the most memorable of the film due to the Mickey’s familiarity. Over the years, Mickey’s sorcerer costume has been parlayed into merchandise and the foundation for the Disney theme park Fantasmic! production.

Fun fact: To this day, Disney reports receiving complaints from parents claiming the "Night on Bald Mountain" sequence terrified their children.

#26

#26 - Forget Me Not
What do you get when you combine an Marlin, an overprotective clownfish and a regal tang named Dory? The highest grossing G-rated film of all-time (until Toy Story 3 overtook it), 40 million DVDs sold and three Academy Award nominations. Finding Nemo catapulted Pixar into another stratosphere, with critics overwhelmingly gushing over everything from the underwater animation to the unique play on parental anxiety. Ellen DeGeneres’ enchanting portrayal as Dory captured our hearts through a funny, touching and clever human – I mean fish – story. 

Fun Fact: A sequel, Finding Dory, is in production currently scheduled for release on June 17, 2016.