Mulan (2020)

No Mushu, no biggie.

While Eddie Murphy’s fast-talking mini-dragon rules the animated version, this live-action remake is much more in the vein of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Director Niki Caro unleashes all the stunt people Disney’s money can buy, with action scenes galore, both epic and intimate.

Every frame pops with color in one of the best-looking films of 2020, with lead actress Liu Yifei delivering nicely-understated work opposite a who’s-who of genre stars ranging from Gong Li to Jet Li.

I’m not generally a huge fan of the House of Mouse remaking all their films, but this one has zing.

 

Hercules (1997)

We melted the tape.

This Disney animated film arrived three months before my first nephew came bouncing into the world, and when he was a wee one, this was on a constant loop in the VCR.

It competed with Babe and the animated version of The Mummy, with a little Bear in the Big Blue House thrown in just cause.

Ultimately, though, this was always his first choice.

And, while it might not fully stack up against legends like Bambi or The Jungle Book, it’s a pretty funny romp featuring James Woods in fine form as the devious Hades.

 

Lilo & Stitch

“I’m sorry I bit you … and pulled your hair … and punched you in the face…”

As sassy as they want to be, the rambunctious pair at the heart of this giddy Hawaiian treat both live in their own worlds.

Lilo is a lil’ rabble rouser who never sugarcoats her opinions, ever, while Stitch is a hyperactive, Elvis-lovin’ genetic experiment rampaging across the universe.

Highly-rewatchable, this is one of the best modern Disney animated features, and rightfully nabbed a Best Animated Feature Oscar nom in the year Hayao Miyazaki’s gorgeous Spirited Away won.

No dishonor in losing to the master himself.

 

The Emperor’s New Groove

Boom, baby!

It’s true – I have a somewhat irrational love for this Disney delight.

Sure, it’s not as deep as some of the classics to emerge from the House of Mouse, but sometimes you yearn for some slick, shallow, very-funny entertainment, and this film delivers.

Especially with every moment involving scene stealer Kronk, the dense yet good-hearted henchman brought to life by the rich, rumbling voice of Patrick Warburton, a god among voice-over actors.

Whether freaking out over his spinach puffs, or chattering with the squirrels, he’s awesome.

Kronk might be fifth or sixth-billed here, but he’s the real MVP.

 

The Band Concert

Donald’s a delight.

Mickey may get the big paycheck, but it’s the mad duck bouncing off the walls who remains my favorite Disney character.

Here, in an 85-year-old film which pops like it’s brand new, a skinnier, more daffy-than-angry Donald horns his way into a musical production, upending things with his insistent demands to have everyone play Turkey in the Straw.

Owner of approximately 23,782 flutes, all of which he has somehow hidden on his body, our duck bedevils Micky.

And that’s before the ice cream cones start flying, a storm starts raging, and a buzzy bee invades the scene.