The enduring magic of Disney is such a powerful, all pervading thing, it’s nigh impossible to imagine our childhoods without it. Our first memories of a Disney movie may be from the cinema, on TV with family at home, a DVD at a friend’s house. We dress up as Belle for our parties, share Mickey Mouse birthday cakes, collect figurines from The World of Miss Mindy Disney, sing our favourite songs from The Lion King.
Imagine a world without Donald Duck or Goofy. Elsa had us singing Let It Go; Cruella de Vil had us hiding behind sofas; Baloo had us tapping our feet; Buzz Lightyear had us at ‘To infinity and beyond.’ Woody et al even helped change animation itself. The charisma of Disney’s characters stretches far and wide. But with so many incredible characters to choose from, which are the most popular?
Here are our top 5 animated Disney characters of all time:
5. Baloo, The Jungle Book
Disney’s take on Rudyard Kipling’s famous creation, Baloo, was first introduced to us in 1967, as voiced by Phil Harris. The character was again brought to us in 2016, this time in brand spanking new CGI and with Bill Murray acting the part. Soon he’ll be re-imagined once more by Andy Serkis. Baloo’s got rhythm, he’s got class, he’s got a heart of gold.
4. Maleficent, Sleeping Beauty
If there have been more menacing villains among Disney’s creations, we can’t think of them. If there have been more stunningly imagined and realised characters, we know of them not. Beautifully, deliciously performed by Eleanor Audley in the 1959 Disney original, audiences were left in no doubt that this was an evil fairy to be reckoned with. Some decades later, Angelina Jolie attempted to reprise the role, this time in the eponymously named 2014 Disney title that centred on the magical baddie’s backstory. Jolie’s performance was a success, as was the film, but utter the name Maleficent, and it’ll always be Audley’s version that we think of first.
3. Woody, Toy Story
The release of Toy Story heralded a new age in feature-length movie animation. Not only was the computer animation entirely groundbreaking, but the characters and story were just so well written. Despite all the bluster, backpack, gadgets and pyrotechnics from Buzz Lightyear, Woody is the undeniable hero of the story. Tom Hanks gave Woody so much personality, and almost made him human. With Woody, you are in the presence of a lanky, floppy cowboy that, while by no means perfect, is always loyal, brave and incomparably charming. If only all our friends were as reliable and loveable as Woody.
2. Dory, Finding Nemo
Ellen DeGeneres’s Dory, as well as highly forgetful, is silly, thoughtful, creative, determined and hilarious. Frankly, there are few characters put to the big screen that compare, so well written is this regal blue tang fish.
1. Genie, Aladdin
It could have been Dumbo, it could have been Mulan, it could have been Grumpy, but it’s Genie. Why? Simply because Robin Williams’s Genie is untouchably hilarious. When Genie hit cinemas in 1992’s Aladdin, it was the first time we’d experienced so much energy, improvisation and sheer, unleashed comedy in animation. Williams was given the freedom to go wild, and boy did he.