Cover Visual development art from the Hunchback of Notra Dame by Dave Goetz and Lisa Keene, sourced from the Walt Disney Animation Research Library (Photo: Walt Disney Animation Studios/Instagram)

Walt Disney Studio's most iconic animated classics that have stood the test of time

While we're thrilled to enjoy Disney's latest offerings like Raya and the Last Dragon and more on Disney+ Hotstar, it's also easy to lose track of time scrolling through poignant classics from the Disney vault that reach as far back as the 1930s.

If Disney's sing-a-long songs shaped your formative years with tunes so catchy that even your parents had a hard time getting it out of their heads, this list of 10 unforgettable classics is for you. 

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Pinocchio (1940)

Disney's beloved adaption of the Italian author Carlo Collodi's 1883 fairy tale,The Adventures of Pinocchio, tells the familiar story of a little marionette puppet who dreams of becoming a real boy.

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Dumbo (1941)

Does anybody else remember the trippy 'Pink Elephants on Parade' scene in Disney's 1941 hit, Dumbo? This heartwarming story about a little circus elephant with enormous ears who struggles to fit in when he's so different from the other pretentious pachyderms bears timeless themes that are still relevant today. The 2019 live-action reboot of Dumbo directed by Tim Burton is also available on Disney+ Hotstar.

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Bambi (1942)

If you haven't cried at least once while watching Bambi, you must have a heart of stone. Disney's first animated film featuring entirely animal characters, Bambi is the classic tale of a little deer growing up in the forest. Did you know: Disney animators actually had the chance to study the movements of a pair of deer that were brought to the studio in Burbank during the making of the film.    

101 Dalmatians (1961)

Like so many Disney animations, 101 Dalmatians is rife with charming watercolour backgrounds depicting nostalgic scenes of London, the setting to newlywed couple Roger and Anita's story and their furry friends, Pongo and Perdita. Unbeknownst to them is the scheming and fur-obsessed Cruella De Vil, who is on a mission to steal their Dalmatian pups.          

Robin Hood (1973)

The second animation after Bambi to feature entirely animal characters, Robin Hood sees the titular hero as a street smart fox who, as follows the folklore tale on which it is based, steals from the rich to feed the poor. The film poster announcing its release back in 1973 playfully read, "Robin Hood and his merry 'Men-agerie'.      

The Lion King (1994)

Whatever your thoughts were of Disney's 2019 adaptation of this classic, the animated The Lion King of 1994 is still in a class of its own, an unforgettable combination of stunning visuals, memorable characters and a soundtrack that defined the decade.

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Pocahontas (1995)

Although the historic events which inspired Pocahontas are much more grim that what Disney presented, the 1995 film still portrays relevant and universal themes of two wildly different cultures coming together despite hatred, prejudice and fear of the unknown. The song, Colours of the Wind, from the movie, scored by Alan Menken with lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, won an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1995, as well as a Golden Globe and Grammy Award.  

Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

Speaking of grim tales, The Hunchback of Notre Dame has got to be one of Disney's darkest projects. The story recreates more child-friendly versions of the characters in Victor Hugo's sombre gothic novel about a deformed bell-ringer at the Notre Dame Cathedral named Quasimodo who falls in love with a gypsy woman named Esmeralda. Despite its heavy subject matter, it's memorable and compelling, boasting visual effects that truly pushed the envelope in its day. 

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Mulan (1998)

A brave female warrior who takes matters into her own hands with a tiny talking dragon as a guardian – there's a reason why generations of young girls grew up idolising Hua Mulan. The 1998 animation Mulan is a treasure, not only for its creative portrayal of an ancient Chinese legend but for its message of empowerment, its delightful characters and timeless songs like Reflection.    

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The Emperor's New Groove (2000)

Arguably one of the most underrated Disney animations of the 2000's, The Emperor's New Groove tells the tale of the narcissistic emperor Kuzco who is turned into a llama by his scheming advisor Yzma. Audiences both young and old will doubtless cheer as Kuzco's self-absorbed ways slowly thaw with the help of a bighearted llama herder named Pacha, whom Kuzco turns to for help despite mistreating him once before.    

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