Best British Disney movies

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Disney has long been a movie powerhouse not only in America but all over the world.  Even from its early days as a film studio. Disney has enjoyed borrowing from other nations’ fairy tales and legends, from Snow White to The Little Mermaid.  The United Kingdom has been a major contributor to the company’s stock of stories. Both for live action and animated films from its early days to the present.  With many wonderful Disney films over the years, it can be hard to pick only ten.  If there’s one you feel was left out, feel free to share your own favourites in the comments.

The Great Mouse Detective

Disney’s own take on the Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 1986’s TGMD sees Holmes and Watson ex-spies Basil and Major Dawson up against the schemes of the evil Professor Ratigan, himself based on Professor Moriarty.  For added effect, the pair of detectives even lives at 221 Baker Street.  In a nod to one of the greatest Holmes actors, Basil Rathbone’s voice makes a cameo as Holmes.

Mary Poppins

Perhaps the most famous of British-based live action Disney films. The 1964 feature helped make Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke even bigger stars.  Based on the book by P.L. Travers, the film sees the mysterious and powerful Poppins become the nanny to the Banks children and ultimately transforms the entire family.  The film is one of a couple on this list that makes excellent use of Disney’s ability to blend live action and animation.  Additionally, Disney also made a film about the making of this film called Saving Mr. Banks.  And starring Emma Thompson as Travers and Tom Hanks as Walt Disney.  That film is decidedly Disney-fied, as Travers was not happy with the adaptation of her book.

Alice in Wonderland

Still, one of the best adaptations of Lewis Carroll’s classic. 1951’s Alice in Wonderland was not so widely regarded when it was first released.  Based on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Many of Carroll’s fans didn’t care for what they felt was an “Americanised” adaptation that added a lot of Disney flare and songs to the story.  It wasn’t very successful at the box office either. But over the years has garnered a love from generations of Disney fans for being an entertaining family film and really pushing the envelope for animated visuals.

Treasure Island

Practically every pirate film that came after owes something to Disney’s 1950 adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel.  Robert Newton’s portrayal of Long John Silver has long been credited with the origins of the “pirate voice” (“Yarr,” “Arrrgh,” and so forth) and his influence can be seen in even more recent films such as the Pirates of the Caribbean series.

Bedknobs and Broomsticks

As with Mary Poppins, Bedknobs and Broomsticks is another great Disney film that combines live-action sequences with animation.  Released in 1971, the film features a group of children sent off to the British countryside during World War II (much like another film further down this list). who discovers that the mysterious older woman, Miss Price, who has taken them in (played by Angela Lansbury) is actually a witch.  When the war finds its way to Pepperinge Eye. Price uses her magic to thwart the Nazi invasion and the children decide their time away isn’t so bad after all.

Peter Pan

Another Disney adaptation, J.M. Barrie’s play got the animated treatment in 1953.  Featuring the classic tale of “The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up,” Peter takes Wendy Darling and her brothers John and Michael to Neverland where they meet the Lost Boys and battle the villainous Captain Hook.  The film was largely praised by critics on its release and is often the first version people think of when they picture Peter, Hook, or Tinkerbell.

Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue

Not the 1995 film with Liam Neeson, but the 1955 version featuring Richard Todd as Rob Roy MacGregor.  Todd had already found success in Disney’s Robin Hood. His Merrie Men and continue his association with the studio in this adaptation of Stevenson’s, which itself is based on the Scottish rebel and folk hero who fought against King George I.  Not a great success in the United States. However, it performed much better in Europe.

Robin Hood

Speaking of Robin Hood, Disney tried again with bringing this legend to screen. This time as a 1973 animated feature with songs and anthropomorphized animals.  Despite being a cartoon, over the years it has shown it has much to offer to children and adults alike. In addition to that, the music can be quite the ear worm.  Disney’s version is slim on Merry Men but does include such classic characters as Alan-a-Dale the minstrel as the narrator.  The story also ends with a much more traditional Disney happy ending for the audience than King John actually received.

Greyfriars Bobby

Another Scottish tale brought to screen by Disney, Greyfriars Bobby in real life was a Skye Terrier owned by Edinburgh City Police nightwatchman John Gray.  After Gray died, Greyfriars Bobby guarded his owner’s grave for fourteen years before his own passing.  This local tale led to a 1912 novel by Eleanor Atkinson and Disney’s 1961 adaptation of her story.  The movie isn’t based on history at all, featuring two Scotsmen attempting to compete for the dog’s affections. Though without a license or owner, the Edinburgh courts threaten to have Bobby destroyed.  It takes the entire city to come together to save the pup. Finally, ends as happy as any Disney film should.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

C.S. Lewis’s classic tale has been adapted many times, and Disney gave it a go in 2005.  Benefitting from a huge budget and 21st Century special effects. It was one of the most ambitious retellings of the novel.  Many well-known actors also appear or lend their voices to characters including Liam Neeson, Tilda Swinton, Ray Winstone, James McAvoy, Dawn French, and more.  On its release, it became the 55th highest grossing film of all time. Furthermore, it led to two sequels, Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

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