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80s Disney Cartoons: A Dark Decade with a Strong Ending

Kids of the 1980s fell into the breach of Disney animation — while the media giant took aim at television audiences with shows like ‘Ducktales’ and ‘Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers,’ the silver-screen offerings from the Happiest Studio on Earth generally fell sorta flat, and there weren’t many of them. Still, the decade ended strong, and kids from the era still look back fondly on these 80s Disney cartoons today — no matter what size screen they graced!

The Fox and the Hound (1981)

The Fox and the Hound is a 1981 Disney movie directed by Ted Berman. The film follows two friends, Tod (a fox) and Copper (a hound dog), as they grow apart due to their respective owners’ intolerance of one another’s species; despite being unwilling at first, they eventually overcome these differences in order to work together against a common enemy.

When the Fox and the Hound was released, it became Disney’s third animated film to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture (following Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937 and Pinocchio in 1940). It also received a nomination for “Best Animated Film” during its release year. In 1998, The Fox and the Hound was ranked 80th in Disney’s official ranking of all their animated features.

The Black Cauldron (1985)

The Black Cauldron is a dark fantasy film, based on the first two books in Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain series.

It tells the story of Taran (a young assistant pig-keeper), who aspires to be a great hero but instead is forced into an unlikely quest to save his homeland from the evil Horned King.

Along with being Disney’s first PG-rated animated feature, The Black Cauldron was also the company’s most expensive animated film to date.

The movie received mixed reviews and it is considered by some as a box office flop. It would be Disney’s last major 80s release before their renaissance in 1989 (actually late in 1988) with Oliver & Company.

The Great Mouse Detective (1986)

The Great Mouse Detective is about a mouse detective, Basil of Baker Street, who must solve the mystery surrounding the disappearance of widowed toymaker, Hiram Flaversham, father of young Olivia. The old(ish) man was nabbed by a busted up bat who broke into the shop while father and daughter were celebrating her birthday. Basil soon realizes that he has seen these events before in one of his dreams which reveals how they will unfold if nothing changes. With this knowledge in hand, the mouse detective must set out to change the future by getting into Flaversham’s workshop and rescuing him before he is killed.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

In 1947, a toon-hating detective named Eddie Valiant is hired by wealthy and beautiful widow Dolores DeVil (who just happens to be the owner of Toontown) to find out who killed her husband. During his investigation he finds that Roger Rabbit was framed for murder and goes around town trying to collect evidence while avoiding getting run over by the weasels.

Oliver & Company (1989)

Oliver is a raggedy stray cat who lives on the streets of New York City and survives by his wits. After barely surviving an attack from some street dogs, he seeks refuge in a local junkyard where he meets Dodger, an intelligent young dog with street smarts. Together they work out how to get food without being caught by the junkyard dog, Roscoe.

They are then forced to flee from their hideout when a band of urchins set fire to it in order to chase them out so they can raid the place and sell what they find for scrap metal. Dodger comes up with an idea that saves Oliver’s life – he pretends to be blind and manages to fool the urchins, who then abandon their search. Dodger takes Oliver back to his home in an abandoned store window on 42nd Street where he is introduced to Georgette, a beautiful white Persian cat with whom he falls deeply in love at first sight.

The Little Mermaid (1989)

The Little Mermaid is set underwater in the ocean. The main characters are Ariel, an adventurous mermaid who falls in love with a human prince named Eric; her father King Triton, a strict and powerful ruler of their undersea world Atlantica; Sebastian or “the lovable crab,” Flounder, one of Ariel’s best friends who is a little fish, and Scuttle or “the seagull,” Ariel’s other best friend and sidekick.

Ducktales (1987)

This is the only non-movie on our list, but it’s a worth entry …

Ducktales followed the adventures of Scrooge McDuck, his three grandnephews Huey, Dewey and Louie – who live with him in their luxurious home at 221b Baker Street – plus Donald Duck’s nephews; Webby Vanderquack and Mrs. Beakley, their housekeeper; Launchpad McQuack, Scrooge’s pilot.

(Like 80s Disney Cartoons? Then you might like our article on 70s Disney Cartoons, click here.)

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