Due to their overwhelmingly large catalog of properties, ranking the best of Disney is a near impossible task. No other studio has produced as much nostalgia as they have. And that was before they acquired every other studio in existence. Love em or hate em, it’s impossible to deny their impact on pop culture and the lion’s share of that credit belongs to their characters. Their films are quintessential, their songs are indelible, their shorts are groundbreaking but none of that would matter if their characters weren’t beloved. Mickey Mouse and all that followed after him (Goofy, Donald, Etc.), laid the groundwork for everything and most likely created your childhood in the process. Whittling this list down to one hundred was no easy task. But after lumping certain characters together, eliminating all the “toy” characters (the silent animal sidekicks who serve no purpose to the plot like Abu or Hei Hei) and limiting it to just three characters per movie (a rule I technically only broke twice), I’ve narrowed it down to what I think is the best of the best.
This is the 100 Greatest Disney Characters of All Time.
(Excluding Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars)
40. Olaf | Frozen (2013)
Based on a similar snowman Elsa made when her and her sister Anna were both very young, Olaf (Josh Gad) was built by Elsa during her self imposed exile. Imbued with life, as well as inexplicable character traits such as: an obsession with summer and a love of ice cream cake, as well as possessing inconceivable amounts of optimism and a childlike sense of wonder and naivete, Olaf is a glass half full kind of guy. He doesn’t even hold a grudge when a giant ice monster pulls him apart nor is he sad when he begins to melt. Every day is an adventure for him, with each step a new experience. While he gets a bit annoying as the series went on, he’s still a delightful addition to the original film and is probably the only character in the film people will remember in years to come.
39. Baloo | The Jungle Book (1967-2016), TaleSpin (1990-1991)
I believe the only character on the list with three different but equally fantastic iterations (as well as a decent video game and comic), Baloo is such a great character, that it’s near impossible to fuck him up. He’s even great in the not so great direct-to-video sequel. His interactions with Mowgli and Bagheera in the 1967 original are the best parts of that film. Then came the show TaleSpin, in which he went from a lazy layabout to a hotshot cargo pilot of a flying boat.
Inspired by the forgotten TV show Tales of the Gold Monkey, both shows share similar concepts and characters but while that show was cancelled after only one season, TaleSpin lasted for a respectable 65 episodes and was nominated for a couple of Emmys. Not because it was better (it was) but because like I said earlier, you can’t fuck up Baloo.
Jump ahead some decades and you get the sorely underappreciated live action Jungle Book directed by Jon Favreau. In that, he’s now a sloth bear voiced by Bill Murray, which makes it arguably the best version yet. His personality from the original is the same, as are his character traits but now instead of some guy voicing a lazy bear, it’s now Bill Murray voicing a lazy bear. Which, you know, is just the best thing.
38. Robin Hood | Robin Hood (1973)
There’s about a million different versions of Robin Hood out there but what makes Disney’s take on the character special and unique is that he’s now a fox. That’s… that’s about it. He’s still the same carefree outlaw archer who steals from the rich and gives to the poor but now he’s a fox. Which shouldn’t move the needle in any way whatsoever but somehow it does. Turning all of the iconic Robin Hood characters into anthropomorphic animals, somehow works. It’s like the story was tailor made to get a furry update. I’m a fan of most of the adaptations and honestly, I think this one is my favorite and again, I cannot stress this fact enough, they literally do nothing with the story except turn em into animals. I guess it comes down to whether I’d rather pick between Kevin Costner, Cary Elwes, Russell Crowe, Taron Edgerton or a fox, I’m going fox every single time.
37. Beast | Beauty and the Beast (1994)
Cursed by a mysterious Enchantress to live forever as a hideous beast, a selfish and cruel prince must reform his ways quickly if he wants to transform back. Only by loving another and earning their love in return can the Beast free himself and those affected by the spell. Not to go on a tangent but the enchantress might be the biggest villain Disney ever created. She turns an eleven year old boy into a monster and then turns all of his servants, who did absolutely nothing wrong, into cutlery and furniture. Prince Adam, while admittedly a dick, doesn’t deserve anything that happens to him. While Disney definitely fucked up his timeline (why didn’t they just make him 16 in the beginning and have the curse last five years?), they nailed everything else about the character. His design is fantastic, his personality is great and his interactions with Belle are classic Disney. Their love story might be the best within the Disney canon.
36. The Ghosts | The Haunted Mansion (1969)
A fan favorite amongst visitors since it’s opening in 1969, the Haunted Mansion is among the most popular attractions at Disneyland. The home of “999 happy haunts”, the ride takes you through all sorts of creepy locations, all filled with lively ghosts. The most famous of which, are the three hitchhiking ghosts. After the graveyard scene, they appear in a crypt with their thumbs out looking to get a ride and by the time the ride ends, reflected in a set of mirrors the doom buggies pass, one of the three will be shown sitting with the guests in their car. Consisting of a prisoner, a skeleton (not to be confused with the Hatbox Ghost) and a traveler carrying a carpetbag, the trio (as well as all the other ghosts, such as the Executioner and the Beheaded Knight) have been delightfully spooking visitors for years and years and they’ll continue to do so as long as the parks are open.
35. Flynn Rider | Tangled (2010)
Known for his quick-wit and charm, notorious thief Eugene Fitzherbert (better known as Flynn Rider), is an ultra-confident swashbuckler who’s looking for one last, big score that will allow him to finally live the life he’s always dreamed of. After stealing the palace’s crown and betraying his comrades, Flynn decides to hole up in a tower but through his keen powers of observation, I.e., a frying pan to the back of the head, he quickly deduces that it may not be vacant.
After he comes to, the girl in the tower makes him a bargain: take her to see the annual lanterns (it’s a long story) and she’ll give him back the crown. Without any options, he reluctantly agrees. An unlikely alliance with the girl from the tower (Rapunzel) sends Flynn on the adventure of a lifetime, and helps him realize that love, not gold or diamonds, is the greatest treasure of all. Designed by a community of female artists to be the sexiest Disney protagonist ever, Flynn has it all: looks, charm, one liners and an ass that won’t quit. The only thing he doesn’t have is a great name. He’s so perfect, they tried giving him a shitty first name like Eugene, just to try and balance the scales.
34. Kronk | The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)
The Emperor’s New Groove is the most un-Disney movie Disney ever made. Which is probably why audiences were lukewarm on it, why critics dismissed it, why Disney itself pretends it doesn’t exist and why I love it dearly. It strays so far from their usual formula, I’m shocked they even released it at all. There are no pretty princesses, no adorable toy characters, no songs and the lead is a jerkass. And on top of all of that, it’s comprised of nothing but jokes. If the film’s humor clicks with you, there’s a strong chance that you’ll consider it the funniest film Disney ever made and the majority of those laughs belong to Kronk. Dumber than a box of hammers, Kronk (Patrick Warburton) is the loyal henchman of Yzma who constantly bungles every plan she makes. Hilariously incompetent, he can barely function without a detailed list of instructions. One of the only side characters popular enough to get their own spinoff movie, Kronk may not be among the more instantly recognizable Disney characters but the people who know him, tend to love him.
33. Baymax | Big Hero 6 (2014)
Probably the greatest example of Disney-fication (the process in which Disney takes a pre-existing character and throws it into their patented cute-ification machine) ever, Baymax (Scott Adsit) went from a hulking robot dragon in the comics into an adorable marshmallow like humanoid for the film. An inflatable robot created by Tadashi Hamada (Daniel Henney) to serve as a personal healthcare companion who’s later inherited by his younger brother following his death. Hiro (Ryan Potter), now in possession of a robot and some other high tech knick knacks, decides to form a super hero team called Big Hero 6. The heart and soul of the team (and later the arms and feet after he’s augmented with powerful armor), Baymax is singularly devoted to providing health-care and in some ways, emotional support. He may not have any emotions himself but his mere presence helps uplift everyone around him. Bah-a-la-la-la.
32. Meg | Hercules (1997)
Even though they’re synonymous with the company and beloved by millions, the Disney princesses all kind of suck. Most of them do nothing but clean or sing songs about boys or sing songs about cleaning. Meg (Susan Egan) on the other hand, can’t be bothered. She’s a sassy little fire brand who teaches girls far more valuable lessons than being pretty or how to talk to vermin. She teaches girls that it’s ok to be vulnerable and to make mistakes. To be strong and independent and the willingness to be hurt again.
Before we meet her, Meg already had her happily ever after but after a series of circumstances that lead to her having to sell her soul in order to save his life, he repays her kindness by leaving her for another woman. No other Princess can relate to that kind of heartbreak and frankly, none of them could’ve dealt with it. The experience left her jaded and sardonic but even after all that, she’s still willing to give love another chance. Her courage and willingness to get hurt again makes her a far more interesting character than all the other princesses combined (minus Mulan) and her relationship with Hercules all the more romantic.
31. Eeyore (1966)
Since every inhabitant of the 100 Acre Wood is iconic and beloved, I had to make some hard decisions on who to include and who to leave off. Ultimately it came down to Piglet vs Eeyore and while I love that lil pig, I think Eeyore is a bit more important a character. There are a ton of timid and anxious characters but how many animated characters are depressed? Not upset or annoyed but actually depressed? The pool is so small, that he’s actually synonymous with the emotion.
Doctors use him (and the rest of Pooh’s friends) to help children identity their emotions. He’s also important in that he teaches kids that it’s okay to be sad. You don’t always have to be happy. Things may sometimes fall apart, like your twig house falling over you losing your tail again for example but that’s ok. Bad things are inevitable but everything will eventually turn out okay as long as you don’t give up. Eeyore is an eternal pessimist but he never gives up. That to me is an important message. You can be sad, it’s okay to be sad but don’t give up.
What have you thought of the selection so far? What are some of your favorite Disney characters from over the years? Do you think they are great enough to show up on the rest of the list? Keep reading to find out!