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Like many other children, I grew up watching Disney films. I watched Duchess and her kittens get back to their owner in the Aristocats, Basil and Dawson defeat the villainous Ratigan in The Great Mouse Detective, and those are just a few of the animated films I grew up with.
Interestingly, however, I didn't really get to see any of Disney's live-action films until my early teen years. With that in mind, I thought it might be fun to look at five underappreciated Disney films—focusing on these live-action films.
5. "Herbie: Fully Loaded" (2005)
Now, don't go throwing things at me just yet... or rather at all.
Herbie: Fully Loaded is the sixth and final installment of the Herbie series that started with The Love Bug in 1968.
The film follows Maggie Peyton (played by Lindsay Lohan) as she comes into the possession of a sentient 1963 Volkswagen Beetle, "Herbie," and works towards her goal of becoming a professional race car driver.
Produced on a budget of $50 million, Herbie: Fully Loaded grossed a crazy $144 million at the box office—close to three times its budget... unless my math is off.
It's not the best film in the series—to be honest, I can't really remember the other films that well—but it's just a bit of harmless fun for the whole family, which is sadly ignored nowadays.
4. "Snow Dogs" (2002)
Cuba Gooding Jr. plays Ted Brooks, a dentist in Miami, Florida, who discovers that he was adopted when he is named the sole heir in a will. He travels to Alaska to claim his inheritance, but nobody tells him that his inheritance includes seven energetic Siberian Huskies.
Hijinks ensue as Ted tries to adapt to his new surroundings while learning to deal with the dogs and discover more about his birth mother.
The film was a financial hit at the box office, grossing $115 million on a budget of $33 million. That said, the critical reception was decidedly negative.
Personally, I enjoyed watching this as a kid and I'll still put it on every once in a while—just for the fun of it.
3. "Camp Rock" (2008)
Mitchie Torres (Demi Lovato) goes to a summer camp and tries to boost her popularity stats among her peers as she has to learn to overcome her doubts and have confidence in herself... yes, it's that kind of movie.
Now, I have to admit, that I'm not quite a fan of this one. Don't get me wrong, the music is great and the cinematography and performances are fantastic, but the story is very unoriginal. It's basically High School Musical at summer camp.
The big difference between the two, to me at least, is that Camp Rock actually takes time to breathe between songs so you get something of a plot going. On the other hand, it felt like High School Musical was just one song after another with little to no breathing room in between songs.
2. "The Parent Trap" (1998)
The Parent Trap is a film that follows two twins who were separated at birth when their parents divorced. When they're reunited at a summer camp, they decide to work together to bring their parents back together.
It's cliche-ridden, campy, and just a little awkward at times, but there's a certain charm to the film that makes it a fun watch. Sadly, like most of the films on this list, The Parent Trap is largely overlooked in the pantheon of Disney.
Released in 1998 and produced on a budget of $15 million, the film grossed an impressive $92 million at the box office. This is even more impressive when you consider that the lead characters (the twins) were both played by Lindsay Lohan in her debut role at only 11 years old.
1. "Darby O'Gill and the Little People" (1959)
Darby O'Gill is an old Irishman who regales his friends with tales of King Brian, the ruler of the little people (leprechauns). When his employer drops off a younger man (Sean Connery) to replace him as groundskeeper for a local estate, Darby must try to keep things together without letting his daughter Katie know of what's going on.
This is probably one of only a handful of Disney films that I would call mature. Not in terms of story—though that's good too—the maturity in Darby O'Gill and the Little People comes from its execution. It's whimsical and silly, but it doesn't talk down to its viewers. The serious moments are appropriately grave.
The film also doesn't feature the usual amount of musical craziness that you'd expect from Disney. In fact, there are only a few musical numbers—only one of which has lyrics—throughout the picture.
Now, to close off, I'll share the two best lines from the film:
"My Grandfather Podge—God be good to him—once told me that there's only one man in town who's truly happy: The village idiot." - Darby O'Gill
"Three wishes I'll grant you, great or small, but you wish your fourth one and you lose them all!" - King Brian