The Best Disney Movies With Original Plots

What comes to mind when you think of Disney? The Little Mermaid? Frozen? Maybe one of the classics like Mary Poppins or Cinderella? All of those films have one thing in common: they were based on existing stories.

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Disney is famous for adapting books and fairy tales for the big screen. Chances are one of your favorite Disney characters appeared somewhere else before they were singing and dancing in the movie theaters. But every once in a while, Disney will produce a film with a completely original story. While they’re not as common, some of Disney’s best movies have stories that aren’t based on existing works.

10 Brother Bear Was Originally Inspired By Shakespeare

Brother Bear - The Main Cast Sitting On A Snowy Mountain

After the monumental success of The Lion King, there was a lot of pressure to make another animal-centered movie. Brother Bear was initially inspired by Shakespeare’s King Lear, with the story involving an old blind bear who ventures through the forest with his three children.

However, the concept was quickly scrapped in favor of a plot about a young boy who gets turned into a bear by vengeful spirits. It was nominated for an Academy Award and makes for a solid experience if you like Disney movies from the 2000s.

9 Bolt Paved The Way For 3D Disney Animation

Bolt - Bolt Getting Ready To Bark

Even though it’s one of the lesser-known modern Disney films, Bolt holds a lot of significance. Disney’s 3D animated movies were struggling in the early 2000s. While Bolt underperformed at the box office, it gained critical acclaim and was the first 3D animated Disney film to be nominated for Best Animated Picture.

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The story follows Bolt, a dog who plays a superhero on TV but thinks his powers are real. When his owner gets kidnapped, he sets out on an adventure to save her. It may not be as famous as its predecessors, but it’s often credited with having paved the way for smash hits like Tangled and Frozen.

8 Raya And The Last Dragon Is An Epic Adventure

Raya And The Last Dragon - Raya Talking To Sisu

No one will blame you if you missed out on Raya And The Last Dragon. The film took a massive hit due to the pandemic and was made available through Disney+ Premier Access.

The story takes inspiration from many Southeast Asian cultures. In a world where most dragons have gone extinct, a lone warrior Raya sets out to find the last surviving dragon to stop a vile pack of monsters. Despite its rocky release, the movie was praised for its gorgeous animation, outstanding cast, and thrilling action scenes.

7 Hocus Pocus Is A Cult Classic

Hocus Pocus - The Three Witches Standing Next To Each Other

Is it really a Halloween celebration without Hocus Pocus? The film’s concept started as a bedtime story the producer David Kirschner invented for his daughters about a young man who gets turned into a cat by three witches.

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While it wasn’t a hit for Disney when it was released, it has since become a cult classic and a must-watch for the spooky season. Thanks to its loyal following, it even started a multimedia franchise consisting of a sequel, a novel, and a theme park attraction.

6 Wreck-It Ralph Pays Homage To Retro Video Games

Wreck-It Ralph Screenshot Of Ralph Handing Cherries Over To Old Arcade Characters

Who would’ve thought there’d be a Disney movie featuring characters from Sonic The Hedgehog, Street Fighter, and Pac-Man? Wreck-It Ralph is a love letter to retro games filled with gaming cameos, references, and Easter Eggs.

Ralph is a video game villain akin to the arcade version of Donkey Kong, but he’s tired of being a bad guy, so he jumps from game to game in search of a place where he belongs. It’s staggering to see how many video game companies got on board with this film. It’s worth watching just to see Bowser and M. Bison in a support group for villains.

5 Moana Is A Modern Classic

Moana Smiling While Standing In Front Of The Sea

Surprisingly, Moana almost wasn’t an original story. The concept started as an adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s fantasy novel Mort. When they couldn’t acquire the rights, the creative team found inspiration in Polynesian mythology to develop a plot about a young woman Moana, who sets out to find the demigod Maui to save her people from a deadly blight.

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This was Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first time composing for a Disney musical, and it paid off tremendously. The song “How Far I’ll Go” was nominated for Best Original Song at the Academy Awards, and Miranda’s career with Disney has only flourished from there.

4 Lilo & Stitch Is A Heart-Warming Adventure

Lilo & Stitch - Nani Stitch And Lilo Surfing A Wave

It’s hard to overstate how ground-breaking Lilo & Stitch was for the time. A Disney movie that didn’t center around a princess or a romance plotline was a refreshing change of pace, offering a touching story that blends Sci-Fi action with family drama.

Stitch originally came from a rejected pitch for a children’s book. Disney took an interest in the character, which proved to be very beneficial. The movie was a massive hit, and Stitch quickly became a widely beloved Disney character. The film wound up having several sequels, a TV spin-off, and even two anime series.

Zootopia - Nick Crouching To Get In Judy's Face

Zootopia has arguably the most important message out of any Disney movie. What started as a story about a modern city built by animals turned into a powerful depiction of racism in the modern world.

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The plot follows a young, energetic police officer who teams up with a con artist to solve a missing persons case involving a dark conspiracy. The two leads have amazing chemistry, and the story is a perfect blend of humor, mystery, and hard-hitting social commentary. If you haven’t seen it yet, you owe it to yourself to give it a watch.

2 The Lion King Is A Legendary Film

The Lion King - Rafiki Holds Up Simba And Nala's Cub

The Lion King is an extremely important and influential animated film. It’s one of two Disney Renaissance movies that’s not adapted from an existing story. While the film draws inspiration from Hamlet and The Bible, its story and characters are completely original.

The fantastic animation, memorable characters, and remarkable score by Elton John hold up well even to this day. The film was so ground-breaking that it sparked an entire franchise containing two sequels, a remake, two TV series, and even a revolutionary Broadway musical.

1 Encanto Is A Magical Journey

Encanto - The Madrigal Family Posing For A Picture

Everyone feels like they don’t fit in sometimes. Encanto captures that feeling to tell a moving story about a Colombian family where everyone has magical powers except the main character Maribel. The film was created to explore the idea that people often don’t feel seen by their families and carry burdens that no one knows about.

Lin-Manuel Miranda returned to compose a beautiful score with hit songs like “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” which charted on the US Billboard Hot 100. Its touching message, relatable story, endearing characters, and incredible soundtrack earned it the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2022.

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