Animation fans love Disney. All over the world, Disney Animation Studios puts out quality films that entertain children of all ages. Some of the warmest childhood memories involve Walt Disney's creations in some way. They are the first things people think of when they hear the words "family entertainment."
As such, many people are confused when that image of animation they hold is challenged by Japanese anime. Anime is, in many respects, vastly different than Disney. At least, on the surface.
Disney and anime are all just different forms of animation. If you're looking to get into anime, but you've only watched Disney films up until now (or you're looking for anime recommendations), here is a guide on what to watch based on what Disney films you adore.
10 The Little Mermaid - Sailor Moon
The Little Mermaid tells the tale of a girl, longing for something more, who ends up transforming to reach another world in order to find true love. This story has a lot in common with the beloved anime classic, Sailor Moon. Only instead of the sea-witch Ursula, Sailor Moon has to confront Queen Beryl, an ancient witch-queen with a legion of monsters...
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Okay, so there are a lot of key differences. But what this anime has in common with the Disney classic is its aesthetic: a romantic fairy tale about love and triumph. The key difference is, of course, the focus on action, the modern-day setting, and the fact that Usagi grows and develops far more as a character than Ariel.
9 Sleeping Beauty - Revolutionary Girl Utena
Revolutionary Girl Utena draws heavily from the fable of Sleeping Beauty. However, unlike Disney's Sleeping Beauty, which is a straight adaptation of the fairy tale, Utena uses its time to make broader statements about society. Fighting for the hand of a cursed bride... how does the Bride feel about this? Who else seeks the woman's hand in marriage? Does the prince even need to be a man?
Utena, like Sailor Moon, draws heavily from traditional fairy tale iconography to tell its unique story. If you love Disney, you might love this alternative anime take on the classic narrative.
8 Cinderella - Fruits Basket
In search of a fairy tale about a girl with nothing who brings joy to the loves of those disenchanted people around her? Perhaps you love the Disney classic Cinderella. Perhaps you'll love the anime classic Fruits Basket.
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Fruits Basket tells the story of Tohru, a girl who stumbles into the lives of her neighbors, the enigmatic Sohma family, cursed with a terrible curse that... turns them into animals of Chinese Astrology (plus the Cat) when hugged. What seems like a simple curse, however, slowly evolves into something more when Tohru stirs up the family's traditions.
Sound up your alley? Good.
7 Frozen - Yuri on Ice
This may appear an odd choice at first. Frozen is a fantasy story about gaining confidence in oneself and coming to accept who you are, flaws and all. Whereas Yuri on Ice is a sports series about gaining confidences in oneself and coming to --
Aside from the obvious frozen aesthetics, this anime is a good companion piece to this modern Disney classic. Both feature well-defined characters facing a lot of obstacles who end up finding their true selves. Plus, if you finally got "Let it Go" un-stuck from your head, prepare to get "History Maker" stuck up there instead.
6 Tangled - Inuyasha
Ready to go on an adventure with tons of hijinks where a sassy, magical girl falls in love with a seemingly-self-centered rogue? At first, Inuyasha may seem an odd anime to pair up with Disney's Tangled, but these two do share a lot in common.
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Beyond the fact they're both timeless fairy tale stories, they feel similar, both employing a somewhat mythical, somewhat goofy fairy tale feel that elevates both into sweet dream fuel.
5 Lilo And Stitch - Cardcaptor Sakura
A genius has a bunch of monsters under his control. Said monsters go loose. It's up to an off-beat girl to bring all of them together and save the world from chaos.
While Cardcaptor Sakura may have more in common with Lilo and Stitch's greater lore, fans of the Disney movie might find themselves becoming fans of this classic magical girl anime. Both are a little off-kilter and unusual, but both also have adorable animals and surprisingly profound emotional scenes. Also, a really good younger-elder sibling dynamic, so there's that.
4 Mulan - Ouran Host Club
Really, that's the big connection these two seem to have. Disney's Mulan is a story of a young woman who impersonates a boy to fight a war. Ouran Host Club is an anime where a girl impersonates a boy to pay off a very expensive vase she breaks.
Both have very different tones, but the core concept of cross-dressing plays a huge role in each. However, both tell very important stories that test and break society's concepts of the gender binary. Though, sadly, there is no scene in Ouran where Haruhi (the main character) drops a mountain's worth of snow on an invading army. Sorry.
3 The Lion King - Kimba The White Lion
Many animations fans have pointed out that The Lion King draws heavy inspiration from the classic series Kimba The White Lion. While the Disney film's animators probably imitated this anime classic, there are enough differences to offer fans of the Disney classic something new upon revisiting it.
However, with a series as long that's been adapted so many times, it might feel a little overwhelming. Where do you start with this? A good starting point might be the anime film that came out following the release of The Lion King: Jungle Emperor Leo. Or, if it is possible to find it, the '80s revival, The New Adventures of Kimba the White Lion.
2 Aladdin - Magi: The Labyrinth Of Magic
This is an obvious recommendation. Both draw heavily from the Arabian Nights. Both feature a central character named Aladdin who wields the power of a Genie. This is the best point that will help Disney fans transition from Agrabah to the world of Magi.
Magi is an epic adventure, which runs the gauntlet of adorable adventures to epic fantasy intensity. It is often easy to be put off guard by Magi's often silly antics. It is a shonen action series, through and through. Just be ready to go on the journey of a lifetime with this one.
1 Beauty And The Beast - The Ancient Magus Bride
Of all the examples, this is the most clear-cut. Beauty and the Beast, arguably the best Disney film ever made, tells a very similar story to The Ancient Magus Bride. Both feature monstrous men who fall in love with women taken prisoner by them who, through mutual growth and earned respect, find it in their hearts to love another person for who they are on the inside.
What makes it even more compelling, however, is the mythical scope of The Ancient Magus Bride. It is a sometimes melancholy journey through a world where magic is dying. It's hypnotically beautiful and profound. Both the Disney film and anime tell a tale as old as time, and you owe it to yourself to enjoy both.