10 Best Underdogs In Disney Animated Movies | ScreenRant – Screen Rant

Disney is home to some of the most beloved characters in animated movie history and many Disney characters are tried and true underdogs.
Everyone loves an underdog, and it’s a story trope that likely dates back to the beginning of literature, let alone cinema. And there’s probably no better source for these tales of triumph than the storytelling giant that is Walt Disney Pictures.
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Watching beloved Disney characters and heroes rise from the ashes to overcome the villain or obstacles that stand in the way of their goal is a time-honored tradition for all Disney fans. As home to some of the most beloved characters in all of fiction, it should come as no surprise that most of them are tried, true, and triumphant underdogs.
Since there’s no better place to start than the beginning, it’s only fair that the famous flying elephant, Dumbo, kicks off the list. Dumbo was not only one of the studio’s earliest films, but one of their most cherished and beloved underdog characters. Going from an embarrassing clown act to a high-flying feat of aerial amazement is quite a jump for anyone to make.
Dumbo might win most of his acclaim from his wide-eyed cuteness, but his story is a classic narrative that has inspired several others since. Disney essentially created the archetype for Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and other similar stories.
It might seem unusual for Cinderella to make an appearance on this list, but fans should not forget that she’s the prime example of a rags-to-riches story. Cinderella never wanted to become a princess with all the glitz and glamor the title offers. At the end of the day, all she wanted was to go to the ball.
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While it might easily be one of the studio’s most stereotypical fairytales, Cinderella got her wish by continuously being kind and compassionate, even when the world around her wasn’t. It’s cliched, but it’s still one of the most prominent examples of how a little kindness can go a long way.
Similar to Dumbo, Nemo’s adventures in Finding Nemo and the struggles he goes through are all a tall order for a little guy in a great big world. Consider the following: Nemo has the odds stacked against him from birth. He has an overbearing father who’s smothering his development, and he’s swept away from home dozens of miles off the reef. It would be impossible to see him as anything other than an underdog.
Though the movie is more about Marlin as a main character than his son, Nemo does go through some core development that changes him for the better. That fin might just be lucky after all.
Replace Cinderella’s fairy godmother with a genie voiced by Robin Williams and Aladdin is essentially a similar narrative. But since Cindy didn’t have to face off with an evil sorcerer to get her happily ever after, Aladdin has more than enough reasons to outrank her.
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Yes, it’s a rags-to-riches tale, but Aladdin’s adventures are easily the more perilous. He goes from a thief living on the streets to one of Disney’s most recognizable hero characters, a diamond in the rough if there ever was one.
Atlantis: The Lost Empire is a Disney sci-fi masterpiece, as well as one of the most underrated gems in Disney’s library, and Milo Thatch is easily one of the most underappreciated underdogs in the history of the studio. Right from the look of him, Milo is the epitome of the nerdy stereotype, but he ends up on a grand quest where he’s not only recognized for his brains but uses them to save the day.
Milo isn’t just a geek who becomes a hero at the end of the film, he’s a hero that relies on his intellect, skills, and knowledge to overcome conflicts. He’s smart, he’s courageous, but most importantly, he’s consistent.
Simba might not seem like an underdog, at first, he is essentially royalty from birth after all. But his exile from Pride Rock forces him on a character-developing journey. With a little help from a certain stick-swinging baboon, he’s able to overcome his fears and doubts and reclaim the throne.
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He might not be the most famous underdog on this list, but his film is arguably the most beloved. From exiled lion cub to the leader of all the Pridelands, Simba’s tale is practically Shakesperian in its narrative, making it the shining jewel of the Disney Rennaissance.
When his theme song is literally “Zero to Hero,” there’s no way Herc wouldn’t get a mention on this list. But where Simba went from a cub to a king, Hercules became a god. Stripped of his immortality, thanks to the villain Hades’s wicked plot, he had to earn his Olympian status back through becoming a “true hero,” but, as any true Disney buff knows, it takes more than a few fallen monsters to go that distance.
While he still retained his god-like strength, Herc still had to learn that there are forces more prominent than his impending godhood. As cliche as the “look inside your heart” message might be, Zeus wasn’t wrong. Thankfully, neither was Wonderboy.
“They just don’t make them like they used to” is a phrase often used to describe Disney’s adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre DameNot only is this film one of the most mature and moving pieces that the studio has ever released, but Quasimodo goes through the most heart-wrenching underdog development out of any Disney Character.
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The world is cruel and wicked, but through his emotional journey with Esmerelda, Phoebus, and the gargoyles, Quasi learns just how accepting it can be, as well. His happy ending might not be the one audiences were expecting, but it’s certainly one that he and his beautiful soul deserved.
Both Nick and Judy get a mention because not only are they both a pair of Disney underdogs, their stories both take divisive approaches to reach the same end goal. Both overcome societal prejudices and struggles to reach their goals. Where Judy’s obstacles are more directed at her stature rather than just her species alone, Nick’s are nearly entirely against his vulpine status and harmful sneaky stereotypes.
What makes their story stand out is how grounded in reality it is, and not just for residents of Zootopia. Societal pressures and prejudices are all too real for many fans and can be a devastating stumbling block for everyone. Nick and Judy demonstrate how not only can they be beaten, but that they can be beaten by anyone.
Not only is Mickey the leader of the club, but he has been continually cast and recast as Disney’s most famous underdog. From as early as Steamboat Willie to more modern examples, like The Three Musketeers, Mickey might start out on the bottom but he always comes out on top in the end.
His underdog nature is what makes Mickey one of the most iconic cartoon characters of all time. He is practically the embodiment of all things positive, and there are few better than seeing such a cute, perky character repeatedly triumph over the bad guy and win fair Minnie’s heart time and time again. The formula works for a reason.
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Zach Gass is a writer from East Tennessee with a love for all things Disney, Star Wars, and Marvel. When not writing for Screen Rant, Zach is an active member of his community theatre, enjoys a variety of authors including Neil Gaiman, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkein, and is a proud and active retro-gamer.


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