Top 22 Disney Moments of Each Year (2000-2021)

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Top 22 Disney Moments of Each Year (2000-2021)

VOICE OVER: Emily Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nick Spake
These are the best Disney moments of each year 2000-2021. For this list, we'll be looking at iconic Disney movie moments from each year of the 21st century thus far. Our countdown includes "Encanto," "Frozen," "Toy Story 3," and more!
Transcript
Script written by Nick Spake

Top 22 Disney Moments of Each Year 2000-2021


Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 22 Disney Moments of Each Year 2000-2021.

For this list, we’ll be looking at iconic Disney movie moments from each year of the 21st century thus far. Naturally, there will be a few spoilers.

What’s your favorite Disney moment of the past 22 years? Let us know in the comments.

2000: Becoming a Llama
“The Emperor’s New Groove” (2000)


As Disney’s 90s Renaissance wrapped up, the animation studio entered a new age of experimentation. While the results were hit and miss, it paved the way for one of Disney’s best comedies to date. Kuzco’s transformation into a llama brilliantly balances fast-paced slapstick with the awkward tension you’d find in a dark comedy. The scene is packed with so many memorable lines and reactions that it’s easy to miss the subtle touches. For example, ever notice that the cactus Yzma pours her drink into also undergoes a llama transformation? Between Kuzco’s shallow obliviousness, Krunk’s stupidity, and Yzma hiding her frustration behind a smile, it’s some of the Mouse House’s funniest character animation ever. Now if only we could get a spinach puff kiosk at Disneyland.

2001: Goodbye Boo
“Monsters, Inc.” (2001)


2001 was full of scary sights, including Mia Thermopolis’ appearance before her makeover in “The Princess Diaries.” We also needed a makeover after “Monsters, Inc.” made us ugly cry with a tearful farewell. Forced to part ways, Sulley tucks in Boo for seemingly the last time. Although Sulley understands the gravity of his moment, Boo isn’t old enough to fully comprehend what’s going on. We’re too devastated to even appreciate the “Toy Story” and “Nemo” easter eggs as Sulley gives Boo a big hug and reluctantly shuts the door. It isn’t until Boo opens the door that she begins to realize “kitty” might not be coming back. Thankfully, the door isn’t closed for good and the two are eventually reunited in an equally emotional ending.

2002: Lilo Meets Stitch
“Lilo & Stitch” (2002)


Continuing Disney Animation’s experimental age, “Lilo & Stitch” took a chance on a modern buddy comedy about a girl and her dog… who’s actually an alien. At a Hawaiian animal shelter, Experiment 626 adopts a canine appearance, although he looks more like a blue koala. Most humans screech in horror at the sight of 626 - including the animal rescue lady. Being a fellow outsider, though, Lilo is immediately drawn to the creature’s unique features. Lilo names her new pet Stitch. It’s a fitting name since the mischievous experiment helps to stitch the bond between Lilo and big sister Nani. Nani can tell from the get-go that Stitch is going to be a handful, but how can you say no to the enthusiastic look on Lilo’s face?

2003: Just Keep Swimming
“Finding Nemo” (2003)


In 2003, “Lizzie McGuire” had us singing “What Dreams Are Made Of” while “Freaky Friday” had us rocking out to “Take Me Away.” However, if there’s one song that still gets us through hard times years later, it’s “Just Keep Swimming.” When it appears Marlin has lost his only lead on finding Nemo, Dory sings three encouraging words. Although Marlin is more annoyed than inspired, Dory gets him to venture into the dark abyss where they find two things: Dory’s “conscience” and Marlin’s bravery as they confront an anglerfish. Hey, at least it’s not as scary as Barbossa’s skeleton crew. Although Dory’s words initially seem like naive optimism, “Just Keep Swimming” has evolved into a motto for perseverance, providing hope even during the fishiest situations.

2004: Dysfunctional Dinner
“The Incredibles” (2004)


Even if you took out the superhero angle, “The Incredibles” still would’ve worked as a hilarious family comedy. The dinner scene is an especially relatable family feud with siblings Violet and Dash at each other’s throats, mother Helen trying to keep them apart, father Bob reluctantly intervening, and Jack-Jack gleefully watching the chaos unfold. The dialogue is every bit as clever as the slapstick, hence why Brad Bird scored an Original Screenplay Oscar nomination to go with his Best Animated Feature win. That said, the superpowers do add another layer of humor. Between Dash’s speed, Violet’s force fields, Helen’s flexibility, and Bob’s strength, we imagine most family dinners would be like this if everyone was super. We also expect that there’d be more cape casualties.

2005: Final Battle
“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” (2005)


While not the first crack at C. S. Lewis’ classic fantasy novel, previous adaptations all left something to be desired, especially when it came to the action. Disney’s version finally delivered on the epic scope we imagined while reading the book, building to a final battle crawling with diverse fantasy characters. It’s not as gruesome as “The Lord of the Rings,” which is appropriate given the more kid-friendly source material and Disney brand. However, the climax still treats its young audience like adults with sophisticated dialogue, dramatic confrontations, and a higher body count than you might anticipate. Among the casualties is the dreaded White Witch, who meets her end at the resurrected Aslan’s claws. It’s definitely one of the most PG-13 moments we’ve seen in a PG Disney movie.

2006: Release the Kraken
“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” (2006)


From one epic battle to another, the second “Pirates” film broke out the big cannons with the Kraken. In a franchise full of visual wonders, this sea behemoth is among the most intimating. Wrapped in the monsters’ tentacles, the Black Pearl has rarely been in more jeopardy. Director Gore Verbinski occupies every shot with swashbuckling action and innovative effects, but there’s also room for strong character moments involving cowardice, redemption, and betrayal. Jack Sparrow even channels Han Solo in two instances. First, he returns for a last-minute rescue after consulting his moral compass. Then, in his final stand against the Kraken, Jack goes down swinging to Davy Jones’ Locker, leaving us on an “Empire Strikes Back”-esque cliffhanger that had audiences talking for a year.

2007: Arriving in New York
“Enchanted” (2007)


In 2007, several Disney characters thrived in unlikely environments. Remy proved that a rat can not only cook, but show off mad puppeteering skills in the process. A rat in Paris is one thing, but an animated princess in a live-action world brought new dimensions to the fish out of water formula. 70 years after “Snow White” gave us the first Disney princess, “Enchanted” poked fun at the tropes we’ve all become familiar with. Instead of falling down the rabbit hole, Giselle emerges from a manhole. Through Giselle’s eyes, though, New York is a regular Wonderland where castles are traded in more billboards and everyone is grumpy. Giselle is out of her element, but Amy Adams is immediately convincing as a cartoon brought to life.

2008: Dancing While Defying Gravity
“WALL-E” (2008)


Silent film stars Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin were among Pixar’s biggest inspirations during the production of “WALL-E.” In this magical scene, you can also see echoes of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. EVE is beyond ecstatic that WALL-E survived the pod explosion and managed to save the plant. Sharing the robot equivalent of a kiss, they turn outer space into a ballroom of boundless possibilities. WALL-E practically makes it look like it’s snowing with his fire extinguisher, which only adds to the whimsy. The eye-popping animation is complemented by Thomas Newman’s majestic musical score. It’s a sequence that’s so otherworldly, and yet overflows with humanity. It’s also a testament to Pixar’s ability to communicate without much dialogue, which they built upon the following year.

2009: The Montage
“Up” (2009)


Disney had its setbacks throughout the 2000s, but as Hannah Montana might say, that’s part of the climb. They ended the decade on top with two unconventional romances. “The Princess and the Frog” put a clever twist on a classic fairytale with a kiss. In “Up,” Pixar delivered one of the most compelling love stories we’ve ever seen… and in record time. In barely four minutes, they convey Carl and Ellie’s life together, solely relying on visuals and Michael Giacchino’s heart-string-pulling music. Just as life is full of ups and downs, you’ll be smiling one second and shedding a tear the next. This masterstroke of storytelling wasn’t just Disney’s best moment of the year, but arguably the most talked-about scene from any 2009 film.

2010: So Long, Partner
“Toy Story 3” (2010)


Disney saw the light as the new decade dawned, kicking their modern animation renaissance into full swing with “Tangled.” Pixar not only continued their winning streak, but somehow topped themselves. If the beginning of “Up” made you cry a river of tears, then the ending of “Toy Story 3” unleashed an ocean of emotion. Before heading to college, Andy passes his toys on to Bonnie. Each character is given a touching curtain call, although watching Andy part ways with Woody pushes us over the edge. While there’s still a little time to play, it isn’t long until Andy’s childhood is in the rearview mirror. For anyone who spent the previous fifteen years following these characters, this farewell truly felt like a turning point in life.

2011: “Rainbow Connection”
“The Muppets” (2011)


Like “Toy Story 3,” “The Muppets” knew how to pack a nostalgic punch. The film gave us a slew of original songs that were in sync with the “Muppet” legacy. However, it’s hard for even an Oscar winner to top “Rainbow Connection.” Playing the same banjo from the original “Muppet Movie,” Kermit once again finds himself on a log with a song in his heart. While “Rainbow Connection” never fails to warm our hearts, this rendition resonates for a variety of reasons. After more than a decade out of the cinematic spotlight, the Muppets are finally reunited on the big screen. Joining in the franchise’s signature song, they not only make a rainbow connection, but connect the audience in their mutual love for the Muppets.

2012: Meg & George Reunite
“Paperman” (2012)


In 2012, Merida proved that a princess can fight for her own hand while Wreck-It Ralph found the good in the bad with help from his support group. However, the year’s best Disney moment wasn’t from a feature, but a theatrical short film. “Paperman” drew us in with its black-and-white computer-cel animation. By the conclusion, though, we were less engrossed by the film’s style and more by the romance. George and Meg are so close to each other, and yet constantly out of reach. After several failed attempts, George is ready to give up on bringing color into his life. Thankfully, with the help of several paper airplanes, one marked with a lipstick kiss, George and Meg find their way back to each other.

2013: “Let It Go”
“Frozen” (2013)


A year after “Paperman” won Disney’s first Animated Short Oscar in over forty years, “Frozen” reclaimed Disney Animation’s stronghold on Best Original Song. The song in question is a little power ballad you might’ve heard of called “Let It Go.” With her secret exposed, Elsa finally decides to not only unleash her powers, but the person she’s been concealing. This revelation comes with enchanting animation, stellar voiceover work from Idina Menzel, and - of course - that infinitely catchy tune. “Let It Go” was a zeitgeist moment for music, animation, and feminism, inspiring numerous online renditions and parodies. The sing-along version remains one of the 50 most-watched videos on YouTube, meaning “Let It Go” is probably the most widely seen Disney moment of the century.

2014: Enter Baymax
“Big Hero 6” (2014)


Disney continued to embrace their fairytale roots in 2014, bringing Maleficent’s curse into the live-action realm and unearthing the “agony” in being a charming prince. Disney also experimented with the superhero and sci-fi genres, delivering an animated feature not quite like any they’ve done before. Yet, Disney’s signature warmth is on full display when the huggable Baymax introduces himself to Hiro. Tadashi’s healthcare robot instantly wins the audience over with his marshmallow appearance and comforting voice that can make even the most straightforward lines sound funny. Although his design is simple and his facial expressions are limited, Baymax gets across more personality in one scene than some characters do in an entire runtime. It’s the first of Baymax’s many satisfying moments.

2015: Sadness Helps Riley
“Inside Out” (2015)


Sadness sometimes gets the better of us, but it’s a necessary emotion that can ultimately leave us stronger. In a way, Disney has been promoting this message for decades, given the studio’s history of devastating moments. However, “Inside Out” took a literal approach, personifying Sadness and Riley’s other emotions. After spending most of the movie sidelining Sadness, Joy realizes that Riley won’t be happy until she has a good cry. Returning home, Riley lets her parents know what she’s been hiding inside. Finding comfort in her parents’ arms, we see how Joy and Sadness are closer than one might assume, helping to make us more emotionally rounded. Sorry if this scene has left you drowning in tears. To lift your spirits, here’s Cinderella’s dress transformation.

2016: How Far I’ll Go
“Moana” (2016)


Disney Animation released two features in 2016, both wonderful in their own unique ways. “Zootopia” was a timely commentary on society, reflecting real-world prejudice and the DMV’s slothful nature. Lin-Manuel Miranda also got his feet wet with “Moana,” turning in the film’s most memorable tune. Joining a long line of classic “I Want” songs, “How Far I’ll Go” beautifully materializes Moana’s inner struggle. Torn between her island and the sea, Moana wishes to do right by her family and people. Alas, the water still calls out to her and until she sets sail, Moana may never know her full potential. The luxurious animation paints Motunui and the ocean in appealing lights, but Moana is eventually drawn to where she needs to be.

2017: “Remember Me”
“Coco” (2017)


When we hear “Remember Me” early in “Coco,” it comes off as an upbeat song that feeds into Ernesto de la Cruz’s massive ego. The song takes on a new identity upon learning that Héctor wrote it for his daughter. What was once a happy song becomes infinitely sadder knowing that Héctor died shortly after and Coco’s memory of him is slipping in old age. As Héctor risks being completely forgotten, a teary-eyed Miguel tries to trigger his great-grandmother’s fading memory with the familiar song. The initially unresponsive Coco gradually begins to light up, turning the solo into a moving duet. It reminds us that music is a universal and generational language, connecting people in ways that regular dialogue can’t.

2018: Oh My Disney
“Ralph Breaks the Internet” (2018)


From Jack-Jack’s fearsome raccoon battle to Mary Poppins’ cover of “A Cover is Not the Book,” 2018 had no shortage of notable Disney moments. However, no moment packed in more Disney than Vanellope’s trip to a certain website. Loaded with references to Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and everything else the company owns, this sequence was the ultimate Easter egg hunt. It also paved the way for a variety of ingenious scenarios, namely Vanellope meeting her fellow Disney princesses. We’ve seen Disney make fun of itself, but to portray some of their most beloved characters in a satirical light made for an unforgettable event. At the same time, the princesses push back against some criticisms that aren’t entirely fair. They don’t solely rely on men!

2019: “Show Yourself”
“Frozen II” (2019)


2019 saw several characters find where they belong. Woody got lost with Bo Peep in yet another tear-jerking goodbye. Meanwhile, Elsa reunited with a voice from her past, uncovering what she’s been looking for. Although it doesn’t quite top “Let It Go,” “Show Yourself” was still a show-stopping successor. The visuals perfectly suit the song’s sense of mystery and discovery, drawing the audience in further with each note. What makes the sequence especially remarkable is that it came so late in the production process. For the longest time, the filmmakers weren’t sure who the voice should be until they settled on Queen Iduna, which heavily influenced the song. It all came together as Elsa reached the heart of Ahtohallan, finding her mother and herself.

2020: Finding Your Spark
“Soul” (2020)


2020 will go down as an infamous year, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t without satisfying moments. In addition to “Hamilton,” Disney brought two new Pixar films to their streaming service. “Onward” helped us cope with death as Barley shares a brief reunion with his father while Ian realizes that he’s always had a father figure. “Soul” taught us about life and what it means to find your spark. For most of the film, Joe assumes that a soul’s spark is their destiny on Earth. Reflecting on his life and 22, though, Joe finds that a spark comes from whatever makes you want to live, be it music, pizza, or a ​​maple leaf seed. In a year like 2020, it’s a message we all needed.

2021: “We Don't Talk About Bruno”
“Encanto”


2021 was either a really good or a really bad year to be named Bruno. More than anything else, though, 2021 was a year of healing and transition. Like Cruella’s ballroom entrance, we burned away last year’s fashion to reveal something more fetching. The climax of “Raya” beautifully illustrated “picking up the pieces”. But “Encanto” proved to unify everyone in one combined experience: not being able to get “We Don't Talk About Bruno” out of their heads. “Encanto” is a beautiful and colorful film about familial and self love, and this tune is truly a family affair (you may even notice a Bruno bopping along to the tune at points!). Just as Bruno can see into the future, we think this song will join the ranks with Disney’s best songs ever, let alone the 21st century.
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