Disney has come out with a lot of movies but is heavily known for its classic princess films. Stories like The Little Mermaid, which is getting a live-action version soon, is just one of the classic love stories Disney loves to tell.
Over the years, especially in the last decade, Disney has done a much better job of breaking away from the usual love story and focusing more on other things like friendship, personal growth, and even discovering a family. These movies provide a wider variety of content for the general audience.
Updated on January 24th, 2023 by Colin McCormick: Among the many Disney movies released in 2022, some of them bucked that old convention of needing a romance at the center of these tales. From Lightyear to Chip n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers, there are always Disney movies that can tell their entertaining and satisfying stories without having to rely on the expected love story at its center.
The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh (1977)
Despite being one of the longest-running and most recognizable Disney characters of all time, Winnie the Pooh has never really had any love interests. He is seen as a simple old bear who enjoys his honey, his friends, and wanders through life with childlike innocence.
This is maintained in the movie The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. The movie is basically a collection of shorts following Pooh and his friends on their silly and charming adventures through the Hundred Acre Woods.
Alice In Wonderland (1951)
Though Disney’s original plans for Alice in Wonderland were even creepier, the classic remains one of the studio’s strangest animated movies. Following the curious young Alice, the movie journeys into the surreal world of Wonderland where she encounters odd and even dangerous characters.
The fact that there is no love story is just one of the unconventional aspects of the movie. The whole point is that Alice is surrounded by these unhinged people and creatures that she just doesn’t understand so there were really no romantic prospects to speak of.
Though Dumbo is probably best remembered as one of those children’s movies with very scary scenes, the big-eared elephant has captured the heart of many Disney fans over the years. The sad yet inspiring story of Dumbo’s time in the circus makes him an endearing hero.
Dumbo is not a very popular member of the circus, being mocked and mistreated by many of the other animals. However, the story focuses on the love shared between Dumbo and his mother as well as the friendship he forms with the mouse Timothy who helps him find fame.
The Great Mouse Detective (1986)
The Great Mouse Detective is an underrated entry into Disney’s roster of animated adventures. It is a take on Sherlock Holmes as it centers on Basil, a brilliant mouse sleuth who is hired to find a young girl’s missing father, leading him to face off with his arch nemesis Professor Ratigan.
The movie plays out like a fun mystery adventure with Basil trying to crack the case and save the day. It is not surprising that he doesn’t have time for romance though he does form a friendship with Dawson who becomes his Watson-like companion.
Toy Story (1995)
There are some who might argue that there is a very central love story in Toy Story, but it is clearly one of friendship rather than romance. The first feature-length Pixar movie finds cowboy toy Woody struggling with no longer being the favorite when his kid gets an exciting space action figure Buzz Lightyear.
The relationship between Buzz and Woody takes a long time to warm up with their combative dynamic making for some of the best moments. While they each get significant love interests in the sequel, this first movie is about them finding a friend in each other and making for one of the best buddy movies of all time.
The Jungle Book (1967)
Disney often takes inspiration from classic books and fairytales. The Jungle Book was originally written by Rudyard Kipling, and Walt Disney made an animated movie from it. The story has become a classic, as the man-cub known as Mowgli learns to grow up in the jungle.
The movie is filled with fun, singing, action, and danger and there isn’t a love story in sight. It is more about friendships, survival, and discovering one’s true self in a world that is so different. There is a moment when he sees a young girl in the village nearby and seems to be smitten, but it isn’t until the very end, and it is more likely that he is excited to see someone like him rather than him being in love with her.
The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)
Having an extremely selfish character as the protagonist was a bold move on Disney’s part, but it ended up working out beautifully in The Emperor’s New Groove. The young Prince Kuzco seems to care about no one except himself until his advisor, Yzma, accidentally turns him into a llama which ends up sending him on the adventure of a lifetime.
Kuzco has to learn how to care about others and become a kind person to be able to make it back to his palace so he can turn into a human again. The movie has a lot of personal growth for many of the characters and shows the strength of friendships once trust is earned.
Treasure Planet (2002)
Treasure Planet not only managed to steer clear of a classic love story, but it took fans to far-off galaxies. But with such a unique story that doesn’t match Disney’s typically lighter and happier feel, it is a movie that is often forgotten about.
As one of Disney+’s hidden gems, the movie has a lot to offer. It shows the pros and cons of exploration as well as stepping outside of one’s comfort zone. As Jim Hawkins travels to other planets and meets new people and creatures some scary things happen, but it is still a great movie about space for kids. The movie is loved for its sense of adventure outside of this world.
Meet The Robinson’s (2007)
The story of an orphan kid who finds the perfect family has been told a handful of times throughout cinematic history. Meet The Robinson’s has to be the most creative version of that story. Not only is this a story about orphan kids finding their homes, but it also involves time travel and science.
The story focuses more on promoting believing in oneself no matter how many times failure happens. The main character’s motto is literally “Keep moving forward”. Perseverance and the importance of being there for a friend, even in the smallest of ways are the big takeaways from the movie. The quirkiness and unique personalities of Wilbur’s family just add to the already fun vibes of the movie.
Big Hero 6 (2014)
Over the last decade, Disney’s animated movies have included many deeper topics, such as coping with the passing of a loved one. Hiro losing his brother Tadashi early on in Big Hero 6 was gut-wrenching, but it helped set up the rest of the movie which was about how to deal with all the feelings that come from losing someone you love.
Hiro taking on Tadashi’s project of creating Baymax, and using him to find out how the fire started is what brings him closer to all of Tadashi’s friends, who end up becoming part of his family. Big Hero 6 also explores topics like never giving up, embracing your inner nerd, and accepting your emotions and help when you need it.
Yet another movie trope that is often overused is the story of the underdog. Disney took a most interesting approach with this story in Zootopia and knocked it out of the ballpark. Using animals, specifically predators and prey, to show the hierarchy of society and draw parallels with real-life issues was super creative.
Not only does it show the importance of never giving up on your dreams, but it also shows the importance of being able to change your story. While Nick and Judy become close, they don’t end up together romantically. The two end up becoming partners in the police force, and they help to combat crime in Zootopia together.
Pinocchio was only the second animated feature film that Disney made. Based on an Italian children’s novel by Carlo Collodi, Disney brought the story to life, and there are now countless versions of the beloved film. The newest version is a live-action movie similar to the animated one but with some key differences.
The story explores the importance of telling the truth, even when it may be difficult to do. Some may argue there is a love story between Pinocchio and his father Gepetto, but it is not the traditional love story where a couple falls in love with all those clichés. A love story between a father and his son creates a whole new story that can become relatable to a whole new audience.
One of the first Disney movies that involved a princess as the main protagonist who didn’t have a love interest was Merida in Brave. Merida was a princess, and she was to be courted, but she didn’t want to be given someone to love, plus she believed she was able to rule her country on her own.
Her drive to want to change the way things had been for decades shook her people and created a backlash, but after some personal growth and insight, she proved that it could work. Having a Disney princess with no significant other was new for Disney, but it quickly became more of the norm as more movies like this followed.
Raya And The Last Dragon (2021)
Not only is Disney getting better about making princesses that break the rules and go against social norms, but they are creating characters that are remembered for their actions as opposed to their social status. Raya, in Raya and the Last Dragon, is a warrior princess, but with there being other rulers as well, and her being on the run for most of the movie, it’s easy to forget her high status.
Raya races across the various kingdoms of Kumandra as she looks for Sise, the last dragon in hopes that it can help her restore her kingdom and get rid of the plague consuming the land. Her selflessness, heroism, and bravery are two big parts of what makes her such a great character, and an even better role model for anyone that wants to be like her. There are even many quotes that prove she is the most heroic princess throughout the movie.
Following in the footsteps of Brave, Moana hit theaters without a love story in sight. That is unless fans include Moana’s love for the ocean. Like Merida, Moana has to prove herself, but it’s more for her own gain. Her adventure does show the people of Motunui that the open ocean isn’t as scary as they once thought.
Moana’s growth as a person and overcoming her identity crises ended up helping her and her village in the end. She showed fans that it is possible to defeat the odds with hard work, perseverance, and bravery. While the movie is filled with many heartfelt moments, Moana never shows interest in any person romantically.