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15 Best Underdogs In Disney Animated Movies

The underdog story trope, which sees an unlikely hero overcome seemingly impossible odds to succeed in some way, is one of film and literature’s most popular storytelling tools, and there’s no better source for such tales than in the movies of Walt Disney Pictures.

Watching beloved Disney heroes rise to overcome the villain or obstacles that stand in the way of their goal is a time-honored tradition for Disney fans. With many beloved characters in Disney’s history, it’s no surprise that most of them are tried, true, and triumphant underdogs.

Updated on December 2nd, 2022 by Stacie Rook:

Disney continues to prove that it’s a studio that champions underdog characters, as its newest release Strange World shows in a story that sends a family of explorers on their most difficult mission yet. In many cases, these underdog tales serve to prove a character’s heroism and show that no one should be overlooked.


Mirabel – Encanto (2021)Mirabel looking at Abuelita in Encanto

In Encanto, Mirabel is on a quest to save her family’s magic, but given that she has no gift of her own, she seems to be the least-likely candidate for the job.

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Over the course of the movie, though, Mirabel proves that she is more than capable of taking on the task, both to her family and to herself, thanks to her insightful and curious nature. While Mirabel is presented at the film’s outset as an outcast and underdog, she comes to find her own strengths and discovers the vital role she plays in her family.

Remy – Ratatouille (2007)Remy in the kitchen avoiding plates in Ratatouille

A rat who wishes more than anything to be a chef, Ratatouille‘s Remy is an underdog because of his very species, but even this doesn’t stop him from achieving his dreams forever.

Thanks to the assistance of his human pal Linguini, Remy is able to take the culinary world by storm, helping Linguini to get closer to his goals in the process. Ultimately, Ratatouille is a lesson in not letting outside perceptions dictate what an individual is capable of, and it allows Remy’s talent to shine.

Ariel – The Little Mermaid (1989)

Ariel and Ursula in The Little Mermaid

Even though she is a princess under the sea, Ariel is living a life that’s far from the one she desires at the start of The Little Mermaid. All she longs for is to walk among humans and discover more about their way of life.

In order to have a chance at experiencing this, Ariel makes an unsavory deal with one of the cruelest Disney villains, the sea-witch Ursula, which sends her on a journey to reclaim her voice and try to hold onto her new human form. Even with such obstacles in her way, Ariel is triumphant in the end, and it’s a happily ever after made all the sweeter because of her underdog status.

Ralph – Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

Ralph smiling in Wreck-It Ralph

As his name suggests, Ralph from Wreck-It Ralph is someone who causes destruction wherever he goes, a problem that’s left him lonely and unfavorably compared to his video game’s hero, Fix-It Felix.

Over the course of his story, Ralph pursues his goal of winning a medal in order to be seen as a hero by those in his game and beyond. Though he goes through many trials along the way and the shape of his mission changes, Ralph ultimately succeeds in being seen in a positive light without compromising who he is, showing that even though it’s a long road, people are capable of seeing an individual as their true self eventually.

Moana – Moana (2016)Moana staring at the sky and smiling on the ocean

Moana starts off her story in quite a comfortable position, as the daughter of her island’s chief, but it’s when she sets out on an unprecedented journey across her beloved ocean that her underdog status is revealed.

Tasked with restoring the heart of Te Fiti in order to cure the blight spreading across her home, Moana sails to find the demigod Maui. Of the many hardships Moana faces on the way, the most prominent is her inexperience when it comes to sailing, but thanks to her connection to the ocean (and Maui’s later lessons) she’s able to learn and complete her grand adventure.

Dumbo – Dumbo (1941)

Dumbo holding Timothy Q. Mouse's tail in the Disney movie Dumbo.

Disney’s Dumbo was not only one of the studio’s earliest films, it also introduced one of their most cherished underdog characters in its titular protagonist, who goes from performing in an embarrassing clown act to in a high-flying aerial spectacle.

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Dumbo might win most of his acclaim for his wide-eyed cuteness, but his story is a classic narrative of perseverance, and even sees the young elephant endure one of the scariest scenes in a childrens’ movie in the form of the pink elephants on parade.

Cinderella – Cinderella (1950)

Cinderella and Prince Charming bowing at each other at the ball

Although it might seem unusual for a princess to be an underdog, Cinderella is a prime example of the rags-to-riches story. Cinderella never intended to become a princess, with all the glitz and glamour the title offers, but rather she just wanted to go to the ball.

While it’s one of the studio’s most traditional fairytales, Cinderella got her wish by continuously being kind and compassionate, even when the world around her wasn’t. Though this may seem cliché, it’s still a prominent example of how a little kindness can go a long way.

Nemo – Finding Nemo (2003)

Nemo and Dory swimming in the water.

Nemo’s adventures in Finding Nemo and the struggles he goes through are a tall order for a little guy in a great big world. 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, the father in the fantastic father-son movie duo, Nemo also goes through some development that changes him for the better, as he learns how to navigate the world without his father’s overwhelming and constant presence.

Aladdin – Aladdin (1992)

Characters Of Aladdin against a sunset in the background in Disney's original Aladdin.

Aladdin is another of Disney’s rags-to-riches stories, but in this instance, the main foe in Aladdin’s path to greatness is the dangerous sorcerer Jafar. Additionally, the inclusion of the Genie gives the movie a larger scale than some of Disney’s other fairy tales.

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A true underdog, Aladdin goes from a thief living on the streets to one of Disney’s most recognizable heroes thanks to his own cunning and some vital magical assistance.

Milo Thatch – Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)

Milo and Kida talking in Atlantis The Lost Empire

Atlantis: The Lost Empire is one of the best steampunk movies ever, as well as one of the most underrated gems in Disney’s library, and Milo Thatch is easily one of the most underappreciated protagonists the studio has produced. 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 also uses them to save the day.

Milo isn’t just a smart guy 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 – The Lion King (1994)

Simba with a leaf mane singing I Just Can't Wait to Be King in The Lion King.

Simba from The Lion King might not seem like an underdog, as he is royalty from birth, but his exile from Pride Rock, plus the threat that his uncle Scar poses, forces him on a character-developing journey. With a little help from characters like Rafiki, he’s able to overcome his fears and reclaim the throne.

From exiled lion cub to the leader of all the Pridelands, Simba’s tale is one of dramatic changes, and his young age at the time his journey begins means that it’s a long time in the making, a fact that makes Simba’s eventual triumph even more rewarding.

Hercules – Hercules (1997)

Hercules pointing his bow and arrow in Disney's Hercules

With a theme song titled “Zero to Hero,” Hercules embodies the spirit of an underdog. Stripped of his immortality thanks to the villain Hades’s wicked plot, Hercules had to earn his Olympian status back by becoming a true hero, and it takes more than a few fallen monsters for him to earn his place.

While he retained his god-like strength, Hercules still had to learn that there are forces at work in the world more powerful than his abilities, and his connection to Megara helped him to see this. Additionally, as a man-turned-mortal against the gods, Hercules had a sizable trial to overcome.

Quasimodo – The Hunchback Of Notre Dame (1996)

Quasimodo holds a bird in The Hunchback of Notre Dame

The Hunchback of Notre Dame is one of the most mature and moving pieces that Disney has ever released, and Quasimodo goes through the most heart-wrenching underdog development out of any Disney Character.

The world is cruel and wicked, but through his emotional journey with Esmeralda, 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.

Nick And Judy – Zootopia (2016)

Nick talking to Flash while Judy looks annoyed in Zootopia.

Nick and Judy from Zootopia are a pair of Disney underdogs, but their stories take different approaches to reach the same end goal. Both overcome societal prejudices and struggle to reach their dreams. While the prejudices Judy faces are more directed at her stature than her species alone, Nick’s are because of the harmful sneaky stereotypes of foxes.

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 viewers and can be a devastating stumbling block for everyone. Nick and Judy demonstrate not only how they can be beaten, but that they can be beaten by people even from very different backgrounds.

Mickey Mouse – Various

Mickey Mouse holding a rose in his mouth and talking to Minnie Mouse

Mickey Mouse has continually been 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 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.

NEXT: 10 Disney Movies That Would Make Perfect TV Shows

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Denis Ava
Denis Avahttps://bizgrows.com/
Denis Ava is mainly a business blogger who writes for Biz Grows. Rather than business blogs he loves to write and explore his talents in other niches such as fashion, technology, travelling,finance,etc.

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