Going back six months or so, I've seen The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Emperor's New Groove, Fantasia, Pocahontas, and Sleeping Beauty. I had seen all of them before (I think), but had mostly forgotten everything, except for The Lion King which I used to chain-watch and which remains my favorite.
I like the new CG-animated stuff as well, but I don't really consider it in the same category. I know that Merida, Rapunzel, Elsa, and Anna were added to the official roster of Disney princesses, but to me they're just princess characters that were created by Disney. (Anyway, Elsa's a queen for most of the movie, which is totally different, and how is it fair that one movie gets two princesses?)
However, I don't make a distinction between the princess/romance/fairy tale type of story and the ones that are more about critters and/or kids getting into trouble. The parallels tend to run pretty strong, anyway: act of heroism, coming of age, love interest, happy ending. Even the animals have animal sidekicks. Someday I want to go through the list of every Disney movie that fits my arbitrary criteria and make a chart of each archetype and who represents it. Things get really interesting when the characters break the mold, because you can always still match them up to an archetype; it's just not usually the one you'd expect. Lilo & Stitch has a princess: Nani. Aladdin has a horse: the Carpet.
All of my emotional reactions still kick in at the same moments that they did when I was a kid watching this stuff, but I feel like I've lost some of my appreciation for certain elements, like the music. Maybe that's just because I grew up in the golden era of Disney soundtracks (don't even try putting that Tarzan crap next to my The Little Mermaid). I don't dislike the songs from (most of) the modern films, though; they just don't stick with me after the movie's over. Granted, I bought the Frozen soundtrack just like everyone else, but I've already explained why we're not talking about Frozen right now.
Conversely, I also think there are aspects that I appreciate now which I couldn't as a child. Most animated movies these days are made to appeal to both, but the 'adult' parts usually boil down to a couple subtle jokes. We might be overestimating the sophistication of adult humor there: the kids probably like the subtle jokes too.
Anyway, there's one area where this genre really kills it, and that's sincerity. Villains broadcast their evilness, love lasts forever, lessons learned are both straightforward and effective. These are the very reasons that people my age (as well as cynical young ones) don't take fairy tales seriously, claiming it's all cliche and fluff. I say fairy tales are nothing short of honorable. They show us how beautiful virtue can be and create symbols that we can use to understand our own world. There's a trend that's been going on for probably a few decades now to either reimagine or spoof the most familiar Western tales, and I worry that it's gotten to the point that today's children are more familiar with the parodies than they are with the source material. What a loss! Cinderella isn't that girl who made a cameo in Shrek, she's Cinderella.
The stigma against princesses also strikes me as unfair. Sure, none of us want our little girls obsessed with boys or their own appearance, but to say that sums up the Disney princess formula is a gross oversimplification of characters who are already pretty damn simple. Even the earliest ones were icons of undeniably positive qualities like love, kindness, and the incredible ability to domesticate and uplift woodland creatures just by physical proximity. At least as far back as Eilonwy, we had princesses guiding the action through their own motivation and choices, often showing great courage and making personal sacrifices. Why wouldn't we admire women like that, or let them be examples for our children?
Not sure what's next for me but there are several to choose from on Netflix. Hit me, guys: what's your favorite Disney movie?