Disney films have left an incredible mark on countless childhoods, including our own. As we prepare for Disney100: The Exhibition to open in Chicago soon, the Secret Media team is taking a trip down memory lane, reminiscing about the Disney films we adored while growing up! These movies hold a special place in our hearts—and we have enjoyed watching them again and again.
Prepare for a magical experience this November as Disney100: The Exhibition opens its doors at the Exhibition Hub Art Center in Chicago (2367 W. Logan Boulevard). Spanning over 20,000 square feet, this enchanting exhibit showcases the ‘Crown Jewels’ of the Walt Disney Archives with more than 250 rarely-seen works of art, artifacts, costumes, props, mesmerizing visuals, and memorabilia.
With so much excitement of the exhibition coming to the Windy City, it inspired our team to think about the Disney films we cherished from our childhoods.
We’re getting nostalgic over here—take a walk down memory lane at Disney100: The Exhibition this November! 🏰✨
📼 Which of the Disney films defined your childhood?
As a kid, some of my fondest memories revolved around cozy movie nights at home with my family, watching Disney classics. One I adored was Mary Poppins (1964). I couldn’t get enough of the innovative animation, especially the ‘Jolly Holiday’ sequence where Mary Poppins, Bert, and the children jumped into the chalk painting, transporting themselves to a fantastic animated world—a place I undoubtedly dreamed of visiting!
The dancing penguins, the beautiful countryside, and, of course, the carousel in Mary Poppins are simply magical! I also loved how Disney took everyday activities in the film like cleaning up the nursery and having a tea party, and brought a touch of whimsy to these simple moments, appealing to children and adults. The best part was watching this film with my mom and grandma, and now I love passing on these beloved movies and seeing them with my own kids, witnessing the magic all over again!
👜☂️🎠 Take a peek at the carousel horse, snow globe, and original artwork from the iconic Mary Poppins film at Disney100: The Exhibition!
Another one of my personal favorites is The Princess and the Frog because I admired Tiana’s determination to go after her dreams through hard work, defying traditional stereotypes of what it meant to be a Disney princess. Besides sending that message to little girls, I also love the setting in New Orleans, one of my favorite U.S. cities; which no doubt added to the film’s enchantment in my eyes—and it happens to be one of my daughter’s favorites too so we love watching it together.
👸🏾🐸🎷Get a chance to marvel at the visual development artwork from 2007’s Princess and the Frog at Disney100: The Exhibit!
Now that you know my Disney favorites, keep scrolling to discover which Disney films left a lasting impression on the childhoods of the rest of the Secret Media team before Disney100: The Exhibition opens in Chicago — and yes, we’re getting nostalgic over the VHS format!
Claire Leaden – Managing Editor
🎥 Film: Beauty and the Beast (1991)🥀🏰📚
👧Reason: There are many reasons, but I would definitely say it’s the BOOKS! That castle library astounded me when I was a bookworm kid, and to this day, I would love to recreate a (albeit much smaller) version of it. The soundtrack is also amazing, in my opinion, from the classic opening number (MARIE, THE BAGUETTES, HURRY UP!) to the song with the best use of rhyming, ‘Be Our Guest,’ and the absolute classic Beauty and the Beast (don’t forget Lady Celine Dion’s gorgeous end credits version). The castle, the romance, the French setting, I loved it all!
🕰️ At the Disney100 exhibit, you’ll discover concept art of the Beast by artist Glen Keane, the Lumière candelabra, Cogsworth, the iconic decorative clock from the 2017 live-action movie starring Emma Watson as Belle, and the Playbill from the 1999 Broadway production of Beauty and the Beast!
Elliot McGowan – Staff Writer
🎥 Film: The Jungle Book (1967) 🐍🌴🐾
👦Reason: It’s a close call between The Jungle Book and Mulan, but I think I’ve got to go with the former. It made me fascinated by jungles, animals, and adventure. I always really liked the characters, especially Baloo and Bagheera, who form that comical duo of opposites: the no-nonsense grizzly attitude of Bagheera with the care-free giddiness of Baloo. They’re such great characters, probably two of the best anthropomorphic creations in the history of animation, in my opinion. I guess I also like the message that people can be misunderstood, and sometimes strangers can show care and kindness. And, of course, the songs are just incredible. ‘I Wanna Be Like You’ and ‘The Bare Necessities’ are both timeless bangers.
🌴🚀🏯Get a closer look at original artwork from The Jungle Book (1967), Toy Story (1995), and Mulan (1998) at Disney100: The Exhibition.
Cindy Ramirez – Social Media Manager
🎥 Film: Toy Story (1995)🤠🚀🤖
👧Reason: Growing up in a Disney household, there are so many movies that defined my childhood, but if I had to choose one, it would be Toy Story. It gives me so much nostalgia when I think of Toy Story. Seeing my crazy childhood question, “Can toys come to life?” in an animated film was breathtaking!
By the time the third movie came out, my baby brother Andy was born. If that doesn’t tell you how much we love Disney, I don’t know what to tell you! Seeing him fall in love with the movie that I grew up watching was a full circle moment in my childhood, from Andy having Toy Story birthday parties, school supplies, Halloween costumes, even down to writing his name on the bottom of his shoes!
✨Unlock your favorite childhood memories at this Disney exhibition in Chicago—Grab your tickets here!
Tori Levy – SEO Writer
🎥 Film: Ratatouille (2007) 🍽️🐀🇫🇷
👧 Reason: There are a few reasons why Ratatouille was my all-time favorite movie growing up and still remains one of my most rewatchable movies to this day. One of the most pressing ideas that I grew attached to is that we, as a society, feel we need permission to do something we’re passionate about. If you want to cook, you should cook—even if you’re a rat. The last line still holds true, which is, “not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.”
Claire Cahill – Branded Content Creator
🎥 Film: Peter Pan (1953) 🧚♂️🧜♀️🏴☠️
👧Reason: I had a relatively limited collection of VHSs and DVDs growing up, but there were definitely some iconic Disney classics in the mix! One that consistently remained at the top of the stack was Peter Pan. I loved the concept of the magical world of Neverland, and was completely captivated by Peter Pan and Wendy’s adventures with the fairies, mermaids and pirates. I remember feeling just *slightly* afraid when Captain Hook and Smee appeared onscreen, my older sister graciously offered to build me a pillow fort and let me know when they’d left the scene. Peter Pan very much sparked my sense of adventure from a young age, and I will forever cherish that!
Daniella Soltero – Secret Media Project Manager
Film: Pocahontas (1995) 🍃🌾🏹
👧Reason: Well, for starters, picking between Pocahontas and The Little Mermaid was tough as I’m pretty sure I fried both of those VHSs from rewatching them over a million times. I was SO inspired by both these adventurous women BUT who can forget Grandmother Willow? I’m still inspired by that tree!! I absolutely adored this film. As a kid learning about this strong female figure for sure sparked some of the interests I still love to explore now. HELLO HISTORY, NATURE, & CULTURE! Nostalgia at its finest, nothing beats the Disney Classics.
🌿 See an incredible animator model of favorite Disney heroines like Pocahontas at this Disney exhibit in Chicago, along with development art and the color key used for the film!
Dan Shure – Video Producer Events
🎥 Film: The Emperor’s New Groove (2000) 👑🦙🪴
👦Reason: While Disney has some of the best movie musicals of all time (Shoutout Alan Menken & Howard Ashman), I decided to pick a movie that is NOT a musical but still delivers that same Disney magic. I had a VHS copy of The Emperor’s New Groove that I watched over and over and I think it really shaped my sense of humor. Eartha Kitt is so memorable and evil as Yzma, and how could you not love John Goodman?
Ashlyn Davis – SMN Global Brand Lead
🎥 Film: Fantasia (1941) 🎻🎩🧹
👧Reason: Over 80 years since its release, Fantasia proves that rare art truly is timeless. This audacious departure from traditional animation is a mesmerizing mashup of classical music and visual storytelling that remains unmatched. Disney has a trove of nostalgic hits, but to me, this is the studio’s cinematic masterpiece. From hippos waltzing in tutus to the thundering majesty of Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” dinosaurs, it’s a riot of imagination that never ceases to enchant.
🦛🎶✨Experience the enchanting story sketches of Fantasia : “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” by a Disney Studio Artist at Disney100: The Exhibition!
Luke Matteo – SMN Community Manager Intern
🎥 Film: Monsters Inc. (2001) 👹🚪🌟
👦Reason: I couldn’t tell you how many times I have watched Monsters Inc. Sure, it defined my childhood, but it also has a place in my adulthood. As a kid, I remember sitting on the floor with my sister to go through the roller coaster of emotions that is Monsters Inc. It’s funny, sad, exciting, and suspenseful. Experiencing these different feelings and rooting for Sulley and Mike throughout the film really strengthened the bond between my sister and me when we were little. Ten years later, we have no shame enjoying it over the shoulders of our younger cousins…