Though the genre is primarily associated with kid-oriented fare, animated movies have been instrumental in cranking out some of the most memorable love stories within Hollywood history. It's worth noting that despite its many competitors, Disney still remains the only studio to tackle romantic storylines on a regular basis, which certainly explains its domination over the following list of iconic animated couples.
As a clunky machine designed to clean up humanity's mess, WALL-E is, on the surface, hardly an ideal candidate to top a list of memorable animated couples. But his adorably awkward relationship with a futuristic robot called EVE is as compelling and flat-out romantic as anything within the live-action world, and there's little doubt that the chemistry between the offbeat pair grows more and more palpable as the surprising storyline unfolds. The nail-biting finale ensures that the utterly heartwarming conclusion packs an unexpectedly emotional punch, and the movie ultimately stands as a moving tribute to love and its ability to reach even the most unlikely of subjects.
Though one of Disney's lesser known films, Robin Hood vividly brings the iconic romance between Robin Hood and Maid Marion to life in exceptionally compelling fashion. The action-packed movie features all of the elements that we’ve come to expect from the Robin Hood legend, yet it’s the love story that ultimately seals its place as an underrated classic. The sequence in which the two characters rediscover their passion for one another, set to the Oscar-nominated “Love,” is just about perfect in its simplicity, and there’s little doubt that that pared-down sensibility is rather refreshing in this age of over-the-top, blisteringly-paced animated endeavors.
Despite their lack of screen time together, Carl and Ellie Fredricksen are established as an ideal couple during a perfectly conceived and thoroughly moving montage at the beginning of Up. It’s their relationship that serves as the catalyst for Carl to embark on a perilous quest into the jungles of South America, yet there’s little doubt that Carl’s unabashed love for his late wife is what ultimately drives the storyline forward. Up is one of those movies that’s sure to leave even the toughest of viewers sobbing into their popcorn, and it’s difficult to immediately envision a more believable and mature romance committed to celluloid within the last several years.
There are few romantic conventions that have endured as long as the mismatched couple that defies the odds and falls in love, and it’s hard to think of a more ideal example of this than Lady and the Tramp. Lady, a pampered cocker spaniel, finds herself drawn to a stray mutt named Tramp, and it’s over an iconic bowl of pasta that the unlikely couple share their first kiss. The many differences between the two eventually form the backbone of their unlikely relationship, which ensures that the film’s happy ending is particularly satisfying.
And while we’re on the subject of mismatched pairs, there are few couples in animation history as seemingly incompatible as the beautiful Belle and the gruff Beast. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that buried beneath Beast’s monstrous exterior lies a kind-hearted prince held prisoner by an enchantress’ spell. Belle, with the assistance of Lumiere, Mrs. Potts, and the rest of Beast’s ragtag servants, is eventually able to break the curse simply by proclaiming her love for her unlikely suitor, and the movie closes with a heartwarming repeat of the couple’s justifiably legendary spin around Beast’s opulent ballroom.
He’s an antisocial ogre, she’s a beautiful princess, and together they’ve become one of modern animation’s most recognizable couples. Though their attraction is far from immediate – he does, after all, have to carry her home kicking and screaming – Shrek and Princess Fiona come to appreciate and love one another for what’s inside after facing a series of obstacles. Of course, it’s not until Fiona is transformed into an ogress that the couple’s union is sealed – thus paving the way for several highly successful sequels partially revolving around their efforts at starting a family.
It’s easy to forget that at the heart of The Lion King is an extremely touching love story, as the tragic father/son relationship between Simba and Mufasa tends to overshadow everything else within the storyline. But the tentative romance that ensues between childhood friends Simba and Nala effectively counterbalances the film’s surprisingly dark elements (one word: Scar), with their love for one another cemented in an unabashedly romantic sequence set to the strains of Elton John and Tim Rice’s Oscar-winning song "Can You Feel The Love Tonight."
It’s a testament to Tim Burton’s flair for the macabre that he’s able to transform a walking skeleton and a living ragdoll into compelling romantic leads, as The Nightmare Before Christmas details the romance that blooms between Jack Skellington and Sally over the course of an especially busy holiday season. There’s something inherently endearing about Sally’s crush on the oblivious Jack, which ensures that their inevitable coupling is especially satisfying and ultimately heightened by Danny Elfman’s quirky yet moving selection of songs.
Pocahontas marks one of the few (if only) times a Disney romance has ended on a bittersweet note, as the love between Native American Pocahontas and Englishman John Smith is ultimately left unfulfilled. The tear-jerking conclusion can’t dampen what is otherwise an incredibly stirring love story, in which the two central characters cast aside their preconceived notions (as well as the disapproval of their families and colleagues) and embark on a genuinely touching romance that effectively illustrates love’s power to transcend cultural and racial prejudice.
Given that Cruella De Vil remains one of the silver screen’s most iconic villains, it’s not surprising to note that the two romances within 101 Dalmatians are often unfairly overlooked. The adorable relationship between dalmatians Pongo and Perdita would be enough to sustain one film, but 101 Dalmatians also throws in a surprisingly captivating love story between the dogs’ human owners, Roger and Anita. The romantic elements in the movie are so strong, in fact, that we’re more than willing to accept that these two characters are somehow going to care for over 100 rambunctious dogs (without any outside help, seemingly!)