Fast-forward a few decades into the future, and Disney has an impressive library of science fiction titles from which to choose. It's actually tough to rank a few of the best, and that's more than a lot of production companies can say.
Flubber is a modern remake of another Disney title that dates from the 1960s, The Absent-Minded Professor, an older movie that was actually nicknamed "Flubber" in its own time. This time, Philip Brainard is a professor that's working on alternative energy sources when he stumbles upon a formula that combines rubber and kinetic energy and immediately gets a bit too excited about the possibilities.
The older movie had the advantage of being unique in a market that didn't have a lot of selection when it came to science fiction, outside of B-movies about alien invasions or marauding kaijus, but the modern version didn't have the same clout. It retains a family-friendly charm and does have the brilliant talent of Robin Williams, one of the few actors who can be just as dynamic as the Flubber itself.
TRON would make perfect sense to a contemporary audience familiar with video games and programming codes but it was a weird mess to folks in the early 1980s, most of whom had never even used a home computer before. The mix of cartoons and practical effects didn't work very well either. In its time, the movie faced a lot of criticism and was considered to be a commercial failure.
Despite the naysayers, TRON always had a cult following, and it's left a legacy that has prompted a whole franchise, including a sequel. Time can't heal wounds like bad pacing and clunky special effects but stars Jeff Bridges and David Warner manage to keep the story together.
Why not take the concept of body horror and make it fun? To be serious, here's another moment when Disney takes the concept of terrifying science and makes it less apocalyptic, even entertaining, and gives the genre a new dimension.
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids is one of those movies that takes place in only one or two locations, but thanks to some brilliant special effects and clever writing, nothing more is needed. Rick Moranis is also perfectly cast as the bumbling but lovable Wayne Szalinski, stay-at-home dad and inventor, who invents a laser that can both shrink and enlarge a variety of things, including his kids.
Medfield College, the setting of many Disney movies in the 1960s, doesn't have a computer, so the administration is willing to accept a free one donated by a shady dealer without a lot of investigation. While a few enthusiastic students are plugging it in, an electrical surge turns one of them, Dexter Reilly (played by Kurt Russell) into a "human computer."
What this means is that Dexter knows everything the computer knows, but that includes the information about an illegal gambling ring being run by its previous owner. In an interesting twist that might have been a prediction of passwords and hidden files, only a special trigger word can prompt Dexter to reveal the secret information.
Tony and Tia Malone have always had mysterious powers that include telekinesis and telepathy, and the "star case" that they carry with them carries a strange map that leads to a mysterious location, Witch Mountain. As they flee from a variety of authorities towards the mountain, their clouded past starts to unravel, and the twist at the end of the story is that they are not magical or enhanced, but beings from another planet.
Years before E.T. and Starman were released, Disney adapted a science fiction novel about benign aliens on the run from malevolent human security forces. The movie was popular enough to start a whole franchise and inspired remakes in 1995 and 2009.
As far as the profits can tell, John Carter was one of Disney's biggest box-offices failures to date, and as one of the most expensive movies ever, few other studios would have been able to absorb such a loss. Years of development hell as this production moved from studio to studio didn't help either, and the marketing campaign was equally confusing.
A Princess of Mars is a novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs that everyone thought would make a great movie. Whether or not it succeeded depends on who you ask, with the movie doing poorly stateside but well-received overseas, and the visuals and effects are great.
A worthy environmental message that's about what humans leave behind, Wall-E was made by Pixar after they had been acquired by Disney. The studio wanted to continue using the animation style that made the underwater setting of Finding Nemo look so good, and the next natural step was outer-space.
Audiences and critics alike loved this movie, not only for the outstanding visuals but also for the story, characters, and themes about the global impact of rampant consumerism, corporate waste, and even obesity. It's considered to be such a significant contribution to the art that as of 2021, a copy of WALL-E has been in the National Film Registry in the U.S. Library of Congress.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea could be one of the best examples of science fiction movies and novel adaptations in movie history, plus it's got an amazing cast and practical effects that stand the test of time. Walt Disney produced it personally, which means he put his own money into the project, and it was one of the first movies filmed using the anamorphic lenses of CinenmaScope.
The film is still famous for the scene that features a fight with a giant squid, and James Mason's performance as Captain Nemo is iconic. It actually won two Academy Awards years before science fiction films were considered to be serious contenders.