Disney movies are known for their timeless stories and characters. They also feature some of the most iconic animation styles ever created. What makes them so special? Steampunk! When Disney and steampunk combine, something truly magical is created. Let’s have a look at when Disney has adopted the steampunk genre and discuss the best Disney steampunk movies of all time.
You may be surprised as to the number of Disney movies that have elements of steampunk within them. They seem to have really embraced the genre. Although there are very few fully steampunk Disney movies, a lot show elements of steampunk influence.
Before we get into the best steampunk Disney movies of all time, let’s have a look at what makes a movie steampunk.
What Makes a Movie Steampunk?
There are a number of elements that need to combine in order to classify a movie as steampunk.
Check out our guide as to what makes a movie steampunk for more information on this.
Whether something fits into the steampunk genre or not is a topic that is always up for hot debate in the community.
As steampunk sadly never existed, there is no history to check the validity against, however, there is some faux pas that means that something is clearly not steampunk.
Things such as this we would class as being ‘steampunk inspired’, i.e. they don’t traditionally conform to the steampunk genre, but they have taken elements from it to inspire them.
As a quick recap, we’ve lined up our top 10 elements to look out for in a steampunk movie.
If you’re interested in learning more about steampunk, check out our article, ‘What is Steampunk?’, which will take you through the history, influences, fashions, gadgets, and much more.
Top 10 Things to Look Out for In a Steampunk Movie
- The Use of Steam – In steampunk, electricity has never been invented, everything is mechanical and powered by steam. This means that if you can see digital machinery in a movie, it isn’t traditional steampunk, therefore it may be classified as ‘steampunk inspires’
- Steam Powered Vehicles – In steampunk movies, as with the above, you will only see vehicles powered by steam, cars, ships, and even submarines.
- Airships – Airships are popular within the steampunk genre – again, mechanically powered.
- Set In Victorian Era or an Alternative History – Steampunk is set in either the Victorian Era (19th Century), or in an alternative, future, occasionally depicted as a ‘wild west’ setting.
- The Clothing – Clothing can vary, but is normally focused around the fashions of Victorian England, or that of a colonial explorer.
- Augmented Mechanical Humans – In steampunk, persons can normally be seen with mechanically replaced elements to their body, sometimes these are full replacements, other times, a mechanical exoskeleton.
- Gadgets & Gears – futuristic (mechanical) gadgets are commonplace in the steampunk genre. A personal favorite is a gun that mechanically springs from up a sleeve to the user’s hand, ready and poised for use. Gears can be seen throughout the steampunk genre, emphasizing the mechanical theme that is central to the aesthetic.
- Time Travel – Time travel is not an essential component of steampunk, however, it can be seen in some steampunk works. Just remember that the time travel device needs to be mechanical and not digital/ electronic.
- The Paranormal – The paranormal is not traditional steampunk, however, the crossover between the genres is common. The villain in steampunk is normally a man-made creation as opposed to being a mythical creature, demon, vampire, etc.
- Advanced Technology – Technology that is advanced for its time is a standard theme throughout steampunk. The technology must be mechanical in nature, such as the analog computer.
List of Steampunk Disney Movies
20,000 Leagues Under The Sea
Release Date: July 20, 1955 (United States)
Based on the story by Jules Verne (original title in French: Vingt mille lieues sous les mers: Tour du monde sous-marin), this is often cited as a steampunk classic.
Set in the late 1800s are seas are no longer safe; many ships have been lost. Sailors have returned to port with stories of a vicious narwhal (a giant whale with a longhorn) which is blamed for sinking their ships.
Professor Aronnax, with his assistant, Conseil, and Ned Land, a professional whaler, joins a US expedition in an attempt to unravel the mystery.
They come into contact with Captin Nemo and the Nautilus, where they remain with Nemo and visit places such as the lost city of Atlantis and Vulcania.
For more on what makes 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea a Disney steampunk classic, check out our article on it here.
Alice in Wonderland
Release Date: 05th March 2010 (US)
Alice, a 19-year-old, is due to marry an English nobleman. At her engagement party, she leaves in order to consider whether to go through with the marriage. Whilst walking she falls down a hole in the garden after following an unusual-looking rabbit.
Arriving in the “Underland,” she finds herself in a world of childhood nightmares, filled with talking animals, villainous knights and queens, and bandersnatches.
Alice realizes her reason for entering the ‘underland’ is to conquer the horrific Jabberwocky and restore the rightful queen to her throne, and so her adventure ensues.
There is steampunk imagery throughout the story. Examples are the White Rabbit and his steampunk pocket watch, to the top hat of the Mad Hatter.
A lot of the clothing choices within the film have a Victorian-era flair, sympathetic to that of the steampunk genre. The Queen is a prime example of this with the laced corset and puffball sleeve which was prevalent in the victorian-era.
Check out this article for more on Alice in Wonderland.
Pirates of the Caribbean
Release Date: 28 June 2003 (Disneyland) (premiere)
This is the ultimate swash-buckling tale following the escapades of Captain Jack Sparrow.
Sparrow is a pirate, who inadvertently recruits Will Turner, a blacksmith, as the pair try and rescue Elizabeth Swann, the daughter of the governor and the love of Will Turner’s life.
Elizabeth has been kidnapped by the notorious, and cursed, Captain Barbossa.
Although not traditionally a steampunk movie, some of the steampunk aesthetic in the costumes.
Atlantis: The Lost Empire
Release Date: June 15, 2001 (United States)
Set in 1914, Milo Thatch works in the boiler room of a museum, despite being an accomplished linguist and cartographer.
He knows that the City of Atlantis is real, and he can travel there if he has the mysterious Shephards journal – this can guide him to Atlantis.
He has to find somebody to fund his voyage. His employer thinks he’s crazy and refuses to fund him.
Check out more about Atlantis: The Lost Empire.
Release Date: 30 May 2014 (United States)
Maleficent has an idyllic life growing up in the forest kingdom. When an army threatens the peace of the land Maleficent defends the land.
One day she faces a ruthless betrayal, which turns her heart to stone. As a result, she places a curse on the king’s daughter, Aurora.
A lot of the costumes offer a nod to the steampunk aesthetic.
Release Date: November 27, 2002 (United States)
In this science fiction rendering of the classic novel “Treasure Island”, is a rebellious teen seen by the world as an aimless slacker.
After he receives a map from a dying pirate, he embarks on an odyssey across the universe to find the legendary Treasure Planet.
Some amazing steampunk clothing can be seen. John Silver is an interesting character as he is both an alien and a cyborg with metal legs – augmentation being a common theme in the steampunk genre.
Castle In the Sky
Release Date: (Disney dubbed version) 2003
A young boy finds a mysterious princess who has floated down from the sky.
The girl, Sheeta, was chased by pirates, the army, and secret agents. He saves her life, and the pair begin an adventure that sees all sorts of flying machines.
They search for Sheeta’s identity in a floating castle of a lost civilization.
The technology in this movie is classically steampunk. The residents of the town live simple lives, they live in homes without electricity, and they travel mostly by steam-powered train.
The wealthy characters have access to anachronistic technology as well as being set in an alternative reality that is reminiscent of Victorian England during the Industrial Revolution.
If you’re interested in steampunk movies, why not check out our guide to the best steampunk movies, and see if you can find a new favorite?
There you have it, a line up of our best steampunk Disney movies. Granted, a lot of these are steampunk-inspired and not steampunk in their entirety.
Have we missed any out? If so, let us know in the comments below.