I really do have a particular fondness for animated movies, regardless of whether they are by Disney or not. So, I decided to come up with a list of my Top Ten Non-Disney Animated Films. (Again, this list is very subjective.)
1. An American Tail (Amblin Entertainment/Sullivan Bluth Studios) (1986)
This film was such a big part of my childhood, and a film that I will never forget.
It told the story of a young Russian mouse named Fievel Mousekewitz, who gets separated from his family on the way to America. The rest of the film chronicles Fievel’s journey to find his family while roaming the streets of New York City in the late 1880s, the people he meets along the way, and the adventures that he gets himself entangled in.
It was directed by Don Bluth, and had music written by James Horner. Among the songs that were featured in the film, the most iconic and memorable one is the Grammy Award winning “Somewhere Out There”, which was a duet sung by Fievel, and his sister, Tanya.
Looking back at the film now, I realize how much it talked about real world history, as many during that time were immigrating to countrie America, especially as America was called the land of dreams. Well, in this case, for the Mousekewitz’s, they believed that it is a land with no cats to terrorize the, and a land where “the streets are lined with cheese”. Of course, both Fievel and his family soon discover that America isn’t everything that they thought it would be, but if they are complete, they can work hard together to overcome the difficulties that come their way.
2. The Land Before Time (Amblin Entertainment/Sullivan Bluth Studios/Lucasfilm Ltd.) (1988)
Another film directed by Don Bluth for Amblin Entertainment. Aside from bein procured by him, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall, his film was actually produced by Lucasfilm, although they were not credited for it in the credits.
The music of the film was also written by James Horner, and featured the iconic song, “If We Hold On Together”, which was sung by Diana Ross.
Another iconic film from my childhood, this film spawned a LOT of other films that I didn’t really watch.
This film told the story of a young brontosaurus named Littlefoot, who got separated from his mother after his heard was attacked by Sharp Tooth, a Tyrannosaurus rex. He then journeys across the land to find his mother and the other dinosaurs, alongside Petrie (a pterodactyl), Cera (a triceratops), Ducky (a saurolophus), and Spike (a stegosaurus). Together, they braved the harsh and treacherous journey by working together, despite being different species of dinosaurs.
This film, aside from being about family, was about the power of teamwork, and tolerance for others who aren’t like you.
The one thing that I got out of this film as a child was that I learned about dinosaurs and that I began calling broccoli “Tree Stars” even though a tree star is really just a leaf.
3. Anastasia (20th Century Fox Animation/Fox Animation Studios) (1997)
Another iconic film from my childhood, with a loaded and amazing cast, a great story and memorable songs that almost everyone in my class memorized. (Once Upon A December, Journey to the Past and At the Beginning, anyone?)
It told the story of a young woman named Anya, who ends up going with two con men hoping to earn a reward from presenting and molding a woman to resemble the long lost Princess Anastasia Romanoff to her grandmother. Along the way, she discovers herself and she and the two con men soon discover that she’s actually the real deal.
This film was directed and produced by Don Bluth and Gary Goldman, and many thought that it was a Disney film even though it was a Fox production, due to the fact that it was released during the Disney Rennaissance years. Even though it was somehow historically inaccurate about some things, this film had heart and beautiful visuals that really showed off the elegance and opulence of Paris and Imperial Russia.
4. Prince of Egypt (Dreamworks) (1998)
This was another iconic film that was released during by grade school years, and a film whose songs we all knew, particularly the song “When You Believe”.
The film, which is an adaptation of the Book of Exodus and the life of Moses, was directed by Brenda Chapman, Steve Hickner and Simon Wells; with a score by Hans Zimmer and songs by Stephen Schwartz. This film also boasted a fully loaded cast with actors such as Ralph Fiennes, Val Kilmer, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sandra Bullock, Jeff Goldblum, Danny Glover, Patrick Stewart, Helen Mirren, Steve Martin and Martin Short.
This film had rich animation, a beautiful score, and was definitely epic in scope. Even though this is a story that has been retold over and over again, this film was still refreshing, and gave it depth and emotion so much so that we, the audience, really got invested in the main characters of the film.
(However, I always did wonder why Rameses was British and Moses wasn’t.)
5. Spirited Away (Studio Ghibli) (2001)
Both “Spirited Away” and “Howl’s Moving Castle” were the first two Studio Ghibli films I ever watched. Sprited Away, was directed by the iconic Japanese filmmaker, Hayao Miyazaki.
This film tells the story of ten year old Chihiro Ogino, who, while moving to a new house, ends up entering the spirit world. There, she ends up working at a bath house frequented by spirits and other creatures while trying to find away to escape the place and to remove the enchantment on her parents who had been transformed into pigs. Along the way she meets memorable characters such as Haku and No-Face.
The animation in this film was different, gorgeous and exquisite all at the same time. I remember feeling a sense of wonder, very much like Chihiro, when she first entered and encountered the spirit world, and the bath house. The film also had great music, and is the kind of film that despite multiple viewings of it, I still feel the same sense of wonder each time, and I discover new things to love about it every time.
The film garnered multiple awards, including the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film during the 75th Academy Awards in 2003, making it the first time a Japanese animated film won in that category.
6. Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (Dreamworks) (2003)
Yes, this movie, which starred Brad Pitt as Sinbad, Catherine Zeta-Jones as Marina, and Michelle Pfeiffer as the trickster goddess Eris, was a box office failure, but it still didn’t stop me and my siblings from loving this movie. (Actually, we still don’t understand why it was such a box office failure).
I really like movies about adventurers who go on quests, and Greek mythology, plus Pitt’s portrayal of Sinbad was charming and charismatic to the point that I really did not care that Sinbad wasn’t a Greek figure. I just took the film for what it was, and enjoyed the heck out of it.
I also personally loved Pfeiffer’s portrayal of Eris, and I loved the visual effects that were in the film, particularly when Eris was around and when she sent out her pet monsters to stop Sinbad from entering her realm to retrieve the Book of Peace, which she stole while impersonating Sinbad.
I just thought it was a really fun adventure movie with everything that I do enjoy.
7. Howl’s Moving Castle (Studio Ghibli) (2004)
I saw this movie years before I read the actual book it was based on, but even after reading the source material, Studio Ghibli’s Howl’s Moving Castle is a brilliant masterpiece of a film. Of course, this film was directed by none other than Hayao Miyazaki.
This film tells the story of Sophie, a young hat maker who ends up transforming into an old woman after a witch places a spell upon her. On her journey to figure out a way to break the curse, she ends up in a “moving house or castle”, which belongs to a famous wizard named Howl, who goes to and fro from the castle, and who is a little bit petty at times. However, while this is happening, Howl is summoned by the king of their land to help out in an ongoing war, something that he is not too keen on doing. Along the way, both Howl and Sophie change each other for the better, especially after they get to know each other a little bit more.
This film had so much meaning, depth and heart to it, because it dealt with themes such as the effects of war, love, and discovering one’s true self and self-worth.
This film garnered a bunch of awards and was nominated in 2006 for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
8. How To Train Your Dragon (Dreamworks/Paramount) (2010)
When I finally watched this movie earlier this year, I wondered why it took so long for me to go ahead and watch it, because I absolutely adored and loved it on the spot.
This film was directed by Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, and was based on the children’s novel series of the same name by Cressida Cowell. It featured the voice talents of Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, T.J. Miller, Kristen Wigg, and Jonah Hill.
The film tells the story of Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, or Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), the son of the local Viking chief who tries to be a Viking like his father wants him to be, but all his attempts end up as failures. After a recent dragon raid on their village, Hiccup discovers an injured Night Fury whom he names Toothless, and tries to nurse it back to health in secret, as the Viking way is to kill dragons. Along the way, Hiccup and Toothless end up showing their village that some traditions are meant to be broken, and that it is okay to be a little bit different from the rest.
This film had a lot of emotion and depth, and the animation and art of the film, particularly with Toothless, really blew me away.
The voice cast was perfect, and in particular, Baruchel was the perfect pick for the loveable and off-beat Hiccup.
It garnered several awards and nominations, and was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film and for Best Score during the 83rd Academy Awards.
9. Rise of the Guardians (Dreamworks/Paramount) (2012)
This film is sometimes my go to film for when I need to watch something fun and uplifting. I loved this film the moment I watched it, and I still take away something different from it each time I watch it. However, it did under perform at the box office, which is such a shame because it is a wonderful movie.
Directed by Peter Ramsey, this film is based on “The Guardians of Childhood” series and the short film entitled “The Man in the Moon” by William Joyce. Joyce was also an executive producer of the film, alongside visionary filmmaker Guillermo del Toro.
The film tells the story of Jack Frost (Chris Pine), who ends up getting recruited by the legendary “Guardians”- Nicholas St. North or Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin), E.Aster Bunnymund or the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), Sandy or the Sandman, and Tooth or the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher)- so that he could help them fight off Pitch Black or the Boogeman (Jude Law), who has returned to the world.
This film, although I wasn’t fond of how they wrapped up Pitch’s storyline, was an amazing story about self-discovery as Jack tries to figure out why the Man in the Moon saved him from dying after drowning in an icy pond, and as he tries to figure out why the Man in the Moon wants him to be a guardian.
I also love how each of these different and iconic figures represents such abstract ideas. For example, Santa Claus or North, is the Guardian of Wonder; the Tooth Fairy is the Guardian of Memories, etc.
For me, this is a fun film with so much hidden depth, which makes it a shame that Pitch’s story line wasn’t handle that well, and that it really under performed at the box office.
10. Kubo & the Two Strings (Laika/Focus Pictures) (2016)
This film, for me, was even more special than Disney’s “Zootopia” and “Moana”, because everything about it was amazing.
Aside from it being a 3D stop motion film, it had an amazing story, a beautiful soundtrack, and an fantastic voice cast.
This film was also recently on everyone’s minds as it had been nominated for this year’s Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film, and for Best Visual Effects. It also won the Best Animated Film at the BAFTA’s this year.
Directed by Travis Knight, this film tells the story of Kubo (Art Parkinson), a young boy living with his mostly catatonic mother with a mysterious past, who uses his magical shamisen to bring paper to life to tell stories to his village. However, everything changes when he disobeys his mother’s rule of not being outside when night time comes, prompting Kubo to go on a journey to try and find his father’s legendary armor, which is the only thing that can defeat the Moon King. Along the way, he meets Monkey (Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Matthew McConaughey), who assist him in his journey and help train him to be stronger with his particular kind of magic.
This is definitely a very special film, not only because of the fact that it is stop motion, but because it is such a wonderful film with depth and heart, and as it talks about the value of family.
What do you think of my list? What are your favorite Non-Disney Animated Movies? Let me know in the comments below, and if you have any suggestions for what my next Top Ten list should be, let me know in the comments below!