Brilliant Non-Disney, Non-Pixar, and Non-Dreamworks Animated Movies
Anastasia (1997). Twentieth Century Fox.
Based on the well-known true story of Russian Grand Duchess, this movie is, by far, one the most successful non-Disney animated films. I cannot imagine that the Disney company is not disappointed they didn’t come up with this concept first. Voiced by a superb cast (including Meg Ryan, John Cusack, and Kelsey Grammer) and animated beautifully, Anastasia truly is “a spellbinding mixture of adventure, comedy, romance and music.”
Balto (1995). Universal.
Balto, by Amblin Entertainment, is a touching movie based on another true story. It tells the heart wrenching story of an outcast half husky, half wolf sled dog and his heroic journey across Nome, Alaska to bring back medicine for the children affected by a diphtheria epidemic. A tale of courage, compassion, and finding out your true worth, Balto will touch your heart.
FernGully: The Last Rainforest (1992). Twentieth Century Fox.
A not-so-subtle commentary on the descruction of the rainforests, FernGully is a quirky and adorably unique film. Crysta is a fairy living in the beautiful rainforest, FernGully, when humans show up with bulldozers, ready to tear down every last tree in the name of development. One of the construction workers, Zak, accidentally gets shrunk by Crysta and gets to experience the beauty of FernGully with her. Belatedly he realizes that this magical place is somewhere worth preserving, and Zak must help Crysta stop the evil Hexxus (voiced by Tim Curry) before FernFully is destroyed for good.
Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland (1989). Hemdale Home Video, Inc.
I’ve already reviewed this gem for the site. The story takes place in a crazy world in which dreams become unrecognizable from reality. In this surreal story, Nemo travels from his home of New York City to the mystical and playful Slumberland. But not everything is fun and games, as it might seem. The dastardly (and terrifying, to younger audiences) Nightmare King is up to no good, and Nemo must do everything he can to save the king, the princess, and all of Slumberland.
Once Upon A Forest (1993). Twentieth Century Fox.
Another Fox commentary on what a negative influence man can have on nature. This story follows three young animal friends, Abigail, Edgar, and Russell, whose home of Dapplewood is nearly destroyed when men with traps invade and spill chemicals with extremely toxic fumes. The three go on an amazing journey in order to find a cure for the fumes for another of their best friends, and to save their home from the disaster wrought by the men.
Quest for Camelot (1998). Warner Bros.
In this adventurous film set in Camelot, the high-spirited heroine, Kayley, refuses to be content with her boring life. When King Arthur’s sword, Excalibur, is stolen by a traitorous knight of the round table, Kayley takes it upon herself to steal back the sword and return it to the king. Her quest takes her into great danger, but also makes her great allies and friends. To make it even better, besides the gorgeous animation, the film has a talented voice cast that includes Cary Elwes, Gary Oldman, and Pierce Brosnan, and an amazing soundtrack featuring Leann Rimes, The Corrs, and Bryan White.
The Pebble and the Penguin (1995). MGM.
Such a unique love story, and based on some truth, since penguins really do give a pebble to their mate. (Give your own mate a penguin pebble!) Hubie is an incredibly socially awkward and shy bachelor penguin, who is in love with the beautiful Marina. Unfortunately, the horrible, self-absorbed Drake is also competing for her affections. In order to win over his true love, Hubie vows to find her the perfect stone. In his quest, he is put out to sea by Drake, and must beat all the odds and make his way back to Marina before The Full Moon Mating Ceremony so he can win her over. This films message is that it’s not always the pebble. It’s the penguin.
The Secret of NIMH (1982). MGM.
This story is indescribably wonderful and complex, especially for a movie intended for children. When Mrs. Brisby’s son, Timmy, gets sick and becomes bedridden, she must find a way to move their home out of the farmer’s field before plowing time. When this becomes impossible, Mrs. Brisby gets desperate and must consult with many mysterious figures. The most important of which are the rats of NIMH, rats which live and use the technology of mankind. The secret of their intelligence is only one of the major intrigues of this plot, and the story will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Thumbelina (1994). Warner Bros.
This movie is based on the classic Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale of the same name. It is the story of a woman desperate for a child, who finds a tiny little girl inside the bloom of a flower and takes her in as her own child. But Thumbelina is only content for so long. When, one night, she accidentally meets Prince Cornelius, a fairy prince, she falls in love and decides that she wants to be with him. So she sets out on an unexpectedly perilous journey to find her prince. Life’s not easy when you’re only as big as a thumb.
We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story (1993). Universal.
This one is a Spielberg film with music by James Horner, of Titanic fame. Dinosaurs aren’t extinct! At least, in New York City they’re not. A time-travelling scientist, Captain NewEyes, captures four dinos and brings them back to NYC. Using “Brain Grain,” he turns his experiments into cartoonish talking dinosaurs instead. When the dinos find out how many children with they could see a real, live dinosaur, they set out on an adventure to meet their biggest fans, two of whom are the children Louie and Cecilia. But NewEyes’ mad brother ScrewEyes has other plans in mind for our prehistoric friends.
Additional movies that should have made the cut: Titan A.E., The Thief and the Cobbler, and Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas. All three also wonderful, non-Disney/Pixar/Dreamworks movies.