In honor of My Little Pony: The Movie coming to theaters October 5, April Dawn decided to rank her favorite animated movies that aren’t from Disney or Pixar. While there were many options ranging from Studio Ghibli to Don Bluth classics, she managed to skim it down to 11 films.
The Lego Movie (2014) :
The Lego Movie takes the most recent animated movie spot on this list. Even though the film only came out three years ago it already spawned two spinoffs with more sure to come.
The film follows a Lego construction worker, who believes that there’s more to life than the same old routine and gets recruited to stop an evil tyrant with the help of a few unlikely Legos.
I didn’t go into this film expecting to like it as much as I did. I wasn’t a big fan of Lego’s as a kid and I didn’t see how this film would connect with me. Yet this film manages to create an entire world with beautiful animation and hilarious dialogue. A child can love the movie for its vibrant colors and childlike wonder. Adults can recognize the clever and inventive humor that is sewn seamlessly from start to finish.
How to Train Your Dragon (2010) :
In a village where Vikings and dragons are sworn enemies, a scraggly young boy named Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) wants to prove himself to his father (Gerard Butler) by killing his first dragon. With a streak of luck, Hiccup manages to use a cannon to capture his first dragon in the woods by his village. After seeing the dragon is around the same age as him and seems mostly harmless he forms a bond with the creature he names Toothless. Hiccup then teaches his village that not all dragons are evil, which eventually leads to a truce between Vikings and dragons.
Dreamworks Animation uses dazzling animation, thrilling action sequences and a story with surprising depth to win over its audience.
Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002) :
Spirit differs from all of the other films on this list in the fact that the main character, along with all of the other animals, don’t speak in the film. By avoiding the cute animated style and comedic dialogue, the film manages to elevate itself with a strong narrative.
Spirit is a wild mustang stallion, who ventures into the domain of a man and is captured by Cavalry troops. While the intense colonel (James Cromwell) makes taming the stallion a personal obsession. Spirits salvation comes through an Indian brave (Daniel Studi) who helps him escape and rides him to freedom.
Spirited Away (2002) :
Spirited Away has broken incredible records, it passed Titanic to become the top-grossing film in Japanese history and also became the first film to make more than $200 million before opening in America.
The film features a wide array of characters, like Okutaresama, who is the spirit of the river, whose body has absorbed the waste of humans throughout the years. The film is filled with such rich stories and animation, that may be one of the rare instances adults love the film more than the children.
Shrek (2001) :
I don’t think anyone could have guessed the amount of success the story of an ogre who wants to live alone in his swamp would have. The film spawned multiple sequels and the character even has his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Shrek is not your traditional lead, he burps, farts, and just wants everyone to leave him alone in his swamp. He doesn’t frighten audiences but instead earns our sympathy. The only reason the homebody agrees to rescue Princess Fiona is because he wants to be left alone in peace.
Dreamworks manages to embrace the fairy tale story while tweaking the classic tale with new characters and the iconic song “All Star” from Smashmouth. This film could have easily fallen flat on its face without the lovable ogre and the characters he surrounds himself with.
The Iron Giant (1999) :
When released in August of 1999 The Iron Giant was a box office bomb but is now considered a classic. After working at Disney and leaving in frustration Brad Bird later went against the Disney formula by making a song-less adventure about a boy and a robot.
The film is set in 1957 in the innocent, fictional town of Rockwell Maine on the verge of crumbling. The Cold War and Sputnik flying overhead left people unsure of the future and things they didn’t understand. Which is why the setting for a giant robot coming down from the skies couldn’t be at a worse time. With National Security Agent (Christopher MacDonald) convinced the giant is a force of evil instead of good.
The film tackles ambitious topics that most animated film wouldn’t dare touch, such as ” What if a gun had a soul and didn’t want to be a gun?” The Iron Giant rivals the relationships of Elliot and ET as Hogarth teaches the Giant the best parts of the human spirit, and also the worst. Ultimately this is a story about friendship, and what happens when people don’t take the time to understand what we don’t know.
Prince of Egypt (1998) :
The Prince of Egypt is an animated feature that most doubted would make an entertaining animated film. Based on the “Book of Exodus” in the Bible, this story follows Moses (Val Kilmer) from being taken out of the Nile by the queen (Helen Mirren) to the day he returns with the Ten Commandments.
While the film doesn’t shy away from the entertainment, whether by the comic relief of two temple magicians and a duet in the song “Playing With the Big Boys” or with grand chariot races. The film shows animation growing up and embracing complex, adult themes instead of being imprisoned by kiddie entertainment.
Anastasia (1997) :
The true story of Anastasia Romanov is hardly a tale one would guess would make a happy, heartfelt, animated musical. The real Anastasia was executed along with her family in Russia. Speculations later arose as to whether she might have survived
The film Anastasia is very loosely based on the true story, with the film opening with Young Anastasia (Kirsten Dunst) wrapped safely in the arms of her family. Then disaster strikes and she spends years in an orphanage, as memories of her earlier days fade away.
Fast forward to Anastasia as a teen (Meg Ryan) who is put into the care of con men Dimitri (John Cusack) and Vladimir (Kelsey Grammer). The criminals concoct a scheme to raise an imposter to fool the Dowager Empress (Angela Lansbury). The twist is that the imposter is, in fact, the real princess.
Don Bluth’s film uses the same formula as Disney movies but elevates the content. The heroine has a sidekick, Anastasia’s comes in the form of her adorable little dog Pooka, the villain Rasputin (Christopher Lloyd) has incompetent henchmen, romance forms, and musical numbers are sprinkled in meticulously through the film.
With Bluth going toe to toe with the skills of the best animators from Disney, it’s easy to forget the film isn’t actually from the famous mouse house.
All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989) :
All Dogs Go to Heaven opened against the Disney classic The Little Mermaid, which is now viewed as a Disney treasure. However, I find it criminal that Don Bluth’s animated musical set in 1930’s New Orleans about the bond a dog and a girl share has been overshadowed.
Charlie, a rascally, but good-hearted German Shepard dies and is sent back to Earth to perform a good deed before getting into Heaven. However, instead of focusing on his good deed, Charlie wants to go after the one behind his death, Carface. This involves befriending an orphan named Anne-Marie who can talk to animals. Charlie uses Anne-Marie to help take down Carface, yet over time the young girl imprints on Charlie, and he learns the value of love and friendship.
Mixed with vibrant colors, and a surprisingly impactful story, All Dogs Go to Heaven is a film that anyone who has had a childhood pet can appreciate.
Land Before Time (1988) :
The Land Before time spawned 14 films, following a group of orphaned dinosaurs, led by Littlefoot, a young brontosaurus. The film, while aimed at children, has a heartbreaking story at its core. Littlefoot whose mother was mauled by a T-Rex sets out to find the Great Valley with the promise of food and a pleasant life.
Joining him on the journey is Petrie, a pterodactyl desperate to learn how to fly, a bratty triceratops named Cera, a quirky saurolophus named Ducky and a dim-witted stegosaurus named Spike.
While beautifully animated and heartfelt Don Bluth masters just the right amount of restraint to make sure the ever looming Sharp Teeth doesn’t permanently scar children. These films became a staple not only for dino-obsessed tikes but children of all ages.
Charlottes Web (1973) :
Based on the best selling book by E.B White, the film uses the classic tale and adds great songs. The film has an outstanding cast of voices, like Debbie Reynolds as Charlotte, and Henry Gibson as Wilber the Pig.
Wilber was born a runt and faced death from the beginning of his life. The runt was nearly killed by a farmer until his daughter, Fern begs to raise the pig. Things start looking up for Wilbur until he learns the tragic truth that he will most likely be turned into bacon. The loving Charlotte helps save Wilbur, by elegantly crafting spiderwebs to save Wilbur. While Wilbur is saved, the happy ending isn’t in the cards for Charlotte.
Charlotte’s Web deals with friendship, joy, sorrow, and life beyond death. The film manages to reach your deepest emotions, something that most adult films strive for, but fail to deliver.
April Dawn | Editorial Intern