We all know that Disney is the company to beat when it comes to animated feature films. It’s been that way since Steamboat Mickey Mouse first started whistling down the stream and it’s not let up since the jump to computer generated animation. But what about the competition? Hasn’t any other production company come close to rivalling Disney? The short answer is yes, a few, but it’s up to you whether this list has actually bettered Disney’s output.
Get ready to get slapped by the open palm of Nostalgia.
(Just a note, any adult oriented animations are missing in this list, as are anime’s because they will each have an article.)
- The Iron Giant
Company: Warner Brothers
I’m going to go out on a limb with my own personal opinion, this is my favourite of the list. Brad Bird, who would later go on to direct the Incredibles, adapts (and adapts loosely thank god) a Ted Hughes book, into one of the most innovative and emotional animated movies to date. I can’t recommend this movie enough, but it has taken a good while for the movie to be given the proper recognition it deserves. Warner Bros dragged their feet hard on a Blu-ray release due to it not doing great numbers at its box office run. Also a fun little aside, Vin Diesel voices the titular Iron Giant and it is not hard to see why he was later picked up to voice the Guardians of the Galaxy’s very own Groot.
Company: 20th Century Fox
20th century fox made this movie it seems, to rival the vast array of Disney Princess films that are so popular. Although, the subject matter that has been used as the setting is all kinds of dark compared to the Disney fare. Anastasia is set just after the Russian revolution, with famous figures like Rasputin and the Romanov family at the centre of the narrative. I warn you, DO NOT WIKIPEDIA THE SUBJECT as it would ruin the family themed magic. The actual movie is animated in a rotoscoping technique that gives it a feel akin to the older Disney films, but it’s still visually distinct despite this.
- Fern Gully: The Last Rainforest
Company: 20th Century Fox
So remember Avatar, the largest grossing movie of all time? Pretty much ripped off Fern Gully completely. Tree dwelling non-humans, Check. Humans encroaching on the forest for resources, check. Human switching sides after he realises his love for the forest and the purty lady character on the other side, Check. Flying on the back of a Robin Williams voiced bat, ok not check but trust me, it’s a damn similar movie. To be honest, the animation hasn’t stood up to time as well as the others on this list, but it’s the story and voice acting that stands out. The aforementioned Robin Williams can do no wrong and having Tim Curry play the villain is never a bad thing. It’s better than every Disney straight to video sequel, but Fern Gully needed a bit more quality to truly challenge the bigger releases of the House of Mouse.
- The Land Before Time
Do ya like Dinosaurs? Well how about tiny baby Dinosaurs going on adventures? Well this is the movie for you. While there are a few pre-history animations out there, weirdly enough, none of the good ones are put out by Disney. With Dinosaur and the Good Dinosaur under their belt, they’ve never hit the quality of storytelling and emotional manipulation (if you didn’t feel a little bit teary when the Dino’s get separated from their parents you’re lying) as The Land Before Time. Being Produced by Steven Spielberg and George Lucas never hurt a movies quality back in 1988. Though I can’t safely say that these days.
- Prince of Egypt
A damn pretty re-telling of the biblical story of Moses. Probably shouldn’t have said damn when God is a character within it. Moses is voiced by Val Kilmer, who doesn’t slip into the quite worryingly Americanised portrayals of the character that have come before and after. Ralph Fiennes does an admirable job of playing the antagonistic Pharaoh and actually gives the villain a lot of likeability. Writing this I find myself praising white actors playing Egyptian and Jewish characters, I’m not sure how this compares to the whitewashing controversy of the Ridley Scott directed Exodus: Gods and .0Kings. Maybe that’s a post for another time. All that aside, Prince of Egypt is a more than solid animated movie, plus it’s got musical numbers that are proper bangers.
Notable mentions: An American Tail, All Dogs Go To Heaven, The Pagemaster.
Noticed any I’ve missed? Feel free to comment and I can kick myself about it later.