Don Bluth is an American animator and director who was hired by Walt Disney in 1955 to work on Sleeping Beauty, but left before its completion because he found the work to be “kind of boring”. He later returned to Disney in 1971where he worked as animation director on Robin Hood, Winnie the Pooh, The Rescuersand Pete’s Dragon. During work on The Fox and the Hound, Bluth struggled to see eye-to-eye with Disney, and due to creative differences between himself and the studio, he once again left Disney. He went on to establish his own animation studio, Don Bluth Productions, along with Gary Goldman, John Pomeroy, and nine fellow Disney animators.
During the 80s, the studio posed a genuine threat to Disney. Disney was experiencing a lull in creativity, while Bluth had been seeing huge success with several of his movies, having garnered the attention of director Steven Spielberg among others. Bluth’s style was noticeably darker, both in tone and animation style, and acted as an alternative for those beginning to regard Disney as a one-trick pony.
However, that all changed at the turn of the decade. After the huge hit that was The Little Mermaid, Disney experienced a magnificent renaissance that saw them put out hit after hit in the 90s; meanwhile, Bluth’s output became less frequent, and studios began to churn out poor-quality, cash-grab sequels based on his works of the previous decade. Looking back over his career, it is safe to say that he has been responsible for some of the most unique and memorable animated movies of all time, and below are his top 5, ranked.
5 All Dogs Go to Heaven
If considered a children’s movie, then All Dogs Go to Heaven is certainly an interesting one. Chock a block full of death, violence, theft, drinking, smoking, gambling, murder, hellish demons and even references to classic gangster flicks, many critics felt the movie to be unsuitable for children and criticized the plot for being too confusing. While there may be some truth to that, it is still an enjoyable ride. The movie follows lead canine protagonist Charlie (voiced by Burt Reynolds) as he finds a loophole that allows him to return to Earth from heaven after being murdered by his debtor Carface. Now back on Earth, he begins to change his debauched ways as he befriends a young human orphan. Animation-wise, It’s pretty flawless, but, as with numerous other Bluth movies, the songs do not quite hit the mark, especially considering it was released on the same day as Disney’s The Little Mermaid, one of the greatest animated musicals of all time.
4 An American Tail
Following the success of The Secret of NIMH, Bluth became hot property in Hollywood, and a lot was riding on this follow-up. With some big names involved, including executive production backing from Steven Spielberg, the movie did not disappoint. It serves as a clever metaphor examining the immigration of Jews in America as it follows a family of mice and their struggles in America after arriving from Russia for a better life. Boosted by a great voice cast and some catchy songs, released around the same time as Disney’s mouse-based movie The Great Mouse Detective, An American Tail managed to outperform its competitors and was a global hit.
Based on the legend of Grand Duchess Anastasia and co-directed with longtime collaborator Gary Goldman, Anastasia was a hugely pleasant addition to Bluth’s catalog in many ways. Released in 1997, long after Bluth’s 80s heyday, Anastasia went on to become his highest-grossing movie and his first financially successful film since 1989’s All Dogs Go to Heaven. Dazzlingly colorful and featuring several catchy songs as well as action, adventure, and plenty of heart, this fun-filled family film reminded the world of what made Bluth such an incredible and refreshing director back in the 80s. Christopher Lloyd, Kirsten Dunst, Hank Azaria, Meg Ryan, John Cusack, Angela Lansbury, and Kelsey Grammar made up the stellar voice cast, with Azaria winning an Annie Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement for Voice Acting by a Male Performer in an Animated Feature Production .
2 The Land Before Time
The Land Before Time follows a young dinosaur named Littlefoot (Gabriel Damon), who, after the vicious demise of his mother at the hands of a dangerous carnivorous dinosaur has to make it to safer grounds at the ‘The Great Valley’. On his journey, he encounters a number of other young dinosaurs, and together they learn to overcome the hardships they face in order to reach ‘The Great Valley’. This is a rare example of a family film that manages to discover that winning formula of finding itself fully endearing to the younger children without ever losing the interest of the older kids and adults. The Land Before Time, is a colorful adventure with plenty of likable characters and fantastic theme song from Diana Ross, but it never talks down to the kids, relying on slapstick or toilet humor, and instead deals with some fairly adult themes involving loss, grief, isolation, the power of friendship, and evolution (in every sense of the word). With George Lucas and Steven Spielberg serving as executive producers, it’s safe to say the project was in safe hands.
1 The Secret of NIMH
Based on Robert C. O’Brien’s children’s novel, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, The Secret of NIMH was Bluth’s directorial debut and his most critically acclaimed. Far more than just a children’s animation, it is full of deep symbolism, thought-provoking subject matter and a genuine intrigue. The plot revolves around a widowed mouse who lives with her children on a farm and is forced to seek the aid of a colony of super-intelligent rats once her son falls ill. The movie established Bluth as a force to be reckoned with. The animation was glorious, rich, detailed and full of character, something that viewers would continue to witness throughout Bluth’s career. It was here, too, that the world was introduced to the unique, darker tone, rarely found in animated movies at the time, which would become a trademark of Bluth’s later work.
Best Animated Sequels Ever Made, Ranked
About The Author