While our last TOP 10 was in favor of the Disney empire, this time we are going to tackle a different kind of animated movie.With this Not Another Disney Movie series we are going to look at the not-so-popular kids in the class: films by other studios, old cult classics and recent discoveries that are as good (sometimes even better!) as any Disney masterpiece, and yet, they don’t get as much attention.
Firstly, we’ll take a look at those dear films from our childhood that we remember well, but which were produced by other (Non-Disney) studios.
Not Another Disney Movie 1:
TOP 10: INDEPENDENT ANIMATED MOVIES (1990’s)
Number 10: Space Jam (1996)
Hilarious and irreverent, this movie brings us basketball idol Michael Jordan opposite the sarcastic, unadulterated charm of Bugs Bunny. Even though Space Jam is actually one of many crossover movies that the Warner Bros has spawned over the years, this cocktail seems to never get old, as this movie brought home $230 – $250 million in box office, against its $80 million budget. Sounds like a slam dunk from where I’m standing. But aside from the monetary success, the childish charm of this comedy cannot be denied. When the famous Looney Tunes characters team up with a basketball legend, you are sure to get at least a few laughs out of the equation.
Space Jam was produced and Distributed by Warner Bros.
Number 9: FernGully: The Last Rainforest. (1999)
Following the environmental awareness trend of the 1990s, this Austrailian-American film introduces us to a society of fairies living in a secluded rainforest, whose home is threatened by deforestation in the form of a group of lumberjacks. The veiled environmental message of this movie is one we are quite familiar with from other animated works ( remeber Captain Planet?) but it’s nonetheless still valuable, and FernGully manages to deliver it in a somewhat artless way, providing a twist when it’s not the humans, but an ancient black magic being who actually threatens the forest, and the fairies team up with the humans to save it. Same old, same old, but still remarkable in its message and the feeling behind it (which I guess it’s what counts).
FernGully was produced by Kroyer Films, Youngheart Productions and FAI Films, and distributed by 20th Century Fox.
Number 8: The Prince of Egypt (1998)
Even those who look at Religion with an objective academic approach (like me), have to admit that some of the most remarkable pieces of fiction are compressed in that big, fat, controversial book that is The Bible. Creators of The Prince of Egypt saw the potential and decided to bring to animated life the journey of Moses, with quite the impressive success. The already epic content, good soundtrack and the hundreds of thousands of Christians lining up to put their kids through an animated movie that is actually “appropriate” are some of this movie’s advantages. Regardless, it was impossible for The Prince of Egypt to end up out of this particular list, and while I personally wasn’t too enchanted by it, I can definitely see the merits of the project. The Prince of Egypt was produced and distributed by Dreamworks Pictures.
Number 7: The Iron Giant (1999)
Following on ET: The Extra-Terrestrial’s example, The Iron Giant is another story of human kids befriending aliens. And just like ET, it delivers an expressive, heart-wrenching ending to a very nice story. Those who saw it will remember the gentle giant, programmed for war, who instead chooses peace and friendship after meeting a human boy that teaches him to play and dream. The anti-war message of this movie is very clear, but that doesn’t detract of what it’s an intrinsically sweet and heroic story, where the unlikely hero is recognized not because he comes on top of its enemies, but instead, because he sacrifices himself to save the same people that wanted to destroy him.
The Iron Giant was produced and distributed by Warner Bros.
Number 6: Balto (1995)
True stories make the best fiction, and this animated version of a true feat accomplished by a siberian husky in 1925 Alaska is an example of that. Balto taps into the animals-are-always-a-hit philosophy that Disney used when it created successes like Bambi, Dumbo and Lady and the Tramp. Add to that an endearing true story and the possibility of dying children, and there you have it: nice and fluffy.
Regardless, I have fond memories of this movie, in which we get an unassuming, humble lead who doesn’t care for recognition or praise and only wishes to help those who are in need. I must say there’s something very canine about Balto, which I think is a great success for a movie with talking animals. The essence of it is retained, and the beauty of the story is preserved.
Balto was produced y Amblin Entertainment and Amblimation, and distributed by Universal Pictures.
Number 5: The King and I (1999)
This movie remains one of my favorite animated movies even after more than 10 years. Based on the homonymous musical about the British teacher that goes to teach the children of the King of Siam, this movie has a certain Regency charm to it. The lovely colors, beautiful songs and the star-crossed lovers subplot in an exotic country make for quite the enticing combination not very often seen in a “children’s movie.” But then again, the fact that most animated movies are labeled that way is also the reason why some of the best films out there end up failing in the box office. Who the heck came with the idea that animation couldn’t be for adults? Too bad Saving Nemo, Wall-E and How to Train your Dragon came later on, but we’ll discuss those another time.
The King and I was a group project by Morgan Creek Productions, Rankin/Bass Productions, Nest Family Entertainment and Rich Animation Studios, and it was distributed by Warner Bros.
Number 4: Thumbelina (1994)
Based on the Hans Christian Andersen classic, Thumbelina is a story that many should remember. The tale of the tiny girl and her fairy prince riding a bumblebee, and the thousand and one troubles they go through to be together again could rival any Shakespearean tragedy. And while story depth might not be Thumbelina‘s strong suit, the story definitely deserves praise for its entertaining quality and the endearing simplicity and loving nature of its heroine.
Thumbelina was produced by Don Bluth Entertainment and distributed by Warner Bros. Family Entertainment.
Number 3: Quest for Camelot (1998)
It’s not about the two-headed dragon, the Arthurian legend or the fact that the male lead in this animated movie is blind (and rocking it!). Well, at least, is not only about that. Bringing to life an amazing adventure of Excalibur’s time, Quest for Camelot is definitely an animated jewel. This movie has one of the most interesting stories and developments I’ve ever seen. The array of characters is also very impressive: a tomboyish, stubborn heroin, a blind but proud and powerful hero, and a villain that can give you goosebumps, not to forget the two-as-one sidekicks to provide the comic relief. This story has it all, including a surprising plot twist at the end to keep it real, and a moral that, no matter the bad situation you find yourself in, there is always something to be done if you try.
Quest for Camelot was produced and distributed by Warner Bros.
Number 2: The Swan Princess (1994)
Who says princesses only come from Disney? Anyone who remembers this animated rendition of the Swan Lake ballet will agree with me in that Odette and Derek’s story is far more interesting than Cinderella’s love-at-first-sight-with-guy-I-haven’t-even-talked-to story. The simple plot and comicality of it don’t detract from the beauty of the love story, and The Swan Princess offers us a princess willing to say no to marriage without love (hurray!), a prince having to conquer her beloved’s affections and an array of secondary characters that add a touch of freshness and humor to the whole thing. Not to mention the superb soundtrack, and the dramatic plot twists taken right off one of the most beautiful and enduring pieces of art in the history of humanity. The Swan Princess was produced by Nest Family Entertainment and Rich Animation Studios and released by New Line Cinema.
Number 1: Anastasia (1997)
Who’s up for a story once upon a December? Those who don’t remember Anastasia should go back to their trauma-ridden childhood and resent their own lack of animated glory. This movie, tackling the mysterious disappearance of the youngest Romanov Grand Duchess can make anybody’s heart melt. In this case, we have a princess lost, an ambitious hero and a zombie villain (a real zombie, people!), tangled together in a journey of discovery. The lessons given in Anastasia about finding oneself and getting out and making our own destiny (not sit down and wait for prince charming to come) cannot be taken lightly, as they are at the very core of human society. The beautiful art and endearing soundtrack are only the icing on this cake. Anastasia was produced by Fox Animation Studios and distributed by 20th Century Fox.