Top 10 Animated Films That Aren't Disney or Pixar

Jo Wylie ‘16 / Emertainment Monthly Editor

10. An American Tail

A still from An American Tail.
Still from An American Tail.
Studio: Amblin Entertainment
DirectorDon Bluth
StarringDom DeLuiseChristopher Plummer and Erica Yohn

Many people will remember Fivel’s adventures as a wonderful part of their childhood–the enduring cast of characters spin a well-loved old story still cherished today. The first animated movie by Steven Spielberg, An American Tail captured its audience’s souls with the sense of adventure and fun songs, while also managing a powerful allegory to immigrant life and the state of the American dream. Bright, fun, but intense at times, An American Tail is a wonderful addition to the world of animated movies.

9.  Despicable Me

A still from Despicable Me. Photo Credit: Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment.
Still from Despicable Me. Photo Credit: Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment.
Studio: Illumination Entertainment
DirectorsPierre Coffin and Chris Renaud

Starring:  Steve CarellJason Segel and Russell Brand

Many people went in to Despicable Me expecting a simple, sweet movie for the kids; turns out, they got that and a whole lot more.  A heartwarming story about fatherhood, family, and tiny cookie robots, Despicable Me captured our hearts. Steve Carell’s voice acting as the lead added a witty sparkle to the whole movie, and the zany cast that orbits him only adds to the mix. Despite a somewhat predictable message and ending, Despicable Me is a great journey. Also, who didn’t fall in love with the minions? We can even forgive Universal’s aggressive merchandising of the little guys, we love them so much.

8. The Land Before Time

Still from The Land Before Time. Photo Credit: Universal Pictures.
Still from The Land Before Time. Photo Credit: Universal Pictures.
Studio: Amblin Entertainment
DirectorDon Bluth

StarringPat HingleGabriel Damon and Judith Barsi

Another movie from Steven Spielberg and Don Bluth, the team that made An American Tail, The Land Before Time was another world-changing non-Disney animated movie. Featuring Bluth’s iconic character style and dull–but hardly unexciting–palette, The Land Before Time delighted children everywhere. Not afraid to hit the emotional depths, these movies made us laugh, made us cry, and remains to this day an iconic movie. The Land Before Time was a genuine, authentic tale that wasn’t necessarily geared to do anything world changing, but which affected us all nonetheless.

7. Rise of the Guardians

Still from Rise of the Guardians. Photo Credit: DreamWorks Animation.
Still from Rise of the Guardians. Photo Credit: DreamWorks Animation.
Studio: DreamWorks Animation
DirectorPeter Ramsey

StarringHugh JackmanAlec Baldwin and Isla Fisher

Released in 2012 and adapted from William Joyce’s novels The Guardians of Childhood, the Dreamworks movie Rise of the Guardians swiftly became a popular movie with kids and adults alike. Viewers fell in love with Jack Frost’s cheeky attitude and heavy heart, and the dazzling cast of lovable characters around him. The all-star cast didn’t hurt either: Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin, Hugh Jackman, and the ominous-sounding Jude Law all lent their voices to The Rise of the Guardians, making it a dynamic and enjoyable experience. Despite a moral that could be heavy handed at points, the characters and animation held a subtlety that made up for it. Paired with the splendid visuals, The Rise of the Guardians is fan favorite.

6. Anastasia

Still from Anastasia. Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film.
Still from Anastasia. Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film.
Studio: Fox Animation Studios
DirectorsDon Bluth and Gary Goldman

StarringMeg RyanJohn Cusack and Christopher Lloyd

Although it could win awards for how far it strayed from historically accurate, Anastasia is a wonderfully conceived and animated movie. Another Don Bluth creation, Anastasia was an attempt to revive classic animated style in 1997. Anastasia is a haunting, yet beautiful movie–the sweeping scene design, the terrifying and visually stunning magic scenes, the soundtrack, Rasputin’s terrifying character design, the memorable love story between Anastasia and Dmitri. These all became endearingly memorable facets of a wonderful movie. As long as you forget anything you learnt in history class, Anastasia will continue to excite and chill viewers even as their years go on.

5. How to Train Your Dragon

Still from How to Train Your Dragon. Photo Credit: DreamWork Animation.
Still from How to Train Your Dragon. Photo Credit: DreamWork Animation.
Studio: DreamWorks Animation
DirectorsDean DeBlois and Chris Sanders

Starring:  Jay BaruchelGerard Butler and Christopher Mintz-Plasse

In cinema, How To Train Your Dragon was a success with fans and critics alike. The sharp, smart, but startlingly subtle and touching script was just the base of the film, which then built on this great start with enjoyable voice acting, stunning design, and exuberantly dynamic animation. The flying sequences are thrilling, the dramatic peaks nail-bitingly tense, the characters bright, and as varied as the innovative dragon designs around them. How to Train Your Dragon was in every sense a summer blockbuster, bright and hopeful and juts a great deal of fun.

4. Kung Fu Panda

Still from Kung Fu Panda. Photo Credit: DreamWorks Animation.
Still from Kung Fu Panda. Photo Credit: DreamWorks Animation.
Studio: DreamWorks Animation
DirectorsMark Osborne and John Stevenson

StarringJack BlackIan McShane and Angelina Jolie

For Kung Fu Panda, DreamWorks stayed true to their technique of casting a stellar cast of big names for their film. Jack Black’s panda Po was the amazing apex on the mountain of wonderfully charismatic voice acting: Jackie Chan, Angelina Jolie, Lucy Liu, David Cross, Seth Rogen, and of course the amazing Dustin Hoffman all added their own flair to their performances, even from behind the arguably limiting walls of a recording booth. Paired with a wonderful aesthetic, strong character design, and a screenplay that just blows competitors out of the water, Kung Fu Panda has its audience crying with laughter and whooping for joy on viewing after viewing.

3. Shrek

Still from Shrek. Photo Credit: Dreamworks/Paramount Pictures.
Still from Shrek. Photo Credit: Dreamworks/Paramount Pictures.
Studio: DreamWorks Animation
DirectorsAndrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson

StarringMike MyersEddie Murphy and Cameron Diaz

Shrek has become a pivotal part of the animated movies of the last few years. Although that could be partially attributed to an aggressive merchandising campaign and a (mixed) set of sequels, there’s no denying that Shrek has earned its spot on the list, and in our hearts. A strange movie that fluctuates between endearingly zany to downright weird, Shrek is layered in a way that has every age laughing out loud. Shrek, Donkey, Fiona, and the later addition of Puss in Boots were welcomed into our home with gusto in this movie that somehow stood a bridge between slapstick and adult.

2. The Iron Giant

Still from The Iron Giant. Photo Credit: Warner Bros.
Still from The Iron Giant. Photo Credit: Warner Bros.
Studio: Warner Bros. Feature Animation
DirectorBrad Bird

Starring:  Eli MarienthalHarry Connick Jr. and Jennifer Aniston

The moment it came out, people saw The Iron Giant for what it was–a deeply moving, beautiful, funny, movie that stood as fierce competition for Disney. Seeing as one of its two main characters was a building-sized robot, The Iron Giant manages its content with a stunning subtlety, very aware of its message but not forcing it in the audience’s faces. The melancholy eyes of the Iron Giant, the love between he and the little boy that befriends him, the adults that get wrapped up in their tale, these are all terrifically memorable images to anyone who was lucky enough to enjoy the film in their youth. The film’s animation is also strong, animators managing to meld the CGI robot and his hand-drawn peers with style and grace. Melancholy, beautiful, but funny and enduring, The Iron Giant is a close second on our list of best non-Disney animated movies

1. The Prince of Egypt

Still from The Prince of Egypt. Photo Credit: DreamWork Animation.
Still from The Prince of Egypt. Photo Credit: DreamWork Animation.
Studio: DreamWorks Animation
DirectorsBrenda ChapmanSteve Hickner and Simon Wells

StarringVal KilmerRalph Fiennes and Michelle Pfeiffer

The top of our list belongs to the sublime animated classic The Prince of Egypt. This powerful, sweeping masterpiece stands above its peers for so many reasons. Its iconic visuals, sharp contours and angular design reminiscent of classic animation and yet also an iconic style all of its own.  Almost too serious and intense for the youngest audiences, everyone from 10 to 100 will find joy in this film. The muted color palette, demanding and powerful, the music, phenomenal. This is a story of hope, wonder, and power; it stays true to its source materiel but also doesn’t push anyone out of enjoying the journey.  One only needs to watch again the opening sequence, the deep and moving sound of the slaves singing “Deliver Us”, to remember the way that The Prince of Egypt sits in the chest of anyone watching it. These reasons, and many more, are why The Prince of Egypt sits at the top of our list.

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One Comment

  1. My list is 1) Land Before Time, 2) An American Tail, 3) All Dogs go to Heaven, 4) Secret of Nimh, 5) Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, 6) Despicable Me, 7) Brave Little Toaster (It was only distributed by Disney, and they did not make it. 8) Balto, 9) Bartok the Magnificent, 10) Prince of Egypt.
    An honorable mention goes to my childhood favorite movie, The Land Before Time V. If anyone is wondering I judge with one of only two true tests for a movie, how much enjoyment I get when I watch it. The other test is it changes my life. The movies that may soon get on this list I am about to watch will be the two Fleicher brothers movies.

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