Animated films are a mainstay in today’s culture. While they’re mostly geared towards children, there is something in those films that can even resonate with most adults. Just look at movies like Wall-E or How to Train Your Dragon. Those films stand out because they are family-friendly while at the same time dealing with real life issues that make sense to older audiences.
It’s commonly known that the king(s) of these types of films are Disney and Pixar (but mostly Pixar). When somebody asks you to name your favorite animated movie, films like Toy Story, The Lion King, and even Frozen come to mind. Now, none of these are bad movies by any means. Disney and Pixar have a really great formula for making successful films. However, because of their success, we tend to forget some of the other animation companies that have tried their hand at creating some great animated films.
The biggest of these companies is Dreamworks. They’ve been making films since the late 90s, and while they had a rocky start, they’ve since been able to create some fantastic movies. Funny story, Dreamworks was actually created out of a feud with some Disney executives. Then there’s Blue Sky Studios. They are responsible for other Dreamworks-esque movies, such as Rio and Ice Age.
Despite Disney and Pixar being such behemoths in the animation world, there are still other companies that have made some truly memorable films. So in honor of those companies, here are 11 Non-Disney Animated Films You Need To See.
11. Despicable Me
Despicable Me was one of the most interesting films I’ve ever seen. Really, it came out of nowhere, from an animation company that hadn’t really found its legs yet. Illumination Entertainment only had HOP and The Lorax under its belt, and neither of those were great films. However, Despicable Me blew every expectation out of the water. Telling a story about an over-the-top villain who gets softened by the adoption of three little girls, it’s heartwarming to say the least. Unfortunately, the film introduced the Minions and they have since stormed America. Don’t even get me started on the Minions movie.
10. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
Bet you didn’t expect to see a Batman film on here did you? A product of the 1990 Batman: The Animated Series, no one expected an animated superhero film to be this good. Introducing a strange new villain called the Phantasm, Batman has to really be the world’s greatest detective to hunt him down. Along the way, he gets framed for murder and also has to deal with the police. This was also one of the first runs of Kevin Conroy as Batman, who is easily the best voice for the Dark Knight, and Mark Hamill as the Joker.
9. The Nightmare Before Christmas
Despite Tim Burton making a few animated films in his time, The Nightmare Before Christmas still stands as his best. Taking an entirely original concept about the Pumpkin King of Halloweentown wanting to spread the joy of Christmas instead of terror, this film is like no other. Featuring characters like Santa Claus and the Boogeyman, you can’t go wrong with this film, even if you still don’t know if it belongs with Halloween or Christmas. I’m sure librarians have a tough time categorizing it.
8. Ice Age
A cute, “misfits work together” story, Ice Age is about a mammoth, sloth, and saber-toothed tiger all working together to bring a human child back to its parents. Along the way are some truly funny moments, as we even find out how the dodos became extinct (according to the movie that is), as well as even sliding down an ice tunnel with the phrase, “Who’s up for round two?” It was an original concept from the minds of Blue Sky, and it still stands as one of their best films to date.
7. The Secret of NIMH
An adaptation of the children’s book, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, The Secret of NIMH is a bit of a darker tale, despite being geared for children. The story involves a group of rats who live peacefully on a farm, until one becomes very ill. While trying to find some medicine, Mrs. Brisby figures out that her and her kin were part of the National Institute of Mental Health, or NIMH for short, and are increasingly intelligent as a result. She then learns that NIMH decides to exterminate all of the rats, so she, with the help of some friends must escape the farm. It’s a fantastic and suspenseful tale, and features one of the most mysterious and intimidating owls to date.
6. The Prince of Egypt
The first Dreamworks film on this list, The Prince of Egypt, tells the tale of Moses and the Exodus in the form of animation. Despite us knowing the story practically from cover to cover, this film handles it incredibly well. Even though it was made before Dreamworks made its leap into 3D, it’s still a beautiful film even by today’s standards. Featuring some incredible voice acting to boot, The Prince of Egypt is arguably the best adaptation of Moses’s life that we’ve ever seen.
5. Kung Fu Panda
Another Dreamworks’ prodigy, this film starring Jack Black as a fat panda is as satirical as it is entertaining. Taking elements of Chinese and Kung Fu lore and giving it a modern twist was one of the company’s best decisions. Telling the tale of a panda who becomes heralded as the legendary Dragon Warrior is not only inspiring, but it’s also very hilarious at times. The final battle with Tai Lung is also one of the best action scenes in any movie that I’ve ever witnessed. Skadoosh.
4. The Iron Giant
Who would’ve thought a story about a boy and his giant robot from outer space would receive such critical acclaim? The Iron Giant was thought-provoking, emotional, and gorgeous throughout. It’ll even have you reaching for the tissue box near the end. Watching a boy teach a robot intended for destruction how to love and feel is simply breathtaking. If you haven’t seen it, you need to watch it. Interesting bit about the film – it was directed by Brad Bird, who would later helm The Incredibles. I take it Pixar liked his work.
Being a bit of a middle finger to Disney, Shrek takes all of the classic fairy tales you know and love, and spins them on their heads. We follow a grumpy ogre who has to reluctantly save a princess guarded by a vicious dragon with the help of a talking donkey. On paper, it sounds like a kid’s weirdest dream, but as we all know, it works. Since then, Shrek has become one of the most beloved films of all time, spawning a franchise that continues to this day (if you include Puss in Boots).
The problem with a lot of animated films starring women is that they either become overly feministic or misogynistic; even Disney is guilty of that. However Anastasia does neither, portraying a heroine that is both independent and feminine. The soundtrack is some of the best in a film, and it looks gorgeous as well. Add in a star-studded cast, some lovable secondary characters, and a believable romance, and you’ve got the workings of a great movie on your hands.
1. How To Train Your Dragon
Some animated companies make progressively worse films as time goes on. Well, not Dreamworks. A fairly recent film (coming out in 2010), How to Train Your Dragon is one of their best movies to date. Focusing on the growing relationship between Hiccup and his dragon, Toothless, this is an adventure you do not want to miss. Featuring some of the best animation ever to hit the big screen as well as a superb soundtrack, How to Train Your Dragon hits all of the right notes and then some. And if you want my advice, watch the sequel as well, it’s just as good.
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