Animator, cartoonist, producer, writer, director, and animation teacher, can you guess who I’m talking about? Of course, we are referring to the legendary Don Bluth, an animation legend and one of the great pillars of the industry who inspired hundreds of cartoonists and animators with his incredible work.  

Born in 1937 in Texas, Bluth made a name for himself at The Walt Disney Company with his outstanding work on Sleeping Beauty when he was in his early 20s. After his life took him in other directions, he returned to Disney in 1971, playing a key role in the animation of several films, including Robin Hood, Pete’s Dragon, and The Fox and The Hound. 

But this was not enough for Don, he wanted more, creating his own animation studio in 1979 to compete head-to-head with Disney. At that time, Bluth debuted as a director, giving us great animated gems that proved that Disney was not the only studio capable of delivering great stories in this format.

That is why today we are here to remember the theatrical films of Don Bluth, from the most conventional to the masterpieces.

The Best Don Bluth Animated Movies Of All Time

A Troll in Central Park (1994)

A Troll in Central Park DVDWe begin the ranking with the least popular Don Bluth film of all, arguably a minor stumble in his career.

Produced and distributed by Warner Bros, this film presents the story of Stanley, a kind-hearted troll who is exiled from his world for not being aggressive and cruel like other trolls.

Thrown in Central Park, Stanley befriends Gus and little Rosie, a sibling couple for whom he builds beautiful gardens. But the evil Queen Gnorga, dissatisfied with his exile, threatens his new friends with her army of evil trolls, so Stanley must gain the courage to protect them from her attacks. 

Despite being a mix of the adventure and fantasy genres, which generally work well, this film was a commercial failure, grossing only $71,000 against a budget of $23 million, outrageous numbers. This was due in part to poor marketing, but the few who did see it left the theaters disappointed, calling it generic, flat, and undoubtedly Don Bluth’s worst film.

But as we said, this was just a stumble.

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Bartok The Magnificent (1999)

Bartok the Magnificent Don Bluth MovieBorn as a spin-off of Anastasia, Bartok the Magnificent (from Amazon) is a film that Don directed with his great animation partner, Gary Goldman.

The plot presents the adventures of Bartok, the little albino bat, who long before allying himself with the evil Rasputin (Anastasia’s antagonist), worked in a circus with his partner, Zozi the bear.

Together, they performed an act in which Zozi pretended to be a ferocious bear while Bartok defeated him, earning him the reputation of a hero. For this, the bat is selected to rescue Prince Ivan Romanov when he is kidnapped by the witch Baba Yaga, who awaits him in a gloomy forest with 3 difficult tests to prove his bravery.

This animated film did not enjoy the same popularity and quality as its predecessor’s story, but it was not made with that intention either. Instead, it is a movie with a simple but entertaining plot that expands the Anastasia universe, showing us more aspects of pre-Revolutionary Czarist Russia.

With a few meaningful morals and a very talented voice cast, with names like Hank Azaria and Tim Curry, Bartok The Magnificent is a good “sequel”, standing out as the only one Bluth directed in his filmography. 

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Rock-A-Doodle (1992)

Rock-A-Doodle Blu-ray

Time to swing to the rhythm of rock and roll. Rock-A-Doodle (from Amazon) is a film that combines animation and live-action (5 years before Space Jam).

It tells the story of Chanticleer, a rooster who proudly crowed every morning for the sun to rise. But one day, the Grand Duke of owls who wants to plunge the farm into darkness, distracts Chanticleer from crowing. When the sun rises, the members of the farm turn against the rooster, accusing him of fraud. 

For this, Chanticleer exiles himself to Las Vegas, where he works as a singer imitating Elvis Presley. Meanwhile, the farm where he lived is attacked by eternal rain.

We also meet Edmund, a real boy in the “live-action” world to whom his mother tells Chanticleers’s story. It turns out that in Edmund’s town, it is also raining heavily, so he travels to Las Vegas to convince Chanticleer to come back and save his town and the farm.

How they break the barriers of live-action with animation is not fully explained, but it works for this film just the same. The result of this combination is still quite impressive to this day.

Beyond that, the film is loaded with innocent humor and a soundtrack that makes you dance. And no one can resist dancing when “The King” sings.

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The Pebble and the Penguin (1995)

Pebble And The PenguinSet in the Arctic, this film presents a community of penguins, where before the mating season, the males give a precious stone to the female they are in love with.

In this context, we meet Hubbie, a shy and clumsy penguin, who longs for the love of the beautiful penguin Marina. But she also has another faithful follower, Drake, an arrogant and rude penguin who reminds you of Gaston.

One day, after asking heaven for help to conquer Marina, Hubbie receives a precious emerald stone. Unfortunately, Drake finds out about it, throwing our protagonist into the sea, where he eventually ends up on a fishing boat on his way to the USA. There he meets Rock, a yellow-plumed penguin with whom he plans to return to Antarctica to conquer Marina.

This film is a bit childish, but it makes up for it with the dynamics of the adorable Hubbie and his sidekick Rocko, who give the audience a touching message about love and dreams.

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Titan A.E. (2000)

Rock-A-Titan A.E.Bluth welcomed the new millennium with a science fiction story that was a bit lost in time but has a very interesting plot.

The story begins in the year 3028, introducing us to Sam Tucker, a scientist who leads Project Titan, which consists of launching a spaceship with the genetic code of all life on the planet to recreate it elsewhere. This project ended up alerting the Drej, an alien race that completely wipes out the Earth.

15 years later, we meet Calen, son of Sam and one of the few remaining humans in the universe.

One day, Calen meets Korso, a former partner of his father with whom he embarks on a space adventure with other crew members to reach the Titan ship and recover the future of the human race, a mission that will be complicated by the Drej.

Despite its innovative premise, Titan A.E. (from Amazon) was a huge box office flop, grossing only $36 million against its $75 million budget. However, some appreciate it for its story that targets a more mature audience, a star-studded cast including Matt Damon and Drew Barrymore, and a soundtrack full of gems. 

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Thumbelina (1994)

Thumbelina Movie

Undoubtedly, the sweetest film in Don Bluth’s filmography. On this occasion, he returned to share credits with Gary Goldman in the direction.

Based on Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale Thumbelina (from Amazon), this film begins with a widowed lady who longs so much to be a mother that one day, a good witch grants her this wish by giving her a small seed, which blossoms into Thumbelina, a beautiful teenager the size of a thumb.

Sometime later, Thumbelina meets Cornelius, a prince her size. Within seconds, the two fall in love and promise to marry. But not everything would be so easy for Thumbelina, as she ends up being kidnapped by Mrs. Toad, who wants her as the wife of her son Grundel.

While trying to return to the arms of her beloved Cornelius, our tiny protagonist gets involved in crazy situations, encountering both benevolent and evil characters.

Visually, this film is one of Don Bluth’s best, on par with the animation of The Little Mermaid. This quality is matched by a beautiful story that dazzles children and adults alike.

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The Land Before Time (1988)

Don Bluth's Classic movie The Land Before TimeFor this prehistoric adventure, Bluth was assisted by John Lasseter as assistant director, and Steven Spielberg and George Lucas on production design. This resulted in an instant animation classic. 

This story is set in the Cretaceous Era, during a climate change that reduces plant and animal life on the planet, so the small protagonists of this story begin a pilgrimage to the Great Valley, a fertile place safe from predators. 

On this journey, we accompany Littlefoot, a diplodocus, and his dinosaur friends, who are stalked by Sharptooth, a fearsome Tyrannosaurus that will make it almost impossible for them to reach the Great Valley. 

This Jurassic Exodus was a success both at the box office and critically. Everyone loved and still loves this group of charismatic dinosaurs, especially the children of that time, who consider this animated movie as one of the most emblematic of their childhood. With an aesthetic full of prehistoric landscapes, a comedy in its right measure, and scenes that touch the PG rating, The Land Before Time (from Amazon) is a classic that taught Spielberg that dinosaurs can be successful in Hollywood.

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All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989)

All Dogs Go To Heaven

Set in the 1930s in New Orleans, we’re off to a good start.

The story revolves around Charlie, a roguish German shepherd who must do illegal acts to survive on the streets. Together with his partner Carface, a violent pit bull, he runs an underground casino, until Carface’s greed reaches such a level that he kills him to keep the business for himself.

Afterward, Charlie is surprised to find himself in heaven for the things he did in life… which he wants to keep, so he finds a way to return to the land of the living even though he will not be able to return to heaven a second time.

To get revenge on Carface, Charlie kidnaps Anne-Marie, an orphan girl who understands animal language and with whom the Pit Bull was making money.

Charlie intended to use her for the same purpose with the promise of finding her a family, but his conscience begins to weigh on him as time goes by.

Filled with complex characters and a story that deals well with difficult themes such as death and the difference between right and wrong, this underage crime drama does not fail to provide an entertaining experience with a valuable message.

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The Secret of NIMH (1982)

The Secret of NIMHBased on the novel by Robert C. O’Brien, this film was the first that Don Bluth directed in his career, with which he proved that he is more than just a talented animator.

The plot introduces us to Mrs. Brisby, a widowed mouse who lives with her four children near a farm. One of her youngest, Timmy, is seriously sick, so Mrs. Brisby sets out on a quest for a cure, ending up in a secret community of genetically modified rats.

The secret of this rodent’s power seems to involve her deceased husband, Jonathan Brisby. Racing against time, the little mouse must unravel this mystery while trying to learn how to wield a prodigious talisman because Timmy’s life depends on it.

Don’t be fooled by the fact that it is animated, The Secret of NIMH (from Amazon) is a darker film than it seems, with gloomy environments and a tetric atmosphere, inspired by dark fantasy, a very popular genre in the 80s.

To this day, it continues to gain fans, to the point that a live-action adaptation is being produced, which still has no release date, but the Russo brothers are involved, so we can wait calmly.

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An American Tail (1986)

An American TailDon Bluth’s first collaboration with the legendary Steven Spielberg couldn’t have gone better. 

Produced by Amblin Entertainment and distributed by Universal Pictures, the film introduces us to the Mousekevitzes, a family of Jewish mice who emigrate from Russia to the United States to escape the cats. 

On the way to the promised land, Fievel, the middle of the family’s three children, falls off the boat he was traveling on after being hit by the raging ocean. 

The Mousekevitzes arrive heartbroken in New York, believing they have lost Fievel forever, and to make matters worse, they find that life in America is much more difficult than they thought. 

Nevertheless, the shipwrecked Fievel manages to survive, disembarking on Liberty Island, and beginning a journey to reach his family in Manhattan.

An American Tail (from Amazon) is not only an allegory for the massive emigration movements from Europe at the end of the 19th century, but it’s also a moving and mature story with an impressive depiction of the New York of the time.

Today, it is remembered by most animation fans as one of the best films ever made, a modern classic that never goes out of style.

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Anastasia (1997)

Anastasia (1997) Blu-rayAnd we come to the end, closing with the greatest cinematic achievement in Don Bluth’s career, a gem of animation that will always be at the top. 

Anastasia (from Amazon) is an exceptional work, combining traditional animation with computer-generated imagery, creating a result that has nothing to envy of Walt Disney films, not even at the box office, grossing an impressive $150 million. 

The story is set in St. Petersburg in the middle of the Russian Revolution, when Tsar Nicholas II and his family are expelled from his palace and executed by the Bolsheviks, under the orders of Rasputin himself. (The film takes some liberties with the real story of course).

Ten years later, a rumor spreads in Europe that Anastasia Romanov survived, so Marie, grandmother of the princess who longs to see her again, offers a reward to whoever finds her and takes her home to Paris.

Upon learning of this, Dimitri, a former servant of the Romanovs, together with Vladimir, a former member of the imperial court, set out to find a young woman similar to Anastasia to collect the reward.

Finally, they find Anya, an orphan who matches the profile they are looking for, but the thing is… Anya is the real Anastasia, revealing that she managed to survive the attack of the Bolsheviks but lost her memory in the process. 

This revives a dying Rasputin, who was rotting in limbo unable to die because his curse on the Romanovs had not yet been completed. Therefore, he uses all his energy to try to kill Anastasia and fulfill the curse. 

This film only needs a few seconds to impress. Everything looks spectacular and very elegant, depicting post-WWI Europe beautifully.

With a cast that includes Kirsten Dunst, John Cusack, and Christopher Lloyd, among other stars, a soundtrack composed by the incredible David Newman, and a fascinating story, Anastasia is a historical film, proving that not all the princesses that shine are Disney ones.

Had there been an award for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars back then, Anastasia would surely have taken the golden statuette. 

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This is my ranking of all the films directed by Don Bluth, a legend of animation and popular culture who has a prolific career in which he exceeded expectations and raised the quality of the animation industry.

Last update on 2024-07-18 at 22:29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API