Tired of the current animated films that seem subpar compared to the movies we grew up with? Looking for an animated film that you haven’t seen before? Interested in animated films produced by companies other than Disney and Pixar? This is the list for you.
Disney and Pixar are amazing production companies that produce amazing films, but they aren’t the only animation studios out there. These older animated films aren’t just for kids, they feature beautiful animation and moving stories that are absolutely worth binging no matter how old you are.
Dreamworks is a pretty famous animation company as well, a close third to Disney and Pixar. The movies on this list are older animated movies that Dreamworks produced before they transitioned to digital animation.
Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002)
Matt Damon is the voice of Spirit, a wild stallion who watches the American west become industrialized and dominated by civilization. This film talks about colonization, the relationship between American Indigenous people and American settlers and the disappearing beauty of the west at the cost of industrialization. The film has beautiful music, stunning animation and a realistic portrayal of animals. Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (2003)
Brad Pitt is Sinbad, a pirate set on stealing a priceless artifact and retiring in Fiji. When he is framed for the theft and his childhood friend takes the blame, Sinbad is forced to journey to the underworld with his group of pirates to retrieve the Book of Peace from Eris, the goddess of chaos. Accompanied by a badass princess, Sinbad must decide what is more important to him, greed or honour. This film uses a combination of traditional animation and CGI, and is an entertaining and unique animated action film, with morally complex characters and an awesome villain.
The Road to El Dorado (2000)
Tulio and Miguel are two con artists who discover the lost city of El Dorado. The two are mistaken as gods and devise a scheme to get back to Spain, rich as kings. But the Spanish conquistadors are also searching for the city, and a high priest doubts their divinity. This film is hilarious, with a catchy soundtrack by Elton John and a beautiful exploration of what it truly means to be wealthy.
Prince of Egypt (1998)
This film adapts the story of Moses, the prophet of God, who frees the Hebrews from slavery and leads them to the promised land. But you don’t need to be religious to watch the film. The story follows a Hebrew child raised as an Egyptian prince who learns his true identity and is called to free his people from slavery. Powerful music, gorgeous animation and a moving story make this a film that anyone can watch and love.
(An interesting fact is that this film and Shrek were in production at the same time. Anyone who screwed up in the production of this film would be “Shrek-ed”: getting exiled to work on what was considered to be the vastly inferior CGI film.)
Laika is a production company that works in stop motion animation. They are a tiny company that is an absolute powerhouse in stop motion animation, and every film they’ve released has been incredible.
Based on the Neil Gaiman novel, Coraline is Laika’s first film, which follows the story of a girl unhappy in her life, who finds a hidden world and a new family that is too good to be true. This movie is eerie, and scared the crap out of me when I was a kid — but my god it is so good! An awesome example of stop motion animation and the ways that it can be used to create visually stunning stories.
Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)
This is Laika’s most recent film, and it follows Kubo, a Japanese boy whose grandfather stole his eye when he was a child. When his evil family comes for his other eye, Kubo must go on a quest to find his father, a legendary samurai who is the only one capable of stopping his grandfather. This film uses a combination of stop motion, 3D printing, and slight CG to smooth out the edges, creating a visually stunning film with an amazing plot.
For those who are a fan of Japanese animation, Studio Ghibli is easily the best-known animation studio. A number of their films, including Spirited Away (2001), Princess Mononoke (1997) and Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) are ranked within the top 15 highest-grossing anime films worldwide. Hayao Miyazaki, the director of these films, has become a legend within the animated film industry, especially for the way in which his movies are applicable and relatable to children and adults alike. If you haven’t taken the time to watch My Neighbour Totoro (1988), do yourself a favour and drop whatever it is you’re doing — you will not regret watching it.
My Neighbour Totoro (1988)
Telling the story of two young daughters, and their father, who move into an old house near a forest to be closer to their sick mother, My Neighbour Totoro is a delightfully-whimsical story that is as timeless as it is heartwarming. As a film that has no villains, fighting — or negativity at all, its story is a true rarity these days. It is also very hard to pick which of its characters are cuter; from the great spirit of the forest, Totoro, who is as large as he is lovable, soft and kind; to the mischievous and tiny, tennis-ball-like Susuwatari, or “soot gremlins.” The most ardent pessimist would find themselves quite the challenge in finding anything negative to say about such a sweet and innocent — yet empowering — film intended for “kids.”
Anastasia (Fox 1997)
Ferngully, the Last Rainforest (Kroyer Films 1992)
All Dogs Go to Heaven (United Artists and Goldcrest Films 1989)
The Brave Little Toaster (Hyperion Animation 1987)