There is no denying that when it comes to animated movies, Disney has quite a few that rank high on our lists. Here’s the thing though, and I know it might be tough to hear: there are great animated movies that aren’t Disney. Believe it or not, Disney doesn’t have all the greats. Think about it. Shrek, The Land Before Time, Bee Movie… none of those classics came from the same people who gave us Toy Story, Bambi or Cinderella. And that’s totally okay.
We all have favorite animated movies that aren’t down with the Mouse. Here are some other great animated movies that aren’t Disney.
1. The Pagemaster
If there was one thing you could depend on in the early ’90s it was Macaulay Culkin. The wonder kid could do no wrong when it came to movies, and The Pagemaster was no different. We got to see him in real life AND animated as he’s transported into a cartoon realm via the library. There isn’t a bookworm alive who doesn’t love this movie.
2. The Boxtrolls
An orphaned human boy who lives underground with trolls must work to save his family from the evils above them. How awesome does that sound?! Done in the always impressive stop-motion animation, The Boxtrolls was a cinematic gem in 2014. Plus, you can’t beat the heart at the core of this film.
As a kid, we knew one thing about roosters and that was that they basically held the power to raise the sun. In Rock-A-Doodle, the sun is MIA and it’s up to a boy (who is turned into a kitty cat, strangely enough) and a bunch of other barnyard animals to find this magical rooster who can do what the world needs done. The best part of this one is that the rooster is voiced by the late, great Glen Campbell.
4. The Iron Giant
Long before Vin Diesel was Groot in The Guardians of the Galaxy, he was The Iron Giant. Bet you didn’t know that?! We just learned he voiced one of the most beloved characters of the past 20 years. The Iron Giant was — and is forever — a cult classic because people appreciate not only the animation excellence but also the story of friendship that wove the story together.
5. Ice Age
This franchise has gone above and beyond but we’ll always be a fan of the OG. The core trio that makes up the Ice Age realm of Manfred, Sid, and Diego are priceless in the first installment where we see how they come to be besties. Oh yeah, we can’t ignore that we wouldn’t have Scrat if it wasn’t for Ice Age. You know, that spastic squirrel who can’t keep his acorn under wraps? Exactly.
6. An American Tail
One thing that non-Disney animated movies have over Disney is that they can be a little dark. Mickey Mouse and Co. rarely let things get too real. Which is exactly what happens in An American Tail. There is no one who watched this movie without crying. No one. Fievel is just a little mouse from Russia who gets separated from his family as they’re making their way to a new country. Doesn’t the sound heartbreaking? Exactly. Tears.
7. Bee Movie
In the decade since this movie’s release, Bee Movie earned this sort of cult following… which is well deserved! A smart comedic movie that had cute bees for kids, and well-written jokes for their parents, what more could you ask for? It was a delight through and through while teaching us the importance of preserving the nature around us.
8. FernGully: The Last Rainforest
Speaking of nature and the world around us, the ’00s had Bee Movie, but the ’90s had FernGully: The Last Rainforest. The harm people were doing on the rainforest was ever present in the ’90s. Captain Planet could only do so much to teach kids about it, so that’s where FernGully: The Last Rainforest came into play. While that’s why it’s a neverending classic, we were mostly just shipping Zak and fairy Crysta.
ParaNorman speaks to the outcast in all of us. Norman is a kid on the outskirts of normal who can, well, see dead people. Of course, this makes everyone a little wary of him. That is, until they need his gift to save their town from doom. Isn’t that how it always goes? People hate you until they need you…
10. All Dogs Go to Heaven
If there is one thing you’ll never get from Disney it’s drinking and gambling. All Dogs Go to Heaven was kind of out there when it came to being for kids, but it worked. It also taught us that when our pets die, they’ll be in good hands. Even if they come back from the dead for revenge like Charlie B. Barkin did in this flick.
11. Kung Fu Panda 3
The first two were great. There is no debating that. Each is as action-packed as the last but there is one thing the first two did not have. So. Many. Pandas. When Po is reunited with his long-lost panda family, we were overjoyed. Seeing all those cute balls of black and white fur made our hearts swell.
Based on a true story, Balto was legit. The story of a mutt who led a dog sled team to heroism by helping them deliver medicine to a town plagued by diphtheria was inspirational. All of the true stuff aside, Balto will forever teach us that it doesn’t matter what others think. It’s believing in yourself that will take you far.
13. Charlotte’s Web
A beloved book for 20 years before it was a film, there was no one who could be Charlotte other than Debbie Reynolds. She played the eight-legged companion to the scared hog well. If you loved the book, you fell hard for the movie. Whether or not you saw it back in 1973 or yesterday, it’s an instant favorite.
Like Ice Age, this movie has gone on to have quite the franchise but we love the first more than any other. What could be funnier than a bunch of Central Park Zoo animals who escape and wind up in Africa? Well, not much. That’s why we love the heck out of this movie.
15. The Land Before Time
As a kid, we loved this movie because — hello — there are talking dinosaurs. Now? We can appreciate the beauty that comes with the timeless story of hope, home, and survival. Littlefoot is forever a hero as he heads the pack of almost-orphans through various obstacles to find their lost families. Along the way, there is heartbreak, near-death experiences and a whole lot more.
16. Despicable Me
Everybody loves the story of a bad guy gone good. I feel like this movie really owes it’s long lasting appeal to those weird little creatures known as minions that took the whole world by storm. Of course, even we can’t deny them. They are pretty hilarious. Heck, they even scored their own movie.
17. We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story
While The Land Before Time transported audiences back to the days of the dinosaurs, We’re Back did the opposite. We got to see what it’d be like if dinos were brought to the here and now! They also happened to talk and were insanely cool. Well, that is until they sell themselves to the circus to save the lives of two runaways they befriended. Laughs and action fill are afoot with this favorite.
18. Space Jam
Like The Pagemaster, this intertwined the real and animated world. Also like The Pagemaster, this one had another iconic face from the ’90s, Michael Jordan. Yes, he is a celebrated athlete but I feel like we can all agree helping save the Looney Tunes from being enslaved on Moron Mountain was the best thing he’s ever done.
19. Cats Don’t Dance
If you haven’t seen this movie, do it. Now. Looking back, this was an obvious note to the racism of Hollywood back in the day. Only in this movie, the minorities were animals (kind of Zootopia-esque even!). Led by Danny, a precocious cat, a group of animals realize their rights as actors in the business. Along with the empowering premise, the music also made this movie just as iconic as it is. I’d put it up against any Disney film. That’s the truth.
Smart and hilarious. That is all that you really have to say about Shrek. Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, and Cameron Diaz were impeccable in their roles as ogres and a donkey. Another non-Disney flick that sparked a couple sequels, the Shrek crew gave us a whole new take on fairy tales, inviting us into their own story while giving us familiar faces from older ones at the same time.
If there’s one thing Disney believes they do best, it’s princess movies. Well, Anastasia is a terrific princess-based movie and it’s far from Disney (though some may mistake it for the Mouse). Anastasia was not a damsel in distress. She could handle things on her own, talked back and had a lot of attitudes. This was something new to the princess genre that made this movie an instant favorite in 1997. It also didn’t hurt that the soundtrack was, in ’97 speak…da’ bomb.