Best non-Disney or Pixar Animated Feature Films
If you can describe me in one word, that word can either be: Love, Honesty and, of course, Film. I’ve watched movies since I was a baby back in 2001, and, quite obviously, the first movies I ever watched, were animated feature films. With some exceptions, including the very first movie I ever saw in my life, which was “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980), pretty much every single movie I saw in my early childhood was an animated movie. And if you didn’t know, Disney and Pixar, the makers of such wonderful film classics like “Beauty and the Beast” (1991) and “Toy Story” (1995), are the absolute kings of animation. Some fanboys may say the best animation around is Anime, but I’ve never been a fan of anime, despite what people might think. Back to Disney and Pixar, I think there are too many great movies to pick, so, I compiled the list in specific ascending order of my 10 favourite animated feature films not made by Disney or Pixar. This list exclusively looks at traditionally animated or CG full-length motion pictures that weren’t made by the Mouse house or the Hopping Lamp, that means, no Disney, no Pixar, no Stop-Motion, no Motion Capture, and definitively NO Anime. Don’t get me wrong, I think there are many well made Anime movies and TV shows, but they’re not my personal favourites. So, without further ado, LET’S GO!
10: The Book Of Life
Release Year: 2014
Studio: 20th Century Fox/Reel FX
US Rating: PG for mild action, rude humor, some thematic elements and brief scary images.
UK Rating: U for mild fantasy images and brief scary scenes.
Directed by Jorge R. Gutiérrez
Starring Diego Luna, Zoe Saldana, Channing Tatum, Héctor Elizondo, Ana de la Reguera, Christina Applegate, Grey Griffin, Eugenio Derbez, Ice Cube, Kate del Castillo & Ron Perlman
Plot: During Día de Muertos, A young mexican man in love of the governor’s daughter must choose if he will please his father being a matador or follow his heart as a guitarist and make the woman he loves fall for him, at the same time he makes a pact with a selfish underworld lord and the kindhearted death herself in order to face his greatest fears and save his town from its doom.
Review: Here’s an example of a terribly underrated film just because the world wasn’t expecting a single thing from it. The result: A hugely original film with awesome character design and entertaining and imaginative storytelling. I am mexican, and I love watching a movie that takes itself really seriously when explaining mexican culture to the world while still telling a fantastic and wonderful story, “The Book Of Life”, directed by mexican cartoonist Jorge R. Gutiérrez and produced by “El Tapatío” Guillermo del Toro, is a total winner.
Release Year: 2010
Studio: DreamWorks Pictures/Pacific Data Images
US Rating: PG for action and some language.
UK Rating: PG for mild language and comic fight scenes.
Directed by Tom McGrath
Starring Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Jonah Hill, Brad Pitt, David Cross, Justin Theroux, J. K. Simmons, Stephen Kearin & Ben Stiller
Plot: In Metro City, A professional supervillain and his scaredy minion attempt to create a new superhero to fight with after having their older nemesis killed, but when the new hero chooses the path of evil, it’s up to the villain to save the world and discover that getting the pretty girl and being loved and famed is not bad at all.
Review: 2010 was a huge year for DreamWorks, and while some people praise “How To Train Your Dragon”, I was unimpressed by it. I thought it was a plain boring movie that tried so hard to be mature and interesting for the family, but for me, it failed, and its awfully overrated sequel didn’t help at all. However, that same year, “MegaMind” was released, and to this day, it remains underrated just because it was released the same year as “Dragon” and Pixar’s “Toy Story 3”, and that honestly makes me mad. “MegaMind” is a fun and memorable movie that touches themes such as acceptance and redemption, and pretty much all the characters are compelling, even the minor ones.
8: The Iron Giant
Release Year: 1999
Studio: Warner Family Entertainment/WAG
US Rating: PG for fantasy action and mild language. (Theatrical Cut)
US Rating: PG for fantasy action violence, language, some thematic material and smoking. (Extended Edition)
UK Rating: U (Theatrical Cut)
UK Rating: 12 (Extended Edition)
Directed by Brad Bird
Starring Eli Marienthal, Harry Connick, Jr., Jennifer Aniston, Christopher McDonald, John Mahoney, M. Emmet Walsh, James Gammon, Cloris Leachman & Vin Diesel
Plot: Set in the 1950’s, A young boy in a small town finds a monstrously large alien robot who was sent to destroy earth, with a bump on his head, so, he is kindhearted and brave instead of grim and evil, Now, the boy must help him hide from a paranoid detective and a determined general before they unveil him to the world and destroy him.
Review: The Box-Office didn’t help this film, which remains as one of the most underrated motion pictures, not just animated, of all time. Directed by Brad Bird, who would go on to direct Pixar’s “The Incredibles” and “Ratatouille”, and based on a novel by Ted Hughes, “The Iron Giant” features eye popping traditional animation merged with some CGI, which even to this day, hold up spectacularly. But if you think the animation and character design is the best part of the film, think again, as the story, screenplay and subject, beautifully written by Bird & Tim McCanlies derived from Hughes’ novel is simply perfect. “The Iron Giant” must never be forgotten, as this is one of the best animated feature films of all time, and the world must know about it.
Release Year: 1998
Studio: DreamWorks Pictures/Pacific Data Images
US Rating: PG for mild language and menacing action.
UK Rating: PG
Directed by Eric Darnell & Tim Johnson
Starring Woody Allen, Sylvester Stallone, Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Christopher Walken, Jennifer López, John Mahoney, Dan Aykroyd, Anne Bancroft & Danny Glover
Plot: Tired of the same daily routine, a smart and idealistic Ant kidnaps the princess of the colony, the girl he has a crush on, and pretends to start a new life with her in an apparent paradise, meanwhile at the anthill, an evil general and a coldhearted coronel plot to drown the weaklings of the colony and make the strong prevail on a brand new clan.
Review: The reason this movie wasn’t recieved with the respect it deserved, was because it was released a few weeks prior to Pixar’s “A Bug’s Life”, which spawned a particularly similar story. While “A Bug’s Life” still remains as a fantastic film from my childhood, I prefer “Antz”, because of one big factor, its story. “A Bug’s Life” has a powerful adult story with colorful elements, but “Antz” features dark and mature subjects combined with few colors, because it demands it that way. Fortunately, “Antz”, while not being as successful as the latter one, it did manage to outsmart its competitor on “Rotten Tomatoes”, and the battle between the two in theaters remains as one of the most memorable in film history.
6: The Simpsons Movie
Release Year: 2007
Studio: 20th Century Fox/Gracie Films/Film Roman
US Rating: PG-13 for irreverent humor throughout.
UK Rating: PG for mild language, sexual innuendo and comic violence.
Directed by David Silverman
Starring Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria, Harry Shearer, Marcia Wallace, Maggie Roswell, Karl Wiedergott, Russi Taylor, Pamela Hayden, Albert Brooks & Tom Hanks
Plot: 18 years after their first season, The Simpson family witness a pollution crisis on Springfield as Homer contaminates an extensive lake and forces the US president to get help from an evil businessman that traps Springfield on a huge dome to avoid the pollution from expanding, and who’s even more despicable and menacing than Mr. Burns himself. Now, Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and even Maggie must flee from their town while they plan to save it from a massive cataclysm, with some outrageous gags and jokes on the way.
Review: Since I was young, so much younger than today, I’ve been a huge “Simpsons” fan, and this wonderful movie is no exception. After the 10th season, “The Simpsons” hadn’t been as good as it once was, but, when this movie was released in theaters, right after the 18th season ended, they proved that nothing is impossible, not even a redemption. “The Simpsons Movie” bursts a mature storyline with a large zest of wacky comedy like no one else can do, and that is what makes this film a wonder to behold, it’s dark, yet funny, it’s mature, yet childish, it’s suitable for the whole family yet packed with some rude and crude jokes, it’s a “D’oh!”-Termined flick that wants to tell a powerful story, The Simpsons way.
5: The Road To El Dorado
Release Year: 2000
Studio: DreamWorks Pictures
US Rating: PG for mild thematic material and language.
UK Rating: U
Directed by Eric “Bibo” Bergeron, Don Paul & Jeffrey Katzenberg
Starring Kenneth Branagh, Kevin Kline, Rosie Pérez, Armand Assante, Edward James Olmos, Jim Cummings, Tobin Bell, Frank Welker & Elton John
Plot: During the XVIth century, 2 spanish street urchins accompanied by a war horse flee from their country and head into El Dorado, the american lost city of gold, in which one of them will fall in love with a girl and the other will fall in love with the city. While they’re there, an evil priest and sorcerer will mistake them for gods and treat them as such and a kind and friendly tribal chief will figure out the truth.
Review: This animated feature suffers from its release date, because it came out when computer animation was gaining popularity and flare with films like “Toy Story”, “Antz”, “A Bug’s Life” and “Toy Story 2”, and this film, being traditionally animated, managed to be the only DreamWorks animated feature so far to not earn a profit on the Box-Office. “The Road To El Dorado” with an all-star cast, a fun and memorable plot and screenwriting, amazing colors and yet more incredible songs from Oscar winners Elton John and Tim Rice, the visionary team behind the songs from “The Lion King”, make this an unforgettable experience.
4: Kung Fu Panda
Release Year: 2008
Studio: DreamWorks Pictures
US Rating: PG for sequences of martial arts action.
UK Rating: PG for mild martial arts action.
Directed by John Stevenson & Mark Osborne
Starring Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Ian McShane, David Cross, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, James Hong, Dan Fogler, Michael Clarke Duncan, Randall Duk Kim & Jackie Chan
Plot: In ancient China, A young, ambitious and bumbling panda waiter in a noodle restaurant longs to become a brave Kung Fu warrior, so, he runs away from home and heads to the Jade Palace, where the greatest master in the whole country plans to turn him into the Dragon Warrior on time to battle a vicious leopard who plots to return and fight to death the one who claims the sacred dragon scroll.
Review: While its sequels prove that not every franchise is to be killed by the future installments, “Kung Fu Panda” had the awful luck of being released at the same time as “WALL.E”, which is considered a Pixar classic. “Kung Fu Panda” remains as one of the most original motion pictures of all time, risking an extravagant plot being told with a powerful script and wonderful actors, the Oscar nominated “Kung Fu Panda” is definitively… AWESOME!
Release Year: 2005
Studio: 20th Century Fox/Blue Sky Studios
US Rating: PG for some brief language and suggestive humor.
UK Rating: PG
Directed by Chris Wedge
Starring Ewan McGregor, Halle Berry, Mel Brooks, Drew Carey, Amanda Bynes, Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Coolidge, Chris Wedge, Paul Giamatti, Dianne Wiest, Stanley Tucci, Jim Broadbent & Robin Williams
Plot: Rivet Town, in a clean future, A young aspiring inventor heads to Robot City in order to meet his childhood hero, a determined and kindful man who stated “You can shine, no matter what you’re made of”, only to discover his position was overtaken by an evil businessman who plots to change the market selling upgrades instead of spare parts and finish the discontinued robots, It’s up to the young savior and a group of misfit robots to cheer up the old, retired inventor, and keep the bad guy from achieving his goal.
Review: I don’t know why, but this film is forgotten in history, and the reviews and box-office weren’t nice to it, but the reason I don’t know, is because it didn’t have the odds against it, unlike many others on this list. When you think of Blue Sky Studios, you think of the bad “Ice Age” sequels or the unfunny and awful “Rio”, but you don’t seem to remember their best movie: “Robots”. The character design is spectacular, as good or better than “The Book Of Life” or “The Iron Giant”, and the story is dark and mature if seen from certain point of view. Maybe the reason it didn’t work is because having a story that grim and powerful, it didn’t have the corresponding colors and look, but I don’t really care, they look striking and cool, not gross and unpleasant. Just as “The Iron Giant”, “Robots” should never be forgotten.
2: Hotel Transylvania
Release Year: 2012
Studio: Columbia Pictures/Sony/Sony Animation
US Rating: PG for some rude humor, action and scary images.
UK Rating: PG for mild scary scenes, slapstick violence and rude humour.
Directed by Genndy Tartakovsky
Starring Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, David Spade, Fran Drescher, Molly Shannon, Cee-Lo Green, Chris Parnell, Brian George, Luenell, Jon Lovitz, Sadie Sandler & Jackie Sandler
Plot: Count Dracula has lost his wife after an angry mob attack and has taken care of his daughter Mavis ever since with the precaution that human murderers might harm her, over-protecting her and bewaring her about the outside world. In order to raise and protect his daughter properly, Drac converts his castle in Transylvania into a hotel for his monster friends to be safe from humans. On the present day, Mavis is turning 118 years old, and she plans to discover the outside world by herself, so, Drac convinces her that’s not a great idea, she agrees and decides to stay in the hotel, and when nothing could possibly go wrong, a young human adventurer stumbles upon the hotel unprecedentedly and he and Mavis fall in love magically, for the disgrace of Drac.
Review: This film is an unfortunate victim of having Adam Sandler, one of the worst actors of our time, on the lead, and his friends and family supporting him. That’s the reason most critics tend to hate it unfairly, because his friends and family aren’t the ones with the problem, it is Adam Sandler, and even he is wonderful on this movie. With a director as Genndy Tartakovsky, one of the best cartoonists ever, the man behind “Dexter’s Laboratory”, “Samurai Jack” and “Star Wars: Clone Wars (2003)”, this movie should have been much more respected. It did fortunately gain my attention and respect eventually, but it was until the sequel came around, which is just as good, but the original remains the best. Featuring some of the best character design, wacky cartoony animation style, great performances even from Sandler himself, and a dark, adult and mature story, subject, screenplay and execution comprehensible even for the youngest of kids or the oldest of adults, with even some fun and out-of-place jokes, I consider “Hotel Transylvania”, quite easily, the best animated motion picture of the decade so far. For me, it is better than “Toy Story 3”, “Frozen”, “Inside Out”, “Zootopia” and way better than the overrated “How To Train Your Dragon” and the mindless “Despicable Me”.
Now, before I get to N° 1, I’d like to give some quick:
Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm (1993)
Ice Age (2002)
Sinbad: Legend Of The Seven Seas (2003)
Shrek 2 (2004)
Una Película de Huevos (2006)
Over The Hedge (2006)
Open Season (2006)
Bee Movie (2007)
The Lego Movie (2014)
Mr. Peabody & Sherman (2014)
Hotel Transylvania 2 (2015)
The Peanuts Movie (2015)
Release Year: 2001
Studio: DreamWorks Pictures/Pacific Data Images/Amblin Entertainment
US Rating: PG for mild language and some crude humor.
UK Rating: U for mild comic violence, innuendo and mild bad language.
Directed by Andrew Adamson & Vicky Jenson
Starring Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, John Lithgow, Christopher Knights, Vincent Cassel, Chris Miller, Conrad Vernon, Aron Warner, Cody Cameron, Simon J. Smith, Kathleen Freeman, Jim Cummings, Andrew Adamson & Sim Evan-Jones
Plot: Once upon a Time, in a land far, far away, an antisocial Ogre who enjoys scaring off the pants of peasants and likes his privacy, is deprived of his happy life by a liege whose biggest desire is to become the king, so he has to marry a princess; who vanishes every single fairy tale creature from his squeaky clean town into his swamp. So, our ogre hero must travel accompanied by a talking donkey, to a castle in a fiery mountain guarded by a fire-breathing dragon in order to rescue a beautiful and unconventional princess for the evil lord to marry and so, claim back his swamp. But little did the ogre know he and the princess, who keeps a dark secret, would eventually fall in love on the way back home.
Review: C’mon, you knew this was going to be N° 1. Here’s another case of one of the best films of all time, not just animated, that was brutally killed and derailed by its sequels; here, it was just the third one, that was so bad it destroyed the whole franchise in one blow. The fourth one was good, but not as good as the first two, and the second one, while a worthy successor, is definitively not better that the original. “Shrek” remains intact as a cult classic and a film that marked a before and an after on film history. Another of the reasons I despise “How To Train Your Dragon” is because it unscrupulously stole “Shrek”’s flame and flare, and that’s absolutely NOT fair, because if “Shrek” didn’t triumph as much as it did, “Dragon” would probably not exist. The state of the art animation, character design, source material, production backstory, the moral and message, and the Oscar nominated screenplay are some of the most ambitious in the world of filmmaking, as producer Jeffrey Katzenberg states, “It’s not Evolutionary, it’s Revolutionary”. Also, it does help the fact that “Shrek” was the biggest summer blockbuster of the year 2001, and in the spring of 2002, it took home the very first Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film.