As with most people my age, Disney has been a big part of our childhood, next to shows on Cartoon Network, the Power Rangers, Pokemon and whatnot. Most of my friends, including myself, even continue to see the new Disney as adults, because fuck growing up. However, there is another man in particular who might have had a big impact on your younger self, even though his name probably doesn’t ring a bell. If these pictures don’t either, you’ve been missing out as a kid:
I’ll admit , Bluth’s style of animation is slightly more frightening, more crude, almost filthier, than what Disney usually came up with, in addition to having ‘darker’ stories. Disney just killed Mufasa right in front of us, strangled Clayton in a bunch of vines and made Gaston fall to his spiky death, but at least there wasn’t a spooky old owl or terrifying troll voiced by Dom DeLuise, right? And yes, maybe none of those Bluth movies are as memorable as some movies Disney brought us (maybe due to not having songs as memorable as Disney made them), with the exception of at least one. One brilliant movie that stands out like a poppy in a grass field, and definitely makes up for all mediocrity, the best 2D animated non-Disney ever made:
Not only because Anastasia is the best non-Disneyprincess princess ever, the movie also brought us these two:
But anyone in his or her right mind just knows ‘Anastasia’ is a dang good movie, right? I don’t need to defend it, right?
A little side note on his movies: Don Bluth wasn’t involved in the sequels to NIMH, “All Dogs Go to Heaven” or “The Land Before Time” (which actually spawned 13 other movies) or even with “Fievel Goes West” (more on that one later). I recently watched both Fievel movies and remembered the second one far better than I did the first. “Somewhere Out There” is stuck in my head from time to time, but so is “Rawhide”, meaning the movie was also my first contact with “The Blues Brothers” . I distinctly remember “Rawhide” being one of the first songs I ever downloaded on Limewire, just because of that movie.
Don Bluth started out working as an animator for Disney and in that role helped in making “Sleeping Beauty”, “The Sword in the Stone”, “Robin Hood”, “Winnie the Pooh” and the first “Rescuers” movie (whose sequel I also enjoyed a lot more than the first, because that intro, that one scene with Joanna the goanna trying to eat the egg and the GIANT FUCKING EAGLE). Unfortunately most of his scenes went uncredited. He was also the animation director of “Pete’s Dragon”.
Despite the odd style of animation and darker, less accessible movies, I do believe he is an important figure in animation history, in both a direct and indirect sense. Directly through the movies he made; Community has made this wonderful reference to “An American Tail” and one of my best friends’ cat was called Fievel. As well as just providing a source of childhood trauma next to Mufasa’s death, of course. Indirectly, he is connected with two important animation history events.
Don Bluth was an employee of Disney up until the early stages of “The Fox and the Hound”. The cause was, in part, Bluth’s dissatisfaction with the new direction Disney was taking. Disney had a new generation of animators coming in during that time, including Tim Burton, Henry Selick, Brad Bird and John Lasseter (these last two of Pixar fame). This newer team, versus the old, had different ideas on how to handle “the Fox and the Hound”. Bluth wanted to stay true to the more classical animation style and left the company, founding his own, Don Bluth Productions. With him, several other animators resigned as well, almost a fifth of all the animators Disney had at the time. Don Bluth company became Disney’s biggest competitor at the time. After a short-lived victory with “An American Tail” beating “The Great Mouse Detective” at the box office, Disney won the overall battle with what’s called the Disney Renaissance, starting with “The Little Mermaid”, “The Rescuers Down Under” (EAGLE POWER, YEEEEAAAAH) and my favourite Disney movie of all time: “Beauty and the Beast”.
Fun fact: “Beauty and the Beast” was the first animated movie ever to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Feature Film (remember, there is a separate Academy Award for Best Animated Feature), but losing to “The Silence of the Lambs”. So even though it lost, I’m at least glad it was against Hopkins’ Hannibal. Only two other animated movies have had that Best Feature nomination: “Up” and “Toy Story 3”, both Pixar films.
To continue our story, and talk about the second event Bluth had some hand in, you have to know Steven Spielberg was a big fan of animation, and “An American Tail” and “The Land Before Time” were made with Spielberg acting as the producer. Afterwards, the two (Bluth and Spielberg) went their own separate way again. Bluth continued to make his movies but failed to gain commercial or critical success with neither “Thumbelina” or “A Troll in Central Park”. Don Bluth Productions filed for bankruptcy after another disappointing movie who’s named I’ve never even heard before researching this (The Pebble and the Penguin). Bluth then went to Fox Animation Studios where he made his final and best hit, “Anastasia”. Spielberg on the other hand, started his own animation production company, called Amblimation. Fievel, the protagonist of “An American Tail” was its mascot. Amblimation only made three movies, “Fievel Goes West”, “We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story” and “Balto” (which is the best out of all three by far). The studio shut down after this, the movies being in a rather different style of atmosphere than the usual American animations and thus underperformed at the box office (because change is scary). Some of its staff went over to another up-and-coming animation studio which was also founded by Spielberg. That studio?
So ok, Don Bluth isn’t the greatest out there. But hey, he had to go up against Disney (after their renaissance) and just barely missed out on having to compete with Pixar or Dreamworks, the two juggernauts of today. And as a kid, even I wasn’t scrutinizing those movies yet, they were fun! The adults just didn’t get it, man. If you recognised any of those movies I talked about, it means you know Don Bluth. He meant something for a generation, and that’s good enough in my book. In a world of Pixars, be a Bluth.
Didn’t think it would get inspirational, huh?
Neither did I.
This blog was brought to you by: The Blues Brothers – Rawhide