animated mother mouse running away with two little mice holding a latern, similar to 80s cartoon The Secret of NIMH

Don Bluth's Theatrical Films Ranked: 80s and 90s Animation Classics

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Step into the nostalgic realm of the 90s, where Don Bluth's cinematic enchantment shaped childhoods. As a product of that golden era, I was captivated by the timeless allure of his creations, from the heartwarming "The Land Before Time" to the classic melodies of "Anastasia." In this blog post, I will be exploring the indelible mark left by Don Bluth's magical touch on the world of animated cinema. As we journey through 10 classic films ranked by IMDB ranking. 

Who is Don Bluth

Don Bluth, born on September 13, 1937, is a multifaceted creative force in the realm of entertainment. An illustrious American animator, film director, producer, writer, and video game designer, his contributions have left an indelible mark on the world of storytelling and visual arts. Bluth is renowned for his contributions to the animation industry, particularly during the late 20th century. Before founding his animation studio, Don Bluth worked for Walt Disney Productions. He began his career at Disney in 1955 as an assistant animator and later became an animator. During his time at Disney, he contributed to several projects, including "Sleeping Beauty" (1959) and "The Sword in the Stone" (1963). In the early 1970s, Bluth continued to work on Disney projects, such as "Robin Hood" (1973) and "Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too" (1974).

Bluth's decision to leave Disney in the late 1970s was influenced by his dissatisfaction with the creative direction of animated films and a desire to return to the artistic principles he believed in. After leaving Disney, he co-founded Don Bluth Productions with other former Disney animators. The studio later became known for creating a series of animated films that gained acclaim for their storytelling, animation quality, and emotional depth.

What is Don Bluth known for? 

He played a significant role in creating several animated films that have become classics, known for their emotional depth, vivid animation, and memorable characters. Bluth's films often featured hand-drawn animation at a time when the industry was transitioning to computer-generated imagery (CGI), showcasing his commitment to preserving traditional animation techniques. Bluth's storytelling is characterized by emotional resonance, tackling mature themes and creating enduring narratives that have left a lasting impact on the animation landscape. His films have become cultural touchstones, influencing subsequent generations of animators and filmmakers.

10. A Troll in Central Park (1994):

Release Date: October 7, 1994

Box Office Revenue:$71,368

IMDB Rating: 5.3/10

Runtime: 1hr 16 mins

Embark on a spellbinding journey with "A Troll in Central Park," a whimsical tale that unfolds amidst the pulsating heart of New York City. Don Bluth's distinctive animation style infuses vibrant life into this enchanting narrative, even though its comparative ranking to other Bluth masterpieces may seem lower. This cinematic gem, however, radiates the quintessence of Bluth's creative brilliance, beckoning viewers into a fantastical urban adventure where the boundaries of imagination are boundless. Voiced by the exceptionally talented Dom DeLuise, Stanley, the endearing troll with a green thumb, embarks on a journey of self-discovery, unlocking the enchanting power of nature amidst the bustling concrete jungle.

Released in 1994, "A Troll in Central Park" didn't achieve blockbuster status, yet its modest box office success, generating $71,368, tells a tale of enduring resonance. Beyond the realm of financial metrics, the film's true triumph lies in the indelible mark it leaves on the hearts of audiences spanning generations. In the dynamic landscape of animation, where success transcends mere box office figures, "A Troll in Central Park" stands as a luminous testament to the enduring magic of storytelling, captivating and enchanting audiences long after the final credits roll.

Where can I watch “A Troll at Central Park”? 

A Troll in Central Park is available to download on the following services: YouTube, Apple TV, Amazon Prime, Google Play, and Vudu. 

9. The Pebble and the Penguin (1995):

Release Date: Apr 14, 1995

Box Office Revenue: $3,983,912

IMDB Rating: 5.5/10

Runtime: 1 hr 14 mins

Next in line is "The Pebble and the Penguin," an endearing narrative of love and adventure. Although not universally celebrated, its heartwarming storyline and memorable characters secure its place on our list. This film exemplifies Bluth's commitment to delivering captivating tales infused with the magic of retro animation. The story revolves around the plucky penguin, Hubie (Martin Short), as he embarks on a perilous journey to present a pebble to his true love, Marina (Annie Golden). Other voice actors include Jim Belushi as Rocko and Tim Curry as Drake. The voice cast breathes life into the animated characters, enhancing the film's overall charm and appeal.

Unfortunately, the box office numbers tell a different story. “The Pebble and the Penguin” secured a Box Office total of $3,983,912 against a 28 million dollar budget. While it may not rival Bluth's blockbusters, "The Pebble and the Penguin" endures, captivating viewers with its nostalgic animation and heartfelt narrative. Immerse yourself in the endearing journey where love and adventure intertwine against Bluth's captivating storytelling.

Where can I watch “The Pebble and the Penguin”? 

You can stream “The Pebble and the Penguin” on Tubi and Pluto TV for free. It is also available to stream on Amazon Prime. 

8. Rock-a-Doodle (1991):

Release Date: Apr 3, 1992

Box Office Revenue: $11,657,385

IMDB Rating: 6.0/10

Runtime: 1 hr 17 mins

Claiming the eighth spot in Don Bluth's cinematic repertoire is the imaginative "Rock-a-Doodle," a creative reinterpretation of the classic play “Chanticleer”. Set in 1957, the story perfectly weaves a live-action and animated story into one with a seamless transition between the two. Enter, Edmond, a young boy in the human world who is coincidently, listening to his mother read the tale of the unfortunate rooster. Chanticleer, portrayed as an Elvis-like rooster, abandons the farm for the allure of city life and rock-and-roll fame. However, his departure seemingly triggers unending rain, resulting in a flood, prompting the farm animals to embark on a quest to bring Chanticleer back and restore sunlight to their world. 


Despite not reaching the same echelon of acclaim as some of Bluth's other works, "Rock-a-Doodle" stands out for its distinctive approach and memorable musical numbers. The film's unique blend of animation and live-action, coupled with its catchy tunes, makes it a noteworthy and entertaining addition to the diverse tapestry of Bluth's filmography.

Released in 1991, "Rock-a-Doodle" achieved moderate success at the box office, earning $11.7 million. While it may not have soared to the same heights as some of Bluth's blockbusters, its enduring charm and creative flair contribute to its lasting appeal for 90s kids.

Where can I watch “Rock-A-Doodle”? 

You can stream “Rock-A-Doodle” for free on Tubi and with an Amazon Prime Subscription. It is also available for digital download on the following services: YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, and Apple TV. 

7. Thumbelina (1994):

Release Date: Apr 1,1994

Box Office Revenue: $11,373,501

IMDB Rating: 6.2/10

Runtime: 1 hr 26 mins

Based on the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale of the same name, “Thumbelina” is a film that delicately weaves a captivating tale around its petite heroine navigating a magical world. While it may find itself lower on our list, this cinematic gem showcases Don Bluth's mastery of bringing fairy tales to life through exquisite animation and endearing characters. Released in 1994, “Thumbelina” not only achieved modest box office success, earning $11.4 million but also garnered appreciation for its enchanting narrative and visual splendor. The film features a stellar voice cast, with Jodi Benson (of The Little Mermaid) portraying the titular character and adding depth to the enchanting narrative. Other notable actors, including Gary Imhoff, Gino Conforti, Barbara Cook, Charo, and Gilbert Gottfried, contribute their talents, bringing life and personality to the characters that populate the magical world of “Thumbelina”.

Thumbelina, the film's miniature protagonist, takes center stage, grappling with the challenges of being different in a world of giants. Join us as we delve into this delicate world where magic and challenges intertwine against the backdrop of Bluth's storytelling finesse. Despite its placement on the list, 'Thumbelina' continues to resonate with audiences, a testament to Bluth's ability to create immersive tales that endure beyond their initial release.

Where can I watch “Thumbelina”? 

You can watch “Thumbelina” with the following subscription services: Starz, Hulu, The Roku Channel, Sling TV, and Amazon Prime. It is also available for digital download through Apple TV, Google Play Store, and Vudu. 

6. Titan AE (2000):

Release Date: Jun 16, 2000

Box Office Revenue: $36,754,634

IMDB Rating: 6.6/10

Runtime: 1 hr 34 mins

Embark on an intergalactic journey with "Titan A.E.," a 2000 science fiction animated film that marks Don Bluth's departure into the realm of sci-fi. The movie follows Cale Tucker's discovery of the spaceship Titan, a key to humanity's survival against an alien threat. Blending ambitious storytelling and innovative animation, this visually stunning space odyssey intertwines adventure, friendship, and the struggle for survival. As Cale navigates the challenges of the cosmos, "Titan A.E." stands out as a unique and thrilling entry in Don Bluth's celebrated filmography. The voice cast includes Matt Damon, Drew Barrymore, and other talented actors who bring these characters to life in this captivating space adventure.

Despite its notable success at the box office, achieving a total revenue of $36,754,634, the film's production costs were high, and it fell short of expectations. 

However, the film's intergalactic narrative, complemented by stellar voice performances, captivated audiences and contributed to its enduring appeal. In the realm of animated science fiction, "Titan A.E." continues to be celebrated for its thrilling space odyssey and the visual spectacle it brings to the screen.

Where can I watch “Titan AE”? 

Stream "Titan AE" on various subscription platforms, including Starz, Hulu, The Roku Channel, Sling TV, and Amazon Prime. Additionally, you can digitally acquire it through the Google Play Store, YouTube, Apple TV, and Vudu.

5. All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989):

Release Date: Nov 17, 1989

Box Office Revenue: $27,100,027

IMDB Rating: 6.7/10

Runtime: 1 hr 24 mins

In the heart of our cinematic journey, "All Dogs Go to Heaven" stands as a shining testament to Don Bluth's storytelling prowess. This animated gem seamlessly weaves humor, heart, and a touch of the supernatural into a tale of redemption. Bluth's distinctive animation style takes center stage, illustrating his adeptness at addressing darker themes while preserving a family-friendly appeal. The narrative follows Charlie B. Barkin, a charismatic yet flawed dog, on a poignant journey of self-discovery. Returning from heaven with a vendetta against those who betrayed him, Charlie soon realizes the profound lessons of friendship and sacrifice that transcend earthly boundaries.

Released in 1989, "All Dogs Go to Heaven" generated a commendable box office revenue of $27,100,027. While not achieving the same financial heights as some of Bluth's other works, the enduring popularity of this film lies in its ability to resonate with audiences of all ages. Its popularity spawned a sequel film (1996), a TV series (1996-1998), and a Christmas special, An All Dogs Christmas Carol (1998). 

Where can I watch “All Dogs Go to Heaven”?

You can watch “All Dogs Go to Heaven” for free on Pluto TV, Tubi, and the Roku Channel. It is also included in your Amazon Prime subscription. You can also download it for $3.99 from YouTube, Apple TV, Google Play Store, and Vudu. 

4. An American Tail (1986):

Release Date: November 21, 1986

Box Office Revenue: $84,542,002

IMDB Rating: 6.9/10

Runtime: 1 hr 20 mins

Securing the fourth spot on our list is the emotionally resonant "An American Tail," a cinematic masterpiece that skillfully explores the immigrant experience through the emotional journey of Fievel Mousekewitz. The film follows the young mouse as he emigrates from Russia to America, facing numerous challenges and adventures in his quest for family reunification. With poignant storytelling and unforgettable musical numbers, this classic stands as a testament to Don Bluth's unparalleled ability to craft narratives that tug at the heartstrings. The captivating voice cast includes Phillip Glasser as Fievel, Dom DeLuise as Tiger, and Christopher Plummer as the villainous Warren T. Rat. 

Released in 1986, the film achieved notable box office success, garnering a revenue of $84,542,002. "An American Tail" also received critical acclaim, earning three nominations at the 30th Grammy Award, winning two for the hit song “Somewhere Out There”. In the film, the song is performed by Fievel and his sister Tanya while they express their longing for each other while being separated, as they believe that if they both look at the same moon, they will be closer together despite the physical distance. It's a poignant and emotional moment in the film, conveying the theme of hope and connection in the face of adversity.

Years later, “An American Tail” continues to make an impact on pop culture. The film spawned 3 sequels including "Fievel Goes West", video games, a TV series, and a stage musical in 2023. 

Where can I watch “An American Tail”? 

“An American Tail” is available for free on YouTube. You can also download it Apple TV, Amazon Prime, Google Play, and Vudu. You can also purchase a DVD or the movie collections on Amazon.

3. Anastasia (1997):

Release Date: Nov 14, 1997

Box Office Revenue: $139,804,348

IMDB Rating: 7.1/10

Runtime: 1 hr 34 mins

"Anastasia" stands as a transformative moment in Don Bluth's storied career, marking his venture into historical fiction with a captivating narrative that enchanted audiences upon its 1997 release. Beyond its box office triumph ($140 million), the film earned widespread acclaim, a testament to its critical recognition and awards success. At its core, the story follows Anya, an amnesiac orphan, as she embarks on a profound journey to unravel the mystery of her identity as the long-lost Princess Anastasia.

Bluth's animation prowess masterfully intertwines with the historical backdrop, crafting a visually stunning and emotionally resonant portrayal of Anastasia's quest for self-discovery. The film's success is not only rooted in its compelling narrative but also the meticulous development of its characters, each contributing to the richness of the storytelling tapestry. As Anya navigates a world rife with intrigue and uncertainty, Bluth's direction ensures a seamless blend of history, fantasy, and animation.

The impact of "Anastasia" transcends the boundaries of animated cinema, earning accolades and nominations that underscore its significance. Bolstered by substantial box office revenue, the film solidifies its place among Don Bluth's top-ranking works. Furthermore, "Anastasia" garnered acclaim for its animation techniques, narrative depth, and unforgettable musical score. The iconic "Journey to the Past" earned a nomination at the 70th Academy Awards for Best Original Song and was memorably performed by the late singer Aaliyah. The film's stellar voice cast, featuring Meg Ryan as Anya/Anastasia, John Cusack as Dimitri, and Christopher Lloyd as the villainous Rasputin, among others, breathed life into the characters, playing a pivotal role in the film's resounding success. This exceptional cast, coupled with Bluth's directorial finesse, elevates "Anastasia" to a standout position in the illustrious filmography of Don Bluth.

Where can I watch “Anastasia”?

You can stream “Anastasia” on Disney+. It is also available for digital download on Google Play, Vudu, YouTube, Apple TV, and Amazon Prime. The DVD is also available at Walmart

2. The Land Before Time (1988):

Release Date: November 18, 1988

Box Office Revenue: $84,704,291

IMDB Rating: 7.4/10

Runtime: 1 hr 9 mins

Securing the runner-up position in our ranking is the timeless "The Land Before Time," a prehistoric odyssey that masterfully tugs at the heartstrings. Don Bluth's gift for crafting emotionally resonant narratives takes center stage, weaving a tale that transcends generations. This animated classic, released in 1988, not only achieved notable box office success but also left an indelible mark on pop culture. The film's narrative brilliance is evident as it follows the journey of Littlefoot, Cera, Ducky, Petrie, and Spike, a diverse group of young dinosaurs navigating a perilous adventure to the Great Valley. The enduring appeal of this tale lies in the friendships formed amidst adversity, creating a timeless and cherished aspect of the film.

The film's impact on popular culture extends beyond its initial release, becoming a cultural touchstone with characters like Littlefoot ingrained in collective memory. The voice cast, featuring Gabriel Damon as Littlefoot, Candace Hutson as Cera, and Judith Barsi as Ducky, brings these beloved characters to life with an authenticity that enhances the film's emotional resonance.

Moreover, "The Land Before Time" franchise has expanded beyond its original film with an impressive series of sequels, spanning a total of 13 releases. Each installment continues the prehistoric adventures of beloved characters like Littlefoot, Cera, Ducky, Petrie, and Spike. Beyond the sequels, the franchise has ventured into other forms of media, including a video game and a TV series. The sequels delve into various narratives, exploring themes of friendship, survival, and discovery. Additionally, the franchise's enduring popularity is evident in its adaptation into a video game and a TV series, further immersing audiences in the enchanting world of dinosaurs and their timeless tales.

Where can I watch “The Land Before Time”?

“The Land Before Time” is available for free on YouTube. It is also available for digital download on the following platforms:  Amazon Prime, Vudu, Google Play, and Apple TV. 

The film is also available on DVD and in a collectors set with all 14 films in the series. 

1. The Secret of NIMH (1982):

Release Date: July 2, 1982

Box Office Revenue: $14,665,733

IMDB Rating: 7.5/10

Runtime: 1 hr 22 mins

Topping our list is the masterpiece that started it all – "The Secret of NIMH." This film epitomizes Don Bluth's unparalleled skill in storytelling and animation. The dark and enchanting world of NIMH, coupled with compelling characters, establishes this film as a cornerstone of retro animation and a must-watch for any animation enthusiast. The story centers around Mrs. Brisby, a widowed field mouse, who faces a crisis when her son Timothy falls ill. To save her family from the impending plowing of their field, Mrs. Brisby seeks the help of a group of genetically enhanced rats living at the nearby National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

Released in 1982, "The Secret of NIMH" not only achieved critical acclaim but also resonated with audiences, resulting in significant box office success with a revenue of [Box Office Revenue]. The film's compelling narrative is enhanced by the stellar voice cast, featuring Elizabeth Hartman as Mrs. Brisby, Derek Jacobi as Nicodemus, and Dom DeLuise as Jeremy the Crow. Their performances breathe life into the characters, elevating the emotional resonance of the film.

Furthermore, it's noteworthy that "The Secret of NIMH" is based on the novel "Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH" by Robert C. O'Brien. Bluth's adaptation skillfully brings the essence of the source material to the screen while adding his unique touch, creating a cinematic experience that stands the test of time. As we delve into the enchanting world of NIMH, we recognize the enduring impact of this cinematic masterpiece that shaped the course of animated storytelling.

Where can I watch “The Secret of NIMH”?

You can stream “The Secret of NIMH” on Tubi and the Roku Channel for free and through Amazon Prime as part of your subscription. The film is also available as a digital download on YouTube, Apple TV, Vudu, and Google Play. 

Don Bluth's Cinematic Legacy in 80s and 90s Cinema

Don Bluth's theatrical films create an enduring legacy in animated cinema, from the enchanting "Secret of NIMH" to the heartwarming "An American Tale." Every film contributes to a rich tapestry of retro animation classics, showcasing Bluth's commitment to crafting timeless stories that captivate audiences of all ages. Each entry, though varying in rankings, reflects the profound impact of Bluth's vivid animation and poignant storytelling, inviting viewers to step into the timeless magic of animated storytelling and experience emotions that etch into collective memory.

While some may rank higher than others, each entry on this list reflects Don Bluth's unwavering commitment to crafting timeless stories that continue to captivate audiences of all ages.

Have you seen any of Don Bluth’s films? Which one is your favorite? Let me know below! 


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