Top Ten Don Bluth Films
In the course of his almost twenty year career, Don Bluth has made some truly great and some really bad movies. And even though the quality of his work is uneven, those films that are good are some of the best animated films of their respectable decades. He is the director that managed to finally rival Disney in the 80s, but he also made some very solid, underrated films in the next decade as well. Here I will give the ranking of my personal favorites from him meaning that my list is a personal list therefore it is going to be different than the usual consensus, especially the number one pick. So without further ado, this is my ranking of every theatrically released Don Bluth film.
1o. A Troll in Central Park
This is without any doubt, inarguably the very worst of his movies. It just has to be. Although I wouldn’t call it horrendous at it does have some decent animation in it, the characters themselves are so annoying and forgettable and the plot is so mediocre as is the dialogue. It also fails as a musical and it is such a wildly uneven, really problematic movie on every level and it can easily be seen why Don Bluth himself was so disappointed in it.
Another mediocre movie, Rock-a-Doodle holds the distinction of being the craziest and weirdest film in the director’s filmography, but it is mostly just too odd and also unappealing. It is also the only film here that uses live-action in its storytelling and those segments were so uninspired. I get its appeal to some, especially those that grew up with it in the nineties, but it was to me too thin and overly silly.
8. The Pebble and the Penguin
This is the last mediocre movie on the list. The animation here is probably his weakest and the characters are not only annoying, but also frustrating (the female ones are so stereotypical). Its buddy cop aspect is unoriginal and the emphasis on romance is too big. However, the reason why it is much better than the previous two movies lies in its opening scene alone. That sequence is not only beautifully animated, but is also accompanied by such a good, catchy song and it is such a shame that the rest of the movie never caught up with it.
Thumbelina is the first movie from the director that is clearly influenced by Disney, especially in its musical format. However, it does add some crazy humor in the mix with those lunatic frogs and that was fun. And a couple of songs here are really entertaining while its animation is expectedly top-notch. But this is still just an okay movie because it fails on the character department as neither of these people is even remotely interesting or likable and the plot just goes through the motions.
This is probably going to be the first upset on the list, but yes, I really do not get the appeal of this movie. Yes, it has some really good moments in it, the story has some momentum and the song Somewhere Out There is just such a classic, but the characters are again forgettable (see the pattern here) and the film is, I have to be honest, dull and very slow. It wanted to be this big emotional story, but I just never experienced it as such.
This is undoubtedly the most underrated Don Bluth movie that lands just on the middle of my list because it is just so solid. Yes, the characterization could have been better and the film is obviously derivative and too much action oriented, but it succeeds in spades in some other areas with the emotional engagement and animation being the highlights. The mix of CGI and hand-drawn animation is terrific and the movie just looks so good, admirable given its age. But it works as a mature and very entertaining sci-fi flick that benefits from a particularly grandiose ending scene.
4. All Dogs Go to Heaven
Another somewhat underrated flick, All Dogs Go to Heaven has such an irresistible charm to it. It has such a big heart as some scenes are just immensely heartwarming and satisfying. It also has such a quality animation, a great relationship at the center of the film and such a moving ending. But it is just solid because the songs here are quite mediocre and the movie takes a lot of its time to get there owing to a very unpromising start.
3. The Land Before Time
The film that grew on me upon second viewing, The Land Before Time truly is brave in its major death scene and even though it eventually succumbs to a kiddy affair with an overly simplistic plot, those characters are cute enough, the animation is just as pleasant in its traditional approach and the film is a trendsetter in its at first mature tone, though it led to a jarring shift eventually. It could have been much better, but is still quite solid.
2. The Secret of NIMH
And this is it. The major upset. The magnum opus of Don Bluth’s whole career only takes the second spot on my list owing to again really uninspired characters, well most of them at least. But even though it is too cold, it is so mature and such a different than usual animated film, especially for its time, that I really admire it and I find its status to be deserved. The mystical elements here are awesome, the story is so well crafted and the animation is mesmerizing. It is a very good film, but it isn’t better than…
And the number one spot goes to Anastasia! I love this film! It isn’t a perfect film as some of its elements aren’t the greatest and it has too many songs, but the majority of those songs are absolutely fantastic with Once Upon a December and Journey to the Past being spectacular. I love those songs, I love its wonderful animation, I really enjoyed the characters and their relationships and the plot is really good. The film is also very moving in its third act and it is the only film here that succeeds as a great musical, the one that can rival even Disney’s efforts. Yes, it is the most Disney-like film here, but I love it for that and it is the movie that I can watch countless times as it has a great repeat value. I just love Anastasia so much and it simply had to be the number one here.