The conglomerate cartoon giants Disney and Pixar practically pump out animated movies year after year. And with all the hype and publicity, it can be hard to focus on anything else. But that doesn’t mean we should let great animated movies slip by without giving them the credit they deserve. Here’s a list of ten stellar animated movies that aren’t Disney/Pixar. Get them on your watchlist pronto!
1. Breadwinner, Cartoon Saloon
In 2017, Cartoon Saloon graced us with this amazing animated movie. It’s realistically dark, heart-breaking and just the right amount of whimsical to keep you grounded. But don’t be fooled. You’ll be needing tissues.
11-year-old Parvana is living in Taliban ruled Afghanistan and must learn how to provide for her family when her father is wrongly taken to prison. Looking at the state of living during those times through the eyes of an 11-year-old puts an interesting spin on what could have been a terribly twisted tale. Instead what we get is vibrant animation, a brilliant soundtrack, and an enriching story.
2. The Land Before Time, Universal Pictures
In my loft at home there are stacks of The Land Before Time series on VCR, and re-watching the original movie now has reminded me just how great this movie was. Produced by Steven Spielberg you can tell he left his mark on it.
The Land Before Time tells the story of Little Foot, the “long neck (Apatosaurus)” who loses his mother and must venture on his own to the legendary Great Valley. It’s a film about friendship and facing a vast and vicious world before your ready.
3. Spirited Away, Studio Ghibli
A (sort of) coming of age story about Chihiro, who is forced to work for an old witch in a bathhouse to fight for her parent’s survival. She makes allies along the way and a couple enemies. Mostly it’s pure adventure wanderlust.
Studio Ghibli has created so many brilliant animated movies, I could fill a whole separate list just for them. But, for the ultimate taster of Hayao Miyazaki’s signature style, Spirited Away is the one to watch, the film that won an Oscar for the best-animated film in 2003, beating the likes of other brilliant movies like Ice Age, Lilo and Stitch, and Spirit.
4. Anastasia, 20th Century Fox
The princess that Disney forgot- and the movie that everyone forgets isn’t Disney. It was directed by Don Bluth (Who also directed The Land Before Time), an undisputed king of animated movies, with 20th Century Fox.
Anya is an amnesic orphan with dreams of making something of her life, with only one clue as to where she’s from; a locket that says, “together in Paris”. She proceeds to go on an epic to find out her true heritage.
5. Kubo And The Two Strings, Laika Entertainment
Kubo is whisked off on an adventure of a lifetime after he disobeyed his mother one rule: Do not stay out after sunlight. Now with his sidekicks, Monkey and Beetle, he has to piece together a secret legacy.
Laika has made some of the best-animated movies I’ve ever seen, Coraline, Paranorman, Corpse Bride. They slay every time. But if those were slays, then Kubo and the Two Strings is a massacre. It’s a story about treasuring your family and holding loved ones close to you through difficult times. And couldn’t we all use a feel-good theme like that from time to time?
6. Your Name, CoMix Wave Films
When Your Name first dropped in 2016 in Japan, it quickly took the country by storm, with the soundtrack done by Radwimps quickly becoming the most listened to thing in the country. Seriously, you couldn’t walk into a shop without hearing them.
It put’s a freaky sci-fi twist on the classic It’s a Boy-Girl Thing plot with hints of dreamy time and space travel, with a great love story that doesn’t take away from the actual plot. And the soundtrack. Can’t ever forget the soundtrack.
7. A Song Of The Sea, Cartoon Saloon
If you love breathtakingly stylized animation and a feel-good storyline, then this is the movie for you.
The second of Cartoon Saloon’s animated movies to make it onto this list, A Song of the Sea tells the story of a brother and his little sister and their incredible fantasy adventure of trying to escape their Grandmother’s house and make it home. What unfolds is the family’s secret history that wrapped so beautifully around Irish mythology and folklore.
8. Tokyo Godfathers, Madhouse
Directed by Satoshi Kon, another king of animated movies, anything that Satoshi Kon touches seems to turn to gold. So, how about this Christmas (if you’re wanting something with more grit than The Grinch or Love Actually) you watch Tokyo Godfathers instead?
A strangely real and dry take on a Christmas story, the Tokyo Godfathers are an alcoholic, a teenage runaway and a former drag queen who find a baby in the trash on Christmas Eve. The story is heavy and sometimes hard to take (like a lot of Satoshi Kon’s work) but at its bones its about forming family bonds beyond blood ties. As far as animated movies go, it’s strange but inspiring.
9. The Prince of Egypt, DreamWorks
One of those animated movies that your Religious Studies teacher probably made you watch ten times over and you ended up hating. If this is you, I feel you. But try re-watching it, maybe it’ll hit home.
Religious Connotations aside, The Prince of Egypt is about an orphan who is trying to find himself and learn right from wrong after having been treated like a living god his entire life. The animation is both bold and airy in a way that really captures movement, and the soundtrack is probably some of Hans Zimmer’s best work to date.
10. Wolf Children, Studio Chizu, Madhouse, etc.
Japan is famous for having some of the best-animated movies in the world, and some of the most influential directors. Along with Hayao Miyazaki ad Satoshi Kon, Mamoru Hosoda is up there with them.
Wolf Children tells the story of a Hana, a mother having to cope with raising two half-wolf children on her own. Throughout the movie we watch the children grow through Hana’s eyes. The film is glowing with a type of warmth and security that only a mother could bring with one of the most expansive and beautiful animation styles you will ever see. It’ll stick with you long after the credits roll.