The holiday season is here. You'll likely spend a lot of time at home with the kids, or maybe babysitting the children of a loved one. If you are lucky, you may have convinced them not to watch #Frozen for the trillionth time. If you are a few years into the child-rearing gig, you've likely also exhausted most of the other main players in the #Disney catalog, or have simply grown a little tired of them. The kids (read: you) need a bit of a change.
Thankfully, there is a wealth of great animated films available outside the offerings from the House Of Mouse.
1. 'Spirit: Stallion Of The Cimarron'
Released in 2002, Spirit: Stallion Of The Cimarron tells the tale of a wild Mustang captured by soldiers, and his efforts to escape and return to home. Along the way, he forms a bond with a young Native American man, Little Creek, and Little Creek's beautiful mare, Rain. This film looks beautiful, including a perfect mix of traditional animation and CGI. The story is uplifting, with plenty to enjoy for both children and adults.
With an animated series based on the film, Spirit Running Free, soon to arrive on Netflix, now is a perfect time to introduce any kids in your life to Spirit: Stallion Of The Cimarron. If they enjoy the movie, you can then offer them something to look forward to with news of the upcoming series.
2. 'The Rugrats Movie'
Released in 1998 at the height of Rugrats popularity, The Rugrats Movie was the first non-Disney animated movie to gross over $100 million at the box office. The film follows Tommy, Chuckie, Phil and Lil on one of their most epic adventures. Finding themselves lost in the woods after trying to return Tommy's new baby brother, Dil, to the hospital, the babies set off in search of a "lizard," hoping to wish their way home.
The Rugrats Movie could be a good film to show a child who is expecting, or has recently welcomed a new sibling, with a great chunk of the movie's plot devoted to Tommy accepting his responsibilities toward his baby brother. If they enjoy the film, the following two Rugrats movies, and all nine seasons of the TV series, are easily available on DVD.
3. 'The Land Before Time'
Spawning from the mind of former Disney animator Don Bluth, The Land Before Time tells the story of Littlefoot, a baby "long neck" dinosaur. After losing his mother, an earthquake separates Littlefoot from the rest of the migrating herd. Defying an unspoken rule about different kinds of dinosaurs mixing, Littlefoot bands together with Cera, a "three-horn," Ducky, a "swimmer," Petrie, a "flyer," and Spike, a newly hatched "spike-tail," in hopes of reaching the idyllic Great Valley to reunite with their families.
Fair warning, this film does get very dark, so it's probably best avoided by very young children. It is also important to note that — more than any other entry on this list — enjoying this film does not mean you will enjoy the rest of the series. The Land Before Time's many sequels employ a sharp tonal shift towards the "happy sing-a-long" end of the spectrum.
4. 'The Pagemaster'
Released towards the end of Macaulay Culkin's golden era, The Pagemaster was a live-action/animation hybrid featuring Culkin in the role of Richard Tyler. After a mysterious accident in the local library, the cowardly Richard finds himself on an adventure through the worlds of classic novels such as as Treasure Island, Moby Dick, and Dr. Jekyll And Mr.Hyde. To return home, Richard must reach the mysterious Pagemaster.
While the animation has not aged all that well, the film's story is solid enough that this can be overlooked. If you live outside the US, it may be hard to get hold of a copy of The Pagemaster, but the film should not be too difficult to find online.
5. 'Jetsons: The Movie'
In 1990, two years after new episodes of the classic #HannaBarbera series had stopped being produced, Jetsons: The Movie hit theaters. After finally earning a long desired promotion, George Jetson packs up the family and moves to be closer to his job at Mr. Spacely's new factory. Problems soon arise when his children do not initially settle in as well as he had hoped. Then, someone (or something) begins sabotaging the factory.
Though it was savaged by critics at the time of its release, Jetsons: The Movie has held up great, with clean animation and impressive visual effects. There's plenty of space travel and adorable little aliens to keep the kiddies amused, while pure #nostalgia should be enough to get most adults through the relatively short run time. The key theme of protecting the environment also makes the film more relevant today than it was at the time of its release, 25 years ago.
6. 'The Pebble And The Penguin'
Also helmed by Don Bluth, The Pebble And The Penguin follows the adventures of Hubie, a young Adélie penguin, as he finds the perfect pebble (an emerald) to help him win the heart of the beautiful Marina. After Hubie's love rival, Drake, throws him in the ocean to get him out of the way, Hubie teams up with a grumpy Rockhopper penguin, Rocko, to get home to Marina.
While far from the best of Don Bluth's efforts, the film offers plenty to enjoy, with a great voice cast including Jim Belushi and Tim Curry. It is also semi-educational, with many real-life behaviors of Adélie penguins portrayed in the movie.
7. 'Rugrats In Paris: The Movie'
The second of the three theatrically released Rugrats films, Rugrats In Paris shifts the focus to 'fraidy-cat Chuckie's search for a new mummy. While on a trip to Paris to fix an animatronic Reptar built by Stu, Chuckie decides he wants Reptarland's Princess for his Mother, but first, he must keep his daddy from falling for the charms of the evil Coco.
Of the three Rugrats films, Rugrats In Paris was the best critically received, and has best stood the test of time. Susan Sarandon puts in a great voice performance as Coco.
8. 'The Swan Princess'
Released in 1994, The Swan Princess is loosely inspired by the plot of Swan Lake. Feisty Princess Odette is cursed by an evil wizard, Rothbart, who wants control of her Father's Kingdom. By night, she returns to her human form, but by day, she is trapped in the form of a swan. Meanwhile, the handsome Prince Derek searches for her.
Odette quickly sets herself apart as a better role model than many of the early #DisneyPrincesses. Throughout the film, she makes things happen for herself, never completely relying on Derek to save her.
Inspired by one of Hans Christian Andersen's tales, Thumbelina follows a young woman no bigger than a thumb, and her quest to reunite with her one true love, Cornelius, the fairy Prince. Along the way, she must deal with a number of unsavory types who wish to marry her for themselves.
10. 'All Dogs Go To Heaven'
All Dogs Go To Heaven, another classic film from Don Bluth, tells the story of Charlie, a dog from the wrong side of the tracks. Killed by his evil business partner, Charlie goes to Heaven (as all dogs do), but breaks the rules by winding a watch that will give him a second chance at life, though it will cost him his return trip to heaven. At first, Charlie appears to be wasting his second chance, until he encounters Anne-Marie, an orphan with the ability to speak to animals.
While the film is worth watching, it does get quite dark and heartbreakingly sad. Keep the tissues handy.