Although these days Disney and DreamWorks are the two big players in the world of animated films, I was recently surprised to learn about a now-defunct animation studio that was responsible for many of my childhood favorites, including The Land Before Time and Anastasia!
Don Bluth was a Disney animator who worked on films such as Robin Hood, Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too and The Rescuers before leaving in 1979 to set up his own animation studio, Don Bluth Productions.
Don Bluth animated or produced the films The Secret of NIMH, An American Tail, The Land Before Time, All Dogs Go to Heaven, Rock-a-Doodle, Thumbelina, A Troll in Central Park and The Pebble and the Penguin, Anastasia and Titan A.E.
Recognize any of those? I know I sure do! Don Bluth and his animation companies are super fascinating to read about, here are a few facts you might not have known about this animator and his films:
Don Bluth quit Disney on his birthday!
On his 42nd birthday, in 1979 Don Bluth along with future partners Gary Goldman, John Pomeroy and nine other fellow Disney animators quit The Walt Disney Productions and created Don Bluth Productions.
The main character in An American Tail was named after Steven Spielberg's grandfather
Steven Spielberg was a producer for An American Tale (he also worked on The Land Before Time) and the main character was named Fievel after his grandfather (though his name was spelled Feivel, the movie changed the spelling for American audiences).
The Land Before Time is Bluth's shortest film
Originally the movie was about 80 minutes long, but it was heavily edited because Steven Spielberg and George Lucas thought the film would be too dark for children. Overall about 11 minutes was cut from the film, including 19 fully animated scenes. The uncut version of the movie has never been released on DVD and it's unknown whether the footage even still exists.
The Secret of NIMH was the first film for one child star
This film was the debut for Wil Wheaton! Wheaton voiced Martin. After this film he went on to star in the classic coming-of-age film Stand by Me, Toy Soldiers and TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation. Most recently he's appeared in shows like Big Bang Theory and Ben 10.
Many of the artworks in Anastasia are based on real objects!
When Anya is in the ballroom of the palace in St. Petersburg, you can see the painting of the coronation of Alexandra and Nicholas on the left hand side. This was actually a real painting.
The music box in the movie actually existed too. It was given to the real Anastasia by the real Marie Feoderovna for her thirteenth birthday, but was actually silver with a ballerina on top.
The mix of characters in The Land Before Time was unrealistic
Though the film featured many different types of dinosaurs, many of them were unrealistic for the timeframe the movie was set in (in a time overlapping the Jurassic Period and Cretaceous Period). Apatosaurus (Littlefoot) and Stegosaurus (Spike) existed in the late Jurassic period, while Triceratops (Cera), Pteranodon (Petrie), Saurolophus (Ducky) and Tyrannosaurus existed in the late Cretaceous period.
Don Bluth Productions was International
Though Don Bluth and his company were American, the Irish government invited the company to set up in Dublin, which they did in November 1986, to take advantage of government investment and incentives. The Land Before Time was the first production created entirely in Ireland.
The pig-based insult in Anastasia was real!
In real life, Olga really did say that Anastasia's drawing looked like a pig riding a donkey! This was stated by Anastasia in a letter to her father, and the picture used in the movie is an animated reproduction of the real picture.
The Land Before Time is a huge franchise
There have been a total of 13 The Land Before Time films, though the 12 sequels were all direct-to-video and only the original film had involvement from Don Bluth. Aside from the films, there have also been eight games, two sing-a-long videos, and a TV Series!
An American Tale was released to coincide with a very important anniversary
An American Tale ends at the newly completed Statue of Liberty. The statue was completed in 1886, which is exactly 100 years before the film was released. When the statue was finished it was the bronze color that is scene in the movie, it wasn't until the early 1900s that the statue was turned completely green due to the chemical reaction between metal and water.
Don Bluth didn't just limit himself to movies!
In 1983 Bluth and his partners teamed up with Rick Dyer from Advanced Microcomputer Systems and created Dragon's Lair, a groundbreaking laserdisc arcade game!
Anastasia was Don Bluth's highest grossing film
The film was made on a $53 million budget but surpassed all expectations and made almost $140 million at the box office! Anastasia was not only Don Bluth's most profitable film but also Fox Animation Studios' most profitable film to date.
Products in An American Tale were nods to crew members
After the cat attack scene at the market, there is a bottle of "Pomeroy Hair Tonic" seen in the background, this was named after co-producer John Pomeroy. Another reference to a crew member can be seen when Gussie is making her speech at the rally, she stands on a can of "Dorse Hair Restorer," named for crew member Dorse A. Lanpher.