With most viewers and most critics, Disney pretty much rules the world of animation. They win Best Animated Feature nearly every year at the Oscars and have many and most other awards statues in their grasp. Walt Disney set film history with the introduction of the full-length animated feature and the studio has been a dominating force ever since. However, that doesn't mean every great animated film has come from the Disney studios.
With this list I thought we would focus on the great animated features released by other studios because let's face it, they have just as much to offer if not more. Many of these films have been overlooked in comparison to Disney features and it can be quite unfortunate. With this list you will see both CGI animation, traditional 2D, and stop motion. Keep in mind that similar to other lists I have made this one is in no particular order, so if you see one of your favorites far below others it doesn't necessarily mean I'm saying it's worse than what is above it.
Love a non-Disney movie and it's not on list? Leave a comment and start a discussion!
Disclaimer: This list is in no particular order.
22. How to Train Your Dragon (2010)
DreamWorks hit it big with this cute story of a young viking who befriends a dragon in a world of dragon hunting. It channeled voice talents of Jay Baruchel, Craig Ferguson, Kristen Wiig and many more. The animation itself was beautiful enough but the story was fun for the children. It even prompted a sequel in 2014 which took home a decent number of Annie Awards.
21. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
This is one that is really a great piece of animation and it didn't really gain popularity like I thought it would. Directed by Wes Anderson, it carried the same tone and magic that his live-action films do but it had a different feel to it seeing these events carried out by animated foxes. It had a great voice cast and was an overall fun movie to watch. If you've never seen it I would suggest renting it.
20. Monsters vs. Aliens (2009)
Monsters vs. Aliens carries the signature look that most DreamWorks animation films have, but that doesn't make it any less enjoyable. This story follows a woman as she's turned into a giant after a space rock lands on Earth. She bands together with other monsters to save the planet from a robot. It's animated well, it's funny, and it's a cute story.
19. Monster House (2006)
This is just a fun movie overall. After three kids find out the house next door is actually a living monster it puts the term "haunted house" into a new perspective. Most of the time you only ever see this movie played around Halloween but it's a fun one to watch whenever. It's also produced by Steven Spielberg so you know it's something special.
18. Hotel Transylvania (2012)
Before you see the sequel, you need to see where the story started! Hotel Transylvania was one that surprised me. I'm not the biggest fan of Adam Sandler anymore, or Andy Samberg, but they worked perfectly in this movie about a hotel run by Dracula to host all of the iconic monsters of the horror world. It's actually really funny and Sandler didn't make it overly annoying.
17. The LEGO Movie (2014)
Can we just talk about how amazing this movie is? Not only was the animation some of the best I have seen outside of Disney and also some of the most creative, the story was fantastic. It had a clear message that was great not just for children but for adults and it was ridiculously fun to watch. I still find myself singing "Everything is Awesome" from time to time. It is absurd that it wasn't nominated for an Academy Award. It was a slap in the face to moviegoers.
16. Despicable Me (2010)
Since Despicable Me we have had a sequel, a song by Pharrell that we couldn't get out of our heads, and a spin-off about the Minions. Even with all of that you can't deny that it's pretty fun stuff. Despicable Me introduced a super-bad villain who finds his way to the lighter side of things after attempting to use three orphans for a giant scheme.
15. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009)
Come on, who doesn't want cheeseburgers raining from the sky? This movie is another that is just pure fantasy fun. The raining food comes after a local inventor creates a food machine to help his town that is forced to eat nothing but sardines. This was another one that surprised me because the premise sounds a little too silly but once you're watching it you see that it's just a fun movie.
14. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)
This movie was groundbreaking in the sense that it was the first to bring photo-realistic characters to life via CGI animation. It's a must for any fan of the Final Fantasy realm, but even non-gamers will find something to enjoy with this movie. Even after 14 years it still is rather visually stunning. Plus it has some great vocal talent such as Alec Baldwin, Steve Buscemi, and Donald Sutherland.
13. The Boxtrolls (2014)
I will admit that I went into The Boxtrolls a bit confused on what it was even about, but I quickly found out that it's an animated feature more geared towards adults than children and the animation itself was quite beautiful. One of the few stop-motion animated features on this list, Boxtrolls channeled a story that was heavily thematic but it was carried out in a way that didn't alienate an audience and that is pretty tough to do.
12. FernGully: The Last Rainforest (1992)
FernGully is one of those movies you remember seeing as a kid but don't really remember what it was about. One of the earlier environmental messages to hit the United States, it followed a construction worker who meets a fairy living in the rainforest and quickly changes course after seeing the damage his line of work is doing to the environment. I re-watched this movie not too long ago and not only was I impressed with how relevant it has stayed but it was quite thematic for a children's movie. It also is a nice memory of Robin Williams with his character, Batty Koda.
Plus, can we just talk about how horrifying Tim Curry was as Hexxus?
11. Corpse Bride (2005)
One that many people mistake for a Disney film, Corpse Bride marked Tim Burton's return to stop-motion animation and it was a major success. Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter lent their voices to Victor and Emily. Victor accidentally marries the corpse bride Emily while practicing his wedding vows in the forest. His vows were originally to go to Victoria, his arranged bride. The subject matter is a bit more adult but I don't think I've ever met a kid who was scared by this movie. It's absolutely fantastic.
10. South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut (1999)
I know what you're thinking. What is South Park doing on this list?
Well, it's on this list because Bigger, Longer & Uncut is actually not bad for what it is. It's funny in a way only South Park can be, it carries itself, and Trey Parker and Matt Stone did what a lot of people can't do and they made the movie feel like one giant episode of the show. Most TV to film adaptations can't achieve that. So to all who don't believe it belongs here... shut your fucking face, uncle fucker.
9. 9 (2009)
9 is one that got a rather bad rap from most critics and viewers, but I have always remained a loyal fan to this quirky and somewhat odd film. Produced by Tim Burton and Timur Bemambetov, it carries a similar feel to Corpse Bride and even The Nightmare Before Christmas in terms of the overall tone and animation style. 9 followed a group of rag dolls created by a scientist as they wake in a post-apocalyptic world and work together to find humanity's salvation.
8. Coraline (2009)
Based off Neil Gaiman's novel, Coraline is one that rather successfully made the jump from book to screen. A young girl finds a parallel universe in a secret room in her house and quickly discovers the dark and secretive aspects of this hidden realm. The voice cast included Dakota Fanning and Teri Hatcher. I've always found it to have a great message and it brought out the imaginative beauties of the book in a fantastic way. I enjoyed it a lot.
Many confuse Coraline for a Tim Burton film mainly in style and tone, but this was actually directed by Henry Selick, the director of The Nightmare Before Christmas.
7. ParaNorman (2012)
ParaNorman is definitely not a movie you should overlook. Following Norman, a horror obsessed boy who can see and talk to ghosts, the movie is animated flawlessly and has a story with a good message for the children. I saw this movie in theaters and fell in love with it instantly. It's quirky, it's fun, and it has a main character that is extremely easy to relate to. Laika really hit it big with this film as it followed right after the success of Coraline.
6. Spirited Away (2001)
The only anime feature on this list, Spirited Away is one not many regular moviegoers have seen. After a girl's parents are turned into pigs at an abandoned amusement park, she learns the secrets of the amusement park and how the spirits within treat the space as a resort to break from the realm in which they belong. Spirited Away is somewhat whimsical and it's a real hidden gem in the world of animation.
5. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)
Mask of the Phantasm served as the first full-length animated Batman feature film and sets the Caped Crusader up as a murderer in the wake of a new masked assassin's terror in Gotham. It's technically a spin-off from Batman: The Animated Series and it's one of those comic movies that is pure fun. If it would have been sooner this would have been one for Christopher Nolan to do a live adaptation because of how great the story is. Since its release it has been praised for its dialogue, animation style, and voice acting. It's also been named by many as one of the best superhero movies of all time.
4. Heavy Metal (1981)
Heavy Metal is one of those movies that your parents didn't want you mistaking for a kids movie just because it's animated. Based off the Heavy Metal magazine, it featured an anthology of several different science-fiction stories containing an abundance of graphic violence, sexuality, nudity, and dark fantasy. It received a sequel in 2000 with Heavy Metal 2000, but you still can't beat the original. It's one of those anthology series that you shouldn't be watching, but you can't look away.
3. The Prince of Egypt (1998)
Religious or not, there is no denying how fantastic The Prince of Egypt is. Telling the Biblical tale of Moses and the Book of Exodus, Dreamworks brought in a stellar voice cast including Ralph Fiennes, Val Kilmer, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sandra Bullock, Patrick Stewart, Steve Martin, and Martin Short as well as delivering flawless animation, it told the story in a way that is enjoyable to more than just a religious crowd. Also for being a musical feature the soundtrack is considered to be one of the best ones ever released. Come on, it included a duet between Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston that won an Academy Award in 1999.
This was also the first traditional animated film to be released by DreamWorks Pictures. Jeffrey Katzenberg originally introduced the idea to Walt Disney Pictures in 1995 but abandoned the idea after founding DreamWorks shortly after. The Prince of Egypt grossed over $210 million worldwide making it the most successful non-Disney release at the time.
2. Shrek (2001)
Shrek was one of those movies that came in with no warning and took off like a rocket. After the success of Austin Powers, Mike Myers brought to life an ugly green Ogre which oddly sounded just like Fat Bastard. Shrek became the second big hit for DreamWorks after the massive success of The Prince of Egypt and was basically an answer when people questioned if there was any competition against Disney/Pixar in terms of computer animation. The first Shrek has always been my favorite, but for any fan of the character you have a bunch of different things to watch including three sequels, Shrek the Halls, Scared Shrekless, and the Puss in Boots spin-off film. There's even a Shrek musical you can go see.
Even with all that fanfare, Shrek is a fun story. The original start includes Shrek going on a journey with a talking donkey, voiced by Eddie Murphy, to save his swamp home from the ruthless Lord Farquaad.
1. The Iron Giant (1999)
The Iron Giant is just perfection. It's more of a cult classic than anything else at this point, but this story was just perfect. Set in the wake of the Cold War in 1957, a young boy discovers a giant metal robot who fell from space. He teams up with a beatnik artist to save the giant from being found by the US Military.
This movie does what many do by showing how scared people can be of something they don't understand, but it is oddly more impacting with this piece. There is satire, comedy, sadness, and life lessons. It's great not just for kids but also for adults. It's not musical and it doesn't contain cheesy humor just to get kids to laugh at a fart noise or anything like that. Truly a movie for everyone and I've loved it since it came out.
It's impossible to name every great non-Disney movie, so here are some that didn't quite make the list. Not saying they're by any means bad. They just didn't quite get there.
The Land Before Time (1988)
The Last Unicorn (1982)
Quest for Camelot (1998)
Rise of the Guardians (2012)
Titan A.E. (2000)
The Secret of NIMH (1982)
An American Tail (1986)
The Swan Princess (1994)
All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989)