Today in Disney history, Don Bluth left The Walt Disney company to start his own animation studio, famously followed by 20 of Disney’s best animators. Leaving in early production of The Fox and the Hound, Don Bluth was not happy with how Disney’s animation studio was being ran. Feeling the same way, Gary Goldman along with other animators left as well to join Bluth on his new venture.
Don Bluth first started at Disney in 1957, working on Sleeping Beauty. This would also be the first time he left the company, and he wouldn’t return for two years, only coming back to work partially. Then returning full time in 1971 he worked on Robin Hood, Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too, The Rescuers, and directing the animation on Pete’s Dagon.
When I was a little girl, Don Bluth’s name wasn’t familiar to me, but his movies, however were. So much so, because I was so young at the time, I assumed all the animated films I watched were all Disney. Three films in particular would become very special to me, due to when I watched them and who I watched them with. An American Tail especially will always be important to me, along with The Secret of NIMH and The Land Before Time.
When I got a bit older, and became aware these favourite films of mine were not Disney films, I was disappointed, because at the time of discovering this, Disney had given me The Little Mermaid and Beaut and the Beast and I couldn’t believe there was somebody out there who was possibly in the same league as Disney and could possibly make a better film.
My interest in animation and film making grew very strongly when I headed into my teens. Wanting to know how they were made and wanting to see the process of it all, and learning more about other animation studios, particularly Don Bluth.
Now even though I had seen all of his movies, and had all of them on video, I was not aware at the time of how much unsuccess Don Bluth had with most of his films. Because I loved them so much, I thought most people enjoyed them and had seen them.
My favourite three, An American Tale, The Secret of NIMH and The Land Before Time, doesn’t have a lot of music, and are not fairytales, they are not very colourful, and their stories are quite dark. It used to really upset me when Fievel got lost at sea at the start of An Amercian Tale, and when Little Foot’s mum died at the start of Land Before Time. But that never stopped me from watching them.
The Secret of MINH was one of the films I watched with my grandma all the time when I was a little girl, and Mrs Brisby always reminds me of my grandma too.
An Amercian Tale and The Land Before Time, were very successful for Don Buth’s studio, and possibly gave Disney the kick up the butt they needed to do better in terms of making a successful film. Which they did with The Little Mermaid.
It wouldn’t be until Don Bluth teamed up with Fox to make Anastasia that he would have a successful movie again. And you have to admit, it’s FAB! The music is brilliant, the animation is so realistic, its colourful, it’s an adventure, and you want to believe she is alive and found her grandmother in real life!
But Don Bluth’s failures were loved by me, my sister and my mum. We have them all on DVD now and still love to watch them. Thumbelina, All Dogs Go To Heaven, A Troll in Central Park and The Pebble and The Penguin are all enjoyable films, with music, and fairytale, romance, friendships and lots of colourful animation.
It’s a shame Don Bluth wasn’t able to take advantage in the naughties, when Disney wasn’t making successful movies, and have a come back with another great classic animated feature film. Maybe like Disney, he wasn’t prepared to move with the times and make animated films in CGI. Which is surprising because he had a small success with the computer game “Dragon’s Lair” which i played as a kid too.
There was a small window of opportunity in the 80’s when Don Bluth made money, and had box office success, scaring his previous employer. And during a time when Disney was making hit after hit in the 90’s, he managed to bring us a real Princess who was lost and wanted to find her family, and who would be a late accomplishment for Bluth.
in terms of hand-drawn animation, there isn’t anyone else who became a competitor for Disney. It would be a new form of animation that would take Disney’s box office thrown for a while, and put hand-drawn animation, and Don Bluth out of business: Pixar.
Did you ever watch any of Don Bluth’s films? Did you know he originally started at Disney? Which of his films were your favourite?