Disney has maintained its title for decades as an animation powerhouse with dozens of widely accredited films to back up the claim. Oftentimes, however, other animation studios are misrepresented as Disney movies, whether that be because of the animation style, voice actors, or representation of a Disney-style princess. But just because it may look like, sound like, and feel like a Disney movie, doesn’t necessarily make it so.
Be it a commonly known studio such as DreamWorks Animation or something a bit more obscure like Laika Pandemonium Films, these studios deserve all the credit where credit is due for the incredible and iconic films that they have been producing for the last few decades. And for that to happen, the distinction needs to be made.
10 The Land Before Time (1988)
In conjunction with Amblin Entertainment and Sullivan Bluth Studios Ireland, Universal Pictures released The Land Before Time right as animation was gaining the traction it needed to thrive. The Land Before Time was not only a box office success at the time of its release but was part of Steven Spielberg’s deciding factor to create Amblimation, his animation studio that in time dissipated and went on to become a part of DreamWorks Animation Studios just eight years later.
The Land Before Time was enough of a hit to spark this domino effect and change the course of animation history and also produced enough interest in the film’s style and heavy themes to provoke the creation of 13 non-theatrically released sequels as well as a television show and a video game .
9 Thumbelina (1994)
With music composed by Barry Manilow, the only true confusion between this and a classic Disney movie is the animation style. Though in watching the film a few familiar Disney voices may shine through such as Jodi Benson, John Hurt, and the legendary Gilbert Gottfried, the film does not share too many stylistic features with the standard Disney animated movie. However, it often falls into the category of presumed Disney features based solely on its appearance and content.
Like Anastasia, the 1994 retelling of the story of Thumbelina was added to Disney + in recent years, again following Disney’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox and Warner Bros., the studio that the film was originally released under after its creative team denied Disney’s offer to distribute the movie in 1993 (per DonBluth.com).
8 Shrek (2001)
Though they do take a good amount of time to properly discuss and parody the shared fairytales of many classic Disney movies, DreamWorks Animation’s Shrek is not only a hallmark of classic (and cult classic) non-Disney animation but is considered by many to be one of the pioneers of modern animated movies.
With a variety of jokes for all ages and a soundtrack that’s been adapted into memes of every format, Shrek is what put DreamWorks on the map as a rival to Disney Animation back in 2001. And with three feature sequels, a spinoff Puss in Boots film with a successful Netflix show and a sequel on the way, it seems safe to say that Shrek tops the charts for many in terms of impactful animated franchises.
7 Coraline (2009)
Coraline is often seen as a sister film to The Nightmare Before Christmas, both of which fall into the Tim Burton stop motion cinematic universe. However, in contrast to its predecessor, which was released under Walt Disney’s Touchstone Pictures and later reassigned to the official Disney label, Coraline was produced with Laika and released through Focus Features, neither studio with any association with Disney.
The film is an adaptation of the Neil Gaiman novel by the same name and is often referred to as one of the first true horror movies targeted at children. It was Laika’s first feature film and won several awards for its production quality, music, and character design.
6 Ice Age (2002)
Ice Age and its first four feature sequels were all produced and released by Blue Sky Studios. Having been the studio’s first movie and official franchise, Ice Age was yet another major development in the evolution of children’s animation and CGI films back in the early 2000s.
Blue Sky was eventually acquired by The Walt Disney Company in 2019 along with the rest of 20th Century Fox and was recently shut down for good in 2021. Disney has since adopted a couple of the studio’s franchises, making efforts to continue the stories of the Ice Age characters, but this time with a Disney twist.
5 The Swan Princess (1994)
Created by Nest Entertainment and Rich Animation Studios and distributed under New Line Cinema, The Swan Princess also represents a very familiar style of classic hand-drawn, 2-D animation. This movie is a musical fantasy story based on the plot of the classic Swan Lake ballet.
Though it is often considered to have been a box office bomb, many fans and critics attribute this to having been released in theaters competing against a re-release of The Lion King. Ultimately, the film was nominated for a Golden Globe, thrived once released on home video, and launched a series of sequels, bringing the franchise to a total of 10 cult classic animated films.
4 The Road to El Dorado (2000)
The Road to El Dorado, initially having been written for a more PG-13 audience and later dialed back to fit more in line with DreamWorks’s target demographic, gained a massive cult following since its initial less-than-stellar release over two decades ago. The third animated film in DreamWorks’s lineup, the film featured an instrumental score composed by Hans Zimmer and narration written and sung by Elton John in an animation style similar to that of Disney movies of the same era.
Though box office numbers and original Rotten Tomatoes scores reviewed this film as a disappointment, dozens of critics, actors, and movies buffs have gone on the record in the last few years as stating that they felt The Road to El Dorado aged well and should have done better numbers from the get-go.
3 Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
Despite Marvel currently being under the ownership of Walt Disney Studios, this recent addition to the Spider-Man franchise stands alone as a Sony Pictures Imageworks creation.
Widely celebrated as one of the greatest additions to superhero cinema of all time and a huge advancement in the world of animation, the movie won a Golden Globe, a Critic’s Choice Award, and became only the 6th non-Disney film to win an Academy Award in the category of Best Animated Feature since the title was first awarded to Shrek in 2001. Into the Spider-Verse currently has two sequels in the works, set to premiere in 2023 and 2024.
2 The Prince of Egypt (1998)
Based on the biblical story of Passover, The Prince of Egypt is another DreamWorks classic that stars Val Kilmer as the voice of Moses and Jeff Goldblum as Aaron. Though many associate DreamWorks Animation with the 3-D CGI films they’ve been producing since the same year, one should be sure not to discredit the studio with some of their oldest and most classically animated masterpieces. Hans Zimmer’s musical direction in this film definitely equates to that of a Disney musical, so it’s no wonder it often gets confused for one of their works.
The Prince of Egypt was just the second animated project of then-recently founded DreamWorks Pictures. The film was, at the time, the most successful non-Disney animated film, taking home the first of DreamWorks’s Academy Awards and grossing incredibly well at the box office.
1 Anastasia (1997)
One of the most commonly misplaced animated movies, Anastasia shares many qualities with the Disney classics, from its score to its animation style to its spunky titular protagonist. This historical musical film, released by Fox Animation in 1997, was met with above average reviews by both critics and audiences, and has since been developed into a Broadway musical.
Although it has been added to the Disney + streaming service in recent months, there was no Disney label associated with the film anywhere within its production or release, disqualifying Anastasia from a spot on the ever growing list of Disney princesses, but maintaining the film’s place in people’s hearts.
Next: 10 Best Animated DreamWorks Spin-Off TV Shows, According To IMDb
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