The 6 Best (Non-Disney) '80s and '90s Animated Films

Can I just say how amazing of a childhood those of us who grew up in the ‘80s and ‘90s had? We somehow managed to imbibe media and still spend a decent amount of time outdoors. How did this happen? Well, because movies used to teach us shit.

So as much as I want to jump right into my childhood nostalgia, I need to go ahead and start with a disclaimer here. Like right away, even before saying hello to you guys, because it’s that important.

I haven’t seen:

  • “The Iron Giant” (I KNOW)
  • “Titan A.E.”
  • “The Prince of Egypt”
  • Some of the later Don Bluth films (“Thumbelina,” “A Troll in Central Park,” “The Pebble and the Penguin,” etc.)
  • Any Studio Ghibli films (I know, how I even qualify to write this?)

I am also not a fan of “The Land Before Time” series. At all. Ducky is adorable, but that is about as far as it goes. And I can’t explain why, either, because I like dinosaurs in general. But maybe I don’t like them as much as I think I do, because I never could get into the show “Dinosaurs” either – even with the cheeky baby dinosaur. However, “Jurassic Park” is excellent if only for the illustrious Jeff Goldblum and the soon-to-be-starring Chris Pratt (whom I am bandwagonly loving now).

If it makes you feel better, I am hanging my head in shame even though it feels good to get that off my chest. If you leave now, I understand. No hard feelings.

Now that that’s out of the way, can I just say how amazing of a childhood those of us who grew up in the ‘80s and ‘90s had? We somehow managed to imbibe media and still spend a decent amount of time outdoors. How did this happen? Well, because movies used to teach us stuff.

Here are some great examples:

Anastasia (1997)

I’ll admit that this movie is so historically inaccurate it isn’t even funny — especially now, considering in 2009 DNA evidence from newfound remains proved that, sadly, the real Anastasia Romanov and her brother Alexei did actually die the same night as their parents and siblings. But as a kid I didn’t care because of Bartok the bat and the awesome songs. Today I still don’t care, but on top of that, Dimitri’s hotness still holds up even if John Cusack’s does not. Also, I appreciate Christopher Lloyd’s chameleon-esque voice so much more now that he isn’t in a lot of stuff.

But really, Anastasia is as feisty as they come, princess or not. She would’ve gotten her happy ending regardless of her royal lineage, because she wasn’t afraid to go out and get it herself.

Case in point? This flawless song:

You can’t get much more “I’m totally showing my daughter this movie” than that.

It should also be mentioned that I schooled the hell out of a seventh-grade frenemy of mine who swore up and down that Anastasia was a Disney movie. I actually had to bring the VHS in to show her the box corners were squared off/weaponized and not rounded. Disney has a monopoly on those rounded-corner plastic VHS boxes, bitch, don’t even try me.

The Chipmunk Adventure (1987)

Story time: One Christmas, my BFF Casey and I got each other the VHS of this movie. We were in high school. And it was like 1999. WHOOPS. At least we were old enough not to gouge our eyes out with the JAGGED, NON-DISNEY CORNERS.

Anyway, this is another girl-power movie for me because the Chipettes were BOSS.

Especially Brittany – she didn’t take any crap from anyone.

I used to try to reproduce the following scene with my brother, but it didn’t work because we were four siblings short and I didn’t have that many friends who were as willing as I to learn an entire dance in a single afternoon. Or craft a fake hot-air balloon out of cardboard and/or feelings.

Also, this song? Still can’t listen to it without bawling for six days straight and/or calling my mom and telling her how much I love her. Powerful, y’all.

I also love “Get Lucky,” but I will refrain from posting another video from this movie. I haven’t seen the newer Chipmunk movies because I just can’t stomach Justin Long voicing Alvin. I don’t hate Justin Long, but that just doesn’t work for me for some reason.

All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989)

I love this movie for two reasons: Because it takes place in my hometown (New Orleans) and it stars an adorable Dachshund sidekick named Itchy Itchiford. Also, the songs, but that goes without saying at this point if you have read this from the beginning.

This movie rips at my heart even more than the mom song from “A Chipmunk Adventure” because the little girl who voiced the protagonist Anne-Marie died when she was only 10. It’s a really awful and sad story, so click at your own risk. She also voiced the aforementioned Ducky in “The Land Before Time.” “All Dogs Go to Heaven” was actually Judith’s last movie role before her death, and the film is dedicated to her. I’ve always felt that given the sweet message of the movie, that it was an eerily fitting final one. RIP Judith.

FernGully: The Last Rainforest (1992)

What do you get when you try to teach a lesson about conserving the environment by combining a hot Walkman-toting blonde dude, a bat voiced by Robin Williams (also, RIP), a ton of fairies, a weird lizard voiced by Tone Lōc, and A CLOUD OF TOXIC SMOKE VOICED BY TIM MOTHEREFFING CURRY?

A masterpiece, that’s what.

I really don’t think I need to go past that, so here’s a clip that gave me unrealistic expectations about love. Thanks, FernGully.

Also, it’s in Norwegian. Sorry.

The Brave Little Toaster (1987)

Watching this movie was the first time I remember having a crush on an inanimate object. But it wasn't the titular courageous appliance or even the pimp radio voiced by Jon Lovitz, whom I think was cool at the time? No, it was the damn lamp. The nerdy-ass lamp. The only thing worse would've been the blanket.

Also, this movie makes me understand why dogs and cats are scared of loud appliances. I think I had more nightmares about this scene than Chucky and Freddy Kreuger combined.

NOTE: I just looked this movie up on IMDb and learned that the air conditioner was voiced by Phil Hartman. That makes it even creepier and actually really sad.

An American Tail (1986)

In this movie, a little mouse named Fievel Mousekewitz (cutest name ever) loses his family and goes on an epic adventure to find them. He makes friends with the unlikeliest of allies, including a pigeon and a freaking cat. There are also great songs, but the best part is that IT IS A METAPHOR FOR WORLD WAR II – or, at the very least, Nazi Germany.

This movie doesn't even make a couple for-the-adult jokes. Nope. It goes straight for the jugular. But it still manages to remain in the realm of child entertainment, which is insane. Because movies like "An American Tail" exist, I feel like animated movies these days don't even try to send a message anymore.

Also, there are no cats in America and the streets are filled with che-ese:

Josh and I still sing this all the time. My cat gives us looks.

I realize half this list comprises Don Bluth movies, but ‘80s and ‘90s animation owes everything to Don Bluth. I realize that’s an exaggeration but I’M NOT SORRY. Don Bluth made darker subjects easier for kids to imbibe, and I love him and everyone involved in his movies for that alone.

Honorable mentions go to the following, just because I won’t be able to deal with people commenting with these titles and not having at least acknowledged how great they are:

  • The Secret of NIMH (which probably deserves a spot on this list, but I haven’t seen it in so long I’ve forgotten most of the plot)
  • Once Upon a Forest
  • Rock-A-Doodle
  • Tiny Toons: How I Spent My Vacation
  • The Jetsons Meet the Flintstones
  • Space Jam
  • South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut (shocker: I didn’t get the double entendre until last year)
  • Bebe’s Kids*

*Just kidding. This movie is terrible and I hate that I still say, “Nah, man, we callin’ you Opie” to this day.

What did I leave out, xoJane? I know you want to say it! SAY IT!