Our 20 Favorite Non-Disney/Pixar Animated Films

In the past, Rambling Ever On has ranked various film series, debated the top ten franchises of all time, and more recently, ranked every Pixar movie. Animation is an important aspect of filmmaking, and so the idea was presented to discuss our favorite animated movies. However, seeing as how recently we’ve ranked Pixar, we decided this article should be 20 of our favorite Non-Disney/Pixar animated movies. We love those studios; it just became apparent rather rapidly that a “20 Favorite Animated Movies” article would be dominated by a lot of those films. We believe other animation studios have produced some incredible, high-quality work, so today we hope to shed some light on some familiar and unfamiliar non-Disney/Pixar films. The three of us each submitted our favorites and a master list of over 50 movies was compiled. The movies were given a point value based on how high they appeared on our respective lists as well as whether or not more than one of us included it. Without further ado, here are our 20 favorite non-Disney/Pixar Animated films.

– Aidan Lytle, Caleb Boivin, and Caleb Creech


Anastasia

(One Top 10 Vote)

In what is sadly the only Don Bluth animated feature to make this list, Anastasia is undoubtedly the best to come from this studio. Anastasia was so well received that the character has been confused many times as a Disney princess (and I guess she is now with the Disney buyouts?), which goes to show how impressive this film is. A compelling story loosely adapted from history with a charming ensemble and a heartbreaking story cements this film in a spot on our ranking, and one of my personal favorites. (Caleb Boivin)


Grave of the Fireflies

(One Top 10 Vote)

“Why do fireflies have to die so soon?” This line continues to haunt viewers who have traversed through the emotional heartbreak that is Studio Ghibli’s Grave of the Fireflies. Based on a short story by the same name, Grave of the Fireflies is a tragic tale of the loss of innocence. Set in World War II Japan, this film is not a kids’ movie. It is a brutal telling of the impact that war has on civilian children. Its animation style heavily relies on beautiful hand-painted scenery, and it is a visual triumph. Although this is not the typical Studio Ghibli movie filled with wonder and fantastical creativity, Grave of the Fireflies is a powerful story of love and the horrors of war. (Aidan Lytle)


Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit

(One Top 10 Vote)

The world of animation covers a broad perspective regarding its umbrella. Within it lies the glorious style of claymation and stop-motion animation, two of my favorite techniques because of how much time and care is spent on it. When looking for the best in that field, look no further than Aardman Studios, the ones responsible for the ingenious Wallace and Gromit series. Their first full-length feature, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, brings with it all of the charm, humor, and pleasant environments from the original shorts into an action-packed adventure that has become a Halloween staple. (Caleb Boivin)


Monster House

(One Top 10 Vote)

Monster House is a film that rests in both the animation genre and the horror genre, a combination rarely seen, let alone executed well. The viewer would never know the difficulty of such a task, given that Monster House delivers this tone effortlessly through its clever story.

The feelings of unease and suspense the film stirs within the viewer are delivered well with its themes of self-image and confronting resentment. The source of fear is vulnerability, and the resolution of the latter leads to the absence of the former. It is a mature, thoughtful, and original story, three qualities one seldom sees in tandem in the animated realm today. (Caleb Creech)


Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

(One Top 10 Vote)

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs takes the titular concept from its source material and expands on it, furnishing the story with a main character and a proper plot. Flint Lockwood is a charming underdog with brilliant ideas and big dreams. His journey towards success is a familiar one, but this film goes the extra mile by adding legitimate emotional depth to the story.

The heart of this film is Flint’s relationship with his father. Both characters are flawed, allowing the viewer to sympathize and champion for both of them. Once the film has ended and the day has been saved, the true success realized in the family’s reconciliation is what gives this film its impact. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs bursts with creativity, wit, and an abundance of heart that must be seen to be properly appreciated. (Caleb Creech)


TMNT

(One Top 10 Vote, One Top 15 Vote)

TMNT distills the strengths of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle mythos into a well-paced, enjoyable story about brotherhood. The dynamic between Leonardo and Raphael is the best put to film, as their conflicts and resolution demonstrate to the viewer the qualities of true leadership and true obedience.

Additionally, the Turtles’ ability to work together is lauded further in light of the film’s antagonist and the inability of that group to function as one. This excellent story rests in an animated world with a unique and confident art style that separates this film from its contemporaries. Simply put, TMNT rocks out loud. (Caleb Creech)


Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

(One Top 5 Vote)

Animated comic book movies have always struggled to gain traction with audiences and seem to fall flat in their storytelling. However, Batman has had the best treatment with many great animated films from his universe. By far, the best has to be Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, as it deals with the complex themes of grief and loss and gives Batman a nemesis almost equal to himself. This is also among the finest work that Kevin Conroy has done as the Caped Crusader with some heartbreaking scenes that caught me by surprise on my first watch. Overall, I’d say it’s enjoyable for both comic book and non-comic book fans. (Caleb Boivin)


Spirited Away

(One Top 5 Vote)

If I had to give out a recommendation for the most gorgeous looking animation, I’d send them right over to the world of Studio Ghibli. All of their movies capture pure mysticism and wonder, fully immersing you into the world of creative visionary Hayao Miyazaki. Spirited Away follows this same trend, with arguably the most creative story to come from this studio. Ghibli films are comparable to fables, stories about real-world problems with fanciful details; and what better way to learn the lessons of life than in the beautiful world of Studio Ghibli. (Caleb Boivin)


How To Train Your Dragon

(One Top 5 Vote)

How to Train Your Dragon is a charming tale of friendship. The most important factor that separates this movie from a lot of other animated projects is its music. John Powell delivered one of the greatest animated soundtracks ever. The scenes in the movie that are the most gripping are when Hiccup and Toothless peacefully soar through the sky. The astounding visuals of these scenes combined with this incredible soundtrack can only be described as movie magic. (Aidan Lytle)


Megamind

(One Top 5 Vote)

Megamind is a film full of personality, wit, and clever commentary regarding the superhero/supervillain mythos. Megamind is a villain who, upon conquering his rival, finds his life has no purpose or direction. This leads him through a journey of self-discovery that has the viewer rooting for his success.

Megamind’s story is made richer given its release in the early years of the superhero movie craze. Its message regarding what makes a person a true villain, seen in Hal, was years ahead of its time. Additionally, the movie’s performances, animation, and pacing are all excellent, resulting in a highly enjoyable, brilliant take on the superhero. (Caleb Creech)


Rango

(Two Top 10 Votes)

In what is probably the most absurd movie on this list, Rango is an odd and charming western. Its humor is incredibly off the wall, yet I find myself laughing throughout most of the film. Johnny Depp plays a chameleon who has lived his caged life as an actor, all until he is separated from his owners. He stumbles upon a town where he fools everyone into thinking he is a hero. Though a bit ridiculous, Rango is an entertaining tale that’s a fun watch. (Aidan Lytle)


Fantastic Mr. Fox

(One Top 5 Vote, One Top 15 Vote)

Back in the realm of stop motion, this masterpiece came from (at the time) an amateur director in animation, Wes Anderson. Anderson tasked himself with recreating the wonderfully whimsical world of Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox, and he absolutely nailed it. From the different styles of animation used to the soundtrack to the wonderful voice cast, everyone gave it their all here to make you feel like you were a stowaway in Mr. Fox’s fantastical world. It was really a treat getting to experience this new take on Anderson’s already established style and format as well, bringing a new spin on that cozy feeling one of his films will give you. (Caleb Boivin)



Flushed Away

(One Top 5 Vote, One Top 15 Vote)

Flushed Away is one of the precious few films fashioned from the claymation/stop-motion realm. Its main character, Roddy, goes on a charming and harrowing fish-out-of-water adventure through the sewers of Kensington. This story of a charming everyman uncovering and combatting the criminal underbelly of England is told to great effect here (Of course, this formula would be truly realized and perfected in Pixar’s classic Cars 2 some five years later).

Flushed Away’s excellence is a result of its delightful cast, unique animation style, and efficient pacing. Its characters are endearing, its humor is brilliant, and most of all it leaves the viewer wanting more stories from its world. This is one of the hidden gems from DreamWorks’ work and is worth seeking out. (Caleb Creech)


Coraline

(Two Top 10 Votes)

I will proudly say that Coraline is one of the few animated movies that will still give me the creeps. Used to cause many nightmares for me as a kid, and nowadays, I still can’t help but feel creeped out. This feeling throughout is partially what makes this movie so great, any film that can evoke a proper sense of fear should be well rewarded. Beyond that, the immense creativity that oozes from the stop-motion and art style to the story, giving striking comparisons to something from the Brothers Grimm, there is a lot to unpack that makes this film great for our list. (Caleb Boivin)


The Prince of Egypt

(One Top 5 Vote, One Top 10 Vote)

The Prince of Egypt tells the story of Moses found in the book of Exodus. It has one of the most star-studded voice casts of any animated movie I’ve seen, and Hans Zimmer provides a masterful soundtrack. Although the movie is over 25 years old, the animation is still spectacular.

The most jaw-dropping moments of this film are the various miracles. When Moses encounters the Burning Bush, the audience immediately understands its importance. The scene is not “epic” in terms of its physical scale, but it’s nonetheless breathtaking. The scene depicting the plagues, accompanied by incredible music, is a dark showing of what was a very dark event. And finally, at the climax of the movie, the parting of the Red Sea is astounding. Each of these moments is dealt with respectfully and in a way that inspires awe in the viewer. Dreamworks has been a powerhouse in the animation world since its inception in the mid-90s, and a lot of their success can be attributed to how spectacular The Prince of Egypt is, it only being their second film. (Aidan Lytle)


animated

The Lego Movie

(One Top 5 Vote, One Top 10 Vote)

The Lego Movie is one of the most fun movie experiences one could have. The voice cast is top-notch across the board; some shoutouts are Chris Pratt as the perfect innocent hero Emmet, Will Arnett as the funniest Batman we’ve gotten, and Morgan Freeman as the perfect mentor. (Not to mention Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Nick Offerman, Jonah Hill, Liam Neeson, Charlie Day, Jake Johnson, and many more)

The Lego Movie further deepens an already passionate love for Lego found within my childhood (Not just my childhood, I may have spent over $100 on Legos the week this article was published…) The animation is a perfect blend of computer-generated imagery and stop motion graphics of real physical Lego bricks. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are geniuses. They crafted a large universe with incredible detail and attention and filled it with great characters. From beginning to end The Lego Movie is absolutely hilarious. 

“Emmet, you didn’t let me finish earlier, because I died” will always be my favorite quote. (Aidan Lytle)


The Adventures of Tintin

(One First Place Vote, One Top 10 Vote, One Top 15 Vote)

The Adventures of Tintin represents the perfect marriage of an author’s creation and a filmmaker’s talent. Steven Spielberg brings Hergé’s vibrant world and character of Tintin to life with precision and mastery.

The incredible pulp of the illustrated novels permeates every cell of this film. The viewer cannot help feeling the magic of adventure in Tintin’s search for the Unicorn. Perfect casting, stunning animation, and Peter Jackson’s technical triumphs elevate this film further still. One is hard-pressed to find an animated film as lively and captivating as The Adventures of Tintin. (Caleb Creech)


Kung Fu Panda 2

(Two Top 5 Votes)

Few Western animated films capture comedy and drama well within the same bottle, yet Kung Fu Panda 2 does so effortlessly. Po’s journey for peace is exciting, charming, and touching. The film’s pacing balances these elements perfectly and leads to an even and storied tone.

Shen makes for a memorable and vicious villain, a character whose pride has corrupted his very person. He stands as a cautionary tale for both Po and the viewer, representing the danger of neglected and unaddressed trauma. Po’s final scene with his father is incredibly moving, and most of all, human. This film offers all who watch it a chance to self-reflect, demonstrating a maturity not often found in this genre. (Caleb Creech)


animated

Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse

(Two Top 5 Votes, One Top 10 Vote)

Spiderman is one of the most presented characters in the superhero genre. There are currently 10 standalone Spiderman films, 3 other Marvel projects he appears in, and dozens of other TV shows. Even though his story has been told so often, Into the Spider-Verse provides a fresh and unique take on Spiderman. The voice cast is remarkable, the story is engaging, and its animation is unlike anything we’ve ever seen. The film is animated to look as if a comic book came to life, and every jump, kick, and web swing explodes from the screen with incredible vibrancy and color. It’s a unique origin story for Miles Morales and has quickly become a fan favorite of the Spiderman canon. (Aidan Lytle)


The Iron Giant

(Two First Place Votes, One Top 10 Vote)

Where do I even begin with this masterpiece? As I’m writing this, I’m currently sitting under my poster of The Iron Giant. I mean that should tell you how big of a fan I am of this film and how thrilled I am to be writing this.

The Iron Giant will stand the test of time as a clear picture for counting animation as cinema. The story touches on themes of growing up, child-like innocence, and warnings of war while also mixing in a gorgeous style of animation that is reminiscent of vintage Disney. However, its influences do not come from Disney alone, as the war-time cartoons and comic books of the 30s and 40s have a significant role in shaping this film. The Iron Giant was directed by Brad Bird, who is perhaps better known for The Incredibles films and Ratatouille. With a resumé like that, it’s hard not to justify The Iron Giant’s placement in our top spot. It is a film that, like other movies by Bird, is full of heart and themes of companionship and family that carry throughout the film, making it enjoyable for all ages. (Caleb Boivin)


Final Thoughts

Thanks for reading! We had a ton of fun rewatching, discussing, writing about, and arguing with each other over these movies. Anything you think we missed? Anything we had ranked too high? Please let us know in the comments!

Aidan Lytle
Latest posts by Aidan Lytle (see all)

Aidan Lytle

Aidan is currently a student at Welch College pursuing a degree in English. His interests include movies (primarily Lord of the Rings and anything Christopher Nolan), oil painting, NEEDTOBREATHE, Future of Forestry, and the Tennessee Titans.

2 thoughts on “Our 20 Favorite Non-Disney/Pixar Animated Films

  • January 12, 2024 at 9:31 am
    Permalink

    No “Transformers: The Movie”? Sad.

    Otherwise, great list. I would rank “Spirited Away” higher for sure, and “Flushed Away” probably wouldn’t make my list. 🙂

    Reply
  • January 12, 2024 at 12:32 pm
    Permalink

    Loved the article, guys! Very well researched (or remembered) and equally well written. I haven’t seen all of these, but maybe I can watch more. Thanks!

    Reply

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