When it comes to animated movie musicals, the first studio which will most likely come to mind is Disney. In its earlier days, the company set the standards for future animated films, and furthermore solidified the bond between animation and musicals as part of their trademark.
Other studios swiftly followed the trend, yet most of their features have been either overlooked or forgotten due to the immensity of their competition.
For this list, we take a look at some of the great non-Disney animated movie musicals which have caused a lasting impressions in the few –or many- who have seen them.
SWDb picks: Great Non-Disney Animated Movie Musicals
Studios involved: Don Bluth, 20th Century Fox, and Warner Bros.
Based on the homonymous tale by Hans Christian Andersen, the film is a musical version of the story which features music by Barry Manilow, Bruce Sussman and Jack Feldman, as well as the voice talents of Jodi Benson, Tony Jay, Charo, amongst others. The film follows the tale of Thumbelina, a particularly tiny girl born from a flower, who struggles to find her place in the world due to her short stature until she meets and falls in love with a fairy prince.
Although the film received mostly negative reviews from the critics, it has been a success between fans of animated movie musicals, mostly due to the beautiful animation and some of the songs. However, the film won a Razzie Award for Worst Original Song due to Marry the Mole!
Cats don’t dance (1997)
Studios involved: David Kirschner Productions, Turner Feature Animation, and Warner Bros.
With a combination of music and lyrics penned by Randy Newman, and choreographies supervised by Gene Kelly himself, it’s surprising that this odd little feature flopped at the box-office. The film is an animated version of a backstage musical, and tells the story of a typically naïve young dreamer who decides to move into the big city to fulfill his dreams of grandeur. Yet, he soon discovers it’s not all he expected.
The movie shows anthropomorphic animals living and working alongside humans in the show business, while the narrative deals with dark subjects such as death and social injustices, although it remains decidedly optimistic. Despite a relatively simplistic style of animation, the jazzy music was refreshingly daring for its time.
All dogs go to Heaven (1989)
Studios involved: Goldcrest Films International, Sullivan Bluth Studios, and MGM.
Darker than most of the other films in this list, All dogs go to Heaven contains songs created by Charles Strouse and T.J. Kuenster. The movie presents very gloomy subjects, such as murder, vengeance and kidnapping, as it tells the story of a dog who returns from death to take revenge upon those who caused his demise. Nonetheless, the film balances it with a heartwarming story about friendship and loyalty.
Unfortunately, the film was released at the same time as Disney’s The Little Mermaid, and soon received mixed reviews derived from the comparison between the two. However, the beautiful animation and delightful songs are worthy of praise.
This was also child actress Judith Barsi’s last film, as she was murdered by her father before the movie was released. The song Love Survives was then dedicated to her.
Studios involved: The Big Gun Project, Little Wolf Entertainment, and 20th Century Fox.
Widely regarded as one of the best animated films of the 90s, Anastasia tells the story of the mythical Russian princess who survived the slaying of the entire Romanov family, although it takes more than a few historical liberties in order to create a superb fairy tale. The movie contains memorable music and lyrics composed by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, orchestration by David Newman, and the voice talents of Angela Langsbury, Jim Cummings, Liz Callaway and Bernadette Peters. It also features some of the most strikingly naturalistic animation seen at the time.
The film received multiple nominations for its music, including a nod by the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes, yet lost to Titanic and Full Monty. Currently, and after some persistence from the fans, a stage version of the animated musical is in the works.
The Prince of Egypt (1998)
Studios involved: Dreamworks Animation.
Based on the biblical figure of Moses, and loosely following his adventures, the film is an animated version of the mythical character’s journey which cleverly chooses to focus on the brotherly relationship between Rameses and Moses. Featuring incredibly advanced styles of animation, as well as an all-stars cast –which includes musical veterans Steve Martin and Martin Short-, The Prince of Egypt is considered one of the best animated movie musicals ever created, and has gained a following in recent years.
The score and songs created by Stephen Schwartz and Hans Zimmer received nods from the Academy Awards, the Golden Globes, and other prestigious ceremonies, and even obtained the Academy Award for Best Music: Original Song, due to the exquisite tune of When you believe.
Ferngully (1992), Quest for Camelot (1998), An American Tail (1986), South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999).
Which of these animated movie musicals have you seen and loved? What’s your favorite?