Movies You Never Realized Disney Animator Don Bluth Worked On

ROCK-A-DOODLE, Goldie, Chanticleer (center, voice: Glen Campbell), Edmond (bottom), producer/director Don Bluth, Peepers (top), Patou (voice: Phil Harris), Snipes (voice: Eddie Deezen), 1991
Samuel Goldwyn Films/Everett Collection

Animator, director, production designer, and animation instructor Don Bluth turns 86 years old today. Born on September 13, he knew he wanted to be an animator from a very young age after watching Disney films and copying Disney comic books. His dream came true when he actually began working for Walt Disney Productions in 1955 as an assistant to John Lounsbery for Sleeping Beauty (1959). While he worked on and off for the Disney company, he also started his own animation studio and worked for Fox Animation Studios.

THE SECRET OF NIMH, producer/director Don Bluth going over character design of Mrs. Brisby, 1982

United Artists/Everett Collection

While many know that he worked on Disney films such as Robin Hood, The Rescuers, and Anastasia, you may be surprised about some of the other films he has been attached to. In honor of his special day, let’s celebrate some of his incredible achievements.

‘Xanadu’ (1980)

Xanadu is a musical fantasy film starring the late Olivia Newton-John. The movie centers around struggling artist Sonny Malone (Michael Beck) who meets a girl who may be his muse and uncovers the secrets to finding a happy life. At one point, there is an animation sequence created by none other than Don Bluth. His studio was given twelve weeks to complete the animation and Bluth mainly worked on it himself. While it is only two minutes and seven seconds long, it contains three thousand images. Some believe that the animation is one of the best parts of the film while others think it should have been scrapped but either way, it sure is some great work by Bluth and his team.

‘All Dogs Go to Heaven’ (1989)

I’ll be honest, this movie wrecked me as a kid. This is also probably Bluth’s darkest children’s movie which even includes a demonic nightmare. Filled with moral lessons about kindness and friendship, it is perhaps one of Bluth’s most popular films. The movie tells the story of Charlie B. Barkin (voiced by Burt Reynolds) who is murdered by his former friend Carface Carruthers (voiced by Vic Tayback). He goes to Heaven but gets a chance to come back to Earth to get his revenge. Instead, he befriends an orphan girl who can talk to animals and learns a lot of lessons that, spoiler alert, send him back up the Heaven.

‘Sabrina the Teenage Witch’ (1970-1974)

The animated series, based on Archie Comics’ Sabrina the Teenage Witch, was a spin-off of The Archie Comedy Hour. Reportedly writers at Archie Comics were surprised that Filmation wanted to create a show based solely around Sabrina because she had long been a minor character in Riverdale. Of course, it ended up being a success which spawned the 1990s series starring Melissa Joan Hart among other versions.

The Secret of NIMH‘ (1982)

This was a big one for Bluth and his studio. He was reportedly inspired by Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and many call the animations in this film some of his best featuring amazing detail. The film follows a recently widowed field mouse named Mrs. Brisby who wants to save her family including her youngest son, who is very ill. She enlists the help of rats who have heightened intelligence. The movie spawned a sequel and reportedly a new animated series is in the works.

The Land Before Time‘ (1988)

Another film that created a franchise featuring beloved dinosaurs Littlefoot, Cera, Ducky, Petrie, and Spike, Bluth worked with Steven Spielberg and George Lucas on this one. After losing his mother, Littlefoot teams up with other orphans to go on a journey to find paradise. Bluth’s animation is stunning and like many of his films, it shares stories of morality, kindness, and overcoming loss and hardship.

Bonus: Dragon’s Lair video games

It wasn’t just movies and television shows that Bluth worked on. He was a major part of the creation of the video game called Dragon’s Lair. The game follows the classic story of a knight attempting to rescue a princess from an evil dragon. A Dragon’s Lair movie is in the works starring Ryan Reynolds and directed by Bluth.

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