The Animated Movie Guide

The Animated Movie Guide

The Animated Movie Guide

The Animated Movie Guide


Going beyond the box-office hits of Disney and Dreamworks, this guide to every animated movie ever released in the United States covers more than 300 films over the course of nearly 80 years of film history. Well-known films such as Finding Nemo and Shrek are profiled and hundreds of other films, many of them rarely discussed, are analyzed, compared, and catalogued. The origin of the genre and what it takes to make a great animated feature are discussed, and the influence of Japanese animation, computer graphics, and stop-motion puppet techniques are brought into perspective. Every film analysis includes reviews, four-star ratings, background information, plot synopses, accurate running times, consumer tips, and MPAA ratings. Brief guides to made-for-TV movies, direct-to-video releases, foreign films that were never theatrically released in the U.S., and live-action films with significant animation round out the volume.


In November 2004, an unusual event in the history of motion pictures occurred. Three of the top five films of the week, in box-office gross, we re animated feature films. The Incredibles, The Polar Express, and The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie were huge blockbuster hits—all at the same time, for three different studios. I love the fact that each film used a different technique (CGI, motion capture, and cel, respectively) and that the subject matter of each (a superhero adventure, a Christmas fairy tale, and a zany cartoon comedy) was just as diverse. Add to it that the biggest moneymaking movie of 2004, Shrek 2, was also an animated film, and there can only be one conclusion—the animated feature has come of age.

Narrative fiction animated features have been around since 1926, but the medium’s growth in quantity and quality came about only in the last 20 years. Before that, the animated feature was primarily the domain of the Walt Disney Company. Competition from the 1930s through the 1980s followed Disney’s superior lead, most without that studio’s ambition, style, or heart. Many competing studios simply churned out second-rate childre n’s films, further eroding the development of the medium, and allowing Disney to further dominate the landscape.

Serious competition began to emerge in the late 1980s as a younger generation of animators broke Disney’s mold (moldy in more ways than one), expanding the storytelling possibilities, and using the medium in bold new ways by reinventing the tools and techniques themselves.

In 1994, I was working for Nickelodeon Movies developing new ideas for animated features. The Lion King had just become the biggest hit in history, and every studio was jumping onto the cartoon feature bandwagon. A question was raised about the grosses for previous animated features and, being the historian I am, I decided to dive into the research.

To my surprise I learned there was very little published on the history of animated features. There were book-length filmographies devoted to animated television series (Hal Erickson’s is the best) and animated television specials (George Wollery’s is highly recommended), much about Disney features (Leonard Maltin’s The Disney Films is vital), and theatrical cartoon shorts (see Maltin’s Of Mice & Magic).

The few tomes that covered animated features did not do it as thoroughly as I would have liked. Bruno Edera’s 1976 book (Full Length Animated Feature Films) was woefully out of date, incomplete, and filled with problems. Just how many animated features were made? Who made them? Which ones were worth seeing? I needed to know, and decided I had to compile the information myself.

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