Nostalgia Critic Real Thoughts On: Don Bluth’s Films

Everything that is BLUTH! An American Tail, Anastasia & Secret of Nihm.

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About Doug Walker

Creator of 5 Second Movies, Nostalgia Critic, Bum Reviews and more.

48 comments

  1. littlewillie610

    Along with several of the Disney films, I used to re-watch those early Don Bluth movies more than anything else. One of my earliest memories was seeing part of the Great Owl scene from The Secret of NIMH on television; I had no idea what was going on, but wanted to know more.

    As a kid, my favorite was The Land Before Time, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that was what sparked my interest in dinosaurs. The death of Littlefoot’s mother made a bigger impression on me than any of the well known tragic Disney scenes.

    Never saw Rock-a-Doodle, but I’m sure I wasn’t missing anything. Liked Pebble and the Penguin when I was kid, but it doesn’t hold up. I saw A Troll in Central Park once or twice, but I barely remembered anything about prior to watching the Nostalgia Critic review.

  2. I’m a huge Don Bluth fan!

  3. The Mysterious M

    After this, I’d love to see all the Stephen King miniseries (plus maybe Maximum Overdrive) in one “Real Thoughts” video

  4. The Mysterious M

    My only thoughts on “A Troll in Central Park”…

    What a waste of Cloris Leachman

  5. Bluthicals is my boy

  6. Satiricalifragilistic

    If you do that ’80s “getting the band back together” spoof…call it Bluth Brothers!

  7. Loved the Bluth movies. The ones I’ve seen anyway.

    Land before Time. Secret of NIMH. American Tail. Titan AE. Anastasia. All Dogs go to Heaven. Just good childhood.

  8. Nice video.
    You guys should consider doing these “Real Thoughts” videos with someone there to fact check and fill in any memory gaps you may have so if you forget something they can help right away. Or you could instead do a roundtable discussion with more of your friends and family.
    Just some ideas.

    • I agree. It would also help if they’d read the book NIMH was based on so they could better understand what about the film was so unique and maybe reevaluate their video about the planned remake since it seems more based on the book.

      They didn’t even talk about here about why Bluth cut ties with Spielberg -that being he was too controlling and thought the films should be PC regarding child psychology which prompted the Bluth quote about happy endings. If it weren’t for Spielberg (and Lucas) we’d have had a longer Land Before Time with more hardcore scenes in it.

      • NIMH remake is still “talking-animal live-action” movie so it still would be crap even if they do it closer to books then Bluth version, what is great work even as stand alone product.

  9. Without knowing back in the day, but I was a huge Don Bluth fan ever since I first saw ‘The Land before Time’. That was my first and favorite of Bluth films, then after that, it was ‘An American Tale’ and lastly that I remember in my youth was Anastasia. I do like many of Bluth films even more so than Disney and do like that darker tone and character growth throughout the movies. Even now, I could watch most anything Bluth and watch in full without needing to find another movie to be more entertaining.

    Thinking about it now, I wished Bluth could make a new animated film to compete again against Disney or anyone else out there.

  10. Heart-Lightning

    Anastasia was probably the only movie outside of Disney that could be considered a Disney movie. Between Quest for Camelot and The Swan Princess, Anastasia was basically an Emmy award winning movie by comparison.

  11. I have serious nostalgia goggles for Rockadoodle, it caught me at the exact moment as a child for the coherency problems to not matter and for the emotion and WTF-ness to capture me. I love it, I won’t say its good, can’t really defend it, but I love it.

    Titan AE I think deserves better. I didn’t see it when I was younger, I saw it in college in one of our many (MANY) film clubs. (Art school, our only asset was that we had an arthouse theater attached to our school, and every night a different film club utilized it) Titan AE has developed a bit of a following in recent years, of people who are like “how did we not notice this movie when it came out?” And a lot of people are giving it a second look, or first look, and seeing much to appreciate.

    • I’m the same way. Yes it’s an awful movie, but being a 5 year old animal lover at the time of its release, I didn’t care one way or the other.

    • I definitely agree about Titan A.E. I LOVE that movie. The weird thing is that I was 11 when the film came out but I didn’t hear a thing about it. It wasn’t until college when I saw a clip of it on TV and a friend recommended it to me to check it out and i had so much fun watching it. It definitely deserves better.

  12. Ryan Dewitt-Todd

    Rob needs to brush on his history. Rock-a-Doodle was based on a comedy play written by Edmond Rostand called: “Chantecleer”, about a rooster who thought his crowing brought up the sun. Disney was orginally gonna do an adaptation of the film but never got around to doing so so Bluth decided to take on the task instead

    • Steve the Pocket

      Still doesn’t explain EVERYTHING ELSE about that movie. Even for one of Don Bluth’s projects, he handled it in a really weird way.

    • Problem is that they didn’t explain joke, and play it as important part of plot. In fact that someone clearly forget about what this animation is was reason why everything end as unintentional mindfuck.

  13. Ryan Dewitt-Todd

    Oh come on, THEY DIDN’T EVEN MENTION THUMBELINA!!!!!

    • Yeah, and I think that movie was trying the hardest to be Disney. I mean, they got Ariel as Thumbelina, King Triton as the king of the fairies, and Iago as the beetle. The Warner Bros. executives obviously wanted a piece of Disney’s vocal talents.

  14. Fox and the Hound was released in the 80’s, and it was really good!

  15. Steve the Pocket

    My memory of “Rock-a-Doodle” was of seeing a commercial for it on TV and thinking, “Wow, this looks like a really stupid movie.” And then never thinking anything more about it until the Nostalgia Critic brought it up. The next two I don’t even remember seeing commercials for.

  16. To be fair to Bluth, on Titan A.E. he was like the third director to be attached to that project. He was already having to deal with a mess when he was put on the project, and considering what we got I’m surprised it’s as good as the end product was.

    In my view, Titan A.E. may have some serious flaws, but it also has alot of things going for it. And it had SO much potential. Imagine a major animated sci-fi epic like this becoming a franchise….how this universe could have been developed further into something much more complex than what we got.

    • From what I read many people like that movie, and I also never consider it as bad one. Just.. something was missing in it and most people forget about it, and by mistake connect fact of studio closure with quality.

  17. I actually like Titan A.E.

  18. The only Don Bluth movies that I ever liked as a child were Land Before Time and Titan A.E. All his other stuff was too depressing for me. As a kid, I needed like one more happy scene before the happy ending. Life already sucks. Why watch a movie about it? I would probably see it differently now but that’s how I saw it as a kid. Like with Cinderella, she talks with the mice at least once before the ball, you know? Titan A.E. was one of the movies that I saw the most as a kid. I still think that it’s pretty good. It has an interesting look to it. The soundtrack is awesome. It holds a special place in my childhood.

  19. MidnightScreeningsman2014

    I would actually let them leave George Lucas out of the band of 80s animators since he wrote Strange Magic which came out this year and sucked real hard and it was a big flop. But I’ve heard Don Bluth plans to make cg animated films which I’d be interested in seeing. But did anybody think the sequel to all dogs go to heaven was good because I saw it a while ago back in 2012 and thought it was ok but does anyone think otherwise? Now to go off and look for the four Don Bluth films that were the gems in his career see if I can find them on tv.Piece !!!!!

  20. Anastasia actually is considered to be a good movie. People usually argue over whether it or The Secret of NIMH is the best Don Bluth movie. It’s the highest grossing of all the Don Bluth films, is usually people’s favorite of his films, and it actually did A LOT better financially and critically than the actual Disney movie that was always based off a historical princess (Pocahontas, which while I love it, it only did alright in both departments, sadly). You didn’t really explain why Anastasia wasn’t very passionate, it feels very passionate, even though it has it’s flaws. The romance is awful, Dimitri is a horrible character, Rasputin is unfortunately hard to take seriously, and Bartok is basically just a character who is only there to make one-liners. But the animation, the songs, the story, the main character, the emotions, and the musical score are CLEARLY showing they put their DANG hardest into what they were doing.

    Thumbelina, unfortunately didn’t get mentioned here. I think, in my honest opinion, that it’s actually (while flawed) a very well-done adaptation of the original fairy-tale. I mean it’s very faithful (the original was episodic and weird), runs off emotion like fairy-tales do, and did update the characters but not so much that they’re completely different like the insulting adaptation of The Snow Queen that Disney did with Frozen. Yes, it does have a lot of Disney things about it but it’s a fairy-tale. Of course it’ll have love at first sight, songs, a prince and princess, and all that jazz! Yes, all the designs are weird (aside from the human/human looking characters) but this is a hard adaptation to do. The real problem is that STUPID BIRD! Remove him and it would fix a lot of the problems. Before it was shown in theaters Don had an audience test (or whatever you call it) and they added one little clip at the beginning of the movie that would change how people saw Thumbelina. They added the Disney logo and it made a HUGE difference because people were praising it back and forth. Unfortunately, they obviously couldn’t add that little clip on the official release and it was met with mixed reception. Coincidence? I THINK NOT! It’s double standard BULL CRAP!

    I just had to defend those two films because they get A LOT of undeserved hate for being “Disney rip-offs” when really most Disney movies aren’t even princess or fairy-tale movies. If they’re Disney rip-offs of Disney Princess movie how are The Secret of NIMH and An American Tail not rip-offs of The Great Mouse Detective, The Rescuers, and The Rescuers Down Under? Unfortunately, Quest For Camelot and The Swan Princess get this same complaint. The Swan Princess is a well-done adaptation to the original Swan Lake and it’s only real crime is not including any of Tchaikovsky’s music. Any other “problems” it has are the fault of the original story. It updated it nicely and doesn’t change that much of it. Quest For Camelot is flawed but was genuinely good in my opinion.

    Anyway, as for the other films:

    The Secret of NIMH is great but has flaws

    An American Tail is well-done but I’m neutral towards it, though I admit it’s a genuinely great movie

    The Land Before Time is one of my favorite movies of ALL TIME

    All Dogs Go To Heaven is great

    Rock-A-Doodle is awful

    A Troll In Central Park is awful

    The Pebble and The Penguin is mediocre

    Titan AE is mediocre

    If you wanna know more of the history of Don Bluth and why a lot of his films failed, go check out ElectricDragon505’s (also known as AniMat) history of Don Bluth videos.

  21. It’s a good thing they never made a sequel to Land Before Time.

    There were so many masterful moments. Just the very beginning, dealing with the sea life, has never stopped filling me with anticipation, and they didn’t fall into the common kids’-movie trap of using any excuse for a musical number.

    As you get older, you may learn more about Bluth’s religious leanings, and start to see The Great Valley as an allegory for The Promised Land.

    IT IS A SUPER GREAT THING THEY NEVER MADE ANY SEQUELS TO MESS ALL OF THAT UP

    • … I was almost going to comment seriously, and then I reread that last sentence.. Yup, no sequels here. Not a one. Don’t google it, you’ll find nothing. promise.

  22. Young Anakin felt like a real kid to me.

  23. Late Nakagawa Ryou

    Pat Hingle. That was Pat Hingle, Doug. Commissioner Gordon in the Burton Batfilms.

  24. I can see where Doug is coming from with Titan A.E. in that its not Don Bluth’s style, but honestly, and maybe its because I’m a big sci-fi geek, but Titan A.E. is one of my top favorite Bluth films I’ve seen so far, and I’ve a good number of them (I saw Secret of NIMH for the first time a few years ago and I remember it being very well done but not quite having enough in terms of either backstory or plot I think to fully satisfy me. Almost though so I’d say about third or fourth on the list of my favorites.

    The Land Before Time, An American Tail, and All Dogs Go to Heaven I remember watching when I was younger but have to see them again (The Land Before Time I remember liking as a kid and would most likely enjoy it now and I grew up on all the home video sequels, 2-5 being the most fun. With American Tail, I grew up more with its sequel, Fievel Goes West and that was fun and enjoyable (I know I know, not actually Bluth). All Dogs Go to Heaven, I just remember feeling kind of uncomfortable and depressing. Rock-A-Doodle, Pebble and the Penguin, and Troll in Central Park, I have to see again but I remember all three as kind of meh. Anastasia I grew up with and enjoy quite a lot. I really liked the voice actors, the songs were beautiful, the humor was smart and cheeky, exciting action, and I like the historical backdrop it was put in. Its home video sequel, Bartok the Magnificent was a nice fun little fantasy adventure movie that had some good voice work, animation and imaginative locals, although the ending of the film gets a little strange in that they try to make the main villain turning into a dragon sexy. Go figure. I guess the only Bluth I haven’t seen yet is Thumbelina and technically the Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace games too.

    Even though it doesn’t have Bluth’s signature style to it, I still highly love Titan A.E. as its own thing, not only because its sci-fi, but its because I love the characters, story, the voice work, the animation and look (The Ice Crystal scene is gorgeous!), and the imagination put into the creatures, the worlds, and the technology, and there’s just enough there of everything to completely satisfy me while still leaving me hungry for more (part of my childhood is yelling: I want my Titan A.E. sequel dagnabit!) Plus the film was co-written by Joss Whedon and even a nube like me knows he does really good sci-fi (no, I’m not a Whedonite by the way).

    While Bluth didn’t have as big an impact on me as Disney and DreamWorks have, I still think he did play a significant part, but its only about now how much I realize that he has and I appreciate you guys for talking about these films.

    If I had to start creating a list of my favorite of his films, I’d have to put the first four in this order while I figure out the others:

    1. Titan A.E.
    2. Anastasia
    3. The Land Before Time
    4. The Secret of NIMH

    Sorry about the long post.

  25. To be fair, Don Bluth at Fox was given the choice between directing an animated version of either the 1956 film Anastasia, or the play My Fair Lady. It wasn’t so much his attempt to copy trending archetypes as it was to work within the parameters he was provided while still telling a good story. Anastasia certainly has a unique atmosphere compared to other animated princess films at the time.

  26. I think Doug’s being a bit harsh on Titan AE; it’s no grand masterpiece, but for what it is, as a relatively obscure scifi flick, I think it’s decent, with some entertaining and imaginative pieces. Hell I can watch it any day. Don Bluth was a fairly tertiary figure on it all things being said, and it did suffer a bit from a lack of focus in production, but it also had Joss Whedon involved, and that shows in the writing to its benefit. The only thing I’d really say I’d quibble over is the very early 2000s soundtrack.

    Besides that, Bluth wasn’t really present in my formative years as you guys–I vaguely recall Dogs go to Heaven and Land Before Time, but at this point those kinda blend together with the endless sequels unfortunately milked from them that often showed up on TV.

  27. Please Mr. Rob and Doug Walker can you do a real thoughts review of The Star Trek Films?

  28. I actually worked at the Don Bluth Animation Collection at Savannah College of Art and Design for a year while I was in school. (Don Bluth’s studios saved EVERYTHING, and just donated it all to SCAD. We’ve had it for almost a decade and we’ve only gone through maybe half of the boxes they sent us). So, here’s my insider perspective, having personally rifled through the animation cells and archiving them, and speaking to the curators of the collection and to teachers who worked personally with Don.

    With the exception of Secret of Nimh, pretty much all of Bluth’s most beloved and well-known films were collaborations with bigger producers. SCAD has very little, if any, production materials from Anastasia, American Tail, or Land Before Time, because those production materials are owned by either Spielberg or FOX, so Don didn’t have rights to donate them. Those companies likely had a huge say in how those movies carried on. I really think those collaborations were what made those movies great – Don Bluth, on his own (or with his usual directing team – it wasn’t just him calling all the shots typically), isn’t a great storyteller (case in point: Thumbelina, Rockadoodle). A brilliant animator, but storytelling was definitely hit or miss. But he and the other directors likely thought they was great and was less willing to listen to others’ feedback as time wore on. (See also: George Lucas. These sorts of directors tend to be surrounded by yes-men). One of my teachers also worked for Bluth, and the sort of stories he has about working on these films in Ireland is just incredible – like, the big plothole at the beginning of Thumbelina of “Well, why didn’t she jump on the crow and go back home? Her home was RIGHT THERE! Movie would be over in five minutes.” They caught that plothole during production, but the directors thought no kid would notice. My teacher’s 5-year-old daughter noticed it at the premiere, without him telling her anything about it.

    And I think that’s the main thing – as time wore on, the Bluth studios really thought that if you throw as many pretty colors and crazy characters up onscreen as possible (again, Thumbelina), a kid would be enthralled. A huge mistake. They stopped taking kids seriously, and they suffered as a result.

    As for the gorgeous animation? Much of it is rotoscoped, especially in lower-budget productions like Thumbelina, but it’s even pretty common in movies like Anastasia – the reason why they seem to move so realistically is because they literally traced over or copied directly from a live actor. Some people don’t realize that (rotoscoping can be used wonderfully – Chico and Rita for example – but other times it bothers me).

    SCAD has a lot of the animation collection on their website if anyone wants to check it out! http://ecollections.scad.edu/iii/cpro/CollectionViewPage.external?lang=eng&sp=1000004
    (If the link doesn’t work, just google SCAD Animation Collection).

    • Well “Lord Of The Rings” would be over in five minutes if the eagles dropped the ring into the volcano. 😉

      I would argue Spielberg (and Lucas on LBT) both hurt those productions by trying to dumb them down. Don Bluth fought hard to bring some drama into the young dinosaurs relationships. Spielberg just wanted them all to get along together, instead working to understand each others differences and becoming friends over time.

      As far as the later films, Bluth had less and less control as the money people felt animation was for the kiddies and used focus groups to help mold those films.

  29. I would love seeing a spoof of eighties producers and animators get together as a parody of the A-Team…the 80s-Team.

  30. All Dogs go to Heaven traumatized me as a child. I had a dog who was my best friend and I was inconsolable. I felt bad for my aunt and grandfather on the drive home from watching that movie as I’m clutching my dog asking if he was gonna go to heaven when he died…Sigh* ahhh childhood.

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