The Best Animated 80s Movies That Weren’t From Disney

By Rick Gonzales | Updated

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The decade of the ‘80s was an amazing time in the history of animation, seeing numerous animated movies that did not come from the juggernaut that was the Walt Disney Company. For nearly five decades prior, Disney was the first and final answer to animated films, having dominated the medium with very little competition.

When the ‘80s hit, Disney found themselves in a rut, unable to produce a hit until the late ‘80s with Oliver and Company in 1988 and The Little Mermaid in 1989. But Disney’s downfall was the open-door other animation studios needed, and through they walked. Here are the best animated movies from the 1980s that Disney did not produce.

Best Animated 1980s Movies Not From Disney

The Brave Little Toaster (1987)

Over the years there have been many that thought The Brave Little Toaster was a Disney film. The confusion is understandable as the story was originally purchased by Disney, but ultimately rejected due to budget concerns.

The story was then taken over by Hyperion Pictures. The animated movie is set in a world where domestic appliances come to life. It tells the story of five household appliances – toaster, vacuum cleaner, blanket, lamp stand, and radio – who go on an adventure in search of their owner.

The Brave Little Toaster was a critical success and produced two sequels, The Brave Little Toaster to the Rescue in 1997 and The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars in 1998.

All Dogs Go To Heaven (1989)

All Dogs Go to Heaven is an excellent non-Disney animated movie, but it suffered greatly at the box office because of the misfortune of being released the same day as Disney’s The Little Mermaid. Although it did not compete well for box office dollars, the film did enjoy a very profitable run on home video.

This wasn’t the first animated film to deal with adult themes, but it was one of the earliest, as the “children’s” film included themes of drinking, gambling, murder, and death.

The film brought together the voice cast that included Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise, the duo that starred in numerous live-action films such as The Cannonball Run and The End.

An American Tail (1986)

An American Tail was a major box office hit that was executive produced by Steven Spielberg. The film came out four months after Disney released The Great Mouse Detective (a great animated movie, box office failure) and immediately outdrew the Disney film at the box office.

The story tells the story of Fievel Moskowitz and his Russian-Jewish mice family who find themselves emigrating from Russia to the United States seeking freedom. On their journey, though, Fievel gets separated from his family and must endure the adventure alone while trying to reunite with his family.

The Land Before Time (1988)

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1988 was a great year for animated movies. The Land Before Time was one of the big ones, another animated film executive produced by Steven Spielberg, and tells the story of Little Foot, an Apatosaurus, and his dinosaur friends, Cera, Ducky, Petrie, and Spike as they find a baby T-Rex they call Chomper after venturing into The Great Valley.

Once there, the group must first survive a drought, then bone freezing cold while they learn all there is to know about friendship. The film was so popular it turned into a series that produced 14 films in total.

Akira (1988)

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Akira is a Japanese animated movie that has been widely viewed as a masterpiece. The movie is based on the 1982 manga of the same name, but while the film mirrors the characters and setting from the manga, the plot differs greatly and doesn’t even include the last half of the manga story.

Nevertheless, the film was an immediate hit, considered to be the most iconic and influential anime ever created. The film tells the story of biker gang leader, Shōtarō Kaneda, whose childhood friend, Tetsuo Shima, develops amazing telekinetic powers after a motorcycle accident. These powers eventually threaten all of Neo-Tokyo.

The Secret of Nimh (1982)

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The Secret of Nimh is the eldest of the ‘80s animated movies not from Disney. The film was highly praised for its amazingly detailed animation work. It tells the story of a widowed mouse who lives out in a field with her family.

She is preparing them to move as it is close to plowing time, but her son Timothy falls ill, and it could prove fatal to move him. She then turns to a group of wise rats to help her with a solution.

The film features the vocal talent of Dom DeLuise, John Carradine, and Peter Strauss, and also includes the performances of a very young Shannen Doherty and Wil Wheaton.

Transformers: The Movie (1986)

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The last one on our list of the best animated movies of the ‘80s, not Disney, is Transformers: The Movie. Initially, the film was intended to usher out the old and bring in the new as Hasbro had the bright idea of bringing in new Transformer toys to the stores.

All in all, the movie took out 13 well-known Transformer characters, including Optimus Prime. This is not to say the film wasn’t action-packed or well done but removing that many main characters was a huge risk, one that didn’t play well for Hasbro.

The Transformers film did boast an amazing cast of vocal talent including Peter Cullen (the only voice of Optimus Prime), Leonard Nimoy, Corey Burton, Scatman Crothers, Judd Nelson, Robert Stack, and Orson Welles.