Don Bluth

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Don't let that smile fool you--he's the animation world's woobie.

Don Bluth (born 1937) is a former Disney animator to whom many a 1980s (and to a lesser extent 1990s) child owes much of their childhood.

Much as current CG animated movies tend to exist in the public mind as "either Pixar or Dreamworks Animation", his works were considered one of the two the main forces in animation alongside Disney Animated Canon. Bluth films are well-known for gorgeous character and effects animation and for a strong sense of fairy tale storytelling—and all that entails. His films tend to be darker (thematically and literally) than the standard Disney fare. They also overall tend to be much, much stranger. Even his not-so-good movies have a cult audience, thanks to their crazy fever-dream logic and the fact that the animation is still really pretty.

Before he started directing, his first animation contribution was as an assistant on Sleeping Beauty. He would also assist on The Sword in the Stone, and would take a brief foray into TV projects (on such fare as Filmation's Will the Real Jerry Lewis Please Sit Down? and Sabrina and The Groovie Goolies (!)) before returning to Disney for Robin Hood in 1973. He also animated sequences in The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (most notably, the scene where Rabbit is lost in the woods). But after working on things like Pete's Dragon, he became disillusioned with the direction in which Disney seemed to be going without Walt. He and a few animator friends struck out on their own to form their own independent studio.

Their goal was to remind Disney, and people in general, what painstakingly attentive hand-drawn animation could do. For a considerable amount of time, film-goers liked his films better than the movies Disney was putting out in the '80s. Miffed by the competition, Disney started treating their own animated films more seriously. In other words, Bluth himself is largely responsible for the Western Animation Renaissance!

Though, sadly, he couldn't really enjoy it. His films couldn't compete with Disney's juggernaut hits, and were lost in the overcrowded "all the animation that isn't by Disney" market. For a while in the '90s, it looked like he was ready for a comeback—and then a little studio in Emeryville, California, soon to also be known for gorgeous animation and offbeat but heartwarming stories, came along and changed the playing field forever...

You can read his full biography (up to the early '90s) here. Reviews of his movies in chronological order can be read here.

Bluth's various productions include, in approximate chronological order:

He is rumored to have a film tentatively planned (between 2010 to 2015) that will be an adaptation of the Dragon's Lair video games produced by Bluth in 1983, though sadly this is stuck in Development Hell. It's extremely sad to think that the reason he can't get it off the ground is because Hollywood doesn't see a traditional hand-drawn animated film as marketable.

Currently Bluth has taken to teaching animation. His website can be seen here, which includes tutorials and a forum in which you might even be able to talk to the man himself.

Don Bluth provides examples of the following tropes:
  1. Depends on how one defines "heavily influenced" the very few story and character tidbits Bluth revealed about this treatment included a clairvoyant dog, a bird detective, an escape-artist lizard, the "King of the Bats", the "wee beasties", and "Queen Livia, herself"...most elements seem to have been of his own invention.