Best Underrated Animated Movies from 1990s: Discover Hidden Gems in 2023


Best Underrated Animated Movies from 1990s: Discover Hidden Gems in 2023

The 1990s was a truly magical era for animated movies. Disney had a major comeback, creating unforgettable masterpieces like The Lion King and Toy Story, which not only dominated the box office but also stole the hearts of people all around the globe. But, let’s not forget about the hidden treasures that also left their mark during this extraordinary time.

Besides the well-known blockbusters, the ’90s gifted us with a diverse range of animated films, from talented independent filmmakers and underappreciated studios. These movies showcased an incredible amount of imagination and variety that often goes unnoticed. Believe it or not, there are even a few films on this list that we haven’t had the pleasure of watching yet.

So, let’s embark on a nostalgic journey and rediscover some of the most underrated animated movies from the ’90s. It’s time to give these films the recognition they truly deserve and have some fun along the way!

1. An American Tail: Fievel Goes West

An American Tail: Fievel Goes West
An American Tail: Fievel Goes West is a sequel to the critically acclaimed An American Tail. It’s an animated adventure film that was released in 1991 and directed by Phil Nibbelink and Simon Wells. The movie continues the story of the Mousekewitz family and their pursuit of the American Dream.

The film starts with the Mousekewitz family, including their young mouse son Fievel, living in New York City. Fievel is excited to leave the hectic city life behind and explore the Wild West, where there are supposedly no cats. The family decides to move West, hoping for a better life without the constant threat of cats.

Once they arrive in the Wild West, the Mousekewitz family quickly realizes that things aren’t as they expected. A conniving and deceitful cat named Cat R. Waul takes advantage of their dreams by tricking them. He convinces the mice that there are no cats in the West and promises them a safe and prosperous life in a town called Green River. Fievel, however, becomes suspicious of Cat R. Waul’s true intentions when he sees feline companions in disguise. He sets out to uncover the truth and protect his family and the other mice from the villainous cat.

The film is highly praised for its stunning animation, vibrant visuals, and memorable characters. The voice cast includes talented actors like Phillip Glasser as Fievel, Dom DeLuise as Tiger, Amy Irving as Miss Kitty, and John Cleese as Cat R. Waul. The movie features delightful songs like Dreams to Dream and Way Out West, which add to its charm.

An American Tail: Fievel Goes West is an entertaining and heartfelt sequel that expands on Fievel’s story and his dreams of a better life. It captures the spirit of adventure and the importance of standing up for what’s right, making it an enjoyable watch for both children and adults.

2. Balto

Balto is an animated adventure film that tells the true story of a heroic sled dog. It takes place in 1925 in the small town of Nome, Alaska. The movie follows Balto and his team as they embark on an incredible journey to deliver a life-saving serum to the town’s children who are suffering from diphtheria. Despite being highly regarded by his friends, Balto’s wolf heritage makes it difficult for him to be fully accepted by the other dogs in town. Nevertheless, Balto remains steadfast in his sense of justice and courage.

When a deadly outbreak of diphtheria affects Nome’s children, the town desperately needs a serum to cure them. However, the harsh winter conditions make transportation almost impossible. With all other communication cut off, Mayor George Maynard decides to organize a dog sled relay to retrieve the serum from the city of Nenana, which arrived by train.

Balto, driven by his compassionate nature, decides to join the relay team in the hopes of proving himself and saving the children. Jenna, a beautiful husky who has always believed in Balto, supports him and promises to wait for his return. However, Steele, a boastful and selfish husky, initially gets chosen as the lead dog for the relay and tries to prevent Balto from joining the team.

Undeterred, Balto and his friends embark on their own mission to bring back the serum. They face blizzards, icy landscapes, and treacherous terrains along the way. Balto’s intelligence, resourcefulness, and unwavering determination are put to the test as he leads his team through various perils. Guided by his wolf instincts, Balto navigates the wilderness, relying on his inner strength and the support of his companions.

Many people are unaware that this underrated classic is actually based on a true story. Yes, you heard it right! The film draws inspiration from a remarkable tale of Balto’s heroic journey during the diphtheria outbreak in Nome, Alaska. This adds a layer of significance and authenticity to the narrative. It’s a harrowing underdog story that truly deserves recognition. If you’re a fan of inspiring tales, this movie is sure to please.

3. Princess Mononoke

Princess Mononoke
Princess Mononoke” is a renowned animated film directed by Hayao Miyazaki, released in 1997. It follows the journey of Ashitaka, a young prince cursed by a demon, as he seeks a cure and discovers the reason behind his curse. The story is set in the late Muromachi period of Japan, amidst a conflict between humanity and nature.

The plot revolves around the struggle between Iron Town, an industrialized civilization led by Lady Eboshi, and the gods and spirits of the forest. Princess Mononoke, a human raised by wolves, fiercely fights against human encroachment and the destruction of the natural world.

As Ashitaka traverses between the human and supernatural worlds, he becomes entangled in various conflicts. He is torn between his growing affection for San, the Princess Mononoke, and his sympathies for humanity. Along his journey, he encounters intriguing characters like the cunning bounty hunter Jigo and the wise Forest Spirit. The film delves into themes such as the connection between humanity and nature, the consequences of greed and industrialization, and the importance of balance and coexistence.

“Princess Mononoke” has received critical acclaim worldwide for its artistic brilliance, compelling story, and environmental message. It solidified Studio Ghibli’s position as an influential animation studio. Hayao Miyazaki, the director, began his career in animation in 1963 and co-founded Studio Ghibli in 1984. His films often explore themes of nature, environmentalism, and resilience.

Miyazaki’s attention to detail and emotionally resonant storytelling have garnered wide acclaim and a dedicated fan base worldwide. His impact on animation is profound, challenging conventions and elevating the artistic and cultural significance of the medium

4. The Pagemaster

The Pagemaster
The Pagemaster, released in 1994, is a cool mix of live-action and animation. It tells the story of Richard Tyler, a shy kid who faces his fears and goes on an awesome adventure. The movie starts with Richard taking cover in a library during a storm. There, he meets Mr. Dewey, the librarian, who encourages him to step out of his comfort zone and explore the world. But before Richard can leave, he slips and bumps his head, and suddenly finds himself in an animated book world. He meets Adventure, Fantasy, and Horror, three talking books who become his guides. Together, they set out to find the way out of the library. Along the way, they visit different genres, and Richard learns important life lessons from iconic characters.

The Pagemaster is part of a bunch of ’90s movies that mixed live-action and animation. This kind of storytelling has been around since the early 1900s, thanks to Walt Disney and his game-changing film Mary Poppins in 1964. But the ’90s were when these hybrid films really took off. There were a few reasons for this. First, technology got better, making it easier to blend live-action and animation. The introduction of CGI opened up even more possibilities, letting filmmakers get super creative. People of all ages loved these movies because they combined the magic of animation with real actors and settings. It was a visual feast that brought fantastical worlds to life.

The popularity of hybrid live-action/animation films in the ’90s was due to advances in technology, renewed interest in animated movies, and a desire to create unique cinematic experiences. The Pagemaster played a big part in this trend, carrying on the tradition of bringing stories to life in a visually stunning way by mixing real-world and animated elements.

5. The Swan Princess

The Swan Princess
Move over Disney princesses, real ’90s kids know that The Swan Princess was where it was at. (Sorry Belle.) Released in 1994, this heartwarming tale presents a reimagined version of the classic story of Swan Lake. The film follows the journey of a beautiful princess named Odette and her struggle against the villainous Rothbart.

The story begins with a young Princess Odette and Prince Derek, who are forced into an arranged marriage by their parents. Despite initial animosity, the two children grow up and become good friends. However, an evil sorcerer named Rothbart plans to take over the kingdom and seeks a spell that will transform Odette into a swan. He believes that he can break the spell only if Odette vows eternal love to him.

On the night of Odette and Derek’s coming-of-age ball, Rothbart transforms himself into ‘The Great Animal’ and kidnaps Odette. Derek valiantly tries to save her but fails. Distraught and determined, he promises to find Odette and bring her back.

The Swan Princess made its debut in 1994, during a time when Disney princesses dominated the animated film landscape. While Disney was known for its iconic princess characters like Snow White, Cinderella, and Ariel.

Odette deviates from the traditional Disney princess archetype in some ways. Unlike many of the Disney princesses at the time, she is not a damsel in distress waiting for a prince to rescue her. Odette is depicted as a strong, brave, and intelligent character who actively contributes to her own salvation and refuses to be a passive victim of her circumstances. Odette’s agency in her own narrative, and her willingness to fight for her freedom, set her apart from the more passive princess characters often associated with the Disney brand.

The Swan Princess premiered during the Disney princess heyday but sets itself apart as a princess with agency, resilience, and emotional depth. While she may not have achieved the same level of recognition as the Disney princesses, her character provided a refreshing alternative and added to the diversity of princess portrayals in animated films.

6. Cat’s Don’t Dance

Cat's Don't Dance
Set in 1930s Hollywood, Cat’s Don’t Dance tells the story of Danny, an ambitious and enthusiastic cat with a big dream of becoming a successful performer in the entertainment industry. Voiced by Scott Bakula, Danny leaves his small town behind and heads to Hollywood, hoping to make it big in the movie business. However, upon his arrival, he quickly realizes that there is a clear division between animal actors and human actors. Despite facing discrimination and being told that cats just don’t dance, Danny remains determined to prove them all wrong and achieve his dreams.

In his journey, Danny befriends a group of fellow animal actors, each with their own unique personalities. There’s T.W., a wise turtle, Woolie, a kind-hearted elephant, Pudge, a hyperactive squirrel, and Darla Dimple, a diva-like chicken. Together, they come up with a plan to showcase their talents and impress the human actors and directors in the hopes of landing starring roles in films. As they start rehearsing, their incredible performances catch the attention of Darla Dimple’s loyal butler, Max. Max realizes that the animals’ talents could potentially overshadow Darla’s stardom, leading him to set traps in an attempt to sabotage them. However, Danny and his friends manage to outsmart Max at every turn.

Although it didn’t initially receive much attention upon its release, Cat’s Don’t Dance has now gained a cult following. The movie was made by Don Bluth, a former Disney animator who went on to form his own animation studio. Bluth’s unique style, characterized by bright colors and dark villains with little redeeming qualities, sets his films apart. Furthermore, Bluth was known for his love of animals, often making them the main characters in his films. These films convey heartfelt messages advocating for the protection and understanding of animals. Bluth’s work emphasizes the importance of empathy, compassion, and the acceptance of all creatures, promoting a more inclusive worldview. Among Don Bluth’s impressive body of work, Cat’s Don’t Dance stands out as one of the best.

7. Once Upon a Forest

Once Upon a Forest
Hanna-Barbera ventured beyond television shows and dabbled in the world of movies with Once Upon A Forest. This film tells the story of a group of animal friends residing in Dapplewood, a peaceful woodland community. The main characters are Abigail the woodmouse, Russell the hedgehog, and Edgar the mole, who live harmoniously in the lush forest under the guidance of their wise teacher, Cornelius the badger. Unfortunately, their idyllic existence is shattered when a careless truck driver accidentally spills toxic chemicals near their home, causing a devastating disaster.

The once vibrant and lively forest quickly becomes contaminated, endangering the lives of numerous animals and plants. The toxic fumes unleash illness and death, particularly affecting a young fawn named Michelle, who falls seriously ill due to her small size and fragility. Realizing the urgency of the situation, Abigail, Russell, and Edgar embark on a dangerous journey to find a cure for their friend and restore the forest to its former glory.

Once Upon a Forest stands out in the world of animation for several reasons. One of its notable features is its strong environmental message. While many animated films touch on conservation themes, Once Upon a Forest places it at the heart of its story. The devastating consequences of human actions on nature are portrayed in a realistic and heartfelt manner, making it an educational tool for young viewers to understand the significance of protecting the environment. As time goes on, it becomes increasingly difficult not to hold this film in higher regard, considering the ongoing impact on the environment and the Earth’s resources.

8. Thumbelina

Thumbelina is a delightful animated musical fantasy film released in 1994. It is based on the beloved fairytale by Hans Christian Andersen and directed by Don Bluth and Gary Goldman.

The film begins with a lonely old woman named Jacquimo. She discovers a small barley seed and plants it. To her surprise, the seed grows into a beautiful flower, within which a tiny girl no bigger than her thumb emerges. She names the girl Thumbelina, and they form a genuine bond.

Thumbelina’s life takes an unexpected turn when she is kidnapped by a toad named Grundel, who wants to marry her off to his brutish son, Berkeley Beetle. Thumbelina escapes Grundel’s clutches but becomes lost in the vast wilderness, desperately longing to find her way home. Along the way, she meets colorful characters like the charismatic Mr. Beetle and a friendly field mouse named Jacquimo, who becomes her loyal protector.

During her journey, Thumbelina meets a handsome fairy prince named Cornelius. They instantly fall in love. However, Thumbelina is deceived about Cornelius’s fate and is whisked away by a deceitful flower fairy. Heartbroken, Thumbelina accepts her dire circumstances and continues her search for happiness.

As Thumbelina faces various perils and challenges, she learns important lessons about love, friendship, and finding her own identity. The story emphasizes the importance of self-discovery and remaining true to oneself, even in the face of adversity.

The film incorporates new characters and subplots, which enhance the storytelling. Thumbelina encounters a charismatic beetle named Mr. Beetle and a kind field mouse named Jacquimo. These characters provide comedic relief and heartfelt moments, adding depth to Thumbelina’s adventures.

The film also expands on Thumbelina’s desire to find her true home. She actively searches for it, encountering challenges and obstacles along the way, making her journey more adventurous and compelling. The focus on romance is stronger in the film, particularly her love story with Prince Cornelius. Their relationship becomes a central narrative arc, showcasing their growing affection and the obstacles they face.

Overall, the animated version of Thumbelina expands upon the original fairytale, incorporating new characters, subplots, and conflicts. These additions create a more dynamic and engaging narrative, allowing for a richer exploration of themes such as love, friendship, and personal growth.

9. The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars

The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars
Many fans only remember the original movie, but there was actually a sequel to The Brave Little Toaster that not many kids knew about. In The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars, Toaster and his friends, Lampy, Radio, Blanky, and Kirby, live with their owner, Rob, in a cottage. One day, they receive a message from a baby appliance named Viking 1, who claims to be stuck on Mars. Driven by loyalty and curiosity, the appliances decide to go on a daring journey to rescue their new friend.

To help them in their mission, the gang builds a spacecraft called the “U.S.S. Calvin” and blasts off into space. Along the way, they face obstacles like an asteroid field, a sentient kitchen appliance named Wittgenstein, and a group of hostile appliances who want to capture Viking 1 for their own sinister plans.

Throughout their adventure, each appliance learns something valuable about themselves. Toaster overcomes his fear of failure, Lampy discovers his creativity and resourcefulness, Radio learns the importance of understanding and empathy, Blanky embraces bravery, and Kirby realizes the value of friendship and teamwork.

The sequel takes a bold shift in tone and setting compared to the original. Instead of being set in a suburban home, the story now takes place in outer space. It’s quite a departure! The appliances venture beyond Earth to save their friend on Mars, which adds a fresh and exciting backdrop to the adventure. The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars also maintains a lighter and more whimsical tone overall, unlike the original movie that had its fair share of intense moments and darker undertones. It incorporates humor, adventure, and explores the emotional connections between the appliances.

While still capturing the spirit of the original film, the sequel expands the world and introduces new characters. It also delves into deeper themes of personal growth and self-belief. The appliances are taken to new frontiers, giving the movie a grander scope and adding more depth to the story.

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