The ’90s were truly a golden age for animated films. Disney ruled the box office with an iron fist, leading to a veritable avalanche of animated movies, created in hopes of usurping Disney from the throne. The rise of VHS allowed ’90s kids everywhere to enjoy their favorite animated films over and over again, much to the displeasure of their parents. Seriously, ask any kid who came of age in the ’90s, and they’ll likely have a story about wearing out a tape from watching and rewinding it too much. Still, as we grew older, we held onto most of our memories of these films, but there were a few we managed to forget along the way.
Sure, every ’90s kid remembers the big films like The Lion King and Mulan, but what about the more obscure films we all used to love? Our VHS collections weren’t solely dominated by Disney films; there were also plenty of smaller, mostly forgotten films that we all wore out from repeat viewings. For every Pocahontas, there was a battered clamshell copy of Anastasia or Quest For Camelot. You may have forgotten about these films, but they held a special place in the hearts of ’90s kids everywhere. So take a walk down memory lane with CBR as we take a look at some of the ’90s forgotten animated gems.
Odds are, you won’t see Rock-A-Doodle on any “Best animated films of the ’90s” list. In fact, it wouldn’t even get within spitting distance of the best animated films of the ’90s. But this weirdo musical holds a special place in the hearts of many ’90s kids!
The film follows Chanticleer, a young rooster with dreams of becoming a rock star, who is convinced by the shadowy Grand Duke of Owls to cease crowing every morning and run off to the big city to become a superstar. Unbeknownst to Chanticleer, it is his crow that causes the sun to rise in the morning, causing the world to fall into darkness upon his departure. Sure, the story of a pompadour’d, Elvis-wannabe rooster isn’t exactly The Little Mermaid, but plenty of ’90s kids wore out their VHS copies of the movie with repeat viewings.
19. THE THIEF AND THE COBBLER
If you were to look up “totally robbed” in the dictionary, you’d find a picture of The Thief and The Cobbler. Plenty of ’90s kids will likely remember seeing The Thief and The Cobbler on the shelves of the local Blockbuster and writing the film off as an Aladdin rip-off. But The Thief and The Cobbler remains a ’90s classic that is unfairly forgotten these days.
Released under both its original title and Arabian Knight, the film followed a good-natured cobbler named Tack as he draws the ire of Grand Vizier Zigzag and works with Princess Yum-Yum to save the city from the villainous One-Eyes. With its Arabian setting and a prominent blue-skinned character, critics were quick to label the film a knock-off, but the label was unjustified, as the movie had been in production since 1988, having the poor luck to be released around the same time as Disney’s popular genie-based movie. It may be largely forgotten these days, but The Thief and The Cobbler deserves better.
18. THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER
The ’90s are largely regarded as the Disney Renaissance, with the House of Mouse churning out hit after hit from 1989 to 1999. But that’s not to say that every film to grace theaters bearing the Disney name in the ’90s was destined for greatness; in fact, there were plenty of ’90s Disney theatrical releases that slipped into obscurity. Which brings us to The Prince and The Pauper.
Released as a short played before 1990’s The Rescuer’s Down Under, this featurette casts Mickey Mouse as both titular roles in the classic Mark Twain tale of, well, a prince and a pauper who swap places. While The Rescuers Down Under underperformed at the box office, The Prince and The Pauper would find a second life on VHS, becoming a staple of many ’90s kids’ tape collections.
17. ROVER DANGERFIELD
There are many mysteries that plague the human mind. Are we alone in the universe? Is there an afterlife? Just who exactly was Rover Dangerfield for? Yes, this obscure ’90s animated film took famous foul-mouthed comedian Rodney Dangerfield, turned him into a cartoon dog, and sent him on a wacky, family-friendly misadventure, which is just as strange a concept now as it was in 1991. But plenty of ’90s kids have fond memories of this movie, even if they forgot all about it.
Too pure for the adult fans of Dangerfield, with a star that no child would recognize, Rover Dangerfield was weird through and through. The film follows the titular Rover as he is taken from his Las Vegas home and forced to adjust to life on a farm, leading to plenty of “No respect” jokes. A critical and commercial failure, the film found a second life on VHS, where it became a favorite among many a ’90s kid.
The ’90s gave rise to an assortment of animated films in which a plucky female protagonist bucks tradition and embarks upon an adventure, only to ultimately find love. While Disney had this formula down to a science, there were plenty of other animation companies eager to take a crack at the popular trope, which brings us to Thumbelina.
A loose adaption of the classic Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, the Don Bluth-directed Thumbelina whisked viewers away to a magical land in which the minuscule Thumbelina embarks upon an adventure to find love. Despite adapting a beloved and well known fairy tale, interest in the film was low, leading Thumbelina to land with a thud at the box office. The film flopped theatrically, but found a dedicated following among kids on home video.
15. DUCKTALES THE MOVIE
Sure, plenty of ’90s kids have fond memories of Disney’s DuckTales, but you’d be hard pressed to find many who remember Scrooge McDuck’s lone cinematic outing, DuckTales The Movie: The Treasure Of The Lost Lamp.
Hitting theaters in 1990, the DuckTales movie took Huey, Dewey, and Louie to the Middle East, where rich uncle Scrooge is investigating the recently unearthed treasure chest of… sigh… Collie Baba. Yes, fans of terrible animal name puns had a field day with this movie. When a genie’s lamp is discovered, the group find themselves targeted by the evil Merlin, who seeks to utilize the Genie to conquer the world. While the DuckTales TV series remains a beloved pop culture touchstone, the DuckTales movie is all but forgotten these days, save for the fond memories of plenty of ’90s kids.
14. THE KING AND I
Ah, The King And I! This classic Rogers and Hammerstein musical spawned a beloved film adaption in the ’50s, which is still regarded as one of the greatest musicals of all time. Is the 1991 animated adaption of The King And I held in the same regards? Eh, not so much.
The classic tale of the King of Siam learning to change thanks to an encounter with an outgoing British woman, the animated adaption added an adorable animal sidekick and a Barbara Streisand song for good measure (kids in 1991 loved Barbara Streisand, apparently). Despite these changes, the film was a box office bomb, and was quickly shuffled off to home video. Once on VHS, The King And I became a “Guess I’ll watch this movie again” staple of ’90s kids everywhere.
13. QUEST FOR CAMELOT
In the ’70s and ’80s, animated films with medieval settings were everywhere, but by the ’90s, medieval tales were seen as passé. Apparently, nobody bothered to tell Warner Bros. this, as the studio released Quest For Camelot in 1998, leading to one of its biggest bombs of the decade. But as any ’90s kid will tell you, Quest For Camelot is a lot better than its box office draw would suggest.
Serving as a loose adaption of the children’s novel The King’s Damosel, the film followed aspiring night Kayley and her ragtag group of friends as they embark upon an adventure to retrieve the mythical sword Excalibur. With an impressive voice cast including Gary Oldman, Eric Idle, and Pierce Brosnan, the film seemed destined for big things, but flopped in theaters, only to find redemption on home video.
12. DOUG’S 1ST MOVIE
Sure, everyone remembers Doug as one of Nickelodeon’s original NickToons, cementing itself as one of the channel’s most beloved shows. But ’90s kids seem to forget that Doug not only jumped ship to the competition, but received the cinematic treatment in the process.
In 1996, Disney picked up the rights to Doug, and promptly brought the property to the Disney Channel, releasing a film tie-in in the process, bearing the perhaps-too-hopeful name of Doug’s 1st Movie. The film followed the affable Doug as he teamed with his best friend Skeeter and perennial crush Patti Mayonnaise to protect a lake monster from the rich and powerful Bill Bluff. It might be largely forgotten these days, but we’re willing to bet plenty of ’90s kids have fond memories of this movie.
11. WE’RE BACK! A DINOSAUR’S STORY
First things first. This is a movie about a bunch of dinosaurs, who have been granted intelligence by an alien, coming to modern New York City to hang out with rambunctious kids. Said children must then contend with an insidious carnival owner that has a screw for an eye. Now, that might sound strange, but ask any ’90s kid and they will tell you: We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story rules!
Based on the 1987 children’s book of the same name, We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story managed to delight and terrify in equal measure, with lovable characters and a truly scary villain. Seriously, any kid who says they saw this movie and says they weren’t deeply affected by the scene in which our heroes are forced to sign a contract with their blood is lying.
10. THE PRINCESS AND THE GOBLIN
George MacDonald’s 1872 fantasy novel The Princess and the Goblin is widely regarded as a children’s fantasy classic, and remains a beloved genre staple to this day. The 1991 film adaptation of this classic novel, however, is slightly less revered.
The simple tale of an adventurous princess discovering a race of music-hating goblins, The Princess and the Goblin made history as the first Welsh animated feature, and was expected to do well at the box office. Ultimately, the film was eclipsed by The Lion King, leading to The Princess and the Goblin bombing at the box office. When the film ultimately hit VHS, it was bolstered by an ad campaign in which it was positively reviewed by children, leading to a surge in sales. It remains somewhat obscure these days, but is regarded as a forgotten ’90s classic.
9. OLIVE, THE OTHER REINDEER
Every year, TV is inundated with bland, forgettable movies about Christmas. While the world certainly wouldn’t miss another generic Hallmark Channel original movie about an orphan learning the true meaning of Christmas, this avalanche of made-for-TV movies causes some true gems to get lost in the shuffle. That brings us to Olive, The Other Reindeer.
Hitting the airwaves in 1999, this whimsical animated film adapted a beloved children’s book in which a jack russel terrier named Olive teams up with a con artist penguin named Martini to save Christmas. It’s A Wonderful Life it ain’t, but Olive, The Other Reindeer found a dedicated following on home video, and remains a beloved classic among the ’90s crowd.
8. THE PEBBLE AND THE PENGUIN
You may not know the name Don Bluth, but you certainly know his work. Having cut his teeth directing the animated video games Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace, Bluth would eventually find success on the silver screen, directing classics such as An American Tail and The Land Before Time. By the ’90s, Bluth was an established director, leading to the prolific animator cranking out numerous films, many of which are on this list, including the oft-forgotten The Pebble And The Penguin.
Released in 1995, The Pebble and The Penguin followed timid penguin Hubie as he tries to win the heart of the beautiful Marina by retrieving a pebble that fell from the sky. Despite managing to outperform A Goofy Movie at the box office, The Pebble And The Penguin remains mostly forgotten these days, but we guarantee you loved this movie if you grew up in the ’90s.
7. TOM AND JERRY: THE MOVIE
There are some things in life that are timeless. Turns out, watching a cartoon cat try to murder a cartoon mouse is one of those timeless joys that we can all agree with. Despite originating all the way back in 1940, Tom and Jerry experienced a sort of resurgence in the early ’90s, leading to the release of Tom and Jerry: The Movie in 1992.
Tom and Jerry: The Movie sent the beloved Hanna-Barbera characters off on an adventure involving a timid little girl being controlled by her evil aunt, with plenty of cartoon violence thrown in for good measure. Despite being mute for more than 50 years, Tom and Jerry: The Movie shook things up, giving the titular characters voices, allowing the bloodthirsty cat and mouse duo to burst into song. A bomb at the box office, the film found second life on VHS.
6. A TROLL IN CENTRAL PARK
Man, if “cranking out animated films in the ’90s that would eventually slip into obscurity” was an Olympic event, Don Bluth would take the Gold. The reigning king of our list, the Bluth-directed A Troll In Central Park would hit theaters in 1994, but you’d be forgiven if you missed it entirely and grew to love the film on VHS.
A fantastical tale of a Dom DeLuise-voiced troll named Stanley, who is banished to New York City’s Central Park because of his magical green thumb, the film seemingly had all the elements to become another breakout hit for Bluth. The movie would ultimately bomb at the box office due to lack of promotion, but plenty of movie-hungry ’90s kids would grow to love A Troll In Central Park when it hit home video.
5. THE PAGEMASTER
As Disney’s animated films continued to set box office records, every company in Hollywood was looking to hop aboard the animated movie money train. But to compete with the House of Mouse, an animated film would need a strong, interesting story to hook viewers. We’re guessing Turner Pictures really emphasized the “interesting story” thing internally, leading to the creation of The Pagemaster.
This 1994 film cast Macaulay Culkin as a perpetually terrified kid who seeks shelter from a storm in a library, leading him to embark on a literary-themed adventure alongside anthropomorphic books, one of which is voiced by Whoopi Goldberg. Yes, The Pagemaster was a strange film, and was torn apart by critics, but ’90s kids everywhere practically wore out their VCR’s re-playing this film.
4. SCOOBY-DOO ON ZOMBIE ISLAND
In 1998, the Scooby-Doo franchise was experiencing something of a slump, with kids opting for newer, fresher cartoons over Hanna-Barbera’s nearly 30-year-old series. But then, along came Scooby-Doo On Zombie Island, revitalizing the property and introducing a new generation of kids to Scooby and the gang.
This direct-to-video classic took the classic formula of “Scooby-Doo and crew find a monster, prove monster is fake” and turned it on its ear, turning the Scooby gang loose on an island infested with Voodoo zombies. With plenty of kid-friendly scares, Scooby-Doo On Zombie Island became a favorite among ’90s kids, and remains a cult classic to this day.
3. BARTOK THE MAGNIFICENT
Sure, any ’90s kid worth their salt remembers Anastasia, the 1997 film adapting the tale of a Russian grand duchess. The film was a runaway hit, and stands as one of the most popular non-Disney animated films of the ’90s. But Bartok The Magnificent, the spin-off to Anastasia? That’s more of a deep cut.
In this 1999 straight-to-video prequel, Anastasia’s albino bat sidekick Bartok takes center stage, embarking upon an adventure to rescue a young prince from the evil witch Baba Yaga. Despite going straight to video, the film featured then-impressive CGI and a cast including the likes of Kelsey Grammer, Catherine O’Hara, and Tim Curry. A modest hit on the home video market, Bartok the Magnificent may be largely forgotten these days, but was a staple in ’90s kids’ video collections.
You know, the story of a sled dog having to race against time to deliver a serum to save an entire Alaskan town from death doesn’t exactly scream “family friendly animated romp,” but 1995’s Balto managed to pull it off. Despite its unique story, and even with the involvement of Steven Spielberg as a producer, Balto has managed to slip through the cracks of time.
Adapting the real world tale of a Siberian husky leading a sled team in 1952 to deliver a antitoxin to combat an outbreak of diphtheria in Alaska, Balto dealt with heavier topics than your standard Disney film. With its dark roots, Balto failed to find an audience in theaters, but became a runaway success on VHS, cementing the film as a forgotten classic of plenty of ’90s kids.
1. CATS DON’T DANCE
There is no greater tragedy of ’90s cinema than the overlooking of Cats Don’t Dance. Eclipsed by Disney’s steady march of hits, Cats Don’t Dance bombed at the box office, and single-handedly killed Turner’s burgeoning theatrical animation division. But this dubious distinction was unwarranted, as any ’90s kid will tell you, because Cats Don’t Dance was great.
Hitting theaters in 1996, Cats Don’t Dance followed the adventures of optimistic small town cat Danny as he travels to Hollywood in 1936 to pursue his dreams of stardom. Along the way, Danny befriends plenty of unusual characters, and finds himself drawing the ire of the spoiled Shirley Temple stand-in Darla Dimple. Despite its reputation as a box office bomb, Cats Don’t Dance found an entire new audience on home video, and remains a cult classic to this day.
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