Donald Virgil Bluth (born September 13, 1937) is an animator and film director.

As much as many current computer-generated animated movies in the public mind either come from Creator/{{Pixar}} or Creator/DreamWorksAnimation, in the late 70's through the 80's his works were considered one of the two main forces in traditional animation, between his studio and [[Franchise/DisneyAnimatedCanon Disney]].

His films are well-known for gorgeous character and effects animation and for a strong sense of fairy tale storytelling -- and [[{{Grimmification}} 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 still maintain 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 ''Disney/SleepingBeauty''. He would also assist on ''Disney/TheSwordInTheStone'', and would take a brief foray into TV projects (on such fare as Creator/{{Filmation}}'s ''Will the Real Creator/JerryLewis Please Sit Down?'' and ''WesternAnimation/SabrinaAndTheGroovieGoolies'' (!)) before returning to Disney for ''Disney/RobinHood'' in 1973. He also animated sequences in ''Disney/TheManyAdventuresOfWinnieThePooh'' (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 [[StartMyOwn struck out on their own]] to form their own independent studio.

Their goal was to remind Disney, and people in general, [[DoingItForTheArt what painstakingly attentive hand-drawn animation could do]]. For a considerable amount of time, film-goers liked his films better than the movies Disney were releasing. He also produced the animation for two laserdisc-driven videogames, ''VideoGame/DragonsLair'' and ''VideoGame/SpaceAce'', still considered by many as classics.

However, towards the end of the 80's, miffed by Bluth's competition, Disney started treating their own animated films more seriously, and in doing so, is in a large part responsible for the [[TheRenaissanceAgeOfAnimation Western Animation Renaissance]]. Though, sadly, [[BittersweetEnding he couldn't really enjoy it]]...

Ultimately, his films couldn't compete with Disney's juggernaut hits (which hit their stride with 1991's ''Disney/BeautyAndTheBeast''), and became 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, producing ''WesternAnimation/{{Anastasia}}'' and ''WesternAnimation/TitanAE'' for 20th Century Fox, but then, the rise of Creator/{{Pixar}} and Dreamworks became too much to compete with, creating a lull for traditional cel-drawn animated films that only in the past few years has abated. As of the fall of 2015, he is attempted to crowdsource an animated film based on ''VideoGame/DragonsLair''; after failing on Kickstarter, he tried again and, after a shout out from WebVideo/TheNostalgiaCritic, succeeded on Indiegogo that December. As of this writing, he also has [[https://youtube.com/watch?v=sPDdI0XyhOA seven other unknown film projects]] currently in development.

You can read his full biography (up to the early '90s) [[http://www.cataroo.com/DBconts.html here]]. Reviews of his movies in chronological order can be read [[http://babbletrish.blogspot.com/2010/09/don-bluth-month-full-index-of-reviews.html here.]]


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


* ''Disney/RobinHood'': His first animation credit.
* ''[[Disney/TheManyAdventuresOfWinnieThePooh Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too]]'': Animated the scene where Rabbit gets lost in the woods.
* ''Disney/TheRescuers: '' His first animation directing credit for Disney.
* ''Film/PetesDragon1977'': Lead animator on Elliot. This is said to be the movie that made him disillusioned with Disney and he quit soon after.
* ''Disney/TheSmallOne'': His last official project with Disney.
* ''WesternAnimation/BanjoTheWoodpileCat'': Started as a ChristmasSpecial and was made sort of to prove Bluth's crew could create an animated film on their own. Mostly animated in Bluth's garage while he and his team were still at Disney, working on it on nights and weekends.
* ''Disney/TheFoxAndTheHound'': Left midway through production but animated several early scenes with Young Tod and Widow Tweed, he went uncredited.
* The [[DisneyAcidSequence animated musical number]] in ''Film/{{Xanadu}}''.
* ''WesternAnimation/TheSecretOfNIMH'': Based on the book ''Literature/MrsFrisbyAndTheRatsOfNIMH''. His first push for a return to the rich, classical style of [[UsefulNotes/TheGoldenAgeOfAnimation the older Disney films]], and his BreakthroughHit. Many fans and critics still consider this his best film.
* The ''VideoGame/DragonsLair'' game series, largely kicking off the [[FullMotionVideo Interactive Movie]] genre.
* ''VideoGame/SpaceAce'', another Interactive Movie, being ''Dragon's Lair'' [[RecycledInSpace IN SPACE]]!
* ''WesternAnimation/AnAmericanTail'': The first film he did alongside Creator/StevenSpielberg, and it was a huge financial success.
* ''WesternAnimation/TheLandBeforeTime'': Also produced alongside Spielberg and Creator/GeorgeLucas, making even more money than their previous collaboration.
* ''WesternAnimation/AllDogsGoToHeaven'': A film [[InNameOnly very loosely inspired]] by Beth Brown's 1943 book of the same name. Still highly regarded for the most part, but didn't do too well at the box office. To be fair, the other animated film released that day was ''Disney/TheLittleMermaid''...
* ''WesternAnimation/RockADoodle'': Considered a JumpTheShark film by most fans.
* ''WesternAnimation/{{Thumbelina}}'': It is Bluth's most stereotypically-Disney-like film prior to ''WesternAnimation/{{Anastasia}}''.
* ''WesternAnimation/ATrollInCentralPark'': A film which sadly alienated fans and non-fans alike due to it [[TastesLikeDiabetes tasting like diabetes]]. It is considered Don Bluth's worst film by fans (Though it still sports a higher rating on Rotten Totatoes than his following film).
* ''WesternAnimation/ThePebbleAndThePenguin'': A film that was disowned by [[AlanSmithee Bluth himself]], because it suffered from abysmal animation, songs that do not advance the plot, lack of originality and lots of ExecutiveMeddling during production. Also notably Don Bluth's lowest rated film on Rotten Tomatoes.
* ''WesternAnimation/{{Anastasia}}'': Intended to be his big comeback and [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ka2GMsbW4Jo was marketed as such.]] To date, his last big hit.
* ''WesternAnimation/BartokTheMagnificent'': Direct-to-DVD, continuity-free sequel to the above and --this is important-- the '''only''' sequel to one of his films he was ever actually involved with.
* ''WesternAnimation/TitanAE'': Failed at the box office but has since become a cult favorite.
* An animated segment in the ScissorSisters video for "Mary," loosely based on the story of Rapunzel.
* He is credited as the director of a short animated film titled ''Gift of the Hoopoe'', but in fact, he was only marginally involved with the film. He drew some of the storyboards for the film and was asked to direct, but turned down the request; the filmmakers credited him anyway, much to his annoyance.
* He was in charge of the artistic design of the iPhone game ''Tapper World Tour''.
* He made two guest appearances on WebVideo/TheNostalgiaCritic, first in one of the Critic's commercial reviews and again in a ''VideoGame/DragonsLair'', where he plugged his Indiegogo campaign. Bluth and Gary Goldman were later interviewed for Doug Walker's other show, ''Shut Up and Talk''.


In recent years, Bluth has slowed down quite a bit, though it may be premature to call him retired. He now resides in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he directs plays in his own theater, the [[http://www.donbluthfrontrowtheatre.com/ Don Bluth Front Row Theater]], and where he teaches animation classes from time to time. His website can be seen [[http://www.donbluthanimation.com here]], which includes animation tutorials and a forum in which you ''might'' even be able to talk to the man himself. You can also find his YouTube page [[https://www.youtube.com/user/DonBluthProductions here]], and his Twitter page [[https://twitter.com/DonBluth here]].

A prequel film to ''Dragon's Lair'' has been floating around in DevelopmentHell since the mid 2000s, with Bluth trying and failing to secure funding due to Hollywood's lack of faith in hand-drawn animation. He finally secured a budget through a successful Indiegogo campaign ([[https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/dragon-s-lair-returns/x/12912272#/ which is still currently accepting donations]]) and began preliminary work in 2015.

!!Tropes associated with Don Bluth Productions Include:

* AnimatedAdaptation: A few of this films are adaptations of (or at least very loosely inspired by) works from other mediums.
** ''The Secret of NIMH'', which is an adaptation of the book ''Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH''.
** ''All Dogs Go To Heaven'', which is an InNameOnly adaptation of the obscure 1943 book by Beth Brown.
** ''Rock-A-Doodle'' is a very loose AdaptationExpansion of the tale of Chanticleer the Rooster, and is also an equally loose adaptation of the play ''[[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chantecler_(play) Chanticler]]'' by the French writer Edmond Rostand.
** ''Thumbelina'', which is based on the classic Creator/HansChristianAndersen fairy tale.
** ''Anastasia'' is a ''very'' loose adaptation of the 1956 Creator/IngridBergman film ''{{Film/Anastasia}}''.
* AuteurLicense: Went independent in an effort to gain one. Ironically, he got ''less'' control over his films with each success. Gary Goldman [[http://alternativemagazineonline.co.uk/2009/11/30/interview-in-conversation-with-gary-goldman-don-bluth-productions/ even said in an interview]] that after their company Sullivan-Bluth went bankrupt due to ''Rock-A-Doodle'' flopping, forcing them to sell the studio and reform into Don Bluth Productions in 1993, Don no longer owned his own company.
* AuthorAppeal: Seems to really like Russian culture, as ''An American Tail'' opens up in Russia, and both ''Anastasia'' and its prequel ''Bartok the Magnificent'' are set in different periods of the country. (In fact, with the latter film, it started out because him and Gary Goldman wanted to do a film about Baba Yaga, a witch from Russian mythology, before the executives at Fox asked them to make a spinoff film involving Bartok. The two projects ended up being merged.)
* AwardBaitSong: Occurs in almost all of his own animated features, and in fact Bluth [[TropeCodifier codified]] it with "Somewhere Out There" in ''WesternAnimation/AnAmericanTail''.
* BlackAndGrayMorality: ''All Dogs Go To Heaven'' (Charlie is an AntiHero who gradually grows to care for Anne-Marie, while Carface is unambiguously evil).
* BlackAndWhiteMorality: ''The Secret Of NIMH'' (Mrs. Brisby and her family are unambiguously good, while Jenner is unambiguously evil), ''An American Tail'' (Fievel, all the other mice and Tiger are unambiguously good, while Warren T. Rat and his cats are unambiguously evil) and ''Anastasia'' (Anastasia is unambiguously good, while Rasputin is unambiguously evil).
* BreakTheCutie: Anytime there's a cute, young protagonist, expect terrible things to happen to them before the end in most of Bluth's movies.
* CarnivoreConfusion
* CatsAreMean: Written in giant, neon letters. There are three notable exceptions: ''WesternAnimation/BanjoTheWoodpileCat'', of course, and the [[MySpeciesDothProtestTooMuch nice cat characters]] in both ''WesternAnimation/AnAmericanTail'' and ''WesternAnimation/RockADoodle''.
** That being said, dogs don't come off well in Bluth's work either (see Charlie and Carface - especially Carface - in ''All Dogs Go To Heaven'' and the vicious dogs who briefly chase the [[TheProtagonist protagonists]] in ''Banjo The Woodpile Cat'' and ''A Troll In Central Park'').
** He's openly admitted that he likes dogs better than cats.
* CherubicChoir: Used in nearly every one of his films.
* CoversAlwaysLie: The DVD covers to his films always use sub-par stock art and make the movie look far more [[LighterAndSofter cutesy]] than it really is. One of the worst victims, aside from the aforementioned "Family Fun Edition" of ''NIMH'' (perhaps better known for this because it has a more vocal fanbase), would have to be the cover of ''WesternAnimation/AnAmericanTail'', which shows Tanya as she appears in ''Fievel Goes West'', a movie Bluth ''didn't even direct''. And depending on which edition of the DVD it is, a lot of very minor background characters made it onto the cover, for whatever reason. Because the original VHS cover done by ''Drew Struzan'' apparently wasn't good enough anymore.
* CreatorThumbprint: In addition to his distinct illustrative art style, nearly all of his movies include scene with a character moving (usually falling) across a background with a tight vanishing point on either end (the mice falling down the vent in ''WesternAnimation/TheSecretOfNimh'', Charlie ascending to heaven in ''AllDogsGoToHeaven'', Bartok falling into the underworld in ''{{WesternAnimation/Anastasia}}'').
* CreepyShadowedUndereyes: Used on almost every villain in his movies.
* CuteLittleFangs
* DarkerAndEdgier:
** His darker works from TheEighties compared to Disney at the time, although they're ''nowhere'' as dark as the films of his fellow independent animator, Creator/RalphBakshi. Which is saying something, when you consider [[Disney/TheFoxAndTheHound the]] [[Disney/TheBlackCauldron movies]] [[Disney/TheGreatMouseDetective Disney]] [[WesternAnimation/TheBraveLittleToaster put]] [[Disney/OliverAndCompany out]] in the 80's (''Disney/TheLittleMermaid'' excluded).
*** Bakshi infamously held a low opinion of Bluth for this very reason: he believed that, by making Disneyesque movies, Bluth had wasted an opportunity to do something truly revolutionary in the world of animation.
** ''Anastasia'' is his only dark movie of TheNineties, from what you can tell where one scene has BigBad Rasputin selling his soul and turning into a skeleton for a brief moment.
** ''Titan A.E.'', which actually got a PG-rating, while all of the previous ones got a G.
** His own storytelling philosophy is that it doesn't matter how dark a story is; if it has a happy ending, kids will be able to take it.
* DisneyAcidSequence
* DisneyDeath
* DisneySchoolOfActingAndMime
* DisneyVillainDeath
* DownOnTheFarm: In ''WesternAnimation/BanjoTheWoodpileCat'', ''WesternAnimation/TheSecretOfNIMH'' and ''WesternAnimation/RockADoodle''. Possibly a case of WriteWhatYouKnow because Bluth grew up on a farm; this is definitely the case with ''Banjo'', which was based on a childhood pet who got lost and later found his way back.
* EarnYourHappyEnding: And then some. In a lot of his films, this is probably the only thing that keeps his audiences from walking away severely depressed.
* EvilIsHammy: The Grand Duke from ''Rock-A-Doodle'' and the beetles from ''Thumbelina''. All Bluth films listed above from ''A Troll In Central Park'' to ''Bartok the Magnificent'' use this trope too.
* EvilSorcerer: Mordroc from ''Dragon's Lair II: Time Warp'', The Grand Duke from ''Rock-A-Doodle'', Gnorga from ''A Troll In Central Park'', and Rasputin from ''Anastasia''
* FollowTheLeader: ''WesternAnimation/{{Thumbelina}}'' and ''WesternAnimation/{{Anastasia}}'' were pretty blatant attempts to copy the Disney formula.
* FurriesAreEasierToDraw: But then again, ''WesternAnimation/TitanAE'' and ''WesternAnimation/{{Anastasia}}'' both had very well-animated humans as main characters (humans were usually simply rotoscoped in his earlier films). ''WesternAnimation/TitanAE'' also used a significant amount of rotoscoping.
* GoneHorriblyRight: His attempt to get Disney to start putting more effort into their films like they did in their golden age worked a little ''too'' well, as not only did he lose a lot of his growing audience to Disney's animated musical masterpieces, but he also quickly lost his special status as the only other animated movie maker out there, as many other studios tried to cash in on Disney's success by trying to make Disney esque animated features (with little more success than Bluth though).
* GoodSmokingEvilSmoking: If a character smokes in one of his movies, expect them to be a villain.
* GrayRainOfDepression:
** First appears in ''WesternAnimation/BanjoTheWoodpileCat'', and the scene of a little lost animal crying in the rain is replicated almost identically in ''WesternAnimation/AnAmericanTail''.
** It becomes a plot point in ''WesternAnimation/RockADoodle.''
* GreyAndGrayMorality: ''Titan A.E.'' (the Drej are acting in premptive self-defense, while Corso is a very sympathetic AntiVillain).
* HappilyEverAfter
* HumansAreBastards: The scientists at the eponymous institute in ''WesternAnimation/TheSecretOfNIMH''. It doesn't really crop up much elsewhere, most humans are usually just ignorant in his other movies with animal protagonists.
* InstantIndexJustAddWater: Water and related tropes are featured extremely prominently in his five first movies; in each of these there is at least one rain sequence, one under water sequence (there is even a specific under water ''musical theme'' in ''WesternAnimation/TheLandBeforeTime''), scenery where water is featured profusely (a watermill, a rusting cargo, sewers, docks...), several dramatic sequences and/or a climax involving water more or less directly...
* LighterAndSofter: ''Rock-a-Doodle'', ''Thumbelina'', ''A Troll In Central Park'', and ''The Pebble and the Penguin'' compared to the last four movies before them. Perhaps not coincidentally, these are considered his biggest flops.
* LoveAtFirstSight: A trait of some of Bluth's projects.
** In ''WesternAnimation/TheSecretOfNIMH'', there is an implied attraction between Mrs. Brisby and Justin, but it doesn't go much further than that. Played more straight with Tony Toponi and Bridget in ''WesternAnimation/AnAmericanTail'', Goldie and Chanticleer in ''WesternAnimation/RockADoodle'', ''WesternAnimation/{{Thumbelina}}'' and Prince Cornelius, as well as Hubie and Marina in ''WesternAnimation/ThePebbleAndThePenguin''.
** Two exceptions are Anya and Dmitri in ''WesternAnimation/{{Anastasia}}'' and the leads in ''WesternAnimation/TitanAE'', who both detest each other at the start.
* NiceMice: Probably the only exception in any of his movies would be Ms. Field Mouse from ''Thumbelina'', and even then she's just a bit of a JerkAss. Plenty of [[YouDirtyRat villainous rats]] in his work though
* ObviouslyEvil: Most of his villains.
* ParentalAbandonment: [[WesternAnimation/TheLandBeforeTime Littlefoot's mother]] was fatally wounded by Sharptooth, [[WesternAnimation/AllDogsGoToHeaven Anne-Marie]] is an orphan, and Anastasia's whole family was murdered, except for her Grandma who she got separated from, getting amnesia in the process, and ended up in an orphanage for 10 years of her life.
** With WesternAnimation/BanjoTheWoodpileCat and [[WesternAnimation/AnAmericanTail Fievel]], these abandonments were self-inflicted. Banjo ran away from home after being sick of constant punishment for getting into trouble, and Fievel was just too curious about the fish that washed up on the boat.
** And then there's ''WesternAnimation/TitanAE'', where '''the entire planet Earth''' is [[YouCantGoHomeAgain blown up within the first fifteen minutes]], leading some fans to call it the "ultimate Don Bluth parental abandonment movie".
* PunchClockVillain: Killer in ''WesternAnimation/AllDogsGoToHeaven'', Hunch in ''WesternAnimation/RockADoodle'', and Llort in ''WesternAnimation/ATrollInCentralPark''. And they're all voiced by Charles Nelson Reilly.
* RandomEventsPlot: In addition to the inherent weirdness of his films, most of them tend to have rather bizarre, disjointed story structures. He has made some that have more straightforward stories, such as ''Dragon's Lair'', ''Space Ace'' and ''The Land Before Time''.
* ReusedCharacterDesign: While his films aren't ''too'' bad about this, if you really pay attention a lot of his characters have similar facial features, body types and mannerisms. For example, compare [[WesternAnimation/AnAmericanTail Fievel]] to [[WesternAnimation/RockADoodle Edmond]], WesternAnimation/BanjoTheWoodpileCat to [[WesternAnimation/TheSecretOfNIMH Martin Brisby]], [[WesternAnimation/{{Thumbelina}} Jacquimo]] to [[WesternAnimation/AnAmericanTail Henri]], [[WesternAnimation/TheSecretOfNIMH The Great Owl]] to [[WesternAnimation/RockADoodle The Grand Duke of Owls]], [[WesternAnimation/RockADoodle one of the Duke's owl henchmen in the chorus]] (the one with the green cape, NOT Hunch!) to [[WesternAnimation/ThePebbleAndThePenguin Rocko]], [[WesternAnimation/AnAmericanTail Warren T. Rat]] to [[WesternAnimation/AllDogsGoToHeaven Carface]] or [[WesternAnimation/TheSecretOfNIMH Ms. Shrew]], [[WesternAnimation/AllDogsGoToHeaven Carface]] to [[WesternAnimation/ATrollInCentralPark Gnorga]] and [[WesternAnimation/TheSecretOfNIMH Jenner]] to [[WesternAnimation/ThePebbleAndThePenguin Drake]].
* RidiculouslyCuteCritter: Nearly all the animal character designs.
* {{Rotoscoping}}: Bluth likes to do this a lot, but he usually sticks with using it to animate difficult vehicles and such. The effect is very appropriate, as the giant rotoscoped machines in ''NIMH'' and ''American Tail'' look ''terrifying''. In more recent movies, this effect was largely replaced by ConspicuousCGI and the impact is... less good. Human background characters in ''WesternAnimation/TheSecretOfNIMH'' and ''WesternAnimation/AnAmericanTail'' were also rotoscoped, though non-rotoscoped humans appear in later movies.
* RuleOfSymbolism:
** Another common motif is characters unwillingly sliding, tumbling down or being washed away by water or wind. This is never played for the comedic effect; these sequences are always dramatic, as they emphasize the loss of control of the characters.
** Most of Bluth's films involve a metaphorical or literal journey down to hell. Keep in mind that Bluth is a life-long Mormon, and it's far easier to [[EveryoneIsJesusInPurgatory read Christian themes into his films]] than it is with comparable Disney films.[[note]] Mormon theology doesn't have a comparable hell concept, so this theme may be more to add to the fairy tale atmosphere of some of his older movies.[[/note]]
* SceneryPorn: Often inverted -- Bluth's backgrounds can seem watery and washed-out to non-fans.
* SciFiWritersHaveNoSenseOfScale: Averted in a vast majority of his works, even ''WesternAnimation/ATrollInCentralPark''. For instance, look at the demon cat Dragon compared to the size of Brisby in ''WesternAnimation/TheSecretOfNIMH''.
* ShownTheirWork: For its time (hard emphasis on the "for its time" part), ''WesternAnimation/TheLandBeforeTime'' was one of the most accurate dinosaur movies, at least in the sense that the dinosaurs in question were treated more or less like ordinary animals rather than sci-fi monsters.
* SlidingScaleOfIdealismVersusCynicism: An interesting example in that his films are typically optimistic, but the characters go through hell to get their happy ending.
* SmallAnnoyingCreature: A stock character that shows up in his works to lighten the mood. Examples include Digit in ''WesternAnimation/AnAmericanTail'', Ducky and Petrie in ''WesternAnimation/TheLandBeforeTime'', Hunch from ''WesternAnimation/RockADoodle'' and Bartok from ''WesternAnimation/{{Anastasia}}''. The fact that one gets ''blown to pieces on-screen'' in [[WesternAnimation/TitanAE his final film]] shows that even he started to get sick of them after a while.
* SomethingCompletelyDifferent: ''Titan A.E.'' is very different from his other films for a variety of reasons. First, it didn't even start off with Bluth--it spend a while in DevelopmentHell before 20th Century Fox gave Bluth, fresh off the success of ''Anastasia'', the directors chair and 19 months to slam the film out. It also completely eschews the fairy tale aesthetic and tone of his previous films and, unlike his previous work ''Space Ace'', plays its Sci-Fi art and tone completely straight. And while Don's work is known for it's dark elements already, this film throws in more cynical elements to go with it, which are sometimes played for laughs, and there are also no [[KidAppealCharacter kid friendly characters or sidekicks]] sandwiched in--in fact, the film takes a potshot at the trope when a Drej trooper [[BloodyHilarious unceremoniously (and comically)]] kills one such character who tried to tag along with Cale and Korso. The soundtrack also consists of pop music instead of an orchestral score. On top of that, it's also ''very'' heavy on CGI, far more than any of Bluth's previous work.
* StartMyOwn: Bluth's animation studios after he left Disney but before he joined Fox Animation.
* TechnicianVersusPerformer: The performer to Gary Goldman's technician. Bluth claims that he's better at coming up with broad ideas while Goldman is better at production. That said, it's clear that both their strengths lay more in technique than in story. The stories are there, but there's clearly more attention given to the animation.