Amblimation was the UK-based short-lived animation production arm of Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment that was active from 1991 until about 1997. Stationed in London and comprised largely of the animation staff from Who Framed Roger Rabbit, it was Spielberg's attempt to continue producing animated features after parting ways with Don Bluth. Fievel Mousekewitz from An American Tail was the company's mascot and appeared in the production logo (see above).
Despite their lavish hand-drawn animation, none of the films were critically or commercially successful and the studio closed in 1997 after only three films and a couple of TV specials. Afterwards, most of the staff migrated to DreamWorks Animation, which has since seen far greater success. Today, all references to Amblimation became Amblin Entertainment.
Amblimation was also closely associated with Universal Animation Studios, with whom they co-produced A Wish for Wings that Work and Fievel's American Tails and produced a few Direct to Video sequels to Balto.
Films and series produced by Amblimation, in chronological order:
- An American Tail: Fievel Goes West
- Fievel's American Tails (TV Series, produced along with Nelvana)
- Back to the Future (TV Series adapting the movie of the same name.)
- We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story
This studio's output contains examples of:
- Art Shift: Balto's animation looks a lot flatter than the heavily shaded character animation of Fievel Goes West and We're Back.
- Black-and-White Morality: All three of their films had a very obvious "good guy versus bad guy" conflict.
- Cerebus Syndrome: Balto is much more heavy and dramatic than the dense and wacky Fievel Goes West and We're Back.
- Creator's Oddball: Being their only film not to be co-directed by Phil Nibbelink, Balto noticeably lacks the zany and bizarre cartoon animation of both An American Tail: Fievel Goes West and We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story in favor of something more dramatic and realistically grounded.
- Deranged Animation: The staff mainly comprised of animators who had worked on An American Tail, The Land Before Time and Who Framed Roger Rabbit (all of which Spielberg produced), resulting in a delightfully bizarre hybrid of subtle character acting and wacky cartoon hijinks.
- Reused Character Design: As mentioned above, since a lot of the animators at Amblimation previously worked with Don Bluth, there is some obvious influence in a lot of the designs. For instance, Rex and Woog's feral forms look a lot like Sharptooth and Cera's father, respectively. Also, a lot of the minor dog characters in Balto look like they came straight out of All Dogs Go to Heaven, and Steele's smug grin and long snout look a lot like Jenner's.
- Scenery Porn: A lot of effort was put into the backgrounds of their films.
- What Could Have Been:
- Spielberg tried to get back together with Don Bluth to work for his studio, but Bluth didn't like Spielberg having the final word on all of their collaborations. Considering how badly both Bluth and Amblimation did in the 90s, it's food for thought whether or not they'd have been more successful together.
- A film adaptation of Cats was in the works but the concept was scrapped after the studio closed. Some concept art was made public around the time the 2019 special effects-heavy live-action adaptation was announced. Amblin Entertainment, who still owned the adaptation rights, received a production credit for it.
- An adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s ‘’Just So Stories’’ was considered but nothing came of it.
- Shrek began development here as a 2D film. When the studio shut down, Spielberg brought it with him to DreamWorks Animation.
- At one point, Paula Abdul and Virgin Records were in talks to do a feature adaptation of Abdul's video for "Opposites Attract," which famously had Abdul dancing alongside an animated character named MC Skat Kat. A spin-off album of the character, The Adventures of MC Skat Kat and The Stray Mob, was released in 1992, but it didn't catch on and the film never materialized. This also would have lead to an animated series on Fox Kids around the same time but that never materialized either.