American Theatrical Animation 1976-1989 "The Dark Times"

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American Theatrical Animation 1976-1989 "The Dark Times"

Postby O.Supreme » Tue Mar 07, 2017 3:26 pm

Greetings All,

For a long time, I wondered why, as I was growing up, I was taken by my family to so many classic Disney Films in the theater. To be perfectly honest, I'm not that big a fan. I do appreciate what they represent in terms of cinematic History and animation, but, without trying to sound too chauvinistic... many of the stories are about princesses, or small animals, and none of that really appealed to me, even as a child. But I recently decided to look at what was available, and I was a bit shocked. This was definitely a dark time for animation, at least in American cinemas. I chose 1976-1989 for a couple of reasons..

1. This goes from my birth to age 13, when I initially stopped watching cartoons (which didn't last long btw...) and
2. 1989, and the release of The Little Mermaid was Disney's return to triumph and the start of a renewed boom in the cinematic animation industry at least in the United States.

Of course now looking at the lists available, other countries had a fairly well supported animation industry during the late 70's and 80's. however in the United States it seemed to be all about television -Animation in the Cinema was all but dead. Here is the initial list I came up with, then I'll make some observations:

1 The Rescuers 1977
2 The Secret of NIMH 1982
3 The Flight of Dragons 1982
4 The Last Unicorn 1982
5 Mickey's Christmas Carol 1983
6 The Care Bears Movie 1985
7 The Black Cauldron 1985
8 He-Man/She-Ra The Secret of the Sword 1985
9 Here Come the Littles 1985
10 Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer 1985
11 GoBots: Battle of the Rock Lords 1986
12 The Great Mouse Detective 1986
13 My Little Pony: The Movie 1986
14 An American Tail 1986
15 Care Bears Movie II: A New Generation 1986
16 Transformers: The Movie 1986
17 Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night 1987
18 The Chipmunk Adventure 1987
19 The Care Bears Adventure in Wonderland 1987
20 The Brave Little Toaster 1987
21 Who Framed Roger Rabbit 1988
22 The Land Before Time 1988
23 Oliver & Company 1988
24 The Little Mermaid 1989
25 All Dogs Go to Heaven 1989
26 Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland 1989


Only 26 films in 13 years...I may have left some off (trying to count only films released domestically in US theaters, not ones shown initially on television or released to Video). If anyone has any corrections please let me know. But some things I observed...

1. There are only 6 Disney films on this list, most of which popular consensus seems to be are really bad (I did not count Roger Rabbit as a Disney film as it was a collaborative effort). Also, of Course Little Mermaid was Disney's first Triumphh in many, many years.

2. There were of course some "adult" themed animated movies I left off purposefully, but even the ones for kids, seemed to be aiming a bit dark. I only wish I could have seen more of these in the theater (particularly NIMH and Last Unicorn)

3. Obviously in the Mid-80's, the toy franchises that were popular on TV made their way to the Theater, albeit with little to no success (* Just as a side note however Transformers: The Movie sits atop my personal list of one of the best animated films ever...)

4. I never knew the Care Bears were so popular...3 theatrical releases in 3 years...who knew?...

I also see other patterns, obviously the rise of Don Bluth after his split from Disney, and the sad demise of Lou Scheimer and Filmation.

So basically in answering my own question, I see now how privileged my kids are to live in a time when so many animated films for kids are released every year, so much so in fact we can be selective in choosing good ones, from bad ones, or ones we have no interest in. Also the world has opened up just a bit so that films released in foreign markets sometimes make it to US theaters as well, something that rarely if ever happened when I was a child. Its definitely a good time to be a kid. But from the list above, are there any that stand out to you personally? -Feel free to discuss
There are no more good TV Shows, only ones that haven't disappointed me yet.
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Re: American Theatrical Animation 1976-1989 "The Dark Times"

Postby sentaison » Tue Mar 07, 2017 8:18 pm

The two that stand out are A Flight of Dragons and The Last Unicorn. Mainly because they are adaptations of two of my favorite fantasy novels back then. The Dragon and the George, by Gordon R. Dickson, and The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle. The Last Unicorn is a pretty faithful adaptation of the book, A Flight of Dragons not so much.

I remember taking my little sister to see The Last Unicorn in the theater, but I didn't even know about A Flight of Dragons until I saw it in a Blockbuster years later. Yes both are Rankin/Bass productions, which means tv level animation, but they had great actors doing the voicework. The Last Unicorn had Mia Farrow, Christopher Lee, Jeff Bridges, Angela Lansbury, Adam Arkin, and Rene Auberjonois. A Flight of Dragons had Victor Buono, James Earl Jones, Larry Storch, Harry Morgan, and John Ritter.

They'll never be classified as great animated movies, but they are enjoyable. :)
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Re: American Theatrical Animation 1976-1989 "The Dark Times"

Postby O.Supreme » Wed Mar 08, 2017 11:27 am

sentaison wrote: but I didn't even know about A Flight of Dragons until I saw it in a Blockbuster years later. Yes both are Rankin/Bass productions, which means tv level animation, but they had great actors doing the voicework. The Last Unicorn had Mia Farrow, Christopher Lee, Jeff Bridges, Angela Lansbury, Adam Arkin, and Rene Auberjonois. A Flight of Dragons had Victor Buono, James Earl Jones, Larry Storch, Harry Morgan, and John Ritter.

They'll never be classified as great animated movies, but they are enjoyable. :)


Agreed 100%. and I had the same experience with Flight of Dragons. Additionally, speaking of Rankin/Bass I left off Hobbit & Return of the King because I don't know if they were released Theatrically or not. Something tells me they first aired on Television, but I can't be sure....In any case I didn't see either one until 9th grade (1990)- again rented them from Blockbuster, along with Bakshi's LOTR.
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Re: American Theatrical Animation 1976-1989 "The Dark Times"

Postby sentaison » Thu Mar 09, 2017 1:11 am

Both The Hobbit and Return of the King were tv specials. I don't think either were shown on the big screen.
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