9 Ridiculously Underrated Animated Movies From The 1990’s

The ’90s was a golden era for animated movies. Disney had its renaissance with classics like The Lion King and Toy Story dominating the box office and capturing the hearts of audiences worldwide. However, there was also a plethora of lesser-known gems that often get overshadowed.

From groundbreaking independent films to underappreciated studio releases, the ‘90s offered a diverse range of animated movies that deserve more recognition. Somehow there are even a few on here that we’ve never seen. Join us as we take a nostalgic trip down memory lane and uncover the most underrated animated movies from the ’90s. 

1. The Pagemaster

The Pagemaster

The Pagemaster is a live-action/animation hybrid film released in 1994. It follows the story of a young introverted boy named Richard Tyler who finds himself facing his fears and embarking on a magical and transformative journey. The movie begins with Richard seeking shelter in a library during a thunderstorm. He meets the librarian, Mr. Dewey, who advises him to step outside his comfort zone and explore the world. As Richard tries to leave, he slips and hits his head, transporting him into an animated world of books where he meets three talking books: Adventure, Fantasy, and Horror. The trio becomes Richard’s guides, and together they embark on the daring pursuit of finding the exit from the library. In their journey, they visit various literary genres represented by iconic literary characters. Each genre teaches Richard valuable life lessons designed to help him overcome his fears and build self-confidence.

The Pagemaster is one of many ’90s films that dealt with a hybrid storytelling structure. The integration of live-action and animation dates back to the early 20th century. Walt Disney pioneered the concept with his groundbreaking film Mary Poppins in 1964. 

However, it was in the 1990s that hybrid films really began to flourish. Several factors contributed to their popularity during this time. First, advancements in technology made it easier to integrate live-action and animation, creating more convincing and seamless visual effects. The development of computer-generated imagery (CGI) opened up new possibilities for blending these elements, offering filmmakers greater creative flexibility. This hybrid approach appealed to audiences of all ages. It offered a unique and imaginative viewing experience by combining the magic of animation with the relatability of real actors and settings. It allowed fantastical elements to come to life, creating visually stunning and immersive worlds that captivated viewers.

The rise of hybrid live-action/animation films in the ’90s can be attributed to advancements in technology, a resurgence of interest in animated films, and the desire to create unique and captivating cinematic experiences. The Pagemaster was a key part of this trend, continuing the legacy of combining real-world and animated elements to bring stories to life in a visually enchanting way.

2. Balto


Balto is an animated adventure film based on the true story of a heroic sled dog. Set in 1925 in the small town of Nome, Alaska, the film follows the incredible journey of Balto and his team as they brave harsh weather conditions to deliver a life-saving serum to the town’s children suffering from diphtheria. While he is highly regarded by his friends, including Boris the Russian goose and polar bear cubs Muk and Luk, Balto’s wolf heritage prevents him from being fully accepted by the town’s canine population. Despite this, Balto retains his strong sense of justice and courage.

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

Balto’s compassionate nature leads him to join the relay team, hoping to prove himself and help save the children. Jenna, a beautiful husky who has always believed in Balto, supports him and promises to wait for his return. Steele, a boastful and selfish husky, is initially chosen as the lead dog for the relay but sabotages Balto’s chances of joining the team.

Undeterred, Balto and his friends set off on their own mission to bring back the serum. Battling blizzards, icy landscapes, and treacherous terrains, Balto leads his team through various perils, showcasing his intelligence, resourcefulness, and unwavering determination. With his wolf instincts guiding him, Balto navigates the wilderness, relying on inner strength and his companions for support.

The movie is an underrated classic but most people don’t know it’s based on a true story. Yes, really. The film is based on a true story, adding a layer of significance and authenticity to the narrative. Balto’s heroic journey in delivering the life-saving serum during the outbreak of diphtheria in Nome, Alaska, is a remarkable tale that deserves recognition. This harrowing underdog story is sure to please. 

3. An American Tail: Fievel Goes West

An American Tail: Fievel Goes West

An American Tail: Fievel Goes West is an animated adventure film and a sequel to the critically acclaimed An American Tail. 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 begins with the Mousekewitz family, including Fievel, their young mouse son, living in New York City. Fievel is eager to leave the bustling city life behind and venture into the Wild West, where there are supposedly no cats. The family decides to move West, hoping for a better life free from the constant threat of cats. Upon reaching the Wild West, the Mousekewitz family quickly realizes that things are not as they expected. The conniving and devious Cat R. Waul, who is also a con artist, deceives the mice, using their dreams of happiness to take advantage of 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 as he witnesses the arrival of 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 praised for its stunning animation, vibrant visuals, and memorable characters. The voice cast includes the talented voices of 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 such as Dreams to Dream and Way Out West, which add to the film’s charm.

An American Tail: Fievel Goes West serves as an entertaining and heartfelt sequel, expanding on the beloved story of Fievel and his dreams of a better life. It captures the spirit of adventure and the importance of standing up for what is right, making it a delightful watch for both children and adults alike.

4. Princess Mononoke

Princess Mononoke

Princess Mononoke is a renowned animated film directed by Hayao Miyazaki, released in 1997. Set in the late Muromachi period of Japan, the story follows the journey of Ashitaka, a young prince cursed by a demon. Determined to find a cure and understand the reason behind his curse, Ashitaka ventures into a world torn apart by conflict between humanity and nature. The plot revolves around a fierce struggle between the industrialized civilization represented by Iron Town, led by the ambitious Lady Eboshi, and the mystical forces of nature embodied by the gods and spirits of the forest. The forest is guarded by the enigmatic Princess Mononoke, a human raised by wolves, who fights passionately against human encroachment and the destruction of the natural world.

As Ashitaka traverses the boundaries between the human and the supernatural world, he becomes deeply entwined in the complex web of conflicts. He finds himself torn between his growing affection for San, the Princess Mononoke, and his sympathies for the plight of humanity. In his quest for understanding, Ashitaka encounters various eccentric and intriguing characters, including Jigo, a cunning bounty hunter, and the wise and ancient Forest Spirit. Through stunning visuals and masterful storytelling, the film explores timeless themes such as the inherent connection between humanity and nature, the destructive consequences of human greed and industrialization, and the importance of balance and coexistence. “Princess Mononoke” offers a thought-provoking narrative that delves into the delicate relationship between humanity, the environment, and spirituality.

The movie has received critical acclaim worldwide for its artistic brilliance, its compelling story, and its environmental message. It has been recognized as one of Miyazaki’s masterpieces, showcasing his unparalleled ability to merge powerful storytelling with social commentary. The film’s success contributed to the global recognition of Studio Ghibli and solidifying its position as one of the most influential and beloved animation studios in the world.

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. Quest for Camelot

Quest for Camelot

Quest for Camelot is a 1998 animated fantasy film directed by Frederik Du Chau. Set in the medieval era, the movie follows the adventures of a young and brave girl named Kayley. The story begins with King Arthur ruling the magical kingdom of Camelot, where he leads a peaceful and prosperous reign. However, the kingdom faces a threat when the villainous knight Sir Ruber desires to take over Camelot and claim the legendary sword, Excalibur, for himself. In an attempt to foil Ruber’s plans, Arthur and his knights engage in battle against Ruber’s forces.

During the skirmish, Ruber manages to steal Excalibur, but in the process loses his hand. The sword is then flung into the Forbidden Forest, where Kayley’s father Sir Lionel is mortally wounded while trying to retrieve it. Sir Lionel entrusts his daughter with the mission to find the sword and protect Camelot. Years later, Kayley grows up to be a determined and skilled swordswoman. She leaves her home and embarks on her quest to find Excalibur. On her journey, she encounters a blind hermit named Garrett, who possesses the power to communicate with animals. They join forces and eventually form a romantic bond, becoming an inseparable team.

While Quest for Camelot is a fantasy animation film, it draws inspiration from Arthurian legends and incorporates some historical elements. The movie is set in the realm of Camelot, a legendary kingdom associated with King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. Arthurian legends are a collection of myths and stories that have been passed down through generations, blending historical figures with mythical elements. The film centers around the quest to retrieve Excalibur, the legendary sword associated with King Arthur. In Arthurian legends, Excalibur is said to be a powerful and mythical sword given to Arthur by the Lady of the Lake. It represents Arthur’s rightful claim to the throne and his role as a just and noble ruler. This underrated classic is a perfect watch for anyone who is a history buff but also loves a good cartoon.

7. Cat’s Don’t Dance

Cat's Don't Dance

Set in 1930s Hollywood, the story revolves around an ambitious, enthusiastic cat named Danny, who dreams of becoming a successful and respected performer in the entertainment industry. Danny, voiced by Scott Bakula, leaves his small town behind and heads to Hollywood with hopes of making 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 is determined to prove them all wrong and fulfill his dreams.

He befriends a group of fellow animal actors, including a wise turtle named T.W., a kind-hearted elephant named Woolie, a hyperactive squirrel named Pudge, and a diva-like chicken named Darla Dimple. Together, they form a plan to showcase their talents and impress the human actors and directors in hopes of landing starring roles in films. As the group starts rehearsing, they catch the attention of Darla Dimple’s loyal butler, Max, who realizes that the animals’ incredible performances could potentially overshadow Darla’s stardom. In an attempt to maintain Darla’s status and sabotage the animals, Max sets a series of traps, but Danny and his friends manage to outsmart him each time.

Although it initially didn’t receive much attention upon its release, Cat’s Don’t Dance has now garnered a cult following. The movie was also made by Don Bluth, a former Disney animator, formed his own animation studio and created a unique style that made his films stand out. His style is know for bright colors, and very dark villains that have little to no redeeming qualities. Also, he was a big animal lover and most of his films center around animals as main characters, and they often convey a heartfelt message advocating for the protection and understanding of animals. Bluth’s films emphasize the importance of empathy, compassion, and the acceptance of creatures, promoting a more inclusive worldview. Of Don Bluth’s work, Cat’s Don’t Dance might be the best of the best.

8. Thumbelina


Thumbelina is a delightful animated musical fantasy film released in 1994, based on the beloved fairytale by Hans Christian Andersen. Directed by Don Bluth and Gary Goldman. The film begins with a lonely old woman named Jacquimo, who discovers a small barley seed and plants it. To her surprise, the seed grows into a beautiful flower, and within it, 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 intends 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 encounters various colorful characters such as 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, and the two instantly fall in love. However, fate plays a cruel hand when Thumbelina is whisked away by a deceitful flower fairy after being deceived about Cornelius’s fate. Heartbroken, Thumbelina is forced to accept her dire circumstances and continues her search for happiness.

As Thumbelina navigates through numerous 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.

While Thumbelina stays true to the general premise of Hans Christian Andersen’s original fairytale, it incorporates several notable differences and additions to enhance the storytelling. One significant departure from the original story is the introduction of new characters and subplots. In the film, Thumbelina encounters a charismatic beetle named Mr. Beetle and a kind field mouse named Jacquimo, who become important companions throughout her journey. These characters are unique to the movie and add depth to Thumbelina’s adventures, providing both comedic relief and heartfelt moments.

Additionally, the film expands on Thumbelina’s desire to find her true home. In the original fairytale, Thumbelina longs to find a place where she truly belongs, but the specifics of her quest are not elaborated upon. However, in the film adaptation, Thumbelina actively searches for her home and encounters various challenges and obstacles along the way, making her journey more adventurous and compelling. Another major difference lies in the focus on romance. While the original fairytale explores Thumbelina’s encounters with different suitors, including a mole and a swallow, the film places a stronger emphasis on her love story with Prince Cornelius. Thumbelina’s relationship with Cornelius becomes a central narrative arc, showcasing their growing affection and the obstacles they face in their pursuit of happiness.

Overall, the animated version incorporates new characters, subplots, and conflicts to expand upon the original fairytale and create a more dynamic and engaging narrative. These additions provide a fresh and modern take on the story, allowing for a richer exploration of themes such as love, friendship, and personal growth.

9. Once Upon a Forest

Once Upon a Forest

Hanna-Barbera didn’t just produce killer television shows, they also dipped their toe into the movie pool with Once Upon A Forest. The story centers around a group of animal friends living in Dapplewood, a peaceful woodland community. The main characters are three young creatures: Abigail the woodmouse, Russell the hedgehog, and Edgar the mole. They live harmoniously in the lush forest, under the watchful eye of their wise teacher, Cornelius the badger. However, their peaceful existence is disrupted when a careless truck driver accidentally spills toxic chemicals near their home, causing a devastating disaster.

The lush and vibrant forest soon becomes contaminated, threatening the lives of many animals and plants. The toxic fumes unleash illness and death, particularly affecting a young fawn named Michelle, who falls gravely ill due to her small size and fragility. Recognizing the urgency of the situation, Abigail, Russell, and Edgar embark on a perilous journey to find a cure for their friend and restore the forest to its former glory.

Once Upon a Forest stands out in the animated genre for several reasons. One of the key aspects that sets this film apart is its strong environmental message. While many animated films touch on themes of conservation, Once Upon a Forest places it at the core of its narrative. The devastating effects of human actions on nature are depicted in a realistic and heartfelt manner, serving as an educational tool for young viewers about the importance of protecting the environment. As the years go by it’s hard not to hold this film in higher regard as we see the continued impact on the environment and the planet’s resources.