On Don Bluth (and Gary Goldman)

Okay I’m just going to come out and say it, since I still see a lot of people praising him: Don Bluth was a horrible film maker. He was a great animator. But when it came to making movies, he just couldn’t cut it. Same with Gary Goldman, who was Bluth’s co-director on most of his films.

I grew up with Don Bluth and Disney. I watched An American Tail when I was in 7th grade as part of my history class. I watched Land Before Time with my friends. I’ve yet to see All Dogs Go To Heaven. And I still count Anastasia as one of my favorites, and the soundtrack for it is still my favorite.

I haven’t seen any of his other films.

But I don’t need to.

So how can I say Bluth was a horrible film maker without seeing all of his films? The numbers speak for themselves.

Starting with this: he made only 10 major motion pictures between Secret of NIHM and Titan A.E. Just 10 within 18 years. (Bartok the Magnificent was a direct-to-video release, so not counted here.) He hasn’t made a major motion picture since 2000.

An American Tail was easily his biggest success. Released in 1986, it made nearly 10x its budget at the box office. But that was mostly because of Stephen Spielberg. I wonder how many of you reading this remember the movie poster for it? Don Bluth’s name wasn’t prominent on the poster. The movie was advertised as “Stephen Spielberg Presents“.

The Land Before Time was advertised as “Lucas/Spielberg Present”, referring to George Lucas (yes, that George Lucas):

Bluth severed ties with Spielberg before making All Dogs Go to Heaven. The box office results speak for themselves:

BudgetBox office
An American Tail$9 Million$84 million (9.3x)
The Land Before Time$12.3 Million$84.5 million (6.8x)
All Dogs Go To Heaven$13 Million$27.1 million (2.1x)

From there, Bluth would go on to have a string of 4. Flops. In A. Row. Let me repeat that. Bluth would have FOUR. FLOPS. IN. A. ROW after All Dogs Go To Heaven. How he was even able to make Anastasia after that is beyond me. But it would be his last success. And while it would surpass All Dogs Go To Heaven on the Box Office/Budget ratio, making back nearly 3x its budget, it wouldn’t come close to Land Before Time or An American Tail.

Don Bluth just could not cut it as a filmmaker. And Titan A.E., which ended his career, showed he couldn’t be trusted to make a profitable film.

And anyone who says Don Bluth is a great filmmaker, or even just a “good” filmmaker, is engaging in cherry-picking.