With all of the awesome movies that Walt Disney Pictures has been known to produce over the years, it can sometimes be hard to remember that not every hit out there is of Disney’s own making. It’s true that the boundaries have been stretched for what constitutes a “Disney” film since Disney has acquired 20th Century Fox, but there was still an undeniably large number of animated films from Fox through the years that were being incorrectly branded as Disney Productions long before the merger even took place. From those Fox-made movies that existed as separate entities formerly to those other fan-favorited flicks produced by some of Disney’s top competitors in the industry, we’re highlighting well-known animated movies throughout the decades that have been constantly (and incorrectly) thought of as Disney productions.
28. The Land Before Time
Kids growing up in the 1980s and 1990s will remember the original Land Before Time film, centering around a group of diverse young dinosaurs who join forces and forge a friendship as they embark on a journey together to the Great Valley. Several members of the younger generations can attest to being hooked on the original along with its many direct-to-video follow-ups that continued to be produced well into the 2000s. Because of its “Disney-like” feel, and the fact that a large number of Disney fans absolutely love it too, this film franchise often gets mistaken for being a product of the Walt Disney Company when in reality it was produced by Universal Studios.
27. An American Tail
Here is another Universal Studios/Amblin Entertainment film that often gets incorrectly associated with the Walt Disney Company. This is likely due to its “mousey” characters and the fact that it was released in November of 1986, just four months after Disney’s Great Mouse Detective. Many fans of the aforementioned Disney film as well as Disney’s earlier The Rescuers franchise find this film to be a viable recommendation, even though it’s not a Disney movie. And just as many Disney classics have been known to produce hit songs, this one’s signature song “Somewhere Out There” remains a highly popular tune on the radio to this day.
26. All Dogs Go to Heaven
This original film from 1989 and its follow-up sequels may have been produced by MGM (which has an undeniable Disney-related history), but there are several viewers who are always shocked to learn that this was not an actual Walt Disney Company production. There are admitted similarities to take note of in this film in regards to other well-known Disney hits, like Oliver & Company and, yes, The Rescuers. And fans of these often confirm their positive review of this classic as well. The similarities here include, but are not limited to, animal guardianship and a lonely child in need of companionship.
25. The Tale of Despereaux
Based on the preexisting novel of the same name, when this computer-animated movie distributed by Universal Pictures came out in 2008 there were many who were incorrectly pegging it as a Disney Production. Whether it be Disney’s penchant for basing movies off of fairytale classics or the fact that the protagonist is a heroic mouse, we can’t say for sure. But as confirmed by many viewers, if you are a fan of Disney you’ll probably enjoy sitting down to this hit as well.
Related: Nice Mice and Other Disney Rodents
24. The Iron Giant
While it is not one of the most popular films competing against Disney Animation, this film produced by Warner Bros. back in 1999 has been known to be mistaken for Disney property just the same. Taken from an earlier Cold War-based story, this science-minded animated tale about the friendship forged between a young boy and a massive robotic beast does flaunt a few parallels to classic Disney stories of acceptance and diverse alliances. So, while it may be a stretch for some viewers, it is easy to understand why others would associate this one with being a Disney film.
Here is the perfect example of a non-Disney-turned Disney film that was always, for all intents and purposes, an honorary “good neighbor” Disney film. Once upon a time, back in 1997 when 20th Century Fox was not owned by Disney, this animated film hit theaters, stoking the same contested interest in Disney fans as an original Disney product would have. With its plot based on a legendary story (with a tweaked, much happier ending), musical numbers throughout, and that whole Disney Princess-quality contentment driving the story, there were many viewers then, (as there are now) who were flabbergasted to learn that Anastasia is not (as of yet) one of the official Disney Princesses.
22. Quest For Camelot
Despite being produced by one of Disney Animation’s longtime competitors, Warner Bros., this is another “good neighbor” Disney film recommendation for those who like Disney Princesses — especially those who enjoy the more modern can-do spirit of the more recent female protagonists from Disney. In the spirit of a “female knight”, we can’t deny the similar vibes put out by Disney’s Mulan, which was released the same year in 1998. But rather than looking at each one as a competitor, we’ve found that fans of one are often fans of the other as well.
Here is another princess-like production by Warner Bros., released in 1994. But what’s interesting about this timeless classic is that Fox Home Entertainment re-released it in 2002, making this somewhat of a Disney movie after all. And there is no question that the tiny titular heroine here would make for an ideal contender as a Disney Princess. The fact that Jodi Benson, the known voice of Ariel from The Little Mermaid (1989), lends her voice here only solidifies this belief.
20. The Swan Princess
Again, we are keeping the focus on Disney Princess-like recommendations, now taking a look at the example that was released by New Line Cinema and Columbia Tri-Star in 1994 with several sequels coming later. Drawing on a well-known story that can be explained by its title, this feature film has all the classic elements of a Disney film, including transformations and magic. The fact that former Disney animation director Richard Rich had a hand in this also endows the film with an undeniable Disney feel. Therefore, it’s easy to see why it is so commonly mistaken for being such.
It’s amazing how many diehard fans of the Shrek film franchise commonly label this presentation from DreamWorks as a product of the Walt Disney Company. It is true that the plot focuses heavily on the whole fairytale idea, which has been known to influence some of Disney’s most iconic animation classics. It’s also true that by watching Shrek movies, we also get to see several known princesses who have appeared in Grimm’s Fairytales (and coincidentally former Disney films). And then there’s that whole bit about the one-and-only Julie Andrews providing the voice of Queen Lillian. But when all is said and done, the Shrek story arc is an entirely independent entity from Walt Disney Pictures.
18. Polar Express
It’s a surprising yet true fact that some fans of this Christmas-themed computer-animated motion picture from 2004 believe this to be a Walt Disney Pictures production. While we can see the magical elements at work in the film, the idea that it was adapted from a preexisting story, and we as the viewers find ourselves reacquainted with the familiar presence of Tom Hanks, this movie is actually a product of Warner Bros.
17. FernGully: The Last Rainforest
While diehard fans of this animated feature film favorite from 1992 were already mistaking this one for being a product of Disney Entertainment long ago, now that 20th Century Fox is a part of the family we can at last officially bestow a Disney Fairy status on Crysta—the favored protagonist of this story. And with the musical numbers thrown in, along with Robin Williams providing the voice of the lovable “seeing” bat Batty Koda, it’s no wonder that this has been a “Disney” film even before it was officially so. Many have also commented on the elemental plot similarities seen in this cartoon classic in regards to the Avatar storyline—another Fox Entertainment-turned Disney product.
Related: Which Disney Fairy are you?
16. How to Train Your Dragon
While this film franchise’s first movie was produced by DreamWorks Animation and distributed by Paramount Pictures in 2010, it really does have an admitted Disney-Pixar kind of feeling about it. Some of the elements at work here just scream Brave (2012). Combine that with other Disney Animation fixings, like The Good Dinosaur or live-action works such as Pete’s Dragon, and it’s easy to see where this one would have the perfect placement spot as a top recommendation to anyone who is a fan of the aforementioned movies.
15. Peabody & Sherman
Here is another computer-animated DreamWorks movie that often gets mistaken for being a work of Disney. But seeing how it was actually distributed by 20th Century Fox back in 2014, this modern revamping featuring characters from the old Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends television series is nevertheless now officially a Disney film by all accounts.
Perhaps it is the fact that both movies were released in 1998 and feature ants as their central characters, but this movie by DreamWorks often gets confused with Disney’s A Bug’s Life. While remaining entirely different entities where it matters most, the similarities between the two were enough to spark an actual public feud between Jeffrey Katzenberg of DreamWorks and Steve Jobs and John Lasseter from Pixar, nevertheless.
13. Secret Life of Pets
The popularity and humor of this computer-animated film is probably the most likely reason why there are many who incorrectly call it a Disney film. But neither this 2016 product of Illumination Entertainment (distributed by Universal Studios) nor its follow-up sequel from 2019 has ever been a part of the extensive collection of Disney films.
It’s easy to understand why this bird-based computer-animated comedy from 2016 would be mistaken for a Walt Disney Production. There have been many unique birdlike features from Disney throughout the years, after all. And while we cannot compare something like this to Donald Duck works by any account, we still can’t help thinking about the seagulls from Finding Nemo fame or Kevin from Up (2009). All the same, this is not a work of Disney but rather one from Warner Bros.
On the previous note about birds, there is also this franchise originally produced by 20th Century Fox and by all accounts now officially counted amongst the Disney film animation collaborative. This movie was produced in 2011, and a sequel followed in 2014. Now that the franchise is a part of Disney, we’d love to see some of these characters stop by the Enchanted Tiki Room at Disney Parks someday!
This computer-animated film centering around a chameleon appears to be a likely contender as a work from the Walt Disney Company. And featuring the voice talents of Johnny Depp only adds to the inaccurate assumptions that it is such. But truth be told, this 2011 flick is a product of the competitor Nickelodeon Movies in coordination with Paramount Pictures.
9. Shark Tale
Tensions between Disney and DreamWorks almost came to another head when the latter put out this computer-animated flick in 2004, following the release of Disney-Pixar’s successful Finding Nemo in 2003. And while the Finding Nemo franchise remains the more popular of the two, there are still viewers who adamantly believe that this one too is a work of Disney.
8. Happy Feet
Here is a penguin-based pleasantry that often gets incorrectly pegged as a Disney film. Released in 2006 by Warner Bros., it resembles popular Disney hits in the fact that it features animals and enlists a cast of famous voice talents, including Robin Williams once again. And the fact that it came out just after Disneynature released their March of the Penguins film in some ways added to the initial confusion. But again, this is not a product of Disney.
7. Kung Fu Panda
This computer-animated film franchise is another story arc that gets easily mistaken for a work of the Walt Disney Company. And we can see why with its blockbuster success, along with its diverse ensemble of anthropomorphic animals. But again, this one happens to be a product of DreamWorks/Paramount, although the later installment was in fact from 20th Century Fox.
In continuing on in recognition of some of the most popular computer-animated franchises by DreamWorks, we now focus on this blockbuster success. With its original release in 2005, two sequels weren’t far behind, nor was a Nickelodeon-aired spinoff television series. While not a Disney movie, it oftentimes gets credited for being one just the same.
5. Ice Age
Here is another non-Disney-turned Disney film franchise that got its start while under the then-independently operating 20th Century Fox brand back in 2002. With Disney’s many dinosaur-based films, along with those that explore past and present time frames, is it any wonder that this story arc centering around prehistoric mammals has been commonly hailed as a Disney Production for two decades now?
4. Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron
We aren’t horsing around when we say that this animated classic from 2002 has all the makings of a traditional Disney work. It puts us in the same spirit as works like Brother Bear (2003), to a certain extent, and the musical score by Bryan Adams is a worthy competitor to Tarzan’s Phil Collins-led soundtrack. But truth be told, this film, along with its recent sequel, are both products of DreamWorks Pictures.
3. Despicable Me
There’s an undeniable Disney-Pixar kind of quality about this popular computer-animated franchise, which got its start back in 2010 and is still going strong. It’s even led to feature film sequels and various “Minion-like” spinoffs. But despite all that, the handiwork behind the creation of this storyline is none other than Universal Studios, branded under Illumination Entertainment.
2. Hotel Transylvania
The situation with this ghoulish franchise gets kind of sticky, especially considering the fact that Disney Channel is the network that aired its spinoff television series from 2017 to 2020. Even so, neither the series nor the four films in the franchise are actual products of the Walt Disney Company. Rather, they are all works by Sony Pictures Animation.
Here is another example of a movie similar in nature to a Disney contemporary released around the same time. The profiled production here is the Universal Pictures presentation of Sing, released under the Illuminations Entertainment brand back in 2016. Set within a world full of anthropomorphic animals of varying species, viewers can’t help equating this one to Disney’s own Zootopia, also released in 2016.
While the plots are different enough that the competitors haven’t accused one of copying the other, their diverse cast of critters do pair well in relation to each other. As a result, many fans of Disney’s Zootopia are fans of Sing and Sing 2 as well. And there are even some who continue to incorrectly attribute the latter ones with the Walt Disney Company.
The 28 picks we’ve highlighted here represent only a sampling of the countless animated films over the years to have been mistaken for Disney works. Regarding the merger between Disney and Fox, we again state the obvious about the Fox-produced films cited here: they are now technically considered part of the Disney family, but were at one time separate entities established long before such agreements were made.
It’s also worth noting more elaborately what we mean when referring to a film as a “good neighbor” Disney movie. These films make excellent companion recommendations to other existing Disney films due to plot or elemental touches that put us in mind of classic Disney. And with Disney+ streaming services showcasing so many examples of these, along with Disney Channel being known to air some non-Disney movies, it only adds to the extended “Disney family” or “good neighbor” concept. But coming together in such harmoniousness truly is what Disney magic is all about.