If you grew up in the late ’90s or early 2000s, there’s a strong chance your favorite childhood movie was a total box-office dud. The animated movies that defined the transitional era are beloved by a generation that grew up watching them on VHS, but many of these nostalgic favorites were critical failures, box-office disappointments, or both. Unlike Disney animated classics, these movies tried to break free of the fantasy musical formula, which were seeing diminishing returns even for Disney itself. The rebellious results were movies that experimented with genre and tone — the successes and failures of which helped to define the more successful era of animation which followed.
What went wrong along the way? Were the “failures” actually that bad or were they overly ambitious? Were they actually as good as we remember or is that wishful childhood nostalgia? In Polygon’s Beloved Animated Failures series, we dust off those old VHS tapes — or, more accurately, find the movies on streaming — and chart the history to better understand these odd, and often overlooked, films.