Donald Virgil "Don" Bluth (born September 13, 1937) is an American animator and independent studio owner. He is best known for his departure from the Walt Disney Company in 1979 and his subsequent directing of animated classics such as The Secret of Nimh (1982), An American Tail (1986),The Land Before Time (1988), and All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989), as well as his involvement in the laserdisc game Dragon's Lair. The competition provided by his movies is often credited for forcing the Walt Disney Company to improve from their streak of lackluster film efforts to the films that would make up the Disney Renaissance.
He has a brother named Toby Bluth who is also an animator who worked with him.
Early life and the Disney years
Born in El Paso, Texas, Bluth received a bachelor's degree in English Literature from Brigham Young University. Bluth became one of the chief animators at The Walt Disney Company in the 1960s. He first started as a directing animator for The Rescuers, 101 Dalmatians, The Fox and the Hound and as an assistant director on Sleeping Beauty and The Sword in the Stone, for all of which he was uncredited. He would not return to Disney until in the 1970s, when he was an animator on Robin Hood, The Rescuers, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and Pete's Dragon. His last involvement with Disney was the 1978 short The Small One. Along with fellow animators Gary Goldman and John Pomeroy, he set out in 1979 to start his own animation studio, Don Bluth Productions. He drew a few scenes for The Fox and the Hound (where he was once again uncredited) but left early in production.
Goldman began his career in animation when he joined Walt Disney Productions in February 1972. His first assignment was as an in-betweener to legendary Disney animator Frank Thomas on the film Robin Hood. He then worked alongside Don Bluth, as an animator, on Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too! and The Rescuers before serving as Directing Animator on Pete's Dragon and The Small One.
In an effort to accelerate their skills in preparation for leadership assignments within the Disney organization, Goldman and Bluth began to purchase used animation equipment and probe every aspect of animated production, at Don Bluth's home. United by the common goal of restoring the lost techniques of classical animation, Goldman and Bluth, along with animator John Pomeroy, produced, directed and animated the classically animated 27 minute, filmed-featurette Banjo the Woodpile Cat. Their enthusiasm attracted many other artists at Disney, who came by the garage to contribute their time and artistry to the project. It took four years, working nights and weekends in Bluth's garage. In December 1979, the film was shown at the Egyptian theater in Hollywood and the Peppertree theater in Northridge. It received the National Film Advisory Board Award for Excellence, and the Golden Scroll Award from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films. Using what they learned on their project, they attempted to implement their techniques on projects at Disney. Banjo the Woodpile Cat was later shown on ABC Television (June 1982), as a prime time special.
Divided by disagreements over story and production values, Goldman, along with Bluth and Pomeroy, resigned from Walt Disney Productions to establish their independent animation studio, Don Bluth Productions, in 1979. The departure was highly publicized and the trio were dubbed "Disney Defectors" by news reporters.
Since leaving Disney, the team produced several feature films, starting with The Secret of NIMH, which won the Saturn Award for "Best Animated Feature" from the Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Film Academy. In late 1982, composer Jerry Goldsmith introduced them to director Steven Spielberg. Their first collaboration with Spielberg, which began production in January 1985, An American Tail, released in November, 1986, ushered in a new era of success for the full-length animated feature, becoming the highest-grossing animated film of its time.
Goldman was a producer on the highly successful animated laser disc interactive video games, Dragon's Lair, Space Ace and Dragon's Lair II: Time Warp. Dragon's Lair received the Inkpot Award for the "First Interactive Laser Disc Arcade Game" and an Arkie Award for the "Best Arcade Audio/Visuals". Financial difficulties with their distributor, cut them off from financing, and forced them to seek protection in bankruptcy in 1984. It was at this time they met mergers and acquisitions expert, Morris Sullivan, who set up a corporation, Sullivan Studios to allow the trio to continue while the bankruptcy courts slowly settled their company's case against its distributor.
In 1986, Sullivan moved Goldman, Bluth & Pomeroy, and the entire operation, including 87 employees and their families to Dublin, Ireland, at the invitation of IDA Ireland. Their third feature film The Land Before Time, was their first production created primarily in Ireland, Sullivan transferred much of the ownership of the Dublin studio to the three animators, and renamed the company Sullivan Bluth Studios. The company produced six feature films from 1986 until 1994. Sullivan retired in 1991 and the company was renamed Don Bluth Entertainment, Ireland, Ltd.
In August 1994, Goldman and Bluth returned from Ireland to head up the Fox Animation Studio located in Phoenix, Arizona where they shared creative leadership, as producers and directors. The first production completed by the studio was the award-winning Anastasia in 1997. Also produced there was Bartok the Magnificent in 1999, and the animated science fiction film, Titan A.E., in 2000. A forth feature film, "Africa", was in production when 20th Century Fox shut down its animation facility.
Goldman and Bluth have reestablished their independence with their production company, Don Bluth Films, Inc., developing feature-length properties. The company established a web site,http://www.donbluth.com/, where they communicate with their audience on a personal level, and provide animation information online.
In August 2007, Goldman was named an artist in residence at the Savannah College of Art and Design for the college’s 10-week winter quarter starting in January 2008. Goldman lectured on animation, as well as taught undergraduate and graduate level classes in traditional 2-D animation production.