(1938- ) US animator and director of Animated Movies, resident in Eire since 1979. He rose to prominence at Disney, working on such movies as Robin Hood (1973), Pete's Dragon (1977) and The Rescuers (1977) before becoming concerned that Disney feature animation was losing its way (which, at the time, it probably was). Attracted by the generous tax concessions offered by Eire to creative artists, he set up his own studio there, and since then has created a number of Animated Movies in what he regards as the true spirit of Disney: their animation is certainly on a par, but their scripting is less assured and they can lack vivacity. All are, however, of fantasy interest; and all are worth watching.
The Secret of NIMH (1982), based on the Newbery-winning Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (1971) by Robert C O'Brien (1918-1973), is a Technofantasy concerning intelligent laboratory rats escaping from a research establishment. An American Tail (1986) is DB's masterpiece to date, and represents an important advance in commercial animation: it takes on adult issues (such as antisemitism and exploitation) and mixes them adroitly with more conventional material to produce a movie that is both fun and thought-provoking for all the family. The Land Before Time (1988) is a fantasy adventure set among intelligent Dinosaurs: highly original in concept and excellently animated, it was generally disliked by the critics. All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989) is another extremely interesting movie, a canine Posthumous Fantasy in which a petty-criminal dog returns to Earth for vengeance on the canine gang boss who had him murdered. There are intriguing scenes in the Afterlife. Rock-a-Doodle (1990) sees a farmhand suffering Transformation by an owl into a cat; he gets help from an urban rock-star cockerel. Thumbelina (1994) was the first DB movie to feature humans rather than Talking Animals – and also to challenge Disney's "Classic Fairytales" features head-on. The tale is nicely told, but still lacks the punch of the best of Disney's work in this field.
It could be argued that Disney's current output of animated features is as good as it is because of the incentive to surpass DB. Although there have been superb one-offs from other animation studios – FAI/Youngheart's Ferngully: The Last Rainforest (1992), for example – DB's work, taken as a whole, is quite exceptional. [JG]