10 Animated Movies You Didn’t Know Were Based On Children’s Books

There are many animated movies that are quite famous for being based on children’s books. You have your Disney fairy tales, your bizarre Roald Dahl stop motions, and iconic franchises like Paddington and Curious George. However, some anime movies’ source material might have flown under people’s radar.

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It’s always fun to know where some of the most iconic animated classics come from. Knowing that these films were created by authors who would not have known how far their works would go is quite surprising in itself.

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The Villains (2022)

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Villain characters

This crime animated film from DreamWorks Animation is actually based on a series of children’s books by author Aaron Blabey. The story centers on a group of criminals who collectively decide to “turn over a new leaf” to avoid going to jail for their many crimes.

To their surprise, they end up enjoying the positive attention they get for doing good things. Almost like being good feels good, but that’s not something you’re going to hear any of them admit anytime soon. The upbeat and dynamic animation style is a fantastic way to fit the story, and the voice cast does its best with its goofy characters.


Coraline (2009)

Rent on Apple TV


Collage of colorful scenes in Coraline

While it’s not exactly an unknown fact, Neil Gaiman’s film adaptation Coraline brought the book to life in an incredible way. The story begins like many coming-of-age films do, with a family moving to a new place far from everything they’ve known.

Naturally, Coraline Jones, the heroine, is very upset by this. She spends most of her time exploring the house and accidentally stumbles into the Otherworld which is better in almost every way than her own. At least, it seems so. The film masterfully introduces new audiences to the surreal yet charmingly dark horror of Neil Gaiman’s work and satisfies long-time fans as well.


Meet the Robinsons (2007)

Stream on Disney+


Meet the Robinsons Disney Movie

Meet the Robinsons is an underrated classic from the early years of Walt Disney’s CGI film division. Loosely based on William Joyce’s children’s book A day with Wilbur Robinsonthe film picks up the book’s aesthetic and vibe that elevates the source material from a fun visit to the future to a realistic yet hopeful lesson in failure.

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The story is about an orphan named Lewis, who was left at the orphanage 12 years ago by his mother. Since then, he worked hard to invent something that could help him conclude this event. His plans are turned upside down when a child named Wilbur Robinson arrives claiming to be from the future.


The Rise of the Guardians (2012)

Stream on Netflix


Rise of the Guardians Santa Tooth Fairy Jack Frost Easter Bunny Sandman

Rise of the Guardians is based on William Joyce’s book series and also acts as something of a spiritual sequel to the franchise at this point. Rise of the Guardians reinvents mythological figures from folklore that are deeply associated with certain holidays or concepts. The film focuses its lens on the journey of Jack Frost.

Jack Frost is a bit of an anti-hero, who has no interest in following rules or traditions, content to live his life as a mischievous ice spirit. However, he hides deep bitterness and wants to become someone people actually believe in. The film does a great job of giving a modern update to these classic folk creatures while still retaining that childhood whimsy.


Nihm’s Secret (1982)

Stream on Tubi


Many fans of this Don Bluth classic might be shocked to know that the film was very freely based on an old novel from the 1970s by Robert C. O’Brien. The story is about a family of mice who live near a farm and struggle to survive. One day, Timothy, one of the children, falls ill and delays their plans. On the advice of a mysterious owl, the family enlists the help of escaped lab rats from the “NIMH”.

This film was Don Bluth’s first-ever feature film and is a cult classic among old-school animation fans. N’s secretI AMH sets the tone for Don Bluth’s solo projects in the future. Audiences knew they could expect incredibly high-quality animation as well as darker story elements in Don Bluth’s films. They were beautifully made and could be enjoyed by children and adults alike.

Howl’s Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

Stream on HBO Max


Sophie and Markl approach Howl's Howl's Moving Castle

Studio Ghibli is known for its preference for adapting fantasy stories, and one of the most fantastic of them all is the classic Howl’s Howl’s Moving Castle, based on the novel by Diana Wynne Jones. Set in a kind of fantasy version of World War I, the story is about a young woman named Sophie, a hatter who is looking for a purpose in life. When she has a chance encounter with the wizard Howl, the jealous witch of the trash curses her with the scariest curse of all: old age.

Although Sophie is surprisingly not afraid to look old, she still wants to reverse the curse, along with a bunch of other goofy characters such as a scarecrow, a fire demon, and a young apprentice named Markl. The film may not have been able to accommodate all of the deep relationships between the characters, but it was more than capable of bringing its world to life.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009)

Stream on Netflix


Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs Burger Rain Promotional Photo

Considered by many to be one of the best animated films produced by Sony, Cloudy with a chance of meatballs was based on a 1978 novel by Judi Barret, with illustrations by her then-husband, Ron Barrett. Of course, the only thing the movie really adapts from the book is the part about food falling from the sky. Otherwise, they go completely off the rails with the premise.

The story takes place in a town called Swallow Falls, where Flint Lockwood, a mad scientist, invents a machine that converts water into any type of food. When Sam Sparks covers this story, he finally gets the respect he never had before. However, the machine quickly becomes unstable, and it’s a race against time (no thyme, please) to fix everything. The film is very well remembered thanks to its incredibly goofy visuals as well as its absurd and over-the-top humor, which totally deserves its Fresh certification on RottenTomatoes.


The Iron Giant (199)

Stream on HBO Max and Hoopla


The Iron Giant

Brad Bird’s first feature film where he takes the helm, The Iron Giant is based on a classic story by Ted Hughes titled Iron man (no, not this Iron Man). The story is set in 1957 and centers on a boy named Hogarth Hughes who finds a gigantic iron robot that has fallen from the sky. They build a friendship, but the military forces are eager to use the robot as a weapon in its own right.

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The film is a beautifully animated masterpiece, and despite its box office bombardment, The Iron Giant recouped those losses very well on home DVDs and TV reruns. Many of Brad Bird’s motifs, such as 50s aesthetics and surprisingly adult themes of socio-economic issues, are present in this film. Mixed with a strong anti-war message and being able to choose who you are The Iron Giant a cult classic.

How to Train Your Dragon (2010)

Stream on Peacock


How to Train Your Dragon Hiccups and Toothless Brows

How to train your dragon is based on the books by Cressida Cowell, and the film does a great job of evoking the same sense of wonder and fantasy as the books. The movie takes a completely different route from the books, but it keeps the character names as well as all the cool dragon species, which, to be fair, is the most important thing to keep anyway.

The film’s story centers on Hiccup, the son of a Viking leader who seems to enjoy inventions more than being a warrior. One day, he manages to take down a legendary Night Fury, but when he finally encounters it, he doesn’t see a monster. Instead, he appears to be a scared and cornered animal, and so he decides to help her instead. How to train your dragon features great lessons about not letting tradition and bigotry dictate who you are, as well as showing the realities of being a hero.

Shreek (2001)

Stream on Netflix and the Roku Channel


Shrek and Donkey meet Puss for the first time in Shrek 2

Shrek is now an all-time classic franchise, and it’s shocking to many to learn that the multi-million dollar franchise was based on a children’s book that was a far cry from the movie itself. While the original book was a comedy about a monster who liked to be a monster, the film offers surprising depth to the titular character of Shrek.

Shrek is about an ogre who seems content with his life scaring the villagers and generally being a bit of a slobbery thug. However, he is forced to save a princess to keep a group of fairy tale creatures off his property and soon realizes he may not want to be a “monster” anymore. Shrek is a surprisingly poignant film about how appearances and expectations negatively affect life, as well as being legitimately hilarious.


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