10 Popular Animated Films That Could be Copycats

We have heard tales of smaller studios copycatting bigger studios. But we rarely hear of bigger studios copycatting smaller studios or even in some cases, rival bigger studios.

We have listed ten successful animated films here, along with the films, books or shorts they might have copycatted.

We are not implying that they are copycats and the same time, we are not implying that they are not.

We will only provide what makes them look like copycats and leave you to decide.   


10 The Lion King, 1994

Could be a Copycat of: Kimba The White Lion, 1964

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Disney’s 1994 hit, The Lion King looks too similar to Kimba the White Lion, a Japanese anime released thirty years earlier.

For a start, the name of the main characters in both films — Simba in The Lion King and Kimba in Kimba the White Lion — are too alike.

Both films have similar looking mandrills, birds, warthogs and hyenas.

In both instances, the hyenas are on the side of the antagonist, that is, Claw in Kimba the White Lion, and Scar in The Lion King. 

Talking about antagonists, Claw and Scar are darker than other lions and have black manes.

Claw and Scar also have some problem with their eyes. Scar has a scar over his left eye while Claw has a missing right eye.

Then there are the scenes.

Remember that famous scene where Simba’s father, Mufasa, stands on the Pride Rock?

It turns out that Kimba’s father, Panja, also did the same thing.

How about that scene where Simba is about falling off a cliff with Scar above him?

As it turns out, Kimba the White Lion also has a similar scene except that it was a lioness that stood above Kimba.

How about that scene where Mufasa appears to Simba in the clouds?

It happens that Kimba’s father, Punja, also appeared to Kimba in the clouds.

Despite these glaring similarities, Disney denies any similarities between The Lion King and Kimba the White Lion.


9 Toy Story, 1995

Could be a Copycat of: The Christmas Toy, 1986

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Pixar’s 1995 hit, Toy Story shares similar plots and characters with the 1986 film, The Christmas Toy.

Both films revolve around Christmas and are about toys that come alive when their owners are not around.

Toy Story is about Woody, an arrogant cowboy that becomes agitated when he realizes another toy is about taking his place.

Christmas Toy is about Rugby, an arrogant tiger that becomes agitated when he realizes another toy is about taking his place.

Woody’s rival is Buzz Lightyear, a paranoid toy that thinks he is an astronaut while Rugby’s rival is Meteora, a paranoid toy that looks like something from outer space.

Like Buzz Lightyear, Meteora does not believe she is a toy and always talks about an unseen enemy.

Besides the four main actors, both films star similar supporting actors like two shepherdesses that wear similar dresses and walk around with staffs with a curved end. 


8 Aladdin, 1992

Could be a Copycat of: The Thief and the Cobbler, 1995

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Alladin and The Thief and the Cobbler are two animated feature films based on the same Arabian Nights tale.

While Aladdin was released first, The Thief and the Cobbler had been in the works for over 30 years, making Aladdin the likelier one to be the copycat.

The Thief and the Cobbler is the brainchild of animator, Richard Williams, who wanted to create the perfect animated feature film. He started working on the film in the 1960s and even hired former Disney animators to help him out.

William’s quest for perfection delayed the film more than necessary and it eventually took so long that a good number of its animators passed away.

Williams sped up production in the early 1990s when he discovered that Disney was working on a very similar film. 

He received funding from Warner Bros on the condition that he completed the film before a 1992 deadline.

Again, due to his quest for perfection, he missed the deadline and Warner Bros took a payout from the film’s insurer, the Completion Bond Company. By then, the film was fifteen minutes to completion.

The Completion Bond Company handed the film to Fred Calvert, who completed it in 1994, two years after Disney released Aladdin. 

The same year, the film was released in Africa and Australia as The Princess and the Cobbler but it flopped badly.

The same year, Miramax, which owned US distribution rights to The Thief and the Cobbler, started adding new scenes and dialogues so that it resembled Aladdin as much as possible.

In essence, The Thief and the Cobbler started copycatting the film that probably copycatted it.

In August 1995, The Thief and the Cobbler was released in the United States as Arabian Knight. However, it flopped. The reason? It was too similar to Aladdin and was assumed to be a copycat.


7 Frozen, 2013

Could be a Copycat of: Saint Seiya, Mid 1980s

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Frozen is a Disney animated feature film about a young princess that goes on a quest to find her older sister and by extension, save her kingdom.

The princess is Anna and the older sister is Elsa, who fled the kingdom after magically turning it into the fairy tale version of the ice age.

Disney claims Frozen is an adaptation of the book, The Snow Queen which was written by Hans Christian Anderson.

However, the plot of the Frozen is too different from the The Snow Queen but bears much resemblance to Saint Seiya, a Japanese anime released in the 1980’s.

For a start, both films are about princesses who lack superpowers but have older sisters that can turn anything into ice.

Both older sisters misuse their powers and the younger sisters go on adventures to bring them back.  

The younger princesses, Anna in Frozen and Freya in Saint Seiya, also look alike. They both have green eyes and blonde hairs curled into ponytails.

On the other hand, their older sisters, Elsa in Frozen and Polaris Hilda in Saint Seiya, have blue eyes.

Elsa and Polaris Hilda look dissimilar but a drawing said to be an early draft of Elsa looks like an updated Polaris Hilda. 


6 Finding Nemo, 2003

Could be a Copycat of: Pierrot Le Poisson Clown, 2002

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The plot and characters in Finding Nemo, a Pixar animated feature film released in 2003, looks too similar to that of the book, Pierrot Le Poisson Clown (“Pierrot the Clownfish”) released by French author, Franck le Calvez, in 2002.

Finding Nemo is about Nemo, a clownfish that is separated from his father after his mother is killed while Pierrot Le Poisson Clown is about a Pierrot, a clownfish that is separated from his mother after his father is killed.

In both instances, the clownfish befriends a surgeonfish and cleaner shrimp while looking for his surviving parent.  

Calvez wrote Pierrot Le Poisson Clown in 1995 and showed the manuscript to several French animation studios, hoping one will make a film out of it.

None of the studios agreed to make a film and Calvez published it as an illustration book in 2002.

The book sold out within a month but Pixar stole the shine when it released Finding Nemo the following year.

Finding Nemo did surprise Calvez but what surprised him more was the fact that bookstores refused to stock his book because they were afraid of being sued by Disney.

In other words, bookstores thought Calvez’s book was a copycat of the animated film that is most likely the copycat.

To further prove that Finding Nemo was the shameless copycat, the official Nemo merchandise released by Pixar featured Nemo striking the same pose as Pierrot did in one image Calvez copyrighted before Finding Nemo was released.

A French court struck out Calvez’s attempt to stop Disney from selling Nemo’s merchandise in France. One of the judge’s argument was that Nemo was red while Pierrot was somewhat orange.


5 Antz, 1998

Could be a Copycat of: A Bug’s Life, 1998

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In 1998, Dreamworks Animation released its first product: an animated feature film titled Antz. 

Antz is about a worker ant called Z that falls in in love with the princess of the colony. He joins the army to impress the princess but ended up going to war against a termite colony.

Z survives the war and returns to the colony as a hero but later fled with the princess to find the fabled Insectopia.

Both return to the colony when they realize the ant army General Mandible was trying to destroy the colony. The colony floods but they were able to quickly mass the ants to build a ladder to escape.

The plot looks similar to Pixar’s A Bug’s Life, right?

Sure! And that is because one copycatted the other.

Besides having the same plot, Antz and A Bug’s Life have similar looking characters and shots. They even share a scene where the ant fighting for the princess’s love is trapped in a water droplet.

While we are sure that one copycatted the other, we are not sure about which is the copycat.

Both were released in 1998, barely two months apart. Antz was released on October 2 while A Bug’s Life was released on November 25.

However, despite being the first to be released, it is believed that Antz copycatted A Bug’s Life. 

The story goes that Pixar (which is owned by Disney) had been planning to make a film about ants since 1988 before finally deciding to make the film in August 1994.

On the same day it was announced that Jeffery Katzenberg, who later co-founded Dreamworks and made Antz, was leaving Disney.

It is speculated that Katzenberg laid his hands on a copy of A Bug’s Life manuscripts while at Disney and took it with him to Dreamworks.

Another speculation goes that Katzenberg got the idea for the film from Nina Jacobsen, a Disney employee that worked for Dreamworks around that time.


4 Cars, 2006

Could be a Copycat of: Doc Hollywood, 1991

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Pixar’s animated feature film, Cars, looks too similar to Doc Hollywood, a live action, comedy film released in 1991.

Both films have similar plots even though Cars involves talking cars while Doc Hollywood involves humans.

In both films, the major actor runs foul of the law while traveling to Los Angeles and is handed a community service sentence in a small town as punishment.

However, both do not want to leave the town after completing their sentences.  

Several reviewers who watched Cars accused it of being a shameless copycat of Doc Hollywood.

One of the reviewers, Christy Lemire of the San Francisco Chronicle was not even generous with her words. She said Cars rips off Doc Hollywood, almost note for note”.


3 The Incredibles, 2004

Could be a Copycat of: Fantastic Four, 1961

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The Incredibles is often cited as the best Fantastic Four film ever made. This is so because it is believed to be a copycat of the Fantastic Four.

The Incredibles is about a superhero family of five, consisting of Mr Incredible, Elastigirl and their three children: Violet, Dash and Jack Jack.

Every member of The Incredibles has a superpower equivalent to that of each member of the Fantastic Four, which was first released as a comic in 1961, and was first adapted as a cartoon in 1967.

Mr Incredible is bulky and exceptionally strong, just like The Thing.

Elastigirl can stretch her body to unbelievable extremes, just like Mr Fantastic.

Violet can become invisible, just like the Invisible Woman.

The baby, Jack Jack, has different superpowers including the ability to turn himself into a burning flame, just like the Human Torch.

Dash is the only member of The Incredibles with no Fantastic Four equivalent and we can all guess why.

In case you couldn’t guess why, it is because the Fantastic Four does not have a fifth member.

20th Century Fox was rounding up work on the first Fantastic Four film when The Incredibles was released in late 2004.

Both looked so alike that 20th Century Fox invested an additional $20 million to improve the special effects used in the Fantastic Four and make its ending look different from The Incredibles. 


2 Up, 2009

Could be a Copycat of: Above then Beyond, 2006

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Up is an animated feature film about an elderly man who is about to be sent to a retirement home against his wish.

Just as city officials arrive to take him away, he inflates lots of balloons that uproot his house from the ground and sends it floating into the skies.

Up looks like an extended version of Above then Beyond, a 5:34 minutes short created by students of Ecole Supérieure de Réalisation Audiovisuelle (ESRA), a school of animation in France.

Both films have the same premise: distraught old people attaching balloons to their homes and leaving just before they are evicted.

Above then Beyond is about an elderly woman that had been issued a notice to quit her home. She makes a huge hot air balloon from her curtains and inflates it just before she is evicted.

Using hot smoke from her chimney to heat the balloon, it floats across the skies before landing at another location.

Yannick Banchereau, one of the students involved in making Above then Beyond clarified that Pixar could have gotten the short from ESRA, which is affiliated to Pixar.

He clarified that he and the other students involved cannot take any action against Pixar or ESRA since the short technically belongs to ESRA and not the students.


1 The Wild, 2006

Could be a Copycat of: Madagascar, 2005

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Walt Disney Pictures The Wild looks like a copycat of Madagascar, a full length animated feature film by Dreamworks.

Both films are about wild animals that wound up somewhere in Africa after escaping from New York’s Central Park Zoo. They both feature a cowardly lion, a ridiculous giraffe and involve animals seizing control of ships.

The Wild is about a young lion that strays from the zoo and is transported to Africa.

Meanwhile, his father, Simon, along with a squirrel, giraffe, snake and a koala seize a ship and sail to Africa to recover him.

Simon and his party land somewhere in Africa — which might or might not be Madagascar — where they encounter some wildebeests led by one Kazar that wants to turn other wildebeests into lion-eating carnivores.

Besides Madagascar, The Wild has also been accused of copycatting Finding Nemo and The Lion King, which like it, have been accused of being copycats.

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