Fresh out of Brigham Young University, Don Bluth joined the Walt Disney animation staff in 1956. Though he occasionally free-lanced at Filmation Studios, Bluth continued returning to the Disney fold in the 1970s, functioning as animation director on such cartoon features as Robin Hood (1973) and The Rescuers (1977). In 1979, dissatisfied with the hidebound atmosphere at Disney, Bluth and several fellow animators broke away to form Don Bluth Productions. Only the moderately successful The Secret of NIMH emerged from the Bluth factory before he combined his operation with Sullivan Studios in 1986. Disney's inability in the mid-1980s to deliver feature-length cartoons at a faster pace enabled Bluth to corner the market with such films as An American Tail (1986) and The Land Before Time (1988). Upon the inauguration of Disney's one-cartoon-feature-per-year policy in 1988, Bluth found his audience diminishing. It wasn't simply because the Disney folks had better distribution channels and louder publicity: the animated films of Don Bluth, while technically superb, lack the strongly defined characters and well-developed stories which have always been the hallmarks of the Disney product.