Anybody who's familiar with my writing knows that I love animated films. I love the level of artistry that goes into them and the near endless creative possibilities one can accomplish in the genre. However, when you watch as many animated films as I do, you tend to notice a few repeating themes, ideas, character types, and aesthetics. There are times where animated films seem to rip each other off in many areas, but is that technically a bad thing.
One of the best examples of almost identically themed animated films was that of Disney/Pixar's "A Bug's Life" and Dreamworks' "Antz". Both are animated films that focus on a colony of talking ants and the main character of both films is viewed as somewhat of an outcast from the colony, until they utilize their unique skills to save the day, thus gaining acceptance from the colony. The similarities between these two films was amplified when they were both released the same year in 1998 (and only weeks apart, too).
While the similarities between these two films are quite noticeable they do differ is a couple areas. The theme of "A Bug's Life" centers on workers uniting to overthrow the ruling class who reap the benefits of their hard labor without having to work (seriously watch the ending of that film and tell me who you think the grasshoppers represent). In many ways you can see it as a pro-communist film. The theme of "Antz", however, is somewhat different. The film is actually about slightly pushing back against the collectivist mindset, and showing the importance of individualism and free thought. While they may be similar in aesthetic and character, they differ wildly when it comes to theme.
Another example of similar films is Disney/Pixar's "Finding Nemo" and Dreamworks' "A Shark's Tale". Both films were released a year apart from each other and both center on talking fish. However, that's where the similarities come to an end. While "Finding Nemo" is an emotional and literal journey, where a father learns to let his son grow up and they bond over their shared adventure, "A Shark's Tale" is a generic animated film with too many celebrity cameos, dated pop culture references, and only exists because "Finding Nemo" was popular. This is one example where a film was solely copying another film for pure profit.
One example I find interesting is between Dreamworks' "How to Train Your Dragon" and Disney/Pixar's "Brave" (noticing a running theme yet). While on the surface both films don't seem too similar, but if you look closely they have a lot in common. Both are medieval fantasy films centered around a protagonist who doesn't meet the social norms of their given society and constantly but heads with their same-sex parent over it. They eventually change things for the better through their adventures with a black creature and reconcile with their estranged parent. While I don't think the similarities were intentional, it is a strange coincidence.
While some of the examples I gave could be viewed as a lazy rip off of other films, some just happen to take similar inspiration. You often find that many different films throughout history take similar inspiration from other sources. Many stories we see as "original" today were often inspired by other, older stories. Sometimes originality isn't as important as how you tell the story and whether it's a story worth telling.