This week in movies, we have the release of Ice Age: Continental Drift. While the original Ice Age movie, was, how do I put it...pretty watchable and enjoyable, I haven't done much to re-vist the franchise since. The recent films have made a lot (a lot) of money, so I'm pretty sure we will keep getting more of these for many years to come.
Accordingly, I decided this week to look at some of the best animated films in cinematic history. I think one of the best aspects of animated films is the fact that if done well, they can appeal to such a broad audience. Many of them tell stories that can appeal to children, but oftentimes have enough depth and meaning throughout to keep the interest of an adult. Beyond being family films, animation also allows a filmmaker to explore new forms of storytelling since they do not have to be limited to camera movements and real life elements. While I did my best to vary it some, when looking at the list there is a huge presence of films made by Pixar and Disney which really shows they truly are the best at what they do. So, here it is…let's take a look at some of the best animated films to date.
However, I must put a note that while I know that it is a huge part of the genre, I do not have up-to-date knowledge of Anime, and therefore not many anime films will be on the list. I know it is likely that Akira and Ghost in the Shell should be on this list but since I have not seen them I cannot properly judge or write about either. However, perhaps I shall educate myself and then soon we can explore that genre on its own.
And, without further ado and in no particular order….
|1. The Incredibles|
Besides The Dark Knight, I think this movie is quite possibly my favorite in the superhero genre and that is no joke. I think one of my biggest affinities towards the film is the fact that it isn't actually based on a comic book series. They came up with a completely original story that is able to hold up against some of the best superhero teams. And, more than anything the Pixar film explores some pretty heavy themes dealing with a society that worships mediocrity which in turn forces the superhero family to live underground….until they need them, of course. At the same time, it is funny, there is drama, and more than anything there are some pretty spectacular action sequences.
|2. Spirited Away|
I know I said I wasn't going to include anime, and I'm not sure if Spirited Away is even defined in that category? Either way, it is not just one of my favorite animated films, but it is one of my favorite films of all time so I could not ignore it. I'm not sure if it is a movie that can really be described in words, because part of the beauty of it is the fact that you go on a journey with a young girl and experience life with her as if you were in a dream. However, it is a beautiful dream with a haunting story that is animated so precisely you can't take your eyes off of it. I don't want to say much more, and if you have not experienced it yet, just please do, you won't be sorry.
|3. The Nightmare Before Christmas|
Notwithstanding the fact that the world really does not have enough truly wonderful and brilliant Halloween entertainment, The Nightmare Before Christmas cannot be ignored simply for the fact that it brought this form of animation to mainstream cinema. The technique uses physically manipulated objects and animates them to make them appear as if they move on their own. In the film that was produced and written by Tim Burton and directed by Henry Selick, they created small models of each character, scenery, set piece and animated it all with a painstakingly slow process. I have seen some of the original models and am simply fascinated what they were able to bring the story to life. And, I should not discount the story. The story of a man who in the end teaches the lesson that we should all be happy with the lives we have. And then there is the love story between two misfits that are afraid they will never find love or be normal. That is one of my favorites….ever.
|4. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs|
I don't know that you can talk about animated film without talking about Disney, and I don't know that we would have had Disney animation if it was not for Snow White. The film serves as one of the first full-length animated features and proved there was a demand for it and consequently almost single-handedly launched the genre. At the time of its release, the movie astounded audiences who were used to short and simple cartoons. The animation was beautiful, the story was heartwarming and who couldn't help but love those seven little hard-working whistling dwarfs….I mean, even Grumpy can win a heart over. While animation has come a long way since Snow White was released in 1937, this one remains a classic.
|5. Finding Nemo|
When thinking about the themes and implications of the story in Finding Nemo, it is a pretty dark film. A young fish who is an only child gets separated from his father and goes on a journey to try to find his way back home. We never seem to think about animals and their families and what happens to them when they get separated. I know it made me think twice the next time I thought about going fishing or eating a flounder. However, the story is told in such an uplifting and funny way that you can't help but smile when watching. Also, could Dory be one of the cutest animated characters ever? "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…" Oh, and the animation depicting under-water sea life is truly breath-taking.
|6. Fantastic Mr. Fox|
Another entry in the stop motion category, the adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic book that was directed by Wes Anderson. The film was made in 2009, but the treatment of the animation and characters makes it feel very old school and classic. It is witty and it is fun and in my opinion was a very underrated film at the time.
|7. Toy Story|
I chose the first Toy Story, but really while they are each their own film, each entry in this series should be on this list, so this really includes all three. Toy Story in 1995 was the first full-length CGI feature film and quite possibly one of Pixar's best. The first gave us two iconic characters and I am sure Woody and Buzz Lightyear will be part of children's lives for years to come. However, the Toy Story films are ones that on the surface seem like they are for children but truly also can be loved by adults. They can bring anyone back to the relationship they had with their favorite toy and what life was like when they had to give them up. It is a nostalgic yet light-hearted and funny yet sweet story. Personally, I think Toy Story 3 has become my favorite, but only because the story just felt more poignant and personal.
|8. Who Framed Roger Rabbit|
This movie was an interesting mix of genres as it combined animation, film noir, comedy and mystery. However, it was most notably recognized for the way it so brilliantly mixed live action and animation within scenes. Released in 1988, the film triggered a renewed interest in Disney animated films that hadn't existed for a couple of decades. I think it should also be noted for creating what I can assume we can all agree is the sexiest animated character of all time...Jessica Rabbit.
|9. The Little Mermaid|
Shortly after the animated/live-action hybrid Who Framed Roger Rabbit? The Little Mermaid truly solidified what is known as "The Disney Renaissance" which was a time during the late 80s through about the year 2000 when they made wildly successful animated films that were based on well-known stories. It was during this time that the general public became very enamored by and excited to see Disney films again. The story of the movie itself was based on the fairy tale of the same name written by Hans Christian Andersen. The movie tells the story of Ariel who dreams of becoming a human and this desire only gets bigger when she falls in love with a prince. The musical numbers truly look as if they are a broadway performance and once the songs get in your head, it is hard to get them out.
Who would have thought you could create an animated movie with no dialogue in the opening 20 minutes that would be so brilliant? When I heard about that I was skeptical and even if it was Pixar, I wasn't sure how they would be able to pull it off. Boy, was I wrong. The scene is mesmerizing and there is not one moment that you want to see more than Wall-E zooming around the barren landscape picking up garbage. It has been considered by many as an "art film" and I believe it holds up to that name. It also explores some very important issues facing modern day society as we could feasibly be in danger of our planet being overcome by trash and the image of humans being so fat they are stuck in chairs is disturbing, but also not unfathomable. Beyond all of this, Wall-E is a lead character who is a robot and yet you love him with all of your heart and that is one of the best things that makes this film so wonderful.
It won the 2011 Academy Award for Best Animated feature and deservedly so. I went into it thinking it would be another kids movie that also appeals to adults and was surprised to find out it was a bit of the other way around. In actuality, it is an adult film and story that could probably be appealing to children. It functions more as a classic Western that just happens to be starring an animated chameleon voiced by Johnny Depp. I also have to say, that being a huge Hunter S. Thompson fanatic, any movie that can subtly throw in an awesome Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas reference is an absolute win in my book.
Also, it should be noted that movies such as South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast should be included on this list, but I am trying to avoid movies I have already used on other "Best Of" lists. Check out the other features and where they fit into those: