30. Toy Story 2 (1999)
Directors: John Lasseter, with Ash Brannon and Lee Unkrich
Best quote: ‘You never forget kids like Emily or Andy, but they forget you.’
Defining moment: Jessie’s song, in which the cast-off cowgirl tells of the day her beloved owner left her behind.
It was meant to be a straight-to-DVD project, a way for Disney to squeeze a few more bucks out of an unexpected hit. Then Pixar head honcho John Lasseter got involved, and ‘Toy Story 2’ was transformed into that Holy Grail for all franchise seekers, a sequel that enriches – and some would say improves upon – the original.
While the first film addressed kid-friendly ideas of friendship and trust, this time the themes are far more grown-up: It’s all about self-worth, beautifully and simply expressed through the concept of ‘collectability’ and what that word means both for the owner and his possessions. The fact that ‘Toy Story 2’ is also filled with memorable characters, witty asides, geeky spoofs (the whole ‘Buzz Lightyear, I am your father’ riff is hilarious) and zippy action sequences doesn’t hurt a bit either. Tom Huddleston
29. The Jungle Book (1967)
Director: Wolfgang Reitherman
Best quote: ‘I’m the king of the swingers / The jungle VIP / I’ve reached the top and had to stop / And that’s what’s botherin’ me.’
Defining moment: King Louie of the Apes and Baloo the Bear’s scat-’n’-dance routine.
Blame the hippies. ‘The Jungle Book’ is so loopy, hip and happening, you can’t help wondering if Disney’s animators were passing the bong as they worked. Just look at the vultures, with their mop tops and British accents (the Beatles were intended to do the voices but John Lennon refused).
After rejecting an early draft of the script as too dark for a family film, Walt Disney instructed a second team to drop ‘the heavy stuff’ from Rudyard Kipling’s stories of Mowgli. They created some of Disney’s most lovable characters: Baloo (the Bill Murray of bears) and smooth-as-silk Shere Khan the Tiger. The film is a high point for Disney musical numbers – ‘Bare Necessities’ and ‘I Wanna Be Like You’ are pure joy.
Walt himself died during production, and historians credit the huge box-office success of ‘The Jungle Book’ with saving the studio’s animation department from closure. Cath Clarke
28. Princess Mononoke (1997)
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Best quote: ‘My goal is to see with eyes unclouded by hate.’
Defining moment: The first sight of the Deer God, antlers glowing as we glimpse him through the trees.
Like ‘Nausicäa of the Valley of the Wind’ and ‘Laputa: Castle in the Sky’, this Miyazaki epic puts ecological concerns at the center of a human power struggle – but a decade on from those earlier films, the director’s worldview had become much more complex.
The nascent technology of iron smelting allows for the development of firearms, but also means that forests are felled to fuel the process – forests where the ancient gods still live. Half-human, half-spirit Mononoke embodies the contradictions of change, vowing to protect the woods yet drawn to youthful warrior-tribesman Ashitaka, who’s seeking his own destiny at the heart of this threatened landscape.
Unlike the Disney universe, there are no simplistic heroes or villains here, just the steady realisation that our bid to master nature will have profound consequences: both our making and our undoing. Muscular, troubling, uncompromising storytelling on a grand scale. Trevor Johnston
27. Watership Down (1978)
Director: Martin Rosen
Best quote: ‘All the world will be your enemy, Prince of a Thousand Enemies, and when they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you.’
Defining moment: The harrowing apocalyptic vision of young Fiver, which sets the story – and decidedly mature tone – in motion.
Not quite children’s adventure, not quite grown-up epic, rich with classical allusions and biblical allegory, Richard Adams’s unexpectedly popular novel posed something of a challenge to animators: How do you make a creature feature that’s not too cute for adults, and a story of death and displacement that’s not too grim for families? Martin Rosen’s solemn, urgent and exquisitely rendered film strikes just that balance.
There are sequences in this riveting survival tale to terrify viewers of any age, many involving General Woundwort, the face that launched a thousand childhood nightmares. But there’s comforting, compassionate sweetness, too (exemplified by Art Garfunkel’s sentimental theme song, ‘Bright Eyes’), all folded into powerful, traditional storytelling. Nobody would dare make anything like it today. Guy Lodge
26. South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999)
Director: Trey Parker
Best quote: ‘That movie has warped my fragile little mind.’
Defining moment: ‘Uncle Fucka’, the foulmouthiest jolly little musical number in animation history.
The Broadway-conquering, Tony-sweeping success of Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s stage musical, ‘The Book of Mormon’, took many by surprise – but only the sort of people who wouldn’t have touched the ‘South Park’ movie with a conductor’s baton. If they had, those audiences would have known that the Coloradans were not merely purveyors of taste-baiting trash for sniggering schoolboys, but the slyest, smartest and (yes) most tuneful satirists America had produced since, well, ever.
And ‘South Park Bigger Longer & Uncut’ remains their defining statement, a work combining epic scale (a land war with Canada, a trip to the depths of Hades, a daylight raid on the Baldwin compound) with intimate character comedy (Satan’s grief over his lover Saddam Hussein’s infidelity is genuinely touching), wrapped in a biting commentary on censorship and topped off with belting show tunes worthy of ‘West Side Story’. Tom Huddleston
25. Persepolis (2007)
Directors: Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi
Best quote: ‘Shut up, you bitches! Yes, I’m Iranian, and I’m proud of it!’
Defining moment: Young Marjane talks her way out of a tough spot after buying an Iron Maiden bootleg.
Between 2000 and 2003, French-Iranian artist Marjane Satrapi published a well-received autobiographical comic detailing her coming-of-age during and after the Islamic revolution. When the opportunity arose to make a film, Satrapi took on the task herself, with the aid of comics colleague Vincent Paronnaud and an all-star voice cast featuring Catherine Deneuve and Danielle Darrieux, among others.
Aside from a framing section in color, the film mimics the high-contrast black-and-white inking of Satrapi’s four-volume graphic novel. The simplicity of the visuals helps universalise the story, which is filled with plenty of the usual travails of growing up (troubles with boys, clandestine parties, etc.), though always viewed in pointedly thumb-nosing contrast with the oppressive regime that wants to keep the populace – especially its women – in check. Persepolis is infused with its creator’s ingratiating rebelliousness, as well as her melancholy for a homeland torn apart by still-rampant social and political divides. Keith Uhlich
24. Bambi (1942)
Directors: James Algar, Samuel Armstrong, David Hand, Graham Heid, Bill Roberts, Paul Satterfield and Norman Wright
Best quote: ‘Faster! Faster, Bambi! Don’t look back! Keep running! Keep running!’
Defining moment: Bambi and his mother graze peacefully in a clearing. Her ears prick up. Something’s not right. A gunshot rings out. They run for their lives.
For lots of us, ‘Bambi’ is so many firsts: the first time we cried in the theatre, when... you know when; the first time we realised that really bad things happen to adorably cute deer. In 1942, Walt Disney described ‘Bambi’ as ‘the best picture I have ever made, and the best ever to come out of Hollywood.’ Today, it still has friends in high places.
‘Toy Story’ director John Lasseter and the Pixar crew are huge fans, arguing that, from boy to buckhood, ‘Bambi’ contains some of Disney’s most charming animation (Walt set up a small zoo at the studio for his team to study the animals). And in the roll call of Disney supporting actors, Thumper the rabbit is an all-time great. Despite its reputation for being sentimental, the film’s closing scene – Bambi abandons his mate and newborn twin fawns to join his father in the forest – is as un-Disney as it gets. Cath Clarke
23. 101 Dalmatians (1961)
Directors: Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske and Wolfgang Reitherman
Best quote: ‘I live for furs. I worship furs! Is there a woman in all this wretched world who doesn’t?’
Defining moment: The puppies sneak past Cruella De Vil, covered in soot, disguised as black Labradors.
What is it with Disney villainesses? So much wrath and murderous rage with so little cause. A year after the evil fairy Maleficent put a curse on ‘Sleeping Beauty’ for not being invited to her christening, dognapper Cruella De Vil arrived. Flicking ash on the carpet, her mwah-ha-ha plan is to turn 99 dalmatian pups into a fashion statement.
With its modern London setting and jazzy score, ‘101 Dalmatians’ dragged Disney into the 20th century, leaving behind fairy tales, princesses and musical numbers. Oddly, it’s the earlier scenes, before the puppies arrive, that stick in the mind. Sick of the bachelor life, Pongo studies the lady dogs and their ‘pets’ (owners) passing under his window. And the meet-cute in Regent’s Park is witty and utterly lovely. Later, the twilight bark – the doggie telegraph communicating news of the missing puppies – is Disney at its finest. Cath Clarke
22. The Triplets of Belleville (2003)
Director: Sylvain Chomet
Best quote: ‘Swinging Belleville rendez-vous!’
Defining moment: The Triplets sing their signature tune to a down-and-out Madame Souza.
For his feature debut, French animator and graphic novelist Sylvain Chomet crafted a wondrous, touching homage to the work of the great physical comic Jacques Tati (‘Playtime’). Madame Souza is a devoted grandmother to her cyclist grandson, Champion, whom she trains to compete in the Tour de France. During the race, he is kidnapped by the mob and taken to the city of Belleville for cryptic purposes. Souza follows and befriends three aging music-hall singers, the Triplets, who assist in her quest to save Champion.
Dialogue is kept to a bare minimum; you could count the number of spoken sentences on one hand. This frees Chomet to concentrate on the stunning, sublimely grotesque visuals, which play delightfully with perspective and proportion. Two joined-at-the-shoulder henchmen look like a rectangular black block with legs.
Champion’s dog, Bruno, is a galumphing blob of jowl and fur. And the Triplets – as good at making music with household appliances as they are at outwitting gun-toting gangsters – seem to expand and contract at will, as if their spines were Slinkys. Keith Uhlich
21. Fantastic Planet (1973)
Director: René Laloux
Best quote: ‘I was only a tiny toy, but on occasion a toy who dared to rebel.’
Defining moment: A mother runs in terror cradling her child, only to be picked up and flung to the ground by a giant blue hand.
Take the big’uns-versus-little’uns conflict from ‘Gulliver’s Travels’, sprinkle with the Blue Meanies from ‘Yellow Submarine’, add a political allegory as forceful as Orwell’s ‘1984’ and you’re beginning to grasp this unique combination of Gallic creativity and Czech production expertise.
No other animated feature looks like this, since planet Ygam and its weirdly wonderful inhabitants are drawn in a deliberately antique fashion, like some illustrated bestiary from before Columbus set sail. The tiny Homs (think hommes, French for ‘men’) are kept as pets by their otherworldly conquerors, the giant Draags (perhaps drogues, French for ‘drugs’), but they have the spirit and ingenuity to turn the tables on their technologically advanced yet dangerously self-absorbed masters.
This definitely prefigures the world of Hayao Miyazaki’s ‘Nausicäa’, even if it lacks his robust storytelling and crisp action. It’s a ’70s landmark all the same. Trevor Johnston
20. Up (2009)
Directors: Pete Docter and Bob Peterson
Best quote: ‘Adventure is out there!’
Defining moment: An obvious one – the heartbreaking opening sequence tracking Carl and Ellie through their life together.
Even after ‘Ratatouille’, even after ‘The Incredibles’, even after ‘WALL-E’, we weren’t expecting this. ‘Up’ is Pixar at its most profound and risk-taking, opening with a devastating eight-minute montage of love and loss before proceeding with the tale of a grouchy elderly man who makes the decision to fly his entire house to South America using helium balloons. It was, of course, a massive hit.
That three-hankie opening is the sequence most viewers remember, and it is astonishing. But the rest of the movie is just as magnificent, flitting from stoner humor (‘I do not like the cone of shame’, a dog woefully says) and soaring 3-D action to genuinely affecting age-gap bonding. The result falls somewhere between Werner Herzog and Winnie the Pooh: a tale of adventure, determination, grief, friendship and talking canines. Squirrel! Tom Huddleston
19. Ratatouille (2007)
Directors: Brad Bird and Jan Pinkava
Best quote: ‘In many ways, the work of a critic is easy.’
Defining moment: Food critic Anton Ego tastes Remy’s dish and is plunged into memories of his childhood.
Sandwiched in time between ‘Cars’ and ‘WALL-E’, Pixar’s ‘Ratatouille’ was the third animated feature from codirector Brad Bird, after ‘The Iron Giant’ and ‘The Incredibles’. Perhaps there’s no better example of the boldness of Pixar’s approach to story and character. ‘Ratatouille’ tells of Remy, a food-obsessed French rat washed down a sewer only to emerge in Paris, where he begins to help an awkward young kitchen worker cook incredible food in a top restaurant.
The story is as mature and original as the animation (which, as ever, is groundbreaking without showing off – just look at how they show water and hair). And the Peter O’Toole–voiced character – Anton Ego, the icy food critic thawed by Remy’s cooking – is a total delight. Pixar also proved that originality can sell: The film stormed the box office. Dave Calhoun
18. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Best quote: ‘I’m not bad – I’m just drawn that way.’
Defining moment: Roger falls for the ol’ shave-and-a-haircut trick.
Live action and animation have been mixed multiple times, but never quite as brilliantly as in Robert Zemeckis’s blockbuster film noir parody. The setting is postwar Los Angeles, where characters like Bugs Bunny, Dumbo and Mickey Mouse are actual Hollywood contract players as opposed to artists’ caprices. A bowtied-and-overalled hare named Roger (voiced with sputtering glee by Charles Fleischer) is accused of murdering the human founder of Acme products for having slept with his comely spouse, Jessica (smokily realised by Kathleen Turner). Only alcoholic private eye Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) can clear this poor bunny’s name and save him from the death-dealing hands of the conniving Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd).
Zemeckis and chief animator Richard Williams (whose Academy Award–winning work here was part of a deal to complete his long-gestating opus ‘The Thief and the Cobbler’) keep the eye-popping sights coming. Highlights are the many classic cameos, including a hilarious piano duel between Daffy and Donald Duck; a careering car chase involving a Bronx-accented cab named Benny; and Eddie’s own ‘dark night’ in the ominously cheery ****, where even Droopy Dog is out to get him. Keith Uhlich
17. Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)
Directors: Steve Box and Nick Park
Best quote: ‘I’m sorry, Gromit – I know you’re doing this for my own good, but the fact is I’m just crackers about cheese.’
Defining moment: Gromit follows the oversize bunny in a vehicular chase that goes below ground.
British animator Nick Park made his name with a series of award-winning stop-motion shorts featuring Wallace, an inventor whose creations often go awry, and Gromit, his devoted dog. In their Oscar-winning feature debut (a coproduction between Park’s Aardman Animations and DreamWorks), the two are hired to protect their town’s vegetable patches from ravenous rabbits. Wallace tries to brainwash the bunnies with his latest creation (the Mind Manipulation–O-Matic), but instead ends up creating a bigger foe – a towering were-rabbit that emerges at every full moon.
The canvas is a bit bigger than in Aardman’s previous excursions: Celebrities like Ralph Fiennes and Helena Bonham Carter lend their vocal talents, and there are a few beautifully bombastic action scenes. Yet the endearingly handmade qualities of Park’s shorter works are still fully evident, especially in Gromit’s priceless silent reactions to his human master’s frequent obliviousness. Keith Uhlich
Edited by BLACHEFAN, 16 July 2017 - 03:53 PM.