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Kyle Kersten was a true friend of TCM. One of the first and most active participants of the Message Boards, “Kyle in Hollywood” (aka, hlywdkjk) demonstrated a depth of knowledge and largesse of spirit that made him one of the most popular and respected voices in these forums. This thread is a living memorial to his life and love of movies, which remain with us still.

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Time Out 100 Best Animated Films


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22 replies to this topic

#1 Jlewis

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Posted 30 August 2017 - 07:23 PM

There are so many great books. When I was in Italy for a while in 1989, I saw one by Giannalberto Bendazzi that was later available in English in the United States as Cartoons: One Hundred Years of Cinema Animation (1994) and updated to the early years of "cgi". He has recently expanded it in multi-volumes, which are probably expensive. Yet the '94 one may be available on Amazon or ebay for reduced prices. That is a great overview of international animation, country by country. You learn a lot about the Zagreb school and the National Film Board of Canada... and, a section on Terrytoons too.

 

If you want just American animation of the golden age pre-Saturday Morning TV, there is Leonard Maltin's Of Mice And Magic. My 1980 edition wore out and later got replaced by the '87 edition. Then there's Michael Barrier's Hollywood Cartoons which gets really deep into the behind-the-scenes of the major animation studios, mostly the big ones Disney, Warner, MGM, Fleischer and UPA.... and some on Terrytoons. Both writers are pretty opinionated though.

 

This month, there is a new one coming out called... what else? Terrytoons: The Story of Paul Terry and His Classic Cartoon Factory by Gerald Hamonic.



#2 BLACHEFAN

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Posted 30 August 2017 - 05:24 PM

There is this one book that I have been reading when I was in college almost a month ago. "A New History of Animation" by Maureen Furniss published in 2016 Thames and Hudson, USA. It is a good book and resource guide to understanding not just animation from the United States, Britain, France or Japan, but also from Argentina, China, Syria, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Madagascar, South Africa, Peru, Mexico, Chile, Germany, Italy, Iran, Iraq, Thailand, Philippines and many more. It's a must-read and I hope that you would get re-educated on some of the animation techniques and countries that were left out that are re-introduced in this book. 


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#3 Jlewis

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Posted 27 August 2017 - 01:51 PM

Yeah... I have posted an occasional comment there under the same name here. ;)



#4 BLACHEFAN

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Posted 27 August 2017 - 12:42 PM

Well, there is another website that I frequently go to that has an assload of information of cartoons that will knock the **** out of your seat. Cartoon research.com by Jerry Beck.


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#5 Jlewis

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Posted 26 August 2017 - 07:57 PM

This is outside of animated films, but the one cartoon series that I always had a hankering to as a fan was the Terrytoon cartoons from the 1930s to the 1960s they were funny, smart, and inventive in brilliant ways to tell stories and introduce their characters to the audience at the time. 

 

Just if you are sticking to features, but I think the shorts are great topics of conversation too. The Terrytoons are an acquired taste but they had their "golden ages" like any other cartoon factory. Some of the early '30s black & white films hold up surprisingly well compared to others of their era. It was in the second half of the decade that they became a "B" cartoon factory, although Kiko the Kangaroo has some charm. The best ones of the post-war forties and early fifties are certainly the Heckle & Jeckle shorts, which may not be as glossy as anything, say, Disney, MGM or Warner was putting out at that time but were often funny nonetheless. The Gene Dietch late fifties period produced some of the best UPA "knock offs" with Flebus and Sidney Elephant, in addition to the TV character Tom Terrific. This was their high class artistic period of innovation. Things declined gradually in the sixties, but there were still some good ones like Ralph Bakshi's quite witty Sad Cat cartoon Gadmouse The Apprentice Good Fairy.



#6 BLACHEFAN

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Posted 19 August 2017 - 02:46 PM

This is outside of animated films, but the one cartoon series that I always had a hankering to as a fan was the Terrytoon cartoons from the 1930s to the 1960s they were funny, smart, and inventive in brilliant ways to tell stories and introduce their characters to the audience at the time. 



#7 BLACHEFAN

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Posted 18 July 2017 - 07:25 PM

Of all the films on the list, I would have to consider the films of Ralph Bakshi from Fritz the Cat (1972), Heavy Traffic (1973), Coonskin (1975), and The Lord of the Rings (1978), I would consider his animated feature film debut as the best film of his entire work the number one on the list.


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#8 BLACHEFAN

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Posted 03 July 2017 - 09:04 PM

I wanted to say something that I believe is of great importance. Almost a year ago, I was watching the 2012 version of Pinocchio that was a co-production between Italy, France and Canada. I found that version to be more faithful to the original Collodi story than the Disney version. It's much darker and Pinocchio was more mischievous, than innocent. The dubbed version features some of the most interesting voice over artists from Canada and yet it was never mentioned in the U.S. I found it rather disappointing that I only learned about it at the last minute.


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#9 BLACHEFAN

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Posted 10 June 2017 - 05:42 PM

This list from TimeOut is pretty interesting since it ranks the films that came out from 1926 to 2014 and no other animated films that came out after 2014. 



#10 Jlewis

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Posted 15 May 2017 - 05:49 PM

Here are the ones that I haven't seen:

 

​Millennium Actress (01)

Feherlofia  (81)

Perfect Blue  (97)

Little Otik  (01)

Night On the Galactic Railroad  (85)

Kirikou and the Sorceress  (98)

Gulliver's Travels  (39)

Goodbye Mr. Christie  (11)

Ernest and Celestine (12)

The Tale of the Fox  (30)

Castle In the Sky  (86)

The King and the Mockingbird  (80)

Faust  (94)

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence  (04)

Pom Poko  (94)

Porco Rosso  (92)

Frozen  (13)

Neon Genesis Evangelion: The End of Evangelion  (97)

Only Yesterday  (91)

The Illusionist  (10)

Wreck-It Ralph  (12)

Whisper of the Heart  (95)

Mind Game  (04)

Tokyo Godfathers  (03)

Sita Sings the Blues  (08)

The Castle of Cagliostro  (79)

Allegro Non Troppo  (76)

Monsters, Inc.  (01)

Mary and Max  (09)

When the Wind Blows  (86)

Consuming Spirits  (12)

It's Such a Beautiful Day  (12)

Grave of the Fireflies  (88)

Alice  (88)

My Neighbor Totoro  (88)

 

Seen a few of these. I do love Tale of a Fox, of course.

 

Monsters, Inc. is among the most entertaining of the Pixars.

 

Gulliver's Travels is fun Max Fleischer. A little slow in parts and some songs are a bit sappy. Supporting character Gabby got his own series later, but he wasn't as popular as Popeye and Betty Boop.

 

Ernest and Celestine is a good one for kiddies, available in both English and French language versions. A bear and a mouse have an unusual relationship. Love the watercolor-ish backgrounds, reminding you of so many familiar children's books of your youth, Peter Cottontail & all.

 

Allegro Non Troppo is much like Fantasia, a set of "classical" music pieces but with a bit more swinging seventies comic moments. It isn't as innovative as the Disney film, but holds up pretty well.

 

The King and the Mockingbird has an interesting backstory. Paul Grimault produced most of it in France between 1948 and 1952 and a rushed edition was shown in theaters in 1953, with the American version titled The Curious Adventures of Mr. Wonderbird. Unsatisfied with the results, the animation producer went back to it with new footage during the next decades, releasing a new-and-improved version in early 1980. Very Disney-esque, but with a French mentality.

 

The Soviet Union made many animated features through Soyuzmultfilm between the forties and nineties, but I favor the shorter subjects from them. You can't beat The Hedgehog and the Fog.

 

Of course, you can read it all in the lists below.


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#11 Jlewis

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Posted 15 May 2017 - 05:21 PM

Oh there is no fault in your information. Ha ha! Just consider me a nerd.

 

I am not sure why the year 1930 has been popular online for TALE OF A FOX. Obviously it was in production that year, but not completed or shown then. Sometimes one source lists a date and other sources copy it.

 

I definitely need to see more features from Studio Ghibli, the Japanese Disney studio of sorts, in order to really give a good listing. To be fair, I have seen more animated shorts than features. Of course, I have seen most of the Disney ones. PINOCCHIO is a good choice for the top of the list, despite some flaws in its storyline. I may favor BAMBI and THE THREE CABALLEROS more, along with the made-for-TV MARS AND BEYOND.

 

We could start a poll thread in this cartoon section for favorite 50-100 animated shorts. There are ssssoooo many to choose from! I would have to arrange my favorites by year, but what can I do for, say, 1937? Choose POPEYE THE SAILOR MEETS ALI BABA'S FORTY THIEVES or THE OLD MILL as my top pick? Decisions! Decisions!



#12 BLACHEFAN

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Posted 15 May 2017 - 07:43 AM

More animated shorts running less than an hour have been made than features so it is hard to give the medium justice in a list like this. Remember that you are excluding all of the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies here.

 

I would rate Wladyslaw Starewicz' Tale of a Fox (Le Roman de Renard) higher than Wes Anderson's The Fantastic Mr. Fox, although the latter pays loving homage to the former and is still an impressive production. Actually the date of the film's release is April 1937 for the German language version of this French production. The bulk of it was done in 1929-31, but there were still a few scenes added in later years in-between Starewicz shorts featuring his puppy character. UFA helped him finish it and the French version (the one most widely available today and you can see it on YouTube) was only permitted a release after France's defeat during the war. However that is the only tie he had with the Third Reich (money needed from a major studio), even if it helped keep the film from playing in the United States.

 

 

Again, I got this information for the film that was originally released in 1930 from imdb.com and Timeout.com.



#13 BLACHEFAN

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Posted 13 May 2017 - 03:51 PM

If you picked the animated films from this list, which ones would you rank from 100 to 1?



#14 Jlewis

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Posted 12 May 2017 - 06:40 AM

More animated shorts running less than an hour have been made than features so it is hard to give the medium justice in a list like this. Remember that you are excluding all of the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies here.

 

I would rate Wladyslaw Starewicz' Tale of a Fox (Le Roman de Renard) higher than Wes Anderson's The Fantastic Mr. Fox, although the latter pays loving homage to the former and is still an impressive production. Actually the date of the film's release is April 1937 for the German language version of this French production. The bulk of it was done in 1929-31, but there were still a few scenes added in later years in-between Starewicz shorts featuring his puppy character. UFA helped him finish it and the French version (the one most widely available today and you can see it on YouTube) was only permitted a release after France's defeat during the war. However that is the only tie he had with the Third Reich (money needed from a major studio), even if it helped keep the film from playing in the United States.



#15 LawrenceA

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Posted 11 May 2017 - 11:38 PM

Of the 100 animated films on this list, how many have you seen?

 

Here are the ones that I haven't seen:

 

​Millennium Actress (01)

Feherlofia  (81)

Perfect Blue  (97)

Little Otik  (01)

Night On the Galactic Railroad  (85)

Kirikou and the Sorceress  (98)

Gulliver's Travels  (39)

Goodbye Mr. Christie  (11)

Ernest and Celestine (12)

The Tale of the Fox  (30)

Castle In the Sky  (86)

The King and the Mockingbird  (80)

Faust  (94)

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence  (04)

Pom Poko  (94)

Porco Rosso  (92)

Frozen  (13)

Neon Genesis Evangelion: The End of Evangelion  (97)

Only Yesterday  (91)

The Illusionist  (10)

Wreck-It Ralph  (12)

Whisper of the Heart  (95)

Mind Game  (04)

Tokyo Godfathers  (03)

Sita Sings the Blues  (08)

The Castle of Cagliostro  (79)

Allegro Non Troppo  (76)

Monsters, Inc.  (01)

Mary and Max  (09)

When the Wind Blows  (86)

Consuming Spirits  (12)

It's Such a Beautiful Day  (12)

Grave of the Fireflies  (88)

Alice  (88)

My Neighbor Totoro  (88)



#16 BLACHEFAN

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Posted 11 May 2017 - 11:15 PM

Of the 100 animated films on this list, how many have you seen?



#17 BLACHEFAN

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Posted 24 April 2017 - 03:24 PM

5. The Incredibles (2004)

 

Director: Brad Bird

Best quote: 'When everyone's super...no one will be.'

Defining Moment: 'No capes!' declares Edna Mode, the film's snooty fashionista, and we see the fate that befell some unlucky caped crusaders. 

 

Firing on all cylinders, Pixar's first film to earn a PG rating signaled a grabbing of the brass ring: Yes, the studio's computer animation was peerless, but could it also do marital malaise, middle-aged belly spread and sneakily ambitious philosophy - all of it tucked into spandex?

 

Writer-director Brad Bird commanded a degree of control unprecedented since the days of old Walt himself. Everything was riding on his long-germinating vision of an exceptional family rediscovering its purpose. The plot's spirit proved infectious, the reviews rapturous.

 

Thematically, the movie's deepest fear concerns the creating slump of mediocrity: If greatness lies within us, why can't we let it out? Maybe it's because we're told - in subtle ways - not to shine too brightly and make others feel inadequate. Some pegged the notion as straight out of Ayn Rand (this would have been her favorite movie ever), but the idea was somehow made to feel inclusive via Brad's humour, panache and narrative clarity. 

 

'The Incredibles' makes us believe in heroes, but more importantly, it reclaims the virtue of heroism itself: a blessing, an ideal, an ambition. And it's not easy. Joshua Rothkopf

 

4. Toy Story (1995)

 

Director: John Lasseter

Best quote: 'To infinity....and beyond!'

Defining Moment: The elaborate escape from evil Sid's room, a breathtaking action sequence that put Hollywood's A-list to shame.

 

Nothing less than the first shot in what would become a revolution, John Lasseter's simple tale turned adults into happy children, naysayers into believers, and computer animation into the dominant expression of an entire industry.

 

Pixar's debut feature is its most beautiful thing, emphasis on thing. The genius idea here was to embrace the stuff of toys - to imbue plastic and cloth with solidity and tactility. Suddenly there was a real weight to billions of bits and bytes, and audiences were enraptured.

 

Naturally, none of this would have worked had there not been a killer script, labored upon for years by a creative team that included Lasseter and future directors Pete Doctor, Andrew Stanton and Joss Whedon. The humanity imparted by Tom Hanks as the passed-over Woody can't be understated: This was a role rich enough to lure the hottest actor in the game.

 

'Toy Story' speaks to our love of play, and the way we invest our dolls and action figures with the souls of whom we want to become. It makes sense that these toys would keep dreaming even when put away for the night. But the film's lasting impact is simpler than that: Swinging, bouncing or skidding, toys are alive in our minds. Lasseter's team bent gravity itself to make that a reality. Joshua Rothkopf

 

​3. My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

 

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Best quote: ​'Trees and people used to be good friends.'

Defining Moment: The first appearance of the roving cat-bus will have viewers of all ages gasping in delight.

 

Some filmmakers build their great artworks with blood, sweat and toil. Japanese master Hayao Miyazaki seems to sprout his from seeds, planting them in good earth and patiently watering them until they burst into bloom.

 

'My Neighbour Totoro' is the gentlest, most unassuming film on this list, a tale of inquisitive children, mischievous dust fairies, magical trees and shy sylvan creatures. But in its own quietly remarkable way, it's also one of the richest and most overwhelming.

 

This is a story whose roots go deep: into Japanese tradition and culture, into its creator's personal past, into a collective childhood filled with tales of mystery and a love of all things that grow. There is darkness at the film's heart - the fear of losing a parent, the loneliness and frustration of childhood - but its touch is gossamer-light, delighting in simple pleasures like raindrops on an umbrella, dust motes drifting in the sun and midnight dances in the garden.

 

The visual style is unmistakably Japanese (unadorned and artful) and the theme song is so sugary-chirrupy-sweet that it's impossible to dislodge once heard. But the cumulative effect is unique and utterly all-encompassing, returning us to a world we have all, at one time, lived in - and perhaps will again. Tom Huddleston

 

2. Spirited Away (2001)

 

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Best quote: 'There must be some mistake: None of these pigs are my parents!'

Defining Moment: Tea and cakes with the monstrous Yubaba and No-Face--A moment in the same surreal league as Lewis Carroll.

 

The apex of Japanese animation - to fans worldwide, all ​animation - is one of cinema's finest tales of untrammeled imagination. It's a movie that emboldens children to embrace weirdness and wonder, and adults to remember how they once did.

 

​The plot is a stew of essential anxieties: dislocation, separation from one's parents, fear of disappearing forever. Even more thoroughly, 'Spirited Away' is a compendium of ancient folklores - the secret lives of radishes and other gods, the sins we commit against nature, her punishments. But as brilliantly woven together by Hayao Miyazaki (at the peak of his creative gifts), the movie is basically a story about growing up. The world is strange; let's not fool ourselves. But maybe we, as human beings, are stranger.

 

Chihiro is constantly (and riotously) told that she reeks; she fumbles around and incites fury. The lesson here is humility in the face of immortal forces. Critics were wowed, sensing parallels with Japan's busted economic bubble and polluted streams. Yet the content was - and is - strong enough to stand on its own, a palimpsest of psychology, dreams and fear brought to life by exquisite craft. No film on our list speaks more to the inner animal and anima; is it any wonder those words are so close to animationJoshua Rothkopf

 

1. Pinocchio (1940)

 

Directors: Ben Sharpsteen, Hamilton Luske, Bill Roberts, Norman Ferguson, Jack Kinney, Wilfred Jackson and T Hee

Best quote: 'Just let your conscience be your guide.'

Defining Moment: Playing pool, drinking beers, smoking cigars: Who knew it could transform kids into jackasses? (Literally.)

 

And so we reach the top of our list - we'd be lying if we didn't say it was by a nose. 'Pinocchio' is the most magical of animated movies, a high point of cinematic invention. Its influence on fantasy is massive: Steven Spielberg quotes the soaring ballad 'When You Wish Upon a Star' in his dream project 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' (and remade the whole picture with his aching robot-boy adventure, 'A.I.').

 

Disney's second feature - originally a box-office bomb - begins with a sweetly singing cricket, yet plunges into scenes from a nightmare: in front of a jeering audience on a carnival stage; into the belly of a monstrous whale; beyond all human recognition. (Pinocchio's extending schnoz is animation's most sinister and profound metaphor.) It's staggering to think of this material as intended for children, but that's the power here, a conduit to the churning undercurrent of formulating identity. The takeaway is hard to argue with: Don't lie, to yourself or others.

 

Cultural theorists have, for decades, discussed 'Pinocchio' in psychosexual terms or as a guide to middle-class assimilation. But those readings are like cracking open a snow globe to see that it's only water. A swirling adventure flecked with shame, rehabilitation, death and rebirth, the movie contains of a universe of feelings. 'Pinocchio' will remain immortal as long as we draw, paint, tell tall tales and wish upon stars. Joshua Rothkopf


Edited by BLACHEFAN, 25 April 2017 - 09:15 AM.

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#18 BLACHEFAN

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Posted 24 April 2017 - 01:30 PM

16. It's Such a Beautiful Day (2012)

 

Director: Don Hertzfeldt

Best quote: ‘Someone sits on the shore and tells him how the waves have been there long before Bill existed, and that they’ll still be there long after he’s gone. Bill looks out at the water and thinks of all the wonderful things he will do with his life.’

Defining moment: In the epic finale, a stick hero is reborn into an ageless existence and learns all the secrets of the universe.

 

How satisfying it is to find Don Hertzfeldt’s self-made saga of schizophrenia and self-loss nestling comfortably in the higher reaches of our rankings. Written, directed, produced, animated, photographed, voiced and distributed entirely by Hertzfeldt himself (he admits to getting a little help with the editing), ‘It’s Such a Beautiful Day’ is the tale of a young everyman, Bill, who finds his mind and his world unexpectedly going to pieces.

 

Hertzfeldt’s style may have started off simple, with stick figures and basic line drawings, but by the time of this feature, it had broadened to include a dizzying array of in-camera, nondigital visual effects. The result is one of the great outsider artworks of the modern era, at once sympathetic and shocking, beautiful and horrifying, angry and hilarious, uplifting and almost unbearably sad. Seek it out. Tom Huddleston

 

15. Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

 

Director: Isao Takahata

Best quote: ‘September 21, 1945... that was the night I died.’

Defining moment: We don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t seen it, but it features one of the most heart-wrenching character deaths in movie history.

 

The year 1988 saw Studio Ghibli at the peak of its powers, releasing a pair of richly personal tributes to youthful resilience that proved the breadth and brilliance of their work. ‘My Neighbor Totoro’ (coming up!) was studio founder Hayao Miyazaki’s masterpiece, a work of wondrous beauty and grace. But it’s matched – some would say surpassed – by Isao Takahata’s ‘Grave of the Fireflies’, perhaps the bleakest and least forgiving film in our top 100.

 

Set in the midst of WWII, the story follows two children, Setsuko and Seita, as they lose their mother in an American bombing raid and are forced to fend for themselves. At first it’s all a game, but as sickness and starvation begin to intrude, the film deepens and darkens, ultimately reaching a place of complete emotional exhaustion and absolute, devastating grief. This is not a movie to be taken lightly. Tom Huddleston

 

14. Akira (1988)

 

Director: Katsuhiro Ohtomo

Best quote: ‘The future is not a straight line. It is filled with many crossroads.’

Defining moment: Motorcycle gangs tear through the night destroying all in their wake – a scene that would give Mad Max chills.

 

Anime’s breakout moment, this supercharged sci-fi thriller turned a niche subgenre into a global phenomenon: Western teens started using the term cyberpunk in casual geek-speak, while Japan’s printed manga suddenly flew off the shelves.

 

To the nonfan dragged along for the ride, the movie felt a lot like ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘Brazil’, featuring incredibly vivid details and attention paid to urban decay. But ‘Akira’ was also a watershed moment for sci-fi in a larger sense, popularising ideas of citywide ruination, futuristic rebirth and a distinctly Asian notion of psionic powers that would influence everything from ‘The Matrix’ to ‘Inception’. The mutable setting of Neo-Tokyo anticipated the larger playground of the Internet, still years off but somehow of a piece with these youthful speed racers. Joshua Rothkopf

 

13. Fantasia (1940)

 

Director: No less than 11 directors slaved on individual sequences, many without credit.

Best quote: ‘Mr Stokowski! Mr Stokowski!’

Defining moment: Sorcerer’s apprentice Mickey Mouse finds himself on the wrong end of the broomsticks.

 

By the end of the 1930s, Mickey Mouse, the bedrock character of a growing empire, had declined in popularity. So Walt Disney commissioned the elaborate short ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’. Accompanied by the highly hummable Paul Dukas composition of the same name, it follows the red-robed rodent as he magically brings an army of broomsticks to life. While in postproduction on the short, Disney decided to surround it with similar vignettes scored to other classical compositions, and ‘Fantasia’ was born.

 

Aside from some interstitial material narrated by Deems Taylor (during which Mickey himself greets star conductor Leopold Stokowski), the music dictates the visual-aural flow of ‘Fantasia’. Abstract colour patterns rise and fall to Bach, life-size mushrooms dance to Tchaikovksy, a hippo and an alligator do a slapstick Ponchielli ballet, and the devil himself summons dark spirits to Modest Mussorgsky’s churning ‘Night on Bald Mountain’.

 

Silly and sublime in equal measure – as well as a film that served to introduce generations of kids to the joys of classical music – this is one of the Mouse House’s finest. Keith Uhlich

 

12. Alice (1988)

 

Director: Jan Svankmajer

Best quote: ‘Alice thought to herself, Now you will see a film... made for children... perhaps.’

Defining moment: The Mad Hatter’s tea party: hilarious, anarchic and a fabulous example of Svankmajer’s ability to make the impossible seem absolutely real.

 

Jan Svankmajer’s first feature is a characteristically inventive but rigorous account of Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’, faithful in spirit to the original while remaining conspicuously true to his own highly distinctive brand of surrealism.

 

Blending live action (Kristyna Kohoutová, who plays the heroine, is the only human in the film) with various forms of stop-motion animation, Svankmajer creates a wonderland notable for its bizarre dreamlike logic and its grotesque beauty: Skeletal creatures scuttle and steaks crawl while Alice, no stranger to thoughts of cruel whimsy, changes size and becomes her own doll.

 

It’s brilliantly imaginative, bitingly witty and fittingly Freudian. This is no saccharine celebration of innocence, but a foray into the darker recesses of childhood fears and desires. And therefore, perhaps not a film for children. Geoff Andrew

 

11. Yellow Submarine (1968)

 

Director: George Dunning

Best quote: ‘Nothing is Beatleproof!’

Defining moment: The gorgeously downbeat ‘Eleanor Rigby’ sequence, utilising monochrome photos of Liverpool.


This may prove to be the most divisive film on our list: Hardened Beatlemaniacs will tell you that ‘Yellow Submarine’ is a travesty, employing fake (and not especially convincing) Liverpudlian accents to tell a nonsensical tale steeped in late-’60s acid-fried sentiment, never mind that the Fab Four pop up in person at the end to give their blessing. Art maniacs, meanwhile, will tell you it’s a dazzling work of the imagination, harnessing every animation technique available at the time to create an eye-frazzling, insanely inventive trip.

 

To be fair, they’re probably both right: The script is silly, the story is cringeworthy, and the Beatle characterisations are a bit soft. But visually it’s breathtaking, one of the few genuinely hallucinatory cinema experiences, and fully deserving of its high placement here. Tom Huddleston

 

10. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

 

Director: Wes Anderson

Best quote: 'Redemption? Sure. But in the end, he's just another dead rat in a garbage pail behind a Chinese restaurant'.

Defining Moment: Fox and friends come face-to-face with a mysterious black wolf.

 

It's tough being a wild animal. Not that the witty, snappily dressed Mr Fox (George Clooney) likes to complain about his days making life hell for his human nemeses, farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean (one fat, one short, one lean). It's in his nature, after all. But, when Fox's wife, Felicity (Meryl Streep), informs him that they have a pup on the way, our vulpine protagonist realizes he has to tame the beast within. Good luck.

There's nothing docile about Wes Anderson's first foray into animation. Anderson's dioramic visuals and pithy plotting translate perfectly to a cartoon world. You're captivated right from the first gorgeously autumnal shot of Mr Fox leaning against a tree, an image accompanied, in a very Andersonian touch, by the Wellingtons' 1954 tune 'The Ballad of Davy Crockett'.

 

As with all of the director's films, potent emotions underlie the comic-strip surface: Both Fox and his sullen son, Ash (Jason Schwartzman), must come to terms with their instinctual ambitions, which tend to clash with their everyday responsibilities. (The heart breaks when Felicity claws her husband's furry face in frustration at his blithely destructive impulses.) As the foxes find their way of life increasingly threatened, the question arises: How do you use your nature to your advantage? The answers aren't easy, but it should be clear that Anderson isn't out to cater to anyone except the audience he knows so well. Keith Uhlich

 

9. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

 

Director: Henry Selick

Best quote: 'Jack, you make wounds ooze and flesh crawl!' (It's a compliment.)

Defining Moment: The opening song, gloriously and ghoulishly upbeat.

 

It all started in 1982, with a poem written by Tim Burton, then a humble animator at Disney. A year later, Burton pitched 'A Nightmare Before Christmas' to his bosses as a TV special. But the powers that be thought the idea 'too weird', and the project went back on the back burner until 'Beetlejuice' and 'Batman' made Burton a hot property.

 

Too weird? Not a bit. Burton's graveyard fairy tale is a good old-fashioned musical, with song-and-dance numbers that would get Gene Kelly tapping his feet. It's the story of Jack Skellington, and king of Halloween Town, who discovers a portal to Christmas Town and likes what he sees - children throwing snowballs instead of heads. No one is dead. Jack crafts a plan to kidnap Father Christmas, or Sandy Claws, as he calls him.

 

Directed by stop-motion maestro Henry Selick from Burton's story, the movie took 15 animators almost three years to make. Working with more than 227 puppets, they completed just one minute of the film a week. That translates into mind-boggling detail, right down to the mayor's spider tie. The dialogue is deliciously macabre, the storytelling dizzyingly inventive and the characters touchingly sweet. A twisted delight. Cath Clarke

 

8. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

 

Directors: David Hand, William Cottrell, Wilfred Jackson, Larry Morey, Perce Pearce and Ben Sharpsteen

Best quote: 'Magic mirror on the wall...'

Defining Moment: Snow White's headlong dash through the moonlit forest is expressionistic, beautiful and terrifying.

 

They called it Disney's folly. It took years and millions of dollars to produce 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs', and one huge question remained unanswered right up to the day of release: Would an audience really sit still for 83 minutes of cartoon antics? Of course, the movie was a huge hit, and kick-started Uncle Walt's decades-long domination of the painted-cel scene.

 

It may not have been the first feature-length animated film - that honor is held by Argentine animator

Quirino Cristiani's 1917 'El Apostol', though all copies have since been destroyed - but it was the first to receive a global release, and the first to wake up audiences (and producers) to the seemingly limitless potential of a brand-new medium.

 

What makes 'Snow White' truly special is not its success, however, but its originality: Working without a rule book, Disney and his animators created - fully formed - an entirely new genre. Just look at last year's 'Frozen' and ask yourself how far mainstream animation has actually developed: 'Snow White' has a dashing fairy-tale heroine, a hunky but slightly dull dude, lovable pratfalling sidekicks, important life lessons, groundbreaking and gorgeous animation, whistleable tunes and, perhaps most notably, the greatest femme fatale in film history. It just goes to show: You can't improve on perfection. Tom Huddleston

 

7. The Iron Giant (1999)

 

Director: Brad Bird

Best quote: 'I am not a gun.'

Defining Moment: The giant carries Hogarth in his hand, high above the treetops below.

 

Before directing 'The Incredibles' and 'Ratatouille', animator Brad Bird made his feature debut with this charming, intelligent adaptation of the late 1960s Ted Hughes children's story 'The Iron Man'. Best known at the time for his work on 'The Simpsons', Bird moved the tale from Britain to 1950s Maine, lending it distinct Cold War flavour.

 

A young boy, Hogarth (given the surname Hughes in honor of the poet, who died in 1998, a year before the film's release), discovers a metallic giant in his hometown and fights to protect it from being pulverized by the military - while simultaneously teaching it how to live in peace on earth.

 

The widescreen film has a streak of smart humour as well as a winning, harmonious worldview, and mixes computer animation and more traditional techniques: The CGI was mostly invested in rendering the giant as convincingly as possible, while traditional hand-drawn techniques were reserved for the humans.

 

Visually, the film offers stunning moments without sacrificing a pleasingly old-fashioned air. It wasn't a success at the box office, although it was hailed as a rare example of a family movie with hearts and brains. Thankfully, Pixar gave Bird a chance to fly again. Dave Calhoun

 

6. Dumbo (1941)

 

Directors: Ben Sharpsteen, Samuel Armstrong, Norman Ferguson, Wilfred Jackson, Jack Kinney, Bill Roberts and John Elliotte

​Best quote: 'It ain't nobody's fault that you got dem big ears.'

Defining Moment: Dumbo visits his caged mum at night and cuddles up to her trunk as it extends through the bars - all to the sound of the lullaby 'Baby Mine'.

 

Disney's tender and moving fourth animated feature 'Dumbo' remains the company's shortest. Its brevity and simplicity were born of necessity: Neither 'Pinocchio' nor 'Fantasia' had fared well at the box office, so the creators of 'Dumbo' were tasked with keeping things short, sweet, and cheap.

 

'Dumbo' was based on a story line written for the prototype of a new toy - hardly the most poetic of origins - and tells of a baby elephant born to a single mother working in a traveling circus (the film's early scenes of storks delivering baby animals  did nothing for generations of sex education). It has both energy - the building of the big top in the rain, the circus train chugging over the landscape - and heart: a piercingly sad story of a mother and child forcibly separated.

 

The template is fairly straightforward, but that doesn't mean there isn't room for some memorable and inventive set pieces. The hallucinogenic, jazzy dance of the pink elephants when Dumbo accidentally gets drunk is a scene for the ages, while the climactic elephant pyramid, when little Dumbo becomes an unlikely hero, is both terrifying and triumphant. Dave Calhoun


Edited by BLACHEFAN, 16 July 2017 - 03:51 PM.

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#19 BLACHEFAN

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Posted 22 April 2017 - 12:40 PM

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.

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Posted 22 April 2017 - 12:20 PM

44. The Little Mermaid (1989)

 

Directors: John Musker and Ron Clements

Best quote: ‘Somebody’s got to nail that girl’s fins to the floor.’

Defining moment: In the infectious ‘Under the Sea’, Sebastian the crab attempts to convince wayward Ariel of the merits of ocean living.

 

Two years later, ‘Beauty and the Beast’ received more acclaim, but it was this cheery musical adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s bleakly fatalistic fairy tale that redesigned the template of contemporary Disney animation and returned the studio to pop-culture prominence.

 

The formula – take a story everyone knows with a plucky princess, then add a bunch of hip, catchy-as-chlamydia show tunes – still works, as the recent success of ‘Frozen’ demonstrates. But alongside the witty, verbally intricate contributions of ingenious songsmiths Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, it’s the depth of yearning for other lives and other forms that gives this one emotional resonance and staying power. Well, that and the lasciviously tentacled, Mae West–and–Divine-inspired sea witch Ursula, surely among the greatest Disney villains. Guy Lodge

 

43. Cinderella (1950)

 

Directors: Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson and Hamilton Luske

Best quote: ‘A dream is a wish your heart makes when you’re fast asleep.’

Defining moment: A pumpkin and some mice get a magical makeover.

 

Even today, when you watch a Disney film, the impact of ‘Cinderella’ can be felt from the very first frame: That iconic castle, the studio’s logo, comes right from this picture. It was the make-or-break gamble that, had it failed, would have meant the end for Walt & Co. Instead, his film’s runaway success allowed him to finance the theme parks and cement his name forever.

 

The elements of the story are bedrock components of the Disney formula: plucky, charming heroine, helpful sidekick animals, the promise of total transformation. Yet there was innovation here, too; musical numbers would, for the first time, be commissed out to Tin Pan Alley experts, while live-action footage was shot as a model for most scenes. When Disney’s own remake comes out in 2015, it will have a huge debt of charm to repay. Joshua Rothkopf

 

42. Mary and Max (2009)

 

Director: Adam Elliot

Best quote: ‘Butts are bad because they wash out to sea, and fish smoke them and become nicotine-dependent.’

Defining moment: Max wins the lottery and uses his prize money to buy a lifetime supply of chocolate.

 

This big-kids-and-adults-only bleak comedy is the only feature to date from Australian filmmaker Adam Elliot, who previously made well-regarded short films, including 2003’s ‘Harvie Krumpet’. Set in the 1970s and subverting Claymations usual cuddliness, it tells of an unhappy suburban child, Mary, who, after leafing through the phone book, inappropriately (or so it seems) becomes pen pals with Max, a depressed New Yorker with Asperger’s syndrome.

 

It’s almost entirely in black and white – or at least black, white and beige – although there’s the odd flash of colour, like the crude lipstick worn by Mary’s grotesque, unloving mother. A celebration of outsiders, this offers comedy as well as tears, as we track Mary and Max over the decades; ultimately, it manages to be both rude and strangely endearing. The voices couldn’t be more appropriate: Barry Humphries narrates, while Philip Seymour Hoffman is Max and Toni Collette is Mary as a grown-up. Dave Calhoun

 

41. The Secret of Nimh (1982)

 

Director: Don Bluth

Best quote: ‘We can no longer live as rats. We know too much.’

Defining moment: The fearsome, golden-eyed Great Owl smashes a spider, chomps on a moth – and offers some sage advice.

 

Call it the work of a rebel: In 1979, Disney animator Don Bluth left the cost-cutting studio in frustration (along with several other colleagues) to start up a company that still valued old-school craft. Their first feature was this remarkably sophisticated adventure, about a field mouse seeking solutions to the problems of an ailing son, an aggressive farmer and the potential destruction of her community. Enter the heroic rats of NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health), who apply their artificially boosted levels of intelligence to the calamities at hand.

 

The style of the animation is hand-painted and traditionally sumptuous, requiring thousands of hours of work, but the real beauty here is in the making of entertainment targeted at kids who enjoy using their minds. Joshua Rothkopf

 

40. When the Wind Blows (1986)

 

Director: Jimmy T Murakami

Best quote: ‘There’s no need to forget your manners just because there’s a war on.’

Defining moment: Surveying their destroyed kitchen, the couple brews a cup of tea and baffles over their silenced TV.

 

A sick joke on paper, this devastating domestic drama today feels like one of the more honest works of the anti-nuke movement. It’s a complete and utter downer, making a larger point subtly through the employment of animation itself: Such an adorably hand-drawn universe is too precious to last in a world of mutually assured destruction. We’re all living in a cartoon if we actually believe survival is possible when the radiation headaches mount and your hair starts failing out in tufts. (Heartbreakingly, the husband assures his wife that women don’t go bald – a ‘scientific fact’.)

 

Big-name pop stars lent their music to the cause, including Roger Waters, Squeeze and David Bowie, who crooned the soulful, undanceable title track. If you haven’t seen this one, that’s totally understandable; it makes ‘The Day After’ look like a gentle summer shower. Joshua Rothkopf

 

39. Waking Life (2001)

 

Director: Richard Linklater

Best quote: ‘Are you a dreamer? I haven’t seen too many around lately.’

Defining moment: Floppy-haired Wiley Wiggins floats high above his suburban neighborhood, a black shape against the blue sky.

 

Trippiness of a highly verbal nature wasn’t unexpected from the director of ‘Slacker’ and ‘Dazed and Confused’. Still, Richard Linklater’s hypnotic plunge into rotoscoping proved a litmus test even for his fans: You either let the flow of cosmic ideas sweep you up in a stimulating rush or you checked out somewhere.

 

In either case, the filmmaker’s creativity was undeniable. Friends morph into banks of fluffy, chatting clouds; flirters launch words like love into earholes. Amateur philosophising was never so well-supported or flattered by its form. Fans of ‘Before Sunrise’ noticed Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke lounging in bed (a hint of two sequels yet to come). Yet for the most part, all footholds evaporated. ‘Waking Life’ was – and still is – a surreal invitation to cut loose. Joshua Rothkopf

 

38. Consuming Spirits (2012)

 

Director: Chris Sullivan

Best quote: ‘I do not suggest using ashes as fertilizer – these bitter urns of charred memories soak into the soil and leave a blackened taste on the lips.’

Defining moment: A scratchy, pencil-sketch scene of loss, as the authorities come to take away little Lydia and Victor Blue.

 

Surely the most obscure film on our list, ‘Consuming Spirits’ is the result of more than a decade’s work for writer, director, animator, musician and voice artist Chris Sullivan and his small team. Running 136 minutes and encompassing more than 230,000 individual frames, this epic achievement combines cutout, stop-frame and pencil sketches and a beautiful soundtrack steeped in mountain folk. But as with any great animated movie, it’s the emotional content that’s most rewarding.

 

Set in a small Pennsylvania town, this is a poetic, downbeat tale of three characters united by disappointment, alcohol and a haunted past. Thanks to an extremely limited US release, ‘Consuming Spirits’ is little known even within the animation community, but almost everyone who voted for it here made it their number-one choice. Tom Huddleston

 

37. How to Train Your Dragon (2010)

 

Directors: Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders

Best quote: ‘It’s only fun if you get a scar out of it.’

Defining moment: Pint-size Viking Hiccup meets Toothless, the not-so-scary Night Fury dragon.

 

Odin almighty! Here’s a kids’ animated film with wit, charm and one-liners. The story is as old as a Nordic longboat: a coming-of-age yarn about a boy with daddy issues. Our hero is Viking pipsqueak Hiccup, raised in a proud nation of dragon slayers. All Hiccup wants is to please his warrior father, Stoick the Vast (who sums up the macho Viking philosophy nicely: ‘When I was a kid, my dad told me to bang my head against a rock – and I did it’).

 

Hiccup’s trouble is that he is the geekiest, weediest Viking in the tribe. But (pay attention, kids) since the brain is mightier than brawn, he learns the ways of the dragons. The film climaxes with a spectacular aerial battle sequence. Meanwhile, Hiccup’s little dragon buddy Toothless is the cutest kitten-bat-lizard crossbreed you’re ever likely to see onscreen. Cath Clarke

 

36. WALL-E (2008)

 

Director: Andrew Stanton

Best quote: ‘Computer, define dancing.’

Defining moment: WALL-E’s increasingly frenzied, love-struck attempts to revive his comatose flame are heartbreaking.

 

Fourteen years in development and costing a reported $180 million, ‘WALL-E’ was Pixar’s biggest risk since ‘Toy Story’. It plays on the traditions of silent cinema to present the politically charged story of a lonely robot cleaning up a devastated, trash-covered Earth and falling in love with the first sentient being he meets.

 

Despite its futuristic setting, nothing feels modern: There are no recognizable characters, no sweeping ballads, no crafty in-jokes. In fact, for the first 45 minutes, there’s no dialogue at all. The result is a delirious dream in film: romantic but technological, funny but sad, smart but goofy, slushy but sharp, familiar but entirely unique.

 

The second half does veer off into more standard fare (cue pratfalls and wisecracks), but for many, that opening act remains perhaps the peak of Pixar’s art. Tom Huddleston

 

35. Chicken Run (2000)

 

Directors: Peter Lord and Nick Park

Best quote: ‘All my life flashed before my eyes... It was really boring.’

Defining moment: When our feathered friends finally fly a homemade mechanical bird over the fence.

 

Britain’s Aardman Animations had been going since the early 1970s, and had won three Oscars for its short films ‘Creature Comforts’, ‘The Wrong Trousers’ and ‘A Close Shave’ (the latter two featuring Wallace and Gromit), by the time that the company’s founder, Peter Lord, and his collaborator Nick Park codirected their first feature, ‘Chicken Run’, in 2000.

 

A feathery spin on ‘The Great Escape’, the film showcased the same clay animation Aardman had employed to bring the much-loved Morph character to life on British TV in the 1970s and ’80s. Only now their budget was bigger, they were working with DreamWorks and Pathé, and the voices included Mel Gibson as an arrogant American chicken among an ensemble of winged prisoners in Yorkshire desperate to escape a vicious farm and its chicken-pie machine. The Aardman style – amusing, down-to-earth, homey dialogue coupled with simple, oversize features – survived the company’s first brush with Hollywood. Dave Calhoun

 

34. The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926)

 

Director: Lotte Reiniger

Best quote: It’s silent, so you’ll have to provide your own dialogue.

Defining moment: The good witch takes on the evil sorcerer in a shape-shifting smackdown.

 

Given the immense visual sophistication of today’s computer-aided animation, is there still any point in watching a silent film where paper cutouts move across illuminated sheets of glass? Perhaps surprisingly, the answer is a resounding yes, since this fairy-tale adventure from Germany’s Lotte Reiniger is no fusty historical artifact, but a mesmerizing viewing experience, precisely because (unlike modern animation) we can see the handiwork involved in creating the exquisite silhouettes peopling this classic ‘Arabian Nights’ tale.

 

There’s a flying horse, a dashing prince, an evil sorcerer, a damsel in serious distress, and even a special appearance by Aladdin and his ‘wunderlampe’. It’s all rendered in filigree detail that brings the time-honored story to life. There’s not quite the seamless movement we’ve come to expect these days, but when Reiniger fills the screen with spiky winged demons, the sheer craft on display is genuinely breathtaking. Trevor Johnston

 

33. Beauty and the Beast (1991)

 

Directors: Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale

Best quote: ‘It’s no use. She’s so beautiful. And I’m... well, look at me!’

Defining moment: The camera sweeps through the ballroom as the couple hits the floor.

 

Disney had long been in the doldrums when ‘The Little Mermaid’ showed it could entertain a new generation, but this adaptation of the classic fairy tale pushed the quality threshold to a new level, making it the first animated feature to be Oscar-nominated in the Best Picture category. The key was taking the emotional heart of the story entirely seriously, bolstered by a soaring, Broadway-on-steroids score from Howard Ashman and Alan Menken.

 

So while there are jaunty high jinks from the anthropomorphic fixtures in the Beast’s imposing castle, they never overshadow the tale’s pent-up yearning, as the hairy protagonist must find true love before the petals fall from a rose or remain forever in **** form. Crucially, the visuals convey enough heft and scale to wow the grown-up audiences who truly appreciate the story’s romantic spell. Trevor Johnston

 

32. Toy Story 3 (2010)

 

Director: Lee Unkrich

Best quote: ‘What are you going to do with these old toys?’

Defining moment: When the toys are threatened with a horrific end at the garbage dump.

 

It took 11 years for Pixar to make a third visit to the playroom. Getting there was a bumpy ride: Development for the final Toy Story film became caught up in the intricacies of the animation studio’s production deal with Disney, and at one point the Mouse House was planning to make the second sequel without Pixar’s involvement. That all changed when Disney bought the studio in 2006, and Pixar took charge of Disney Animation.

 

Much of the original team – including John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich, the latter of whom would now direct ‘Toy Story 3’ solo – went back to the drawing board and came up with a narrative that saw Andy, the toys’ owner, about to go to college and the toys escaping the terrible fate of the attic and heading instead to a day-care center – which turns out to not be the paradise they’d hoped for. The mix of energy and emotion was as winning as ever. Dave Calhoun

 

31. Finding Nemo (2003)

 

Director: Andrew Stanton

Best quote: ‘Just keep swimming.’

Defining moment: Those toothy, Aussie ‘vegetarian’ sharks really are terrifying.

 

Nowadays we take it as a given that half of the year’s biggest moneymakers are going to be cartoons: Even inferior animated sequels draw the kind of audiences once reserved for Schwarzenegger and Spielberg.

 

‘Finding Nemo’ may not have managed to crack the top slot at the box office – it was up against ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King’ – but its success both at the multiplex and on home video (it’s the biggest seller of all time, apparently) heralded a new age of animated blockbusters.

 

And it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving film, the warmest, most universal of all the Pixar home-run hitters. Particularly notable: ‘Finding Nemo’ eschews a big-name voice cast in favor of talented character actors like Albert Brooks and Allison Janney, a lesson that too many recent animated films have failed to learn. Tom Huddleston


Edited by BLACHEFAN, 16 July 2017 - 03:54 PM.

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