59. Animal Farm (1954)
Directors: John Halas and Joy Batchelor
Best quote: ‘All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.’
Defining moment: Utterly corrupted by greed and selfishness, the pigs send Boxer the cart horse to the glue factory (an allegory of Stalin’s betrayal of the proletariat?).
It’s safe to assume that ‘Animal Farm’ is the only film in this list to be partly funded by the CIA. A propaganda unit in the agency bought the film rights to George Orwell’s allegory of the failures of the Russian revolution from the writer’s widow. One slight problem: The ending of the book saw the pigs and humans join forces.
That needed to change to fit the CIA’s anti-Soviet aims, so it was replaced by a scene in which the animals revolt against the pigs. Animation historians doubt that the film’s animator-directors, the British husband-and-wife team John Halas and Joy Batchelor, knew how their film was funded.
Released in 1954, ‘Animal Farm’ is the first feature-length British animated film, its kitchen-sink craft bold and striking. At the time, one critic dubbed it ‘Disney-turned-serious.’ As anyone made to watch it at school in the 1980s will tell you, it’s not suitable for young children. Cath Clarke
58. The Illusionist (2010)
Director: Sylvain Chomet
Best quote: Not big on dialogue, but the tears of the broken-down clown in the gutter speak volumes.
Defining moment: When Tatischeff the magician is reduced to doing shopwindow demonstrations.
The lanky gait and eternally distracted air might be familiar to viewers of ‘Mon Oncle’ and ‘Playtime’, though this animated version of a never-before-filmed Jacques Tati script presents its creator not in his familiar Monsieur Hulot screen persona but under his real name, as a music-hall artiste stuck in an era when magic was going out of style.
Tagging along is a Scottish waif captivated by his trickery, but it’s not long before changing times will shatter her illusions and their tenuous bond, all the while affirming the audience’s need to invest in life-salving fantasy. A complex, ultimately affecting affair, the film has a mood of stoic resignation, exquisitely conveyed by Sylvain Chomet’s poignant visualisation of early-’60s Edinburgh – all rundown boardinghouses and rain-swept streets, where Tatischeff makes his last stand. Trevor Johnston
57. Lady and the Tramp (1955)
Directors: Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson and Hamilton Luske
Best quote: ‘I wonder what the leash-and-collar set does for excitement.’
Defining moment: As if you have to ask: a romantic Italian dinner, a single spaghetti strand and two slurpers.
None of Disney’s animated productions speaks better to that studio’s legendary machine than this one, hatched a full 18 years before its ultimate completion. The story was inspired by an actual dog, Lady, the pet of scenarist Joe Grant (also the cowriter of ‘Dumbo’), who began shaping material as early as 1937. In the subsequent decade, several more scripters hacked away at drafts, incorporating their own doggie anecdotes.
By the early ’50s, a working story was approved, but technology demanded a wider canvas: This was the first animated film to be crafted in CinemaScope (a far greater headache for draftsmen than you’d imagine). As for that famous ‘spaghetti kiss’, a now-classic bit of flirtation? Walt almost killed it. Legendary artist Frank Thomas defied his boss and mocked up a rough version that won the day. Joshua Rothkopf
56. Wreck-It Ralph (2012)
Director: Rich Moore
Best quote: ‘I don’t need a medal to tell me I’m a good guy.’
Defining moment: Pac-Man shows up at a party and hogs all the hors d’oeuvres.
In the universe of Rich Moore’s quarter-per-play nostalgia bath, the characters are nervous: Our 8-bit arcade heroes of yore have been supplanted by buxom first-person shooters, while their antagonists – like the Donkey Kong–esque Wreck-It Ralph (an inspired John C Reilly) – attend support groups to talk through their preprogrammed bitterness. Over everyone hangs the threat of a final ‘game over’, their cabinets unplugged forever.
The clever setup avoids too heavy a wink by quickly adding emotional heft, as Ralph busts into another game to befriend the adorable-but-obnoxious Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), who just wants to build her candy car and win the race. ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ is loaded with cameos – from Sonic the Hedgehog to the ever-profane Q*bert – but it somehow feels fresh: a sincere tale of finding your own identity. Joshua Rothkopf
55. Whisper of the Heart (1995)
Director: Yoshifumi Kondô
Best quote: ‘It looks like springtime has come for Shizuku at last.’
Defining moment: The heroine’s telling first visit to the creepy-yet-enticing antiques emporium.
Yoshifumi Kondo was admired enough to be Miyazaki’s anointed successor at Studio Ghibli, but he completed only this single remarkable feature before succumbing to an aneurysm at 47. Although Miyazaki’s screenplay allows a brief flourish of airborne fantasy, this is predominantly an intimately observed story on a canvas even more compact than ‘Only Yesterday’, spotlighting a book-loving high-school student whose fortunes change when she follows a stray cat into a mysterious antiques shop.
As this chance encounter transforms her outlook on life, a delicate love story blossoms between two shyly hesitant youngsters, yet the key focus is really the adolescent flowering of the creative urge – the ‘whisper of the heart’. A shame it slightly loses its nerve in the end; otherwise, this is tender, wise and magical fare deserving much greater prominence in the esteemed Ghibli canon. Trevor Johnston
54. Tangled (2010)
Directors: Nathan Greno and Byron Howard
Best quote: ‘I’m malicious, mean and scary/My face could curdle dairy.’
Defining moment: Escaping the tower, Rapunzel feels grass under her feet for the first time, and breaks into song (as you would).
The brothers Grimm’s ‘Rapunzel’ must have presented modern Disney with a bit of a head-scratcher. Long gone are the days when a Disney princess would spend her hours mooning around a tower dreaming of a knight in shining armor to rescue her.
So in this version (with Pixar’s John Lasseter executive-producing), gone is the handsome prince, replaced with an egotistical thief, Flynn Ryder. When he first smarms his way upstairs, Rapunzel thwacks him with a frying pan. This sparky princess will do her own escaping, thank you very much, twirling all that hair like a lasso.
Tangled has energy and humor in spades. Best are the beasts: Maximus the army horse (on a mission to capture Flynn) and Pascal the chameleon. Cath Clarke
53. Mind Game (2004)
Director: Masaaki Yuasa
Best quote: ‘I was killed! Shot by that creep! Then I was sucked up to heaven.’
Defining moment: Nishi, the protagonist, is murdered and sent into limbo, where he encounters a shape-shifting god who’s preoccupied with grooming himself in front of a mirror.
This ambitious feature came out of nowhere in 2004 to rock the anime world, making stars of director Masaaki Yuasa and his Studio 4°C. The plot starts as typically convoluted gangster fare, before the main characters are plunged Pinocchio-style into the belly of a whale to embark on an utterly bonkers journey of self-discovery.
Though little actually happens, the film somehow keeps up a blistering pace, propelled by a string of flashbacks, hallucinations, near-death experiences and other surreal flights of fancy. Throughout, the animation style shifts in accordance with the mood, even incorporating live actors at points. Disorienting on the first viewing, very funny on the second, and strangely moving on the third, this is bold, almost reckless filmmaking. Alex Dudok De Wit
52. Tokyo Godfathers (2003)
Directors: Satoshi Kon and Shogo Furuya
Best quote: ‘You peep pretty loud for a chick that can’t even find its own worms.’
Defining moment: The little bundle of joy, miraculously saved after a fall from a skyscraper, yawns in reply.
For his third animated project, the late, great Satoshi Kon moved away from the trippy stylings of ‘Perfect Blue’ and ‘Millennium Actress’ to tell a straightforward, though no less inventive, Christmas story. The loose inspiration is John Ford’s Western ‘3 Godfathers’, in which a John Wayne–led trio of outlaws shepherd a baby to safety. Here the setting is an initially oppressive modern-day Tokyo (full of imposing neon skyscrapers), while the three leads, all homeless, are a comically mismatched crew: a middle-aged male alcoholic, a trans woman and a runaway teen girl.
Kon has lots of fun putting the group in crazy, slapstick-heavy situations, including a car chase, a clash with gun-toting yakuza and an assassination attempt. Yet he also creates a compelling portrait of Japan’s underclass and shows how this seeming miracle baby acts as a spiritual salve for hardened souls. Keith Uhlich
51. Sita Sings the Blues (2008)
Director: Nina Paley
Best quote: ‘Assemble the monkey warriors!’
Defining moment: Sita wonders, ‘Whooooooooo’s that knockin’ at my door?’ in an energetic battle-scene-****-musical-number.
Fiction, somehow, helps us deal with fact: Reeling from a divorce, animator Nina Paley found solace in the Hindu epic the Ramayana, specifically the section dealing concerning Sita, a woman fought over by two of the tale’s male protagonists. For this eye-popping DIY feature, almost entirely animated by Paley herself, the symbolically pure and virtuous Sita becomes the narrative focus.
Paley adheres to the basic outline of the Ramayana – with its multiheadeded gods, monkey armies and heroic warriors – adding her own distinctive touches. The most delightful of these is giving Sita the voice of Jazz Age singer Annette Hanshaw, whose cheery musical stylings (especially during the literally earth-shattering climax) add a defiant layer to a story normally defined by paternalism and machismo. Keith Uhlich
50. Fritz the Cat (1972)
Director: Ralph Bakshi
Best quote: ‘I’ve fought many a good man, and laid many a good woman.’
Defining moment: Fritz gets handsy in a bathtub with at least three other animals.
It’s not an overstatement to divide the whole of animated cinema into two eras: Before ‘Fritz’ and After ‘Fritz’. Aside from becoming a global sensation (and outgrossing most Disney films up to that point), Ralph Bakshi’s libidinous Greenwich Village romp was a slap in the face to purists who hoped to keep cartoons safe for kids.
Notoriously, the film received an X rating (and includes a fair amount of bare-assed rutting), but that pejorative label might have also been due to its director’s overall vision, inspired by Robert Crumb’s countercultural characters and filled with Vietnam War–era surliness. Bakshi cut his teeth at Paramount Pictures and in advertising for clients like Coca-Cola; he was no fool to the realities of commerce. Still, it took someone familiar with the game to break the rules so completely. His triumph is animation’s puberty. Joshua Rothkopf
49. The Lego Movie (2014)
Directors: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller
Best quote: ‘Everything is awesome!’
Defining moment: When our hero Emmet awakes to find himself in the ‘real’ world.
‘The LEGO Movie’ hadn’t even been released when we began polling contributors for this list of the best animated movies, but as soon as it hit the screens, the votes started to roll in. It’s hardly surprising: What could have been a shoddy, cynical attempt to cash in on a beloved brand turned out to be a witty, intelligent, spiky, sweet-natured and insanely enjoyable adventure crammed with goofy gags and movie in-jokes.
The decision to hire writer-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (whose earlier collaboration ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs’ is criminally unrepresented on this list) was a masterstroke: This isn’t just another kids’ cartoon, but a satirical sugar bullet aimed directly at the heart of conformity and ordinariness everywhere, be it in the playroom, in the boardroom or on the pop charts. Tom Huddleston
48. The Castle of Cagliostro (1979)
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Best quote: ‘My prize is a treasure locked away in a tower by an evil magician – please allow this humble thief to steal it.’
Defining moment: The dashing hero facing certain death entombed in the baddie’s catacombs.
Created by French writer Maurice Leblanc in 1905, gentleman thief Arsène Lupin later morphed into Rupan, the dashing antihero of a manga. It became a hit TV series and generated master animator Hayao Miyazaki’s very first feature.
Fresh from another jewel robbery, Rupan finds himself in the tiny duchy of Cagliostro, hoping to rescue comely Clarisse from marriage to the scheming count who’s usurped the throne. What unfolds is a cavalcade of scrapes and gadgetry, indicating that Miyazaki knew his ’60s celluloid spy capers back to front.
The result is undeniably lightweight yet breathlessly entertaining: Plotting is resourceful in its succession of twists and reversals, and the architectural hyperdetail of the castle itself is typical Miyazaki. It’s a delightful movie that sits at a slight remove from the rest of his work. Trevor Johnston
47. Allegro Non Troppo (1976)
Director: Bruno Bozzetto
Best quote: ‘Someone called Disney has already made this?’
Defining moment: Humanity’s evolution scored to Ravel’s Bolero is a magnificent set piece.
Of course, Disney’s ‘Fantasia’ is the acknowledged reference point for Italian mischief maker Bruno Bozzetto’s animated collection of classical pops, interwoven with boisterous live-action interludes in which a hard-pressed animator battles an egomaniac conductor, his shifty producer and an unlikely orchestra of geriatric ladies let out of their cages (no, really) to play the score.
There’s definitely a Monty Python–style antiestablishment surrealism in both elements of the movie, not least the musical sections, in which we see humanity evolve from the sludge at the bottom of a Coke bottle, the serpent in the garden of Eden tormented by the sheer variety of the sins he’s about to introduce into the world, and the absurdity of materialism represented by the urge to **** higher and higher buildings. Certainly, it’s uneven, and some of the humor feels dated, but there’s not a hint of classical-music snobbery here. Trevor Johnston
46. Waltz with Bashir (2008)
Director: Ari Folman
Best quote: ‘Memory fills the holes with things that never happened.’
Defining moment: The acid-trip opener: An ex-soldier describes a recurring dream of being chased by a pack of 26 ferocious dogs.
Israeli soldier-turned-filmmaker Ari Folman described making his autobiographical antiwar documentary as being like therapy. It began when he left the army (after serving for more than 20 years, full-time and as a reservist). Folman had never talked about his experiences fighting in Lebanon in 1982 at age 19 until he went to see an army therapist, a condition of his discharge.
During the conflict, Lebanese Christian militia massacred up to 3,000 Palestinians in refugee camps – possibly under the eyes of Israeli forces. Folman was there, but his memories of the conflict were fuzzily vague. We see him as he sets out to interview the men he fought alongside, the story unfolding in flashbacks, strikingly told with graphic artist David Polonsky’s hallucinatory drawings. The result is an antiwar film in the league of ‘Apocalypse Now’ and ‘The Thin Red Line’. Compelling and original. Cath Clarke
45. Monsters, Inc. (2001)
Director: Pete Docter
Best quote: ‘There’s nothing more toxic or deadly than a human child.’
Defining moment: The closing credits, as our heroes perform their hastily improvised stage musical ‘Put That Thing Back Where It Came from or So Help Me’.
For a while, it seemed so simple: Pixar was on such a spectacular roll that even something as wildly inventive and eye-slappingly beautiful as ‘Monsters, Inc.’ could be regarded as just another link in the chain. Only now, following a string of disappointments (including 2013’s forgettable prequel, ‘Monsters University’), do we realize how good we had it.
Perhaps more than any other Pixar flick, ‘Monsters, Inc.’ – particularly in its 3-D version – plays havoc with the possibilities of animation, harking back to the golden age of Looney Tunes for its wild, dimension hopping action sequences and wealth of background gags, cramming the screen with color, life and wit. The characterisation is equally noteworthy: Director Pete Docter milks every ounce of humor and pathos from his voiceover frontmen Billy Crystal and John Goodman, and the script is packed with memorable one-liners and fuzzy warmth. Tom Huddleston
Edited by BLACHEFAN, 16 July 2017 - 03:54 PM.