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Time Out 100 Best Animated Films


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#21 BLACHEFAN

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Posted 22 April 2017 - 11:59 AM

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.

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#22 BLACHEFAN

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Posted 22 April 2017 - 11:36 AM

74. Heavy Traffic (1973)

 

Director: Ralph Bakshi

Best quote: ‘Now listen here, boy: As long as Carole’s got this here good thing [Slaps own butt] and this here left [Taps head], she don’t need anything else unless she wants it – and child, I don’t want it!’

Defining moment: A Mafia boss slurps up a forkful of pasta, out of which tiny, helpless figures fall, shaken from the strands.

 

‘It’s animated, but it’s not a cartoon’, promised the trailer, yet the movie that followed, in scummy NYC theaters in August 1973, didn’t fulfill that pledge. Ralph Bakshi’s passion project, a swirling java of urban stereotypes (the overbearing Jewish mother, the Italian mobster, the sassy black girlfriend, etc.), is overstated in a garish, ethnically broad way, very much a cartoon. No matter: There was nothing like it at the time.

 

It’s worth noting that potential viewers had to actively be told that animation could deal with adult subjects like crime, violence and poverty. The style is hand-drawn, superimposed over grainy photographs of Brooklyn’s decay. Though much of ‘Heavy Traffic’ has since dated poorly, it’s closer to the vibe of early Scorsese than any other movie on this list – and it still represents an avenue that’s gone largely unexplored. Joshua Rothkopf

 

73. Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (2004)

 

Director: Mamoru Oshii

Best quote: ‘When dialogue fails, it’s time for violence.’

Defining moment: Our heroes get trapped in an MC Escher–like time loop.

 

Mamoru Oshii’s futuristic thriller ‘Ghost in the Shell’ – about a law-enforcement cyborg searching for the meaning of her existence – is one of the most highly regarded anime features ever made. This sequel, made nine years later, expands on the original’s heady philosophical conceits with a no-less-striking visual palette. The presumed-dead Major’s former colleagues Batô and Togusa are the leads, tasked with investigating a series of deaths caused by malfunctioning sex robots called gynoids. Of course, there’s much more to the mystery, which takes Batô and Togusa everywhere from a ratty yakuza den (site of an ecstatically bloody shoot-out) to the topsy-turvy mansion of a doll-obsessed hacker.

 

Oshii lets his imagination run wild: A gorgeously rendered parade sequence (which itself took more than a year to complete) could stand on its own as an immersive mini masterpiece. The endlessly imaginative visual play complements the film’s stimulating inquiry into the fine line separating man and machine. Keith Uhlich

 

72. The Lion King (1994)

 

Directors: Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff

Best quote: ‘I was first in line until the little hairball was born.’

Defining moment: On a cliff edge, Scar lets his brother, Mufasa, the king of the lions, fall to his death.

 

The opening alone is worth the price of a DVD: a majestic scene as beasts of the savannah gather to pay tribute to new lion prince, Simba. Even inside Disney, expectations for ‘The Lion King’ were low. As producer Don Hahn later summed it up: ‘Lion cub gets framed for murder by his uncle, set to the music of Elton John... good luck with that.’

 

But it stormed the box office as 1994’s second-highest-grossing film. Why? For a start it has one of the best (possibly the best) Disney villains, the king’s brother, Scar, drawling and plotting with supreme boredom and devilish sarcasm. The soundtrack by Tim Rice and Elton John is endlessly hummable, and the animation – best of all, a wildebeest stampede, which took three years to animate – is spectacular. Cath Clarke

 

71. Rango (2011)

 

Director: Gore Verbinski

Best quote: ‘You ain’t from round here, are you?’

Defining moment: Bellying up to the bar at the local saloon, Rango tells a whopper about killing seven outlaws with one bullet.

 

Johnny Depp and director Gore Verbinski had made magic before, in the first ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’, a project on which an actor’s wildest impulses met a filmmaker’s warmest encouragements. The sequels made them impossibly rich, yet that spirit of impulsive weirdness was something they wanted to recapture; it thrums through this computer-animated adventure, delightfully scuzzy in its dusty, Sergio Leone–esque locales.

 

‘Rango’ follows the arc of many classic Westerns, and speaks strongly to principles of self-respect and inner heroism. But it’s also a creature of many colours, finding room for adult pop-culture references (a Kim Novak joke?) and Depp’s own filmography: Rango wears a garish Hawaiian shirt, and you can’t help but think of Hunter S Thompson in ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’. Joshua Rothkopf

 

70. Pom Poko (1994)

 

Director: Isao Takahata

Best quote: ‘I have no face!’

Defining moment: The scene in which a raccoon transforms his **** into a giant sailing ship bound for nirvana. (We know you’re curious.)

 

If you’ve seen ‘Spirited Away’, with its ancient ghost demons, and ‘Porco Rosso’, with its farmyard flying ace, you’ll know that those Ghibli guys can get a little weird sometimes. But nothing can prepare you for the sheer, mind-melting oddness of ‘Grave of the Fireflies’ director Isao Takahata’s chronicle of the Great Raccoon War.

 

Structured in pseudodocumentary style, complete with constant voiceover and regular time leaps, it tells the tale of a group of shape-shifting raccoons who take up arms against the human beings destroying their woodland. But cozy critters this lot ain’t: Not only do they kill several people over the course of their campaign – and throw a huge party to celebrate – they also use their testicular pouches as everything from hot-air balloons to welcome mats, employ their transformative powers to infiltrate human society and argue constantly (and often viciously) with each other. Sweet, satirical, savage, sad, silly and quite spectacularly strange, ‘Pom Poko’ stands utterly alone. Tom Huddleston

 

69. Porco Rosso (1992)

 

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Best quote: ‘I’d rather be a pig than a fascist.’

Defining moment: The climactic duel between Porco and his archnemesis, American air ace Curtis.


The most impressive thing about writer-director-producer and Studio Ghibli chief Hayao Miyazaki is not his imagination (which is vast), nor his compassion (which is bottomless), but his extraordinary confidence: It takes a remarkable man to come up with a tale of a magical pig who flies planes in pre-WWII Italy. But it takes balls of brass to believe that such a story was worth spending three years and who knows how many million yen to bring to the screen. Thank God he did.

 

It takes some arguing to not see ‘Porco Rosso’ as Miyazaki’s crowning achievement, crammed with charm, empathy, historical irony and dry, brilliantly idiosyncratic wit. But most of all it stands as a testament to the power of film itself, presenting a world both inspired by cinema – from Errol Flynn to Humphrey Bogart via the Pagot brothers – and filled with it, from the movie magazines read by our crumpled porcine hero to the cat-and-mouse cartoons he loves to watch. Tom Huddleston

 

68. Aladdin (1992)

 

Directors: Ron Clements and John Musker

Best quote: ‘Three wishes, to be exact. And ixnay on the wishing for more wishes.’

Defining moment: The first appearance of the genie, voiced by Robin Williams, is a rat-a-tat stand-up routine set to dizzying visuals.

 

In 1992, Disney’s ‘Aladdin’ heralded the modern age of animation. The cave-of-wonders sequence was the first use of computer animation in a major Disney feature (with admittedly mixed results), while the appearance of Robin Williams as the Genie was a landmark in the employment of celebrity voices: This wasn’t so much a character as a self-portrait in ink and paint. Most importantly, the film’s massive success – it was the biggest movie of 1992 and the biggest animated film ever at the time – proved that, after years of false starts and disappointments, the public was once again ready to hand over their cash to an all-singing, all-quipping animated spectacular.

 

The film has its problems: Accusations of underlying racist attitudes, particularly of the original cut with its ‘They cut off your nose if they don’t like your face’ lyric, were perhaps justified. But this is the work of a company rediscovering its core purpose, to bring joy. Tom Huddleston

 

67. Frozen (2013)

 

Directors: Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck

Best quote: ‘Wait, you got engaged to someone you just met that day?’

Defining moment: Whether you think it’s a feminist belter or reactionary pop drivel, the Oscar-winning song ‘Let It Go’ is a new Disney classic.

 

Despite its box-office appeal and Oscar wins, Disney’s most recent animated smash divides opinion. Some see ‘Frozen’ as a delirious throwback to the studio’s classic era, with tongue firmly in cheek and belting torch songs galore (the stage musical cannot be far away). For others, though, its shiny veneer masks old-fashioned ideals: The heroines are all slim, perky and good-looking, and the idea that freedom drives women mad might not be a particularly welcome one.

 

Whatever your take, there’s no denying that ‘Frozen’ is ridiculously entertaining: beautifully animated, breathlessly paced and winningly goofy. The fun part is seeing those classic fairy-tale characters – the adventurous princess, the handsome prince and the wicked queen – being forced through a postmodern blender. Tom Huddleston

 

66. Sleeping Beauty (1959)

 

Director: Clyde Geronimi

Best quote: ‘Now you shall deal with me, O prince, and all the powers of hell!’

Defining moment: Evil fairy Maleficent turns herself into a fire-breathing dragon and goes to battle.


In the Disney villainesses hall of fame, Maleficent ranks up there with Cruella De Vil. The self-proclaimed ‘mistress of all evil’, Maleficent is the badass fairy who casts a spell on Aurora at birth, causing the princess to prick her finger on a spinning wheel and die before her 16th birthday. Why? All because the king left her off the guest list at Aurora’s christening.

 

After nearly a decade of preparation, Walt Disney wanted ‘Sleeping Beauty’ to stand out from existing princess-led fairy tales ‘Snow White’ and ‘Cinderella’, and so it does. Inspired by medieval art and tapestries, this is Disney at its most wow-worthy, best of all in the lurid scenes at Maleficent’s lair.

 

‘Sleeping Beauty’ marked the end of an era – it was the final animation overseen directly by Walt himself, now busy building theme parks and making TV. That said, rebellious, feisty Aurora also harkens to the sparky princesses of Disney future, even if she’s muscled into a supporting-actress slot by a certain scene-stealing bad fairy. Cath Clarke

 

65. Neon Genesis Evangelion: The End of Evangelion (1997)

 

Directors: Kazuya Tsurumaki and Hideaki Anno

Best quote: Our protagonist laments, ‘I’m so **** up.’

Defining moment: This is the way the world ends... to a pop song.

 

Fans were mightily displeased with the cerebral, action-free conclusion of Hideaki Anno’s anime TV series ‘Neon Genesis Evangelion’, in which humans fight otherworldly ‘angels’ with giant robots. So he went back to the drawing board and came up with this immensely satisfying, theatrically released alternate ending, which increases the **** machine-on-monster violence tenfold while doubling down on the heady philosophical and spiritual allusions.

 

This is a movie that begins with our weak-willed adolescent hero, Shinji, **** over the comatose body of his colleague, and climaxes with an end-times free-for-all that mixes Christian symbology, Jewish mysticism, sexual paranoia and teenage angst into a searing apocalyptic stew. In between are sights and sounds you’ll never forget – from Shinji’s horrifying descent into insanity to a live-action sequence that provocatively implicates the audience itself in the madness. Keith Uhlich

 

64. King Kong (1933)

 

Directors: Merian C Cooper and Ernest B Schoedsack

Best quote: ‘It was beauty killed the beast.’

Defining moment: When a T. Rex pauses to scratch his nose, these plasticine monsters really do come to life.

 

A central idea with this list was to leave the definition of an animated movie entirely in the hands of our contributors, with the result that a number of left-field choices managed to sneak in. For example, this classic live-action adventure story, which uses stop-motion figures to represent its title character, a romantically inclined giant ape, and his dinosaur adversaries. The number of filmmakers ‘King Kong’ has inspired is legion and legendary, from Ray Harryhausen – who sought the advice of animator Willis O’Brien while still a movie-mad teenager – to Peter Jackson – who famously (and rather pointlesssly) remade the film in 2005.

 

What makes ‘King Kong’ remarkable is its attention to detail: The world had never seen such convincing animated figures moving so fluidly within a real-world environment. The effect remains poetic and bewitching. Tom Huddleston

 

63. Jason and the Argonauts (1963)

 

Director: Don Chaffey

Best quote: ‘The gods are cruel! In time, men will learn to live without them.’

Defining moment: Sword-wielding skeletons rise from the turf to attack our band of brothers.

 

Generations of younger viewers remain convinced that Ray Harryhausen possessed the magical power to bring model figurines to life, simply on the strength of this ancient-Greek adventure pic he himself regarded as his finest achievement.

 

No one really remembers the plot, which involves Todd Armstrong’s frankly wooden Jason and his brawny crew taking to the seas to bring back the fabled Golden Fleece and thus ascend the throne of Thessaly. But the stop-frame-animation highlights are unforgettable – from fierce winged harpies to the bronze giant Talos and the snapping seven-headed Hydra. Best of all, though, is a battle with sword-swinging skeletons, raised from the earth to take on our heroes. The human and animated elements are uncannily integrated in a way that CGI never quite makes so tactile. They’re alive! Trevor Johnston

 

62. Heaven and Earth Magic (1962)

 

Director: Harry Smith

Best quote: This is all about the imagery. Words are too pedestrian, man.

Defining moment: A machine that allows you to play a game of tennis with a baby.

 

Uncompromisingly experimental, US filmmaker Harry Smith’s ‘Heaven and Earth Magic’ existed in various versions in the late 1950s and early 1960s, before settling down into this final 1962 cut. Scrappy and fiercely DIY in its aesthetic and produced under the auspices of Jonas Mekas’s Anthology Film Archives, this black-and-white film uses stop-motion animation techniques to tell stories with roughly cutout photographs.

 

In terms of story, maybe Smith himself best characterizes his avant-garde, surrealist approach: ‘The first part depicts the heroine’s toothache consequent to the loss of a very valuable watermelon, her dentistry and transportation to heaven. The second part depicts the return to Earth from being eaten by Max Müller on the day Edward VII dedicated the Great Sewer of London.’ Got that? The film’s audio consists only of sound effects, and it’s become a popular choice for screenings with a live score. Dave Calhoun

 

61. Only Yesterday (1991)

Director: Isao Takahata

Best quote: ‘So many memories playing in my head like a movie, almost overpowering me.’

Defining moment: A ’60s Tokyo family tucking into a whole pineapple becomes a metaphor for life’s promises and disappointments.

 

A story about a 27-year-old remembering her school days while working on a farm in the country sounds like truly unlikely animated material. Trust the instincts of Studio Ghibli mainstay Isao Takahata, however, who reckoned that when we see recognisable life animated, it acquires a kind of solidity that makes us look anew at the everyday.

 

Here’s a drama that aims to understand the present by reexamining the past, yet it’s not doused in nostalgia. Instead the film explores with uncanny insight and accuracy the sundry minor high-school setbacks that have inhibited protagonist Taeko’s subsequent romantic fortunes. Better days may lie ahead, though, as the story works toward a final-reel emotional release that feels truthful and earned – something rare in any kind of cinema, and arguably unique in the annals of animation. It’s Ghibli’s secret classic. Trevor Johnston

 

60. Kiki's Delivery Service (1989)

 

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Best quote: ‘You’d think they’d never seen a girl and a cat on a broom before.’

Defining moment: The airship disaster is one of the most thrilling sequences in the Ghibli catalog.

 

When JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books were first unleashed on an unsuspecting public, cries of familiarity were rampant. And it’s true, the books were inspired by everything from the Worst Witch literary series to Anthony Buckeridge’s Jennings novels. But Rowling was hardly the first kids’ writer to raid the past for inspiration, a point proved by ‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’, Hayao Miyazaki’s adaptation of the sweet, charming but hardly groundbreaking novel by Japanese author Eiko Kadono.

 

A tale of a teenage witch, her bad-tempered pet cat and a sleepy city by the sea, the film is a grab bag of kid-lit tropes. But it’s not so much the story as how you tell it, and that’s Miyazaki’s genius: In the hands of a great director, this cozy little coming-of-age tale becomes something altogether more strange, beautiful and affecting than its outline would suggest. Tom Huddleston


Edited by BLACHEFAN, 16 July 2017 - 03:55 PM.

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#23 BLACHEFAN

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Posted 22 April 2017 - 09:12 AM

Back in August 2014, Time Out part of Time Magazine came up with a list of their favorite movies from 100 to 1. And below me is the list of these 100 films selected by the critics, animators and film fans and their critiques.

 

100. Peter Pan (1953)

 

Directors: Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson and Hamilton Luske

Best quote: ‘But Mother, I don’t want to grow up!’

Defining moment: Peter leads Wendy and her siblings across the London night sky.

 

Parents, do you know where your children are? Maybe they’re following mischievous spirit Peter Pan past the second star and straight on to Neverland, where kids can be kids to their hearts’ content. The sight of grown men threatening children with cutlasses and even a ticking bomb makes this occasionally uncomfortable viewing today (and its dubious treatment of the crimson-hued Native Americans is hard to forgive). But while definitely from a more innocent age, the comedy still plays: Blustery Captain Hook remains an endearingly fallible bad guy, hotly pursued by an ever-ravenous crocodile, while the vigorous action throughout suggests that the Disney team had one eye on Warner Bros.’ Looney Tunes output. It’s somewhat superficial overall, but still the best adaptation of Barrie’s play, perennially unlucky onscreen. Trevor Johnston

 

99. Millennium Actress (2001)

 

Director: Satoshi Kon

Best quote: ‘It’s the key to the most important thing in life.’

Defining moment: When we first realize Chiyoko’s memories and movies are blurred into one.


A fictional reclusive screen legend recalls how she embarked upon a lifelong romantic quest to track down the rebel artist who captured her young girl’s heart. Was she hopelessly deluded, or in the throes of a grand passion many of us will never be fortunate enough to experience? So strong are her memories that her devoted interviewer (and his nonplussed cameraman) find themselves sucked into her past, where personal travails and melodramatic film roles intermingle via ‘Perfect Blue’ auteur Kon’s dizzying narrative transitions.

 

The sheer single-mindedness of Chiyoko’s journey almost traps the movie in a groove, yet Kon saves the day with some thought-provoking final-reel reveals, by which point the sheer audacity of his fluidly imaginative direction and loving re-creation of Japanese screen history – from samurai swashbucklers to modern sci-fi epics – has long since cast their spell. Trevor Johnston

 

98. Feherlofia (1981) 

 

Director: Marcell Jankovics

Best quote: ‘Tell your mother to breast-feed you for another seven years, then you’ll be able to pull out the tree single-handed.’

Defining moment: When an animated film starts with a hallucinogenic birthing scene, you know you’re not in Kansas anymore.

 

Any director who has written 15 books on folklore takes his ancient legends seriously, and in Magyar maestro Marcell Jankovics’s full-on fable, three princes ignore the king’s warning about ‘the lock which must not be opened.’ All hell (literally) breaks loose, and a white mare goddess spawns three human sons – who subsequently take the fight back to the underworld.

 

An archetypal saga involving daunting trials of endurance, it unfolds in a Day-Glo visual style suggesting Kandinsky’s colorful curves, Matisse’s cutouts and way too many prog-rock album covers. It is unlike anything else in the world, ever, which makes this a must-see, though the sheer brutality with which Treeshaker, Stonecrumbler and Ironrubber press through the pit of Hell and back may make this just a bit too heavy-duty for sensitive younger viewers. Trevor Johnston

 

97. Perfect Blue (1997)

 

Director: Satoshi Kon

Best quote: ‘The Internet? That’s popular at the moment. What is it?’

Defining moment: The sight of Mima’s alter ego skipping in midair from lamppost to lamppost would freak anyone out.

 

The pressures of career choices and the threat of a murderously obsessive fan loosen former pop star Mima’s grasp on reality, in a story that explores the dehumanizing effects of the entertainment industry. ‘Perfect Blue’ also shows how that same industry makes vulnerable women complicit in their own sexual exploitation.

 

This startling first feature reminds us of the immense talent the anime universe lost when director Satoshi Kon succumbed to cancer at 46. No one else would even have thought of doing this intense psychodrama as an animated feature – the source material’s not dissimilar to ‘Black Swan’ – and surely only Kon had the visual skills to transfer the disturbingly fragmented mise en scène of a Polanski or an Argento into animated form. The outcome is dark, mesmerizing, but also controlled and coherent in a way the hyperimaginative Kon never quite managed again. Trevor Johnston

 

96. Nausea of the Valley of the Wind (1984)

 

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Best quote: ‘Man and insect cannot live together!’

Defining moment: The glow of the rampaging insects’ hate-filled red eyes lines the horizon.

 

Miyazaki’s first film based on his own original material is a major statement of intent. The man doesn’t just tell stories; he creates entire worlds. That sense of total immersion pays dividends here. It’s truly shocking when the eponymous heroine’s peaceful agrarian community comes under attack from a warmongering nation whose aggressive expansion plans could completely unbalance the postapocalyptic environment, where deadly giant insects lurk in the so-called Sea of Decay.

 

Just as ‘Star Wars’ did before it, the film thrillingly shows how one individual’s distinctive perceptions can affect events on a cosmic scale, yet the triumph here is the insistence on endeavoring to resolve mankind’s fate rather than deploy more destruction. Looking to discover early Miyazaki? Start with this epic saga of conflict and compassion. Trevor Johnston

 

95. Little Otik (2000)

 

Director: Jan Svankmajer

Best quote: ‘He’s our child and we have to stick by him through thick and thin.’

Defining moment: When the baby devours his own father: Svankmajer never lets Freud get the better of him.

 

Adapted from a Czech folktale, Svankmajer’s gleefully wicked satire depicts how far a childless couple go to satisfy their parental impulses. After the husband finds a tree stump shaped a little like a human baby, he cleans it up and presents it to his wife, but she soon comes to believe it’s actually their child. Such is her devotion that it somehow brings the thing to life, and its increasingly insatiable appetite has to be dealt with – by any means necessary.

 

With his customary mix of live action and stop-motion animation, Svankmajer explores the more lethally destructive aspects of familial affection and loyalty; at once nightmarish, grotesque and genuinely subversive, the film is also savagely funny as the solipsistic monster grows and grows. Geoff Andrew

 

94. Night on the Galactic Railroad (1985)

 

Directors: Gisaburo Sugii and Arlen Tarlofsky

Best quote: ‘I’m going to be just like that scorpion...’

Defining moment: An old woman sings ‘Nearer, My God, to Thee’ in the most cracked and haunting voice imaginable.

 

Kenji Miyazawa’s 1927 novel is a standard text for Japanese schoolchildren but remains virtually unknown elsewhere. Combining eerie Christian mysticism, awestruck pseudoscience and bleak realism, the book follows two put-upon schoolboys, Giovanni and Campanella, as they board the titular train to the stars and beyond. Anime directors Gisaburo Sugii and Arlen Tarlofsky made one major change when they adapted Miyazawa’s work for the screen: They replaced all the central human characters with cute anthropomorphized kittens. But if their intention was to make the story more appealing to youngsters, they were way off.

 

With its meditative pace, unstructured plotting, and rambling, often incomprehensible discourses on morality and mortality, this is about as kid-friendly as a morning in church. For those with patience, however, it is a beautiful, frequently enlightening trip. Tom Huddleston

 

93. Kirikou and the Sorceress (1998)

 

Director: Michel Ocelot

Best quote: ‘Why are you mean and evil?’

Defining moment: Any time Kirikou’s tiny legs scamper across the savannah.

 

French director Michel Ocelot, whose deliberately simple visual style celebrates the power of the silhouette, grew up in Guinea, and manages the rare feat (for a Western filmmaker) of telling a rural African tale without patronising his subject matter. Instead, the action proceeds with the patience and confidence of a fable, as plucky Kirikou wisely refuses to accept the rule of fear exerted by the stern sorceress Karaba over his home village.

 

Adults will pick up on the political analogy with the continent’s dictatorial rulers, but younger viewers are more likely to be mesmerized by the courage and resilience of the pint-size protagonist. Yes, there’s realistic and entirely nonsexual nudity in the imagery here, but it would be a shame to let Anglo-Saxon prudery stop this delightful film from becoming a much-loved family classic. Trevor Johnston

 

92. James and the Giant Peach (1996)

 

Director: Henry Selick

Best quote: ‘Try looking at it another way.’

Defining moment: The eponymous peach is set free from its tree and rolls to freedom, leaving much bewilderment in its wake.

 

Many filmmakers have struggled to nail the blend of the whimsical and the macabre in Roald Dahl’s inimitable children’s fiction. Oddly, the ones who succeed best are those who put their own creative personality first: Nicolas Roeg, Wes Anderson and, in this winningly surreal take on Dahl’s least overtly filmable work, Henry Selick.

 

The ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ director’s Gothic-style puppetry and doleful sense of humour are ideally suited to this initially melancholy, increasingly manic tale of a lonely young orphan whose life takes a turn for the better when he boards a giant peach bound for New York and populated with lovable mutant bugs. Short, strange and bookended with live-action sequences scarcely less cartoonish than the rest, it’s a fond but inventive tribute to a great storyteller. Guy Lodge

 

91. Gulliver's Travels (1939)

 

Director: Dave Fleischer

Best quote: ‘There’s a g-g-giant on the b-b-beach!’

Defining moment: Lilliputian ingenuity and effort transport their new arrival back to the royal castle.

 

The achievements of the Fleischer brothers (director Dave and producer Max) have long been overshadowed by Walt Disney, yet they invented many key animation techniques, brought sound to the medium, and found wide audiences for their Betty Boop, Popeye and Superman shorts. Still, Disney’s 1937 ‘Snow White’ was a game-changer, and the Fleischers responded with their own animated feature, which took the more family-friendly elements from Swift’s caustic original and delivered an upbeat story in which shipwrecked sailor Gulliver intervenes in the senseless conflict between tiny rival nations over the music at a forthcoming royal wedding.

 

The operetta-influenced warbling hasn’t worn especially well, and the knockabout comedy lacks subtlety, yet the thought-through detail with which the Fleischers imagine Lilliput’s micro fixtures and fittings still impresses. A worthwhile reminder that Disney didn’t have it all its way. Trevor Johnston

 

90. Goodbye Mr. Christie (2011)

 

Director: Phil Mulloy

Best quote: ‘That villain’s **** is huge!’

Defining moment: When our hero Mr Christie accidentally kills God. Well, He was disguised as a spider.

 

How’s this for a plot synopsis? After being seduced by a studly French sailor, straitlaced upper-middle-class father, husband and unwitting reality-TV star Mr Christie goes insane and decides to dig a hole to Australia in the garden. Emerging in the Tokyo subway system by mistake, Mr Christie inadvertently murders God and is exiled to the land of the dead, where he meets Adolf Hitler, Jesus and Dracula. Sadly, just as he’s starting to get a handle on things, the local parish priest decides to rape Mrs Christie, leading to the destruction of the universe.

 

Part of artist and animator Phil Mulloy’s ongoing Christie series (which has so far consisted of 12 shorts and two features, with another in the pipeline), ‘Goodbye Mr Christie’ utilises ultraminimalist animation, computer-modulated deadpan voices and a dry, mordant wit to create something that is at once enlightening, aggravating, strangely moving and extremely funny. Tom Huddleston

 

89. ParaNorman (2012)

 

Directors: Chris Butler and Sam Fell

Best quote: ‘Can’t you be like other kids your age?’

Defining moment: Norman attempts to wrench a book of spells from the rigor-mortis-stiff grasp of a corpse.

 

If, in a few years’ time, a generation of teenagers develops an unhealthy fixation with wearing black and the undead, point the finger of blame at ‘ParaNorman’. Never has a kids’ film been so gloriously ghoulish. Our hero is a horror-film-obsessed 11-year-old called Norman (nicknamed Ab-Norman by the kids at school, who graffiti ‘freak’ on his locker). Norman can see ghosts – which terrifies his meat-and-potatoes dad, who’s worried that his son will grow up into ‘limp-wristed hippie stuff’.

 

The second stop-motion animation from the studio Laika (after 2009’s ‘Coraline’), ‘ParaNorman’ was brought lovingly to life, with up to 300 people working on it at a time, and 3-D printers to animate characters’ faces. The detail, down to the zombies’ tombstone teeth, is stunning. Cath Clarke

 

88. Ernest and Celestine (2012)

 

Directors: Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar and Benjamin Renner

Best quote: ‘If you don’t eat me, I’ll give you whatever you most want in the world.’

Defining moment: Parallel court cases above and below ground, as Ernest and Celestine try their best to end

bear-mouse apartheid.

 

Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar came to prominence with the deliciously absurd, aptly titled ‘A Town Called Panic’, to which this more conventionally visualized heart-warmer seems positively Disneyesque by comparison – if Disney made off-kilter political allegories involving bohemian bears and tooth-collecting mice on the fringes of society, all rendered in delicate watercolor tones.

 

A dark-horse Oscar nominee in 2014, this adorable oddity was big in France, but has yet to find the English-speaking audience it deserves; perhaps a new Forest Whitaker–featuring dub will make the difference. In its current form, however, it’s as pretty and as quintessentially Gallic as a plate of pastel-colored macarons, though with a sharper bite than you might expect. Guy Lodge

 

87. The Bugs Bunny/Road-Runner Movie (1979)

 

Directors: Chuck Jones and Phil Monroe

Best quote: ‘Duck season! Wabbit season! Duck season! Wabbit season!’

Defining moment: Too many to choose from, but the Wagner-inspired ‘What’s Opera, Doc?’ will make your jaw drop.

 

The only conceivable reason why this roundup of the best Warner Bros. shorts isn’t higher on this list is because so few are aware of its existence. Released briefly into theaters in 1979, the film opens with Bugs Bunny in scholarly mode, looking back over the history of the chase movie from the earliest silents to the present day. Cue a cavalcade of some of the most insanely inventive, vigorously intelligent, wildly subversive and mind-bendingly bizarre skits and spoofs ever seen on film.

 

The highlights are now part of our culture: Elmer Fudd going toe-to-toe with Bugs in ‘Rabbit Fire’; Daffy Duck berating his own animator in the dizzying ‘Duck Amuck’; the surly appearance of Marvin the Martian in ‘Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century’. But where else can you find them all in one place? We don’t use the word genius lightly, but this qualifies. Tom Huddleston

 

86. The Tale of the Fox (1930)

 

Directors: Irene Starewicz and Wladyslaw Starewicz

Best quote: ‘Sir, I demand compensation for a cold, a nervous breakdown and some stolen hams.’

Defining moment: The silver-tongued, rascally fox talks his way out of the hangman’s noose.

 

Wes Anderson acknowledged ‘The Tale of the Fox’ as the biggest single influence on the look of ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’. Watching the 1930 French film today (you can see it in full on YouTube), it’s astonishing how fresh and modern it is. Codirector Wladyslaw Starewicz pioneered stop-motion animation, creating the elegant world of ‘The Tale of Fox’ with his daughter Irene.

 

Fast, funny and anarchic, ‘The Tale of the Fox’ is as giddily inventive as Pixar, and as charming as Wallace and Gromit. But no film today could get away with being this deliciously and subversively cynical. In another kids’ film, the crafty, cunning fox would get his comeuppance. Not here. After a string of dastardly crimes, Monsieur Fox is hauled in front of the king of beasts, a chin-stroking lion, only to cheat his way to freedom. Bravo. Cath Clarke

 

85. Coonskin (1975)

 

Director: Ralph Bakshi

Best quote: ‘Harlem. Yeah! The pot of smack at the end of the rainbow. No more happy-actin’, back-bustin’. Harlem!’

Defining moment: A naked obese preacher who claims he’s the black Jesus shoots holes in photos of John Wayne, Richard Nixon and Elvis Presley.

 

After introducing drug use, salty street talk and working genitalia into his scandalous first feature, ‘Fritz the Cat’, Ralph Bakshi really caused a stir with this caustic look at race relations, featuring three animated brothers in conflict with both phony revolutionaries and the New York Mafia. Notwithstanding the white and gay characters (just as caricatured as the black ones), racial-equality groups were appalled and the film was barely released, later emerging on DVD under the more benign title ‘Street Fight’.

 

Viewed in retrospect – and putting aside the Tarantino argument of whether a white writer-director has the right to use the n-word so liberally – it’s possible to see Bakshi attempting a strong statement about the subjugation of African-Americans, but undermining himself by using the worst stereotypes of preachers, pimps and whores to make his point. Trevor Johnston

 

84. Castle in the Sky (1986)

 

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Best quote: ‘The crystal should remind us that we come from the earth and to the earth we must return.’

Defining moment: The destructive power of a giant robot signals the ominous threat of Laputan technology.

 

For the very first Studio Ghibli production, writer-director Miyazaki stepped forward boldly with fleets of lovingly realised vintage flying machines. The film traces the story of a young girl wondering whether the glowing crystal passed to her as a family heirloom will lead her to the legendary flying city of Laputa.

 

If the tale then proceeds along expected lines, the exhilaration of the myriad chase sequences and aerial dogfights remains a marvel (not least given the rudimentary technology available to the Ghibli animators at the time). Also, a strong, ecologically aware undertow adds ballast to otherwise slightly two-dimensional villains.

 

As such, it’s not as thematically rich as Miyazaki’s best (those titles are coming up), but the sheer imagination on view as the camera navigates the richly thought-out Laputa cityscape is obviously the product of a true visionary. Trevor Johnston

 

83. Ghost in the Shell (1995)

 

Director: Mamoru Oshii

Best quote: ‘I am a living, thinking entity who was created in the sea of information.’

Defining moment: Our security-agent heroine pulls the connectors from her neck and we realize she’s a cyborg.

 

Among the first Japanese anime features to be released theatrically in the West, this remarkable vision of the networked future arrived when most of us were barely aware of the Internet. As an elite cybercrime squad hunts down a dangerous hacker known as the Puppetmaster (who’s active online yet elusive in the real world), the story is also an opportunity to wonder if a character is still human when its body is a patchwork of cyborg limbs, and its memories a catalog of information open to manipulation.

 

It’s more a think piece than a thriller, and you can certainly see the roots of the ‘Matrix’ trilogy here. A ‘Blade Runner’–like noir atmosphere still compels, meshing beautifully with Kenji Kawai’s electro-organic score to convey the aching melancholy of being connected to everything, yet remaining utterly alone. Trevor Johnston

 

82. Alice in Wonderland (1951)

 

Directors: Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson and Hamilton Luske

Best quote: ‘If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t.’

Defining moment: Alice disappearing down the rabbit hole is only the beginning of the weirdness.

 

Walt Disney had long had his eyes on adapting Lewis Carroll, and when he did so, the results were faithful enough to qualify as one of the studio’s strangest offerings. Evoking the books’ original John Tenniel illustrations but with more than a touch of Disney cuteness, the film as a whole is in thrall to Carroll’s singular visual imagination and his play with language. But it doesn’t quite know how to turn dotty schoolgirl Alice’s episodic odyssey following the white rabbit into anything resembling a satisfying story.

 

One can only imagine what apple-pie audiences thought of it at the time, besieged by hookah-puffing caterpillars, hallucinogenic mushrooms, the Mad Hatter’s tea party and an evidently psychotic Queen of Hearts. It was subsequently a late-night favorite among the herbally assisted. Trevor Johnston

 

81. Robin Hood (1973)

 

Director: Wolfgang Reitherman

Best quote: ‘Oh, he’s so handsome... just like his reward posters.’

Defining moment: The opening tune sung by ‘King of the Road’ balladeer Roger Miller sets the scene perfectly, with laid-back country charm and wheezy gags.

 

Disney may be infamous for manhandling the world’s finest folktales into moralistic all-American parables (see also ‘The Sword in the Stone’, ‘Aladdin’, ‘Mulan’, etc.), but there are times when it really works. ‘Robin Hood’ is a fine example: The ‘Jungle Book’ director Wolfgang Reitherman’s decision to transplant hokey, cowpokey Western movie tropes to Ye Olde England should have led to disaster, but the resulting film is so sweet-natured, so casual, so doggone friendly that it becomes impossible to resist.

 

The minuscule budget meant that entire sequences and characters were lifted wholesale from earlier Disney hits (just think of Little John as a brown Baloo), but somehow this only adds to the film’s unpretentious, shaggy-dog charm. Tom Huddleston

 

80. The Lord of the Rings (1978)

 

Director: Ralph Bakshi

Best quote: ‘My precious…’

Defining moment: The attack at the ford by Rotoscoped Black Riders is truly unnerving.

 

First, let’s get the standard complaints out of the way: Yes, it can be a bit goofy, and some of the voices are way off (whose bright idea was it to cast C-3PO Anthony Daniels as Legolas?). And yes, it unexpectedly stops halfway through, with Frodo and Sam still lost in the wild and the Riders of Rohan beating back the orc army at Helm’s Deep (a conclusion was actually shot for TV, without Bakshi’s involvement, but the less said about that the better). But please, let’s focus on the positives, and there are many.

 

The characterization is simple but effective: We’d say that Sam Gamgee is more wholesomely Tolkienish here than in the Jackson version. The action scenes are genuinely gripping, especially the climactic battle. And most of all, the visual style is just glorious, from the ornate, convincingly twisted woods of Fangorn to those utterly unique Rotoscoped Ringwraiths. Tom Huddleston

 

79. The King and the Mockingbird (1980)

 

Director: Paul Grimault

Best quote: ‘Attention: A charming shepherdess and a worthless little chimney sweep are being hunted by His Majesty the King’s police.’

Defining moment: A giant robot under the mockingbird’s control frees a young chicken from its cage, before smashing said cage with its fist.

 

If you chucked Disney characters into a sci-fi setting and sprinkled in a dose of French lyricism, you might end up with something like ‘Le Roi et L’Oiseau’. The film, scripted by poet Jacques Prévert and loosely based on a Hans Christian Andersen tale, tells the story of a detestable king brought down by arrogance and the machinations of his own paintings (trust us, it makes sense when you watch it).

 

Ostensibly a kids’ flick, it doubles as a cautionary tale about the dangers of totalitarianism – the king’s absurdly ornate palace brings to mind the Bavarian castles beloved of the Nazis, whose regime had barely collapsed when Prévert and Paul Grimault began scripting it in 1948. But above all, it’s a great yarn, at once warm and sharply satirical, all 32 tortuous years of its production visible in the glorious attention to detail. Alex Dudok De Wit

 

78. Kung Fu Panda (2008)

 

Directors: Mark Osborne and John Stevenson

Best quote: ‘Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.’

Defining moment: The beautiful prologue sequence, playing on Chinese shadow-puppet traditions.

 

Jack Black’s public profile was on the verge of hitting full saturation when this knockabout, action-packed tribute to Chinese martial-arts flicks was released. Its huge success may have been instrumental in pushing Black over the line from lovable manchild to omnipresent irritation. It’s a shame, because ‘Kung Fu Panda’ really is inventive and enjoyable, and much of its success is due to Black, whose overweight, ever-eager hero, Po, is the big, soft heart of the movie.

 

It could be argued that the film goes slightly overboard on the voice casting – Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Seth Rogen, Ian McShane and, somewhat inevitably, Jackie Chan all chime in – but luckily, ‘Kung Fu Panda’ has the witty script to support their celebrity weight. Tom Huddleston

 

77. Faust (1994)

 

Director: Jan Svankmajer

Best quote: ‘How comes it then that thou art now out of hell with me?’

Defining moment: The scene showing a baby’s rapid journey through childhood and adulthood to death is Svankmajer’s Claymation at its best.

 

Svankmajer’s second feature reimagines the Faust story with reference to Marlowe, Goethe, Gounod, Freud, folk legend – and his own extremely fertile invention. A nondescript everyman (Petr Cepek) emerging from a crowded Prague subway is handed a map with a spot marked X; the next day he visits the place, a dressing room in an abandoned theater, where he unthinkingly transforms himself into Faust and sinks into a sinister realm of arcane spells, alchemy and tricky negotiations with Lucifer.

 

The man’s seemingly inexorable descent toward annihilation is conveyed by an expertly executed blend of live action, puppetry, Claymation and other forms of filmic trickery. As ever with Svankmajer’s work, the underlying pessimism of the story and characterization are balanced by the director’s mischievously witty delight in the absurd. Geoff Andrew

 

76. Coraline (2009)

 

Director: Henry Selick

Best quote: ‘They say even the proudest spirit can be broken... with love.’

Defining moment: Coraline’s first, dizzying adventure in the night garden, with its exploding flowers, fountains and mechanical grasshoppers.

 

Director Henry Selick and author Neil Gaiman were an inspired match: two hugely talented, totally idiosyncratic artists who worked like catnip on kids with a somewhat dark turn of mind. So far, this is their only collaboration, an adaptation of Gaiman’s 2002 novel, about a girl whose drab new life in a remote cottage with her parents gains a little spark when she discovers a mysterious door into another world.

 

Selick’s film utilises the same fabric-and-thread stop-motion style as his earlier success ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’, but jettisons that film’s relatively cheery goths-get-festive ethos for something far more twisted and bleak, a mournful meditation on parental responsibility and childish selfishness. Selick’s attempts to shoehorn in Gaiman’s sprawling gallery of characters doesn’t entirely work, and the film can be hard to warm to. But the visuals are breathtaking, from a pulsating, womblike corridor into the ‘button world’, to a series of terrifyingly monstrous transformations. Tom Huddleston

 

75. Paprika (2006)

 

Director: Satoshi Kon

Best quote: ‘Isn’t it wonderful to see inside a friend’s dream as if it were your own?’

Defining moment: The opening scene moves from a surreal chase sequence to playback of the same dream images now stored on computer.

 

It’s called the DC Mini, a flimsy headset that records our dreams as video files. There’s consternation at the research unit when one of the prototypes goes missing. Soon the very fabric of reality tears when the addled psyches of the scientific team and investigating cop take physical form.

 

The last completed feature of the ill-fated Kon (lost to cancer at 46) exemplifies his uniqueness and his foibles, since the supernova of weirdness bursting from the characters’ imaginations is something to behold: fridges on the march, giant robots at large, a psycho-cutie Japanese doll. While the plot itself makes very little sense, Kon’s depiction of flexible reality inside others’ dreams parallels Christopher Nolan’s ‘Inception’, and his mind-**** cavalcade truly has to be seen to be believed. Trevor Johnston


Edited by BLACHEFAN, 16 July 2017 - 01:19 PM.

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