Wednesday, 18 September 2013

List #9 | Favourite Animated Films

Here we go, a day later than intended, with the first in my Listography series.

This is the 9th list from the book. As I said in my earlier post I have limited myself to 10 films so that I can let each list grow over the years as I watch more films.

So here are my current Top 10 Animated Films, in no particular order (except for the first).

Peter Pan

Undoubtedly my all time favourite Disney film. As a child I wanted to be that cocky, pointy-eared Lost Boy, and I still do at 22. I love the moonlit flight across London, the sassy mermaids, the pirates, the TigerLily episode, Shadow and the tick-tock Croc. The only thing that I can say I don't like about this film is Tinkerbell, and that's more of a resentment for how popular she became given what a spoilt b**** she is in this. Disney is brilliant at adventure narratives, something that often gets overlooked in favour of the countless Princess stories. Captain Hook is one of Disney's better comedic villains and the slapstick humour between him and Mr Smee hits the mark every time. Disney also created one of their most adorable characters in Michael Darling, with Wendy being one of their most headstrong female characters, in comparison to the more feeble one-note likes of Cinderella or Snow White. I can't imagine a time where I won't love this film.

Fantastic Mr Fox

Wes Anderson's films universally feature a strong aesthetic, brilliantly written characters and spot-on quirky humour. His adaptation of Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr Fox and his first turn at animation is no different. The voice cast assembled here is (appropriately) fantastic, featuring a healthy mix of Anderson's recurring collaborators and newcomers who bring the hilarious and clever script to life. What is most remarkable about this film though, is how Anderson crafted a stunning stop-motion animation style in a time dominated by CGI animation. The character designs are wonderful and work in perfect tandem with the voice work to construct engaging, humorous characters that carry the relatively simple narrative. Roald Dahl's stories have been adapted in many formats over the years but this is undoubtedly one of the more successful cinematic  outings for the writers works.

My Neighbour Totoro

Studio Ghibli has become renowned for not only telling some of the most engaging and heartfelt stories of recent years but also for the stunning animation style of their numerous feature films. Despite this popularity and critical acclaim it was only in February of this year that I finally got around to watching my first Ghibli film, and it did not disappoint. My Neighbour Totoro is a charming story about two young girls who after moving closer to their hospitalised mother discover that the woods surrounding their home are occupied by tree spirits, the character designs of which are flawless. This film presents childhood wonderment at it's most magical and features some beautifully simplistic, yet memorable, images. Then there is the Catbus, which is perhaps the most amazingly ridiculous creation I have ever seen in an animated film.

Toy Story 3

One of my most shameful cinematic confessions is that as a child I didn't really like Toy Story all that much. As I've grown older I have come to appreciate just how great it really is, but I think that this initial reaction has always lingered. After Toy Story 2 was released my interest grew substantially and that is when I began to love the world being presented to me in these films. The third, and hopefully final, film in the series was released at a particularly pertinent time in my life as my gap year was drawing to an end and I was preparing to begin University. Countless conversations with friends about this very experience has assured me that I am not alone in feeling that this film, being released when it was, made it one of the most emotional and important films of not only that summer, but that year. While the film is brilliantly crafted, from its water-tight script to the impeccable animation, it is the fact that it resonated so strongly with me that instantly elevated it to a spot amongst my favourite films, animated or not. It also made me cry, twice.

Mary and Max

In my final year of Film Studies at University I became extremely fond of Australian Cinema and this animated film from down under is a prime example of the Nations quality output. Mary and Max shows that animated films do not have to be reserved for a younger audience, telling a mature story that explores some dark themes. The film gathers some superb Australian vocal talent in Toni Collette, Eric Bana and Barry Humphries as well as Phillip Seymour Hoffman providing for the New York based Max's part of the story. The film tells the story of two unlikely pen pals and the relationship that develops between two people who are separated by a great distance and generational gap. The film is a visual masterpiece, utilising brilliantly unique clay-mation character designs in a bleak grey-scaled world that features flourishes of vibrant colour throughout. This was an unexpected gem that surpassed every expectation I could have had for it.


Of all the films listed here Anastasia is probably the one least likely to be considered particularly good by the majority of people, but as child I lapped this up and not much has changed as I have grown up. The songs are great, and I find them to actually be a lot more memorable and fun than a lot of those produced for Disney's 'Princess' films. Which leads me to my favourite aspect of this film, the story. Knocking Cinderella out of her impractical footwear, Anastasia is the ultimate rags-to-riches story as con-men looking to find a girl who can impersonate a long lost Russian Princess actually stumble across the real-deal herself. Meg Ryan is wonderful in the lead role and Hank Azaria is hilarious as the villainous Rasputin's sidekick Bartok. Heavy-hitters like Kelsey Grammar, John Cusack, Bernadette Peters and Angela Lansbury fill out the supporting roles and everybody is on top-form, delivering a ridiculously fun and touching film. This is, in my opinion, the best Disney film that Disney never made.

Monsters Inc

Pixar's second appearance on this list didn't earn it's place through some particular resonance with my life, more because it sucked me into a world of wonder and enjoyment and then broke my teenaged heart, an act that it has mercilessly repeated with every subsequent viewing, but which I still manage to love it for. Monsters Inc is my favourite Pixar film partly because it creates probably the most unique take on the boogeyman ever seen on film and partly because it features my absolute favourite Pixar character, Boo. I fell for her excitable charm the first time I watched this film and this fondness shows no sign of waning 12 years later. The story is great, the character designs are incredible and the emotional punch of the final act is uncontested as far as I'm concerned. The relationship between Boo and Kitty makes them one of my most treasured Cinematic pairings.

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Henry Selick's first feature film is clearly stamped with the prominent and inescapable impact of Tim Burton's producer/mentor role, though thankfully at a time when Burton was creating quality films. The gothic holiday musical builds a fantastical world in which the viewer can become fully immersed, with it's highly stylised landscapes, architecture and characters/creatures. Selick's trademark stop-motion is flawless and allows his bizarre, inhuman characters to take on extreme personalities that both enchant and frighten. As the films protagonists Jack and Sally are an unlikely but enticing romantic pair, while Oogie Boogie occupies the villain role brilliantly, with the sequence in his lair being one of the films best. The songs are also well-written and fun with Whats This? and Kidnap the Sandy Claws being my personal favourites. It is certainly not the most conventional festive film but The Nightmare Before Christmas has ben a long-time favourite.

Spirited Away

Much like My Neighbour Totoro, Spirited Away is a Studio Ghibli production that, after just one viewing, was placed amongst some of my favourite animations. Here the character designs are far more extreme and unusual, but just as successful. The images and characters of this film are powerfully striking and are what initially drew me to Spirited Away ahead of other films from the studio, but the story is what makes this film so special. The narrative treads some dark territory and handles the coming-of-age experience in quite an aggressive manner while still retaining a level of humour and wonderment. The animation is just as pristine as in Totoro, however this story really allows the animators to play with more excessive and detailed images, truly displaying the great talent behind these films. The cast of diverse and intriguing characters made this a great watch, and one that I intend to return to many times again.

The Jungle Book
Having only ten films was not the only restriction I had to give myself when coming up with this list. I think that it's safe to assume that most lists of favourite animated films will feature a heavy presence from Disney, and so I limited myself to only two Disney entries for this first ten films. The Jungle Book has been a firm favourite of mine as long as I can remember, as proven by the extremely worn out appearance of my old VHS copy. It features two of Disney's most sing-a-long friendly songs, in Bear Necessities and I Wanna Be Like You which are both fantastically written, and contains such a strong cast of characters that it would be impossible to locate a weak link among them. On top of this the film shows that Disney really shouldn't rely on producing love stories as they are just as good at writing tales of strong friendships. The film also contains one of the companies most frightening villains, which makes a refreshing change from their onslaught of comedic antagonists.

So there it is, my 10 picks for Favourite Animated Films. Be sure to let me know which you would agree or disagree with, and recommend me others to watch as I try to flesh out this list.

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