Our writers have come together again to produce a definitive list of their favourite Animated Films. The list is full of gems, have you seen any or have any thoughts on their choices?
Renaissance – Gareth Wood
The colour has seeped out of the picture in the Paris of 2054. Just as the old city is slowly being replaced by the bland, glass edifices of Avalon, so colour returns to the screen only for brief moments in this slick, but disturbing black and white animated film. Cop drama meets corporate dystopia, Renaissance doesn’t exactly promise an original story, and in many respects the lineage it draws on, from Dirty Harry to 1984, is clear throughout the film. What makes Renaissance stand out though is the visual element. The animated element allows the audience to infer the nature of the film in a way that words alone could not. Just as black and white presents the stark choice of either/or, so the plot boils down to the same kind of unappetizing decision between one course of action or the other. Do you accept Avalon’s offer of unending beauty at the cost of your soul, or do you keep that soul, but end up huddled in the gutter with the rest of the outcasts?
There are visual metaphors for this throughout Renaissance’s run, from the way the villain, Paul Dellenbach (Jonathan Pryce) is suspended above Paris like a god in his glass office, to how Notre Dame is surrounded, like an island, by a sea of glass. Finally the film ends up in the gutter to show us the grim consequences of the choice we’re supposed to make. For all that such an ending may be predictable, especially with regards to the fate of hero, Karas (Daniel Craig), the way the final scene mirrors the opening one is the best metaphor for those consequences.
Toy Story 2 – Morgan Jenkin
Over the recent, years there have been so many excellent animated films released. The Studio Ghibli films, Lego Movie, the Scooby Doo films, even Despicable Me was pretty good – but if these films were pieces of art, Toy Story 2 is the Mona Lisa. The characters? Iconic. The voice acting? Amazing. I’m struggling to pick out a flaw. Yet, what makes this masterpiece even better is the fact it’s a sequel. How many sequels can you think of that are not only great films in their own right but are actually better than the originals? Avengers 2? Get lost. Grease 2? I honestly wish I could get that two hours of my life back. Shrek 2? Ok, fair point – I hadn’t thought about that before I started this whole preamble. Regardless, Toy Story 2 manages something that not even Shrek 2 does – it’s so good it makes you forget there even was a film before Jessie and Bullseye turn up. Now don’t get me wrong, I also love the first film but even now I find myself wondering at what point Jessie is going to turn up.
On top of all this, the plot manages to juggle comedy for both the young and adults whilst being absolutely heart-breaking. Now let me say that, full disclosure, I am a very emotional person – I cried at an advert this morning and it wasn’t even meant to be sad. But if you don’t shed a tear when Jessie gets left behind by her owner, do you even have a heart? I can’t even listen to the score without softly weeping and questioning if love actually exists.
Toy Story 2 is iconic and I will fight anyone who disagrees.
Fantastic Mr. Fox – Jeremie Sabourin
One animated film that flies under the radar quite a bit is Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox. Like the rest of Anderson’s work, there’s a dry, elegant, quirkiness to it which can definitely drive people away. Yet, Fantastic Mr. Fox is just so clever that it demands, at least, a watch. The plot follows Mr. Fox and company as they rob some local farmers. The farmers, Boggis, Bunce, and Bean, catch on and then seek out the animals to put a stop to their antics once and for all.
…the originality, style, and execution of Fantastic Mr. Fox is second to none…
The animation itself is stop-motion just like The Nightmare Before Christmas or Coraline. The main difference being that the majority of the puppets are animals. There’s a different kind of texture to them as they all have fur and teeth. It gives them different kind of lifelike qualities onscreen that other stop-motion films just don’t have. All of the different animals have their own personality traits and even the dialogue calls attention to their animal nature.
The cast of voice actors is absolutely amazing with George Clooney as the titular Mr. Fox. Meryl Streep and Michael Gambon join up with other Wes Anderson regulars such as Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson, and Willem Dafoe as the majority of the main cast.
Everything from the art direction to the dialogue is perfect in Fantastic Mr. Fox. The film was nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 82nd Academy Awards. It competed against the aforementioned Coraline and, eventual Oscar winner, Up, in the category. While those are both great animated films themselves, the originality, style, and execution of Fantastic Mr. Fox is second to none. Simply put, Fantastic Mr. Fox is one of, if not the, greatest animated films of all time.
The Iron Giant – Oliver Rowe
Brad Bird’s The Iron Giant remains a charming, engaging and beautifully animated film almost two decades after its release. Not only is it one of Bird’s best films (a list of works that includes The Incredibles, among others, not to mention his producing and writing credits), it has an impressive legacy in its cult status thanks to its seemingly timeless story and even-more-timeless loveliness. It’s a film clearly made with a lot of affection for its characters and their stories, dealing with things like Cold War era nuclear fears, pop culture, youth and the American understanding of heroes and villains (an aspect done wonderfully through the film’s examinations of Superman). All of these help to make the film enjoyably meta, whilst feeding into the basic narrative well too.
“Boy meets big robot” is not a particularly gripping synopsis right off the bat, and it’s due to things like the aspects just previously mentioned that it’s more than this – audiences can project a lot of their own views onto the film too, which is certainly no bad thing. But put simply, it’s just a great film – it has arresting visuals, engaging and interesting characters, all with motives that are easily understandable, one of the most iconic endings in the history of animation and of film in general, as well as having a solidly delightful message – great films don’t always have to have a message, but The Iron Giant’s is “you are who you choose to be”, and frankly that’s about as good as you’re going to get, animated or otherwise.
Animation is one of the most fantastical forms of cinematic entertainment. It looks effortless on-screen, but even the most cursory glance behind the curtain reveals that a great deal of work—and blood, sweat, and tears, as anyone who knows anyone in animation can attest—goes into the end-product.
ParaNorman – Phil Gorski
ParaNorman is arguably one of the best animated films of all time, if not the best. The stop-motion animation in this film moves so fluidly and flawlessly that it puts previous films of the same style to shame, making them seem clunky and awkward by comparison.
It’s a perfect family movie night selection, with something for all ages to enjoy.
It’s also a charming take on zombies in cinema, as the undead conjured by the witch’s curse are more frightened of the living and modern society than the living seem to be frightened of the undead.
Laika spins a story that balances an abundance of humor for the whole family, with quick one-liners and great visual comedy, and heartfelt moments. ParaNorman is a fun, alternative approach to coming-of-age stories in that it presents accepting oneself as one is and learning to show support to loved ones, even if they aren’t what is deemed entirely normal, by way of a young character who can talk to ghosts (who aren’t Bruce Willis). It even sneaks a few more progressive views into children’s cinema, with a gay character who isn’t treated as some strange prop to the story.
ParaNorman is a rare film that is better enjoyed in 3D, with visuals that pop from the screen in regular format, and become almost true-to-life when viewed with the aid of 3D glasses. It paved the way for Laika’s later successes (such as Kubo and the Two Strings), but is easily the best of the bunch. It’s a perfect family movie night selection, with something for all ages to enjoy.
Howl’s Moving Castle – George Storr
Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) is a fantastically imagined Studio Ghibli masterpiece. Studio Ghibli have been amazingly consistent animators and Spirited Away (2001) would have been just as easy to argue the case of here, however I feel that Howl’s Moving Castle just edges it on charm.
As an animated film Howl’s Moving Castle is the whole package.
The animation is superb and immensely visually appealing, executed in their hallmark anime style. Character design particularly stands out with the stars of the story ranging from a tiny fire demon to a witch struggling with obesity. One of the film’s stranger scenes sees said witch struggle up a long flight of stairs and sweat so much she essentially devolves into some lesser life-form. Peculiar feats like this scene are of course made more possible in the animated medium and this film takes full advantage of that gateway to the strange.
Howl’s Moving Castle is laden with charm but importantly it also has a dark side and it’s that darkness that really gives the plot its layered and interesting nature. It’s un-predictable and the brilliantly designed characters, arm in arm with a good soundtrack, carry it along at a brilliant pace.
As an animated film Howl’s Moving Castle is the whole package. It has laughs, drama, slapstick and tears. The characters are memorable, (Calcifer the tiny, cheeky fire demon is a real fans’ favourite,) and as a whole the film is massively immersive.
Some Notable Films Omitted…
The Lego Movie
2014’s Lego Movie was Warner Animation Group first production since in 11 years, the last being Looney Tunes: Back in Action. The film was an incredible success; it attained an Oscar, BAFTA and huge revenues across the globe. It brought young and old together in love of what is probably the best toy ever made, it was amazing to see it brought to life.
No list of animated films can be complete without this modern great, Shrek (2001). It has spawned a franchise that in the last 15 years has made DreamWorks a famous name, created countless meme and garnered a huge following, young and old.