So over the weekend, David Gerrold (The guy who wrote "The Trouble with Tribbles) shared his list of "Essential Animated Films." You can (Hopefully) see that over on his Facebook page... assuming he hasn't changed his privacy settings again.
I thought he had some good choices. I can agree with a lot of them… but I still felt compelled to
shamelessly steal the idea
present my own list, for comparison and for posterity and all that jazz.
Now, as with David Gerrold's original list, this isn't in any order of magnitude or anything like that. The first movie isn't necessarily worse than the last one. But I do want to separate out one movie from the list, since I can't fully commit to calling it an "animated film." That movie is Who Framed Roger Rabbit? It's silly. It's campy. But it's brilliant. The animated portions are gorgeously created, Bob Hoskins was genius, and the combination of live action and animation was handled beautifully well. I really can't complain about it.
Now… onto the list proper!
I'm cheating already. It's true. Not only is this two movies, but they're both technically a combination of live action and animation… which I said was a no-no.
Hear me out.
The Fantasia duology really need each other to make this list for me. Fantasia is one of the first forays of "modern animation" into making something for adults. It took itself very seriously, played classic pieces with sophisticated animation that still holds up.
Fantasia 2000 is really aiming at that children's market, and it suffers for it. As a whole, it's a worse piece of cinematic history than its predecessor… but the animation itself is just ballsier. It's more intense than the pieces in Fantasia, and in a lot of instances, much more beautiful. So I have to put them both here for this to really work. Watch them both. I mean, come on, they're both on Netflix.
Titan AE is what happens when you get Gary Oldman, Don Bluth, and Joss Whedon working on a project together. And if you're not sold on just that… what the hell is wrong with you?
Okay, okay, let's get into it: one of my biggest issues with Gerrold's list was the absolute lack of Don Bluth. In my opinion, you can't have a "quintessential animation" anything and not include Don Bluth.
But why this one? It was a flop when it was released. It's positively dripping with some kind of funky 1990's slime substance (Probably hair gel.). What makes it so worth seeing 17 years after the fact?
This movie is genius. It has humor. It has drama. It has sweeping spacescapes. It has a truly terrifying enemy. And, unlike a lot of movies this old, the animation actually holds up. So does the story. You can put Titan AE on now, and it's still an incredible experience.
On this one, Gerrold and I can agree wholeheartedly. The Incredibles is, perhaps, the single best superhero film that's ever been made. Sure, I love Burton's Batman and the X-Men franchise… but they don't hold a candle to this.
Superheroes in real life, dealing with real things. What happens when someone with super-strength feels like they're losing control? Who does make all these fancy costumes? What about the massive damage to buildings and infrastructure? The Incredibles actually addressed those problems, and I think, beyond just being brilliant animation, that's really something good for the genre as a whole. It's a new direction, and that's never something I'll complain about.
Now, when it comes to Ghibli and Miyazaki, I vastly prefer Howl's Moving Castle to basically any of his other films. But I can't deny the pure social and cultural impact of Spirited Away. For Western audiences, this is the one that put Miyazaki on the map. Winner of multiple awards, including the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. And it deserves all of those accolades. For many people, Spirited Away is what really introduced them to the idea of anime that wasn't Digimon and Pokemon and "Which one is which, now?"
For my money, I would rather see Howl or Princess Mononoke, but Spirited Away will never disappoint.
Now, this list is obviously far from exhaustive. For pure social impact, it should have The Lion King on it. Inside Out could easily make this list, too. Shrek. The Nightmare Before Christmas. The first eight minutes of Up. The Iron Giant. Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas. Atlantis: The Lost Empire. These are all movies that, for one reason or another, could be here.
But without limitations, this could be a list of "Disney Films that Disney Made Because Disney" or "Look at What Pixar Has" or "Hayao Miyazaki is Amazing!" And sure, those are all valid lists.
So, perhaps this isn't quintessential as much as just… watch these. Don't forget about these. In the ever-growing sea of animated, feature-length productions… these four/five movies might get forgotten in the slew of Zootopia and WALL-E. So… offer them a hand up and take a look at them.
What are your "must-see" animated movies? I'm always on the lookout for new ones.