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Added by Andy Goulding on 13 Jul 2014 01:18
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100 Greatest Animated Features

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Despite his high critical standing, I've never been able to warm to the animated features of Rene Laloux, such as 'Fantastic Planet' or 'Gandahar'. I find his strange, otherworldly sci-fis just a bit too cold and stiff, even if their atmospheric intensity is undeniable. Fortunately, there's a film out there that has the same otherworldliness but counterbalances it with a healthy sense of humour.

Based on Kir Bulychov's series of children's books, Roman Kachanov's cult Russian sci-fi feature 'The Mystery of the Third Planet' is a real treat for animation fans. Following the adventures of Professor Selezynov, his intrepid daughter Alice and the pessimistic Captain Green as they travel to different planets in search of unusual creatures for Moscow Zoo, 'The Mystery of the Third Planet' recalls the charmingly contradictory animated simplicity and ambitious ideas of the best Saturday morning cartoon shows of the 70s and 80s, while the oddball creatures and locations instantly bring to mind Bob Clampett's Wackyland from the Looney Tunes shorts 'Porky in Wackyland' and 'Tin Pan Alley Cats'. There's a touch of Scooby Doo corniness thrown in but that can't derail this mesmerizingly bizarre gem. Be sure to see the original version with its distinctive synthesiser soundtrack, rather than one of the awful dubs with an ill-fitting soundtrack of pop music by Rod Stewart and Bruce Springsteen.
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People who added this item 14 Average listal rating (10 ratings) 7.1 IMDB Rating 0
Bruno Bozzetto's second full-length animated film was a great improvement on his fine but uneven debut 'West and Soda'. 'VIP: Mr Brother Superman' (aka 'The SuperVips') is a hilarious superhero parody full of great jokes and a satirical bite that was missing from 'West and Soda' but which characterises most of Bozzetto's better shorts. The story follows the adventures of two descendants of superheroes (know as Vips), the powerful hero SuperVip and his beloved but ineffectual little brother MiniVip, as they find themselves having to team up to take on an evil tycoon and her plans to rule the world through an unusually aggressive form of advertising. The visuals have all the usual simple charm and energy of a Bozzetto production and the terrific sequences in which Happy Betty explains her methods for maintaining an efficient, happy workforce are worth the price alone and could easily have been removed from the film and released as separate shorts in themselves.
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People who added this item 1670 Average listal rating (1095 ratings) 6.4 IMDB Rating 6.9
After a clutch of flimsily awful films such as 'Brother Bear', 'Treasure Planet' and 'Home on the Range', 'Bolt' was the film that finally got Disney back on track. With a great plot about a TV star dog who thinks the superpowers he portrays on TV are real, 'Bolt' was smart, funny and beautiful to look at. The first Disney film to be produced under the creative guidance of John Lasseter, 'Bolt' has been retrospectively credited with starting a new Disney Renaissance, with critically praised and commercially successful films such as 'Tangled', 'Wreck-It Ralph' and the phenomenally popular 'Frozen' following in its wake. In my opinion, 'Bolt' remains the best of this new clutch of Disney films and it's a shame it lost out on the Best Animated Feature Oscar to Pixar's overrated 'WALL-E'.
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Based on Yūichi Kimura's popular series of Japanese children's books, Gisaburō Sugii's computer-animated film about the forbidden friendship between a wolf and a lamb is a visually luscious, emotionally engaging experience that stayed in the Japanese box office's top ten for months. Although the animation sometime veers more towards 'Dogtanian' than Studio Ghibli, Sugii has created such a vividly realised picture of the lush green meadows, snow-capped mountains and raging rivers of the film's setting that viewer immersion helps us overlook the occasional gape-mouthed atrocities.

Given its setting and wolf and lamb characters, 'One Stormy Night' immediately brings to mind 'Ringing Bell of Chirin', although ultimately its themes and tone are quite different, though at times no less upsetting. 'One Stormy Night' is sometimes powerful, often emotionally manipulative but always strongly engaging, with the hackneyed but universal theme of forbidden friendship across opposing tribes shining through. The director does not shy away from the obvious love between his protagonists (emotionally immature amateur critics have frequently called the film 'gay') and their desire to be together despite opposition from their respective groups and, more interestingly, their own instincts is the compelling throughline that drives the film onwards through its comparatively lengthy lifespan. This would-be worldwide hit is a real discovery for anyone digging around for overlooked animated features.
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People who added this item 4 Average listal rating (2 ratings) 8 IMDB Rating 8.3
Part of the exceptional early run of films from Hungarian studio Panonia, 'Mattie the Goose-Boy' was the debut feature from Attila Dargay, the director who went on to make 'Vuk'. 'Vuk', though widely regarded as a classic, is a film I never had much love for. With its cheap-looking animation and wandering story, it always baffled me as to why it was so popular when Dargay's masterful debut remains reasonably overlooked. 'Mattie the Goose-boy' tells the story of a tyrannical Lord who holds a community in his powerful grip. When the Lord tries to hunt Mattie's precious goose and Mattie stands in the way, the Lord responds by having Mattie whipped, a crime which Mattie swears he will pay back threefold. The remainder of the story follows the ways in which Mattie goes about paying back this debt. A simple tale of retribution, 'Mattie the Goose-boy' is a hugely satisfying story made even better by the cheerfully simplistic but instantly and consistently attractive animation and the strong, focused storytelling.
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Rankin/Bass's 'The Last Unicorn' is a largely forgotten and underrated fantasy adventure with a cult following of viewers who grew up with the film. I came to the film much later and was fairly skeptical as most of its admirers seemed to be viewing it through rose-tinted glasses. But I was pleasantly surprised. Although the animation is fairly standard, it also has the charm of a really good Saturday morning cartoon and the character designs, particularly some of the supporting players, are warm and fun. The storyline is unusual and features some moments of real peril and imagination, while the starry voice cast is superb and lifts the film still further.
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Probably the least-seen of Isao Takahata's films, 'Goshu the Cellist' is part of the director's brilliant mid-period before he co-founded Studio Ghibli and made his most famous masterpieces. Along with 'Chie the Brat', 'Goshu the Cellist' is a mini-masterpiece that demands rediscovery. Unlike the mesmerizingly wayward 'Chie the Brat', that pulled in all sorts of directions, 'Goshu the Cellist' is a deeply focused, scaled-down piece of storytelling adapted from a short story by Japanese author Kenji Miyazawa. It tells the story of a mediocre cellist who takes a step towards greatness with the help of some seemingly troublesome animal spirits. Largely set in Goshu's woodland hut as he practices his cello at night, Takahata uses this limited space to great effect, particularly in an early scene in which Goshu's playing propels a formerly smug cat all over his cabin. The artwork, though more simplistic than Takahata's Ghibli works, is no less appealing or inventive. He throws in moments of anarchic abstraction which contrast breathtakingly with the gorgeous woodland scenery and cute animals. Particularly memorable is a baby raccoon who appears to be a prototype for Takahata's brilliantly bonkers 'Pom Poko' twelve years later.
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People who added this item 625 Average listal rating (300 ratings) 7.1 IMDB Rating 7.3
Loosely based on Osamu Tezuka's manga from 1949 which was itself inspired by Fritz Lang's silent classic, Rintaro's 'Metropolis' takes a fairly standard sci-fi plot involving the politics of a society where humans and robots co-exist and makes it into something extraordinary with gorgeous, brightly coloured visuals, instantly appealing cartoonish character designs and a terrifically immersive atmosphere which evokes the experiences of the entire society and makes the story seem more compelling through its sheer expansiveness. More than twenty years after his classic debut 'Galaxy Express 999', Rintaro showed that he still had it with this overlooked classic.
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During the golden age of animated cinematic shorts, Fleischer studios was one of the major players, giving the world Popeye and Betty Boop and trumping its rivals for wild, surreal audacity. Cartoons like the Popeye colour specials and the studios own 1933 take on 'Snow White' live on as classics in a league of their own. Perhaps it was only natural then that Fleischer studios would follow in Disney's footsteps and create an animated feature.

With a smaller budget and timescale, 'Gulliver's Travels' was never going to rival Disney's 'Snow White...' for visual beauty. But given that the film has slipped into relative obscurity, it may be surprising to many to find that it's a classic in its own right.

Focusing mainly on a reimagining of Gulliver's adventures in Lilliput, 'Gulliver's Travels' features several memorably unusual characters such as town cryer Gabby and villains Sneak, Snoop and Snitch (all of whom were given short-lived spin-off cartoon series), voiced by cartoon legends Pinto 'Goofy' Colvig and Jack 'Popeye' Mercer. Cartoon writer extraordinaire Tedd Pierce also lends his vocal talents to the production.

One of the most memorable elements of the Fleischer's 'Gulliver's Travels' is its beautiful use of rotoscoping. A technique invented by the Fleischers which involves tracing live action footage frame by frame, rotoscoping is an animation technique I usually can't abide. It has been used excessively in the animated features of Ralph Bakshi, which I never liked and always considered ugly in extremis. However, the Fleischers use the technique perfectly to animate the conspicuouly human Gulliver, suitably differentiating him from the more cartoony antics of the Lilliputians that surround him. 'Gulliver's Travels' is a wonderful film. A box office hit at the time, it has become somewhat forgotten in light of Disney's barrage of early classics. I urge all animation fans to see it and enjoy the significantly different leisurely pacing and Fleischer gift for the absurd, the grotesque and the blackly comic.
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People who added this item 5394 Average listal rating (3446 ratings) 7.1 IMDB Rating 7.4
Although it was always going to live in the monumental shadow of 'The Nightmare Before Christmas', Tim Burton's first animated feature as director is a magical enough film in its own right to make such comparisons pointless. Once again employing Caroline Thompson on script writing duties and Danny Elfman as songwriter (his 'Remains of the Day' is the clear highlight of the entire film), Burton has created another unusual, deliberately paced and ghoulish little treat.

Focusing more strongly on character than plot, 'Corpse Bride' is a visual treat filled with inspired creations, reminding us not only of the iconic 'Nightmare Before Christmas' but also Burton's masterful early animated short 'Vincent'. The starry voice cast which includes Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Emily Watson, Albert Finney, Richard E. Grant and Christopher Lee, is strong but perhaps indicative of a modern overreliance on famous voices that has robbed some animation of its individual charm. That Elfman's turn as lively skeleton Bonejangles is by far the most memorable makes one wonder if these A-list vocals are really necessary, especially when there is such a wealth of talented voice actors who don't have Hollywood careers in front of the camera.

But I digress. 'Corpse Bride' is a beautifully animated, compelling little gothic folk tale which stands as easily the best film of Burton's disappointing post-90s career (with the underseen but extraordinarily brilliant classic 'Ed Wood' as his greatest overall). Sadly, his recent return to animation with a remake of his live action short 'Frankenweenie', did not have the strong script to back up the still great visuals and descended into over-the-top silliness when Burton should have trusted the simplicity of his original idea.
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Based on a puppetoon series from Belgium, this big screen version of 'A Town Called Panic' was one of the most unexpected delights of 2009. The story of three small plastic figurines, Cowboy, Indian and Horse, and their surreal adventures, 'A Town Called Panic' is frantically animated with tiny little plastic toys. It needs to be watched on as big a screen as possible just for the sake of the viewer's eyes! The plot jumps from one wacky event to the next with a strange sort of nonsense-logic and the fact that it's all in French with subtitles somehow makes it all even funnier. Although it is quite, quite bonkers, 'A Town Called Panic' is also tremendous fun and seems to charm many an unsuspecting viewer who will ultimately say 'What the hell was that?! I loved it!'
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People who added this item 33 Average listal rating (18 ratings) 7.1 IMDB Rating 7.1
The Fleischer's second animated feature was sadly also their last. 'Mr. Bug Goes to Town' (aka 'Hoppity Goes to Town') plays like a forerunner of the popular Pixar and Dreamworks bug-themed animations of the late 90s, only folksier (hence the Frank Capra parodying title). With a better-defined story than their previous film, the Fleischer's delivered a delightful, colourful and pacey film about an insect community under threat from humans. The characters, particularly the villains, are memorable and the set-pieces numerous and enjoyable.

Sadly, personal and professional tensions between the Fleischer brothers caused their studio to be absorbed by Paramount and the commercial failure of the film (significantly affected by the attack on Pearl Harbour two days after its release) was the final nail in the coffin. 'Mr. Bug Goes to Town' was forced into the 'buried treasure' category, kept alive by numerous television airings and a dedicated cult of animation fans.
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People who added this item 1541 Average listal rating (971 ratings) 6.8 IMDB Rating 7.3
I'm gradually warming more and more to the 'Kung Fu Panda' franchise, largely through lazy weekend mornings eating toast and watching the small screen spin-off 'Legends of Awesomeness'! There's plenty to enjoy in the first film, including some incredible battle scenes, but overall I found it a bit predictable with too many 'haha, he's fat' jokes that recycle old Simpsons jokes, and ultimately it didn't quite make the list.

My conflicted nature over 'Kung Fu Panda's merit was soothed somewhat by the release of 'Kung Fu Panda 2', a faster, funnier, all-round better film which immediately justified a place on this list. While the first film was caught up in its parodies of Kung-Fu training films and had to build up to its major set-pieces quite slowly, 'Kung Fu Panda 2' throws us headlong into the action as Po and the Furious Five set off on a mission to take on evil peacock Shen. Shen is a terrific villain, aided greatly by a virtuoso voice turn by Gary Oldman, and the action is fast-paced, exciting and far funnier than the first film. First time director Jennifer Yuh Nelson has done an already-established franchise proud and moved it forward, justifying the decision to make a sequel rather than just collecting profits on a predictable second-rate revisit of popular characters.
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People who added this item 4996 Average listal rating (3326 ratings) 7.4 IMDB Rating 8
By 1992 the Disney Renaissance had spawned some acknowledged modern classics of animation and was showing no signs of stopping with the immensely popular 'Aladdin', one of Disney's liveliest features. Sticking firmly with the show-tune style that characterised the songs of the Disney Renaissance features, 'Aladdin' is best remembered for the nauseating 'Whole New World', a kitsch power ballad drowning in syrup. But there were great compensations in the form of the infectious 'One Jump Ahead' and the show-stopping 'Friend Like Me', a showcase for the talents of the late Robin Williams. Williams' vocal performance as the shape-shifting Genie has justly become one of the most beloved pieces of voice acting in the whole Disney canon and his characteristic ad-libbing gives the film a wild energy which has obviously influenced the virtuoso animation.
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People who added this item 42 Average listal rating (21 ratings) 7.3 IMDB Rating 0
Firmly inhabiting the 'I can't believe I've never heard of this' category, this Spanish/French film by Adria Garcia and Julio Fernandez is a beautiful work which should surely have been a huge hit worldwide. Telling the story of Tim, an orphan whose fear of the dark sets him off on a mission to find out why his favourite star has disappeared, 'Nocturna' is a brilliant, traditionally animated gem that creates its own magical night-time kingdom, complete with swarms of tail-flicking cats and oddball characters like the Cat Shepherd, all working to create and maintain this nocturnal world. 'Nocturna' won the Goya award for best animated film, the Spanish equivalent of the Oscar which was later awarded to such gems as 'Chico and Rita' and 'Wrinkles', although the fact that it also went to 'Planet 51' in 2009 suggests that the Goya awards are as vulnerable to lapses in quality-control as the Oscars! This triumph on its native soil aside, it remains a mystery as to why barely anyone has heard of this film which should surely already be a staple of Christmas TV and a must-have acquisition for all animation fans.
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People who added this item 20 Average listal rating (8 ratings) 8.6 IMDB Rating 0
'The Monkey King', more commonly known as 'Havoc in Heaven' or 'Uproar in Heaven', is considered one of the pinnacles of Chinese animation. Made by all four of the Wan brothers, the pioneering Chinese animators who also made China's first animated feature 'Princess Iron Fan', 'Havoc in Heaven' is a sumptuous visual experience filled with humour, action and a free-flowing animation style that makes many of its contemporaries seem stiff by comparison.

Based on the classical Chinese novel 'Journey to the West', this gorgeous film tells the story of Sun Wukong, aka Monkey. This seemingly indestructible simian king lives an idyllic life on the Flower and Fruit Mountain but his arrogant, self-aggrandizing ways anger the Gods who first try to control him and then to destroy him. Split into two seperate parts, 'Havoc in Heaven' essentially repeats itself, twice showing Sun being invited to Heaven, causing chaos and then having to fight those he has offended. But the story is certainly not the main attraction of 'Havoc in Heaven'. What makes it such a remarkable film is its beautifully loose, vibrantly colourful animation and its extended, balletic fight scenes set to a thunderous percussion soundtrack.
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Hirouki Yamaga's 'Wings of Honneamise' is an absolutely terrific, visually stunning epic which masquerades as a sci-fi adventure film but is really an emotionally complex examination of one not-entirely-good young man's struggle towards meaning and enlightenment through his involvement with his nation's widely derided and politically cynical space program. There is plenty of action and humour but ultimately 'Wings of Honneamise' comes across like 'The Right Stuff' directed by Ingmar Bergman. It's a highly unique, beautiful and sometimes intentionally uncomfortable watch. Look this film up anywhere online and you'll find people complaining about a scene in which the film's protagonist, Shiro, commits an attempted rape. While it is undoubtedly unpleasant, this scene is also characteristic of the film's uncompromising approach to it's main character's shaky morality and the subsequent apology he receives from his victim Riquinni is also in keeping with her enigmatic and equally insecure character and not simply a mouthpiece for the director's views on rape. The sad fact that this issue has to be constantly addressed in relation to 'Wings of Honneamise' is a sad indication of the immature expectations still equated with any animated film, no matter whether its target audience is clearly adults or not.
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People who added this item 2565 Average listal rating (1660 ratings) 7.7 IMDB Rating 7.7
This fascinating adaptation of a Neil Gaiman novel saw Henry Selick bounce back in style after a couple of misjudged failures ('James and the Giant Peach' and 'Monkeybone'). Unfortunately, since all the advertising proclaimed that 'Coraline' was from the director of 'The Nightmare Before Christmas', most people wrongly gave Tim Burton the credit for a film he wasn't even involved with. Selick's masterful handling of 'Coraline' tapped into an inspirational magic that the diminishing returns of Burton's catalogue has not come close to since his 1994 masterpiece 'Ed Wood'.

The story of a young girl who reluctantly moves to a three bedroom apartment with her parents and stumbles upon an alternate reality, which at first seems preferable to her own but ultimately reveals itself to have a horrifying price. Unlike many animated features, 'Coraline' is in no rush to get to its major set pieces and instead languishes in its atmosphere of thrilling uncertainty and chilling unfamiliarity. The stop motion animation is superb and there is plenty of wonderful visual moments throughout but 'Coraline' is perhaps most memorable for its deliberate pacing and sometimes frighteningly creepy air. A remarkable film, 'Coraline' had the misfortune to be nominated for the Best Animated Feature Oscar in one of the strongest years for the category, otherwise it would have been a shoe in.
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With the Disney Renaissance having drawn to a close at the tail end of the 90s, the Disney studio's story for the next decade was one of patchy experiments and feeble failures but among flat rejects like 'Dinosaur', 'Treasure Planet', 'Brother Bear' and 'Home on the Range' there were also several interesting films that have since acquired cult status. The best film of this era was undoubtedly the underseen, underpraised 'The Emperor's New Groove'. A far cry from the usual Disney formula, 'The Emperor's New Groove' when through a tortured production in which it was originally conceived as a huge epic with musical numbers by Sting and ended up as a modest-scale buddy movie with the emphasis heavily on comedy (the one remaining Sting song over the closing credits seems entirely out of place). The comedy of 'The Emperor's New Groove' is of a more modern bent, with a surreal wit and cynicism that most would not associate with Disney. The lead character, Emperor Kuzco, is genuinely unpleasant (even murderously evil) for the majority of the runtime and his redemption is earned and not just brought about by one moment of doe-eyed realisation. The voice cast are great, including David Spade as Kuzco and John Goodman as Pacha, but the show is stolen by Eartha Kitt as villain Yzma and Patrick Warburton as Kronk, her henchman and (it is heavily hinted) latest in a long line of toyboys. This experimentation with an edgier comedy carried over less successfully into Disney's awkwardly plotted 'Meet the Robinsons' and brilliantly into the TV series 'Phineas and Ferb', which seems to be the most obvious successor to 'The Emperor's New Groove's style.
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People who added this item 1555 Average listal rating (1039 ratings) 6.9 IMDB Rating 7.3
When Dreamworks' 'Megamind' came out it was criticised for being derivative and accused of being inferior to the supposedly similar 'Despicable Me', which also shone the spotlight on a villain rather than a hero. While I enjoyed 'Despicable Me' to an extent, I felt it was mainly notable for it Minion characters, amusing little slapstick creations that are better than anything else in the rest of the so-so film, much like Scrat in the 'Ice Age' franchise. Pixar's classic 'The Incredibles' was also mentioned a lot in reviews of 'Megamind', although that was hardly the first film to play with the superhero conventions for comedy effect.

It's a shame 'Megamind' got so overshadowed by discussions of other films because it's a superb, clever piece of work and a clear stand out in the Dreamworks canon. Will Ferrell is great in the central role of a supervillain who opens up an existential can of worms by inadvertently succeeding in killing his nemesis. What is a supervillain without a superhero to face off against? That's just one of the questions posed by 'Megamind's cerebral script, which is full of great little ideas, none of which are overused (my favourite is Megamind's tendency to mispronounce words. His pronunciation of Metro City provides one of the film's cleverest jokes, a triple whammy of simple gag, sneaky pun and cheeky reference). Although it can't completely avoid some of the pitfalls of mainstream animation (must EVERY animated feature end with a dance-off?!), 'Megamind' rises above its entertaining but forgetable peers.
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It says a lot about the stranglehold Disney has on most people's idea of animated feature films, that so many people readily accept the oft parroted myth that 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' was the first ever animated feature. It is true that Disney's astonishing achievement reshaped the medium and pushed hand-drawn animation to new heights of artistry whilst firmly establishing a magical storytelling style that was all its studio's own. But that's no reason to rewrite history and ignore what came before.

There were several animated features released before Disney's game-changer and their pioneering invention makes them the clear forefathers of the more unusual films that make up a high percentage of this list. To ignore them in favour of a tidier 'Disney came first' snapshot of animation history is a crime against the medium. Sadly, the cutout animations of Quirino Cristiani, thought to be the first ever animated features, are all lost films and, while I still hold out hope that they may be found someday, in all likelihood we may never see them. Enter Lotte Reiniger.

Reiniger's 'The Adventures of Prince Achmed' is the oldest surviving animated feature film in existence. Based on elements of '1001 Arabaian Nights' and presented in Reiniger's trademark silhouette technique, 'The Adventures of Prince Achmed' is not what most audiences have come to expect from an animated feature but this unique, pioneering classic still has the ability to entertain and delight and the characters, though they only appear in silhouette, are as expressive as any fully-visible creation. All serious fans of animation should seek out this film but even casual animation fans will likely find it entertaining in its magical, fast-paced and sometimes bawdy storytelling.
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Appearing amidst the third wave of Disney classics, after the Golden Age of 1937-1942 and then the undervalued 'package films' of 1942-1949, 'Lady and the Tramp' was the highlight of five famous fairy tale and children's story adaptations. The last of these films, 'Sleeping Beauty', was intended to be a classic and a great deal of work was put into crafting a visually striking film... and yet 'Lady and the Tramp' easily trumped it because, for all 'Sleeping Beauty's visual flair, it had very little heart, something 'Lady and the Tramp' has in spades.

A simple little tale of a love affair between two dogs from different sides of the tracks, 'Lady and the Tramp' is charming from start to finish, with plenty of memorable supporting characters like Trusty the bloodhound, the Siamese cats and especially Peg, a tough female pound dog voiced by Peggy Lee, whose slinky performance of 'He's a Tramp' is an undoubted highlight. But 'Lady and the Tramp' will always be best remembered for its icon spaghetti and meatball scene, a winningly romantic interlude which could melt the heart of many a cynic with its combination of innocent romance and cinematic magic.
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Based on the superb Raymond Briggs graphic novel of the same name and retaining Briggs's distinctive character designs, 'When the Wind Blows' is a satirical yet chilling depiction of a nuclear attack on the UK, as experienced by an elderly couple in Sussex. James and Hilda Bloggs are a simple, sweet pair and through their 80 minute running dialogue (as well as a few nicely placed stylised fantasy sequences) we get to know much about their life together across the years. This makes it all the more upsetting when the effects of the nuclear fallout begin to take hold and we watch them degenerate before our eyes.

'When the Wind Blows' has been called one of the most depressing animated films ever made (animation historian Jerry Beck put it in his top 3 most depressing, alongside 'The Plague Dogs' and 'Grave of the Fireflies'). It's also a film that is impossible to look away from. Beginning as a seemingly gently amusing satire on the complete ineffectual government pamphlets about creating a nuclear shelter, 'When the Wind Blows' quickly becomes much darker and, while it still features a bitter vein of comedy throughout, the overriding emotions become horror and sadness. The film is still enormously hard-hitting but would doubtless have been more so on its initial release, when the threat of nuclear war was a very real concern for many in the UK.
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'Laughter and Grief by the White Sea' is one of those animated features that, upon discovery, you can barely believe has been out there all this time without you knowing. The Russian production by director Leonid Nosyrev is actually a collection of short films based on Russian folklore that Nosyrev had released separately in 1977, 1979 and 1986, with some new segments and connecting footage added in. Unlike, say, 'The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie' (a collection of absolutely brilliant Chuck Jones cartoons that is only not on this list because it simply doesn't hang together as a film and still feels like a collection of shorts), 'Laughter and Grief by the White Sea' retains a thematic and stylistic throughliine which makes it clear that these snippets of Russian folklore were always meant to be seen together as a whole and as such it works beautifully as a full length feature.

Set across one evening during which Russian Pomors settle down for an evening around a kerosene lamp in a fisherman's hut, 'Laughter and Grief by the White Sea' follows the tales told by the eldest Pomor to entertain the others. Although he claims to be redressing the balance of untruths told about the region, his stories are all fantastical and by the point of 'The Magic Ring' they have lapsed into all-out fairy tales. This is brought into sharp contrast by the final sequence 'Ivan and Andrian', a true story of two shipwrecked men who spend their last days carving their own epitaphs on a piece of wood. This accounts for the 'Grief' of the title and it's a beautifully judged eleventh hour shift in tone which gives the film a fittingly strong finale, rather than let it just peter out with a final tale of the same ilk as those before it.

'Laughter and Grief by the White Sea' uses very simple animation due to budget constraints but the effect appears more a choice than a necessity thanks to Nosyrev's brilliant designs which make each story seem like the pages of a book come to life. Through the most rudimentary of means, Nosyrev puts us right in that fisherman's hut with the Pomors and the effect is genuinely cosy, making the whole thing feel like a series of stories before bedtime.
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People who added this item 382 Average listal rating (196 ratings) 7.5 IMDB Rating 7.7
Isao Takahata's second film for Studio Ghibli, 'Only Yesterday' is often considered by Ghibli fans to be one of the studio's weaker films but I found it to be a fantastic, tender drama about childhood concerns and adult responsibilities. The protagonist, Taeko, is another of Ghibli's strong female leads who is a complex and realistic mix of independence and vulnerability, rather than falling into an easy extreme of simpering or sass-mouthed as Disney heroines have a tendency to do. The story is made up of nostalgic episodes and repressed remembrances from Taeko's childhood as she travels to the countryside for a break from city life, unwittingly confronting her current values and lifestyle in the process. In the end, 'Only Yesterday' may settle for a predictable ending but it does so with such tenderness and heart that it's hard to resist its appeal.
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People who added this item 4421 Average listal rating (2937 ratings) 7.5 IMDB Rating 8
Pixar's eighth film and Brad Bird's second for the studio, 'Ratatouille' is a divisive film given some of its dafter plot points. Although it is a film about a cooking rat who uses a human chef as his puppet, there is an argument to be made that the convenient plot point of the human's arms being controlled by involuntary spasms created by yanking two clumps of his hair, is a suspension of disbelief too far in which the film commits the crime of not playing by its own rules. My wife certainly feels this way about 'Ratatouille' and thinks its one of the weakest Pixar films.

I can't deny that parts of 'Ratatouille' are a tad stretched but the rest of the film is so charming, funny and attractive that I can forgive it its little liberties. Topping off the charms on offer is a great voice cast, including Patton Oswalt as main character Remy, Ian Holm as the psychotically obsessive chef Skinner and Peter O'Toole as the cruel restaurant critic Anton Ego, whose story provides the film's most moving and real moment. Abandon yourself to 'Ratatouille's eccentricities and you'll enjoy another great animated film from Brad Bird.
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People who added this item 1429 Average listal rating (819 ratings) 7.8 IMDB Rating 8.1
Hayao Miyazaki's third film and the first official release by Studio Ghibli, 'Castle in the Sky' is an amazing start for a now legendary studio. An epic, action-packed adventure film in which two children encounter sky pirates, sinister government agents and magic crystals in their quest to find the floating castle of a lost civilisation. Crammed full of thrilling events, multi-layered characters and eye-popping visuals, 'Castle in the Sky' was an immediate sign of great things to come for Studio Ghibli and the fact that it has been largely overshadowed by subsequent masterpieces is incredible, since this would undoubtedly have been the peak of most other studios' achievements. I'd advise any animation fans to seek out this gem immediately, as it deserves to be considered among Miyazaki's finest films.
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French animator Michel Ocelot is one of the most exciting names working in animation today. His films and storytelling style are so completely different to that of mainstream American and British animation that they feel like a breath of fresh cinematic air. Ocelot's debut feature 'Kirikou and the Sorceress' is the enchanting tale of a newborn West African child who, despite being excessively tiny, can immediately walk, talk and, through sheer determination, save his village from the clutches of an evil witch. Drawn from elements of West African folk tales, 'Kirikou and the Sorceress' evokes this atmosphere with its vivid, beautiful colours and its extremely effective two-dimensional animation style. Kirikou is such an appealing protagonist and the story moves quickly and is filled with wonderful little scenes and flourishes, as well as some great music. 'Kirikou and the Sorceress' proved successful enough to inspire two further Kirikou films, 'Kirikou and the Wild Beasts', and 'Kirikou and the Men and Women'.
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Proving that 'The Little Mermaid' was no fluke, 'Beauty and the Beast' made the dark days of 'The Black Cauldron' and 'Oliver and Company' seem like a lifetime ago and firmly established that the Disney Renaissance was more than just a dream. A film every bit as enchanting as its subject matter demands, 'Beauty and the Beast' was a smash hit which even managed to become the first animated film to be taken seriously enough to receive a Best Picture Oscar nomination (this feat was not repeated until 'Up' eighteen years later). Recapturing the old Disney knack at classic fairy-tale storytelling, 'Beauty and the Beast' is visually stunning, bringing together traditional hand-drawn animation and stunning, sweeping computer animation which makes the ballroom scenes seem as if they actually are filmed in a real room. Add to this a charming set of characters (including a fantastic villain in the comically preening Gaston) and memorable songs (with 'Be Our Guest' and the title song instantly entering the songbook of Disney standards) and you have one of Disney's best loved masterpieces which, for animation fans, was a dream come true.
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Czech animator Jiri Barta's extraordinary adaptation of German fairy tale 'The Pied Piper of Hamelin' erases all the colour and whimsy of previous versions and instead takes German expressionism as its inspiration, echoing such silent classics as 'Nosferatu' and 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari' in its art design. Barta pulls no punches, depicting Hamelin as a vicious capitalist nightmare where money is everything and people are nothing. Dialogue is all delivered in a nonsense language so it is up to the expressive puppets to convey the characters feelings and motivations. Barta finds ingenious ways round this, such as the early scenes of customers haggling with market vendors, in which the prices they wish to pay actually emerge from their lips as floating coins.

Barta spent six months researching the project and studied many different versions of the story. As a result, he chooses to deviate from the most well known version, offering a conclusion that is more symbolic and even more chilling than the abduction of Hamelin's children. It's fitting for this relentlessly bleak but mesmerizing piece of work.
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Disney's 'The Little Mermaid' arrived a year after 'Oliver and Company', one of the studio's worst films. However, that year had also seen the release of the blockbuster hit 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit', a part-animated extravaganza that was a huge critical and commercial success. Released through Disney's Touchstone division, 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit' was a marvellous but atypical Disney film which few recognised as the work of the studio but it proved after a decade of indifference that Disney could still produce magic.

Not about to let the artistic rejuvenation die down, the studio followed up with 'The Little Mermaid', an instant classic that brought back the fairy-tale magic that had been missing from Disney's increasingly self-conscious films, reinstated the classic songwriting that produced a hatful of instant standards and, crucially, focused on the magisterial artistry that had been so lacking in the scratchy, low-rent likes of 'Oliver and Company' and 'The Black Cauldron'. The result was Disney's first fully-animated show-stopper in decades.

A story with great scope is populated with memorable characters, chief among them Sebastian the Crab, one of Disney's greatest little-helper characters, brilliantly voiced by Samuel E. Wright, whose spirited renditions of the Oscar-winning song 'Under the Sea' and 'Kiss the Girl' immediately became classic Disney sequences. With a strong villain in the grotesque Ursula, 'The Little Mermaid' had all the essential ingredients for a Disney hit and deservedly rekindled the studio's fortunes, kicking off the much-celebrated Disney Renaissance during which some of the best Disney films were made. 'The Little Mermaid' remains in the upper reaches of that list.
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After a series of brilliant TV specials, including the immortal 'A Charlie Brown Christmas', the Peanuts gang made the transition to the big screen with the first and by far the best of their four features, 'A Boy Named Charlie Brown'. Following the story of Charlie Brown's surprise success in a series of spelling bees, 'A Boy Named Charlie Brown' makes plenty of room in its episodic structure for all the comic strips best-loved features (Lucy's psychiatry booth and deceptive football trickery, Linus's attachment to his blanket, the kite eating tree, the Little League games).

However, alongside these comfortingly familiar asides, 'A Boy Named Charlie Brown' also distinguishes itself with a series of more unusual artistic moments. There are pop-art backgrounds, classical music recitals and a stylish, rotoscoped skating sequence starring the inimitable Snoopy. Also distinguishing the film from its lesser follow-ups are some enjoyable songs, a cracking jazz score from Vince Guaraldi (whose music enlivened all the early 'Peanuts' cartoons) and the fact that the irritating bird Woodstock doesn't appear, allowing Snoopy's pantomime antics to reach their exquisite peak without an unnecessary sidekick. While it may often be considered as just another in a long line of 'Peanuts' adaptations, anyone who takes the time to actually sit down and watch 'A Boy Named Charlie Brown' will surely discover that it is much, much more.
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People who added this item 16 Average listal rating (4 ratings) 8.5 IMDB Rating 7.2
Chie the Brat (1981)
Isao Takahata is Studio Ghibli's second more famous director after Miyazaki. Unlike Miyazaki's fantastical worlds, Takahata's wonderful films generally tend to be a little more grounded in reality, though they can be given to flights of fancy. Before his work for Studio Ghibli, Takahata directed this wonderful film version of a popular Japanese comic strip. 'Chie the Brat' follows the story of a young girl, Chie, and her estranged family. Chie struggles to maintain a functional relationship with her impulsive meathead of a father while also secretly seeing her level-headed mother behind his back. She also attempts to balance school and her job at the family restaurant.

This simple premise gives rise to a number of amusing vignettes which nicely reflect the characters' ongoing existences without ever coming to neat conclusions. Elements of all Takahata's later, more famous films can be seen in this early effort. The social realism of 'Grave of the Fireflies' and 'Only Yesterday' are present in the examination of a broken family unit, but the whole thing is most definitely filtered through the more cartoony style of the underrated 'My Neighbours the Yamadas', the Takahata film that 'Chie the Brat' most closely resembles. There are even shades of 'Pom Poko' in a truly bizarre subplot involving three semi-anthropormophic cats and a severed testicle. It should be a mess but Takahata pulls the whole thing together beautifully, making for a fun, anarchic, bittersweet animated feature with few restrictions and a lot of energy.
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People who added this item 2708 Average listal rating (1654 ratings) 6.9 IMDB Rating 7.2
Disney began the 60s with one of their most artistically bold creations, '101 Dalmatians'. This loose adaptation of the Dodie Smith novel had a significantly different look from previous Disney films, with a modernist flavour that was born of budgetary concerns and became an asset that many critics lauded as one of its strongest features. Walt Disney apparently hated the new style and swore never to make another film like '101 Dalmatians' again, but his concerns that the less realistic rendering was draining away the magic associated with Disney films was completely unfounded. '101 Dalmatians' was an instant hit with critics and audiences alike, its brisk caper movie pace and barrage of memorable characters winning over adults and children alike. In Cruella De Vil, Disney have one of their greatest villains of all, but '101 Dalmatians' also features one of my favourite supporting characters in a Disney film. Sgt. Tibbs , the tabby cat who plays an instrumental part in the puppies rescue.
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People who added this item 18 Average listal rating (7 ratings) 7.6 IMDB Rating 7.2
The Tune (1992)
Bill Plympton has been a major presence in independent animation since the late 70s. His vivid, lively, often violent and sometimes pornographic animated shorts are instantly recognisable and completely unique. An auteur in the truest sense, Plympton does all his own animation and built up quite a reputation throughout the 80s, peaking with his exquisite Oscar nominated short 'Your Face'.

For an animation fan like myself, Plympton's move into feature films was a dream come true. I've always been drawn to independent productions and yet the closest I'd previously found to a truly independent animator working in features was Ralph Bakshi, whose ugly, heavily rotoscoped films I can't stand.

Plympton's penchant for the grotesque is sometimes too much for me (resulting in the horrendous sex and violence fest of his 2001 feature 'Mutant Aliens') but his debut feature 'The Tune' finds him at his most gentle and approachable. The story of a songwriter who has less than an hour to write a hit song for his boss and finds inspiration in the bizarre fantasy land of Flooby Nooby, 'The Tune' is bursting at the seams with Plympton's imagination and captivatingly alive animation. It also features a great collection of songs written by his regular collaborator Maureen McElheron, which form the backbone of the film's slim plot.

Funding issues forced Plympton to create parts of 'The Tune' as potential stand-alone shorts, which he then released separately. Of the four shorts incorporated into the film, only 'Dig My Do' and, at a push, 'The Wise Man', really fits with the rest of the material. By the latter half of the film Plympton seems to be rushing to incorporate the shorts by just stuffing them in willy-nilly. 'Tango Schmango' and 'Push Comes to Shove' appear with no context whatsoever. Plympton acknowledges this when his main character, after 'Push Comes to Shove' has played out, wonders aloud 'Why am I watching this?' It is with this cavalier attitude that Plmypton gets away with this minor flaw and the shorts are so great anyway that few viewers would complain.

'The Tune', despite its flaws, is to me one of the most fun, exciting animated features out there and discovering it is a real thrill for animation fans. Whether you like it or not will certainly depend on whether you appreciate Plympton's unique style but few could fail to acknowledge the achievement of a feature film completely animated by one man. Wonderfully, there was better yet to come from Plympton...
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People who added this item 1910 Average listal rating (1198 ratings) 7.2 IMDB Rating 7.6
Disney's 'Robin Hood' is one of the studio's most criticised films in their whole canon. Made on a tighter budget than many previous films, it reuses animation from former features and, in the character of Little John, transplants Baloo almost completely from 'The Jungle Book' into Sherwood Forest. It's true corners are cut but there's still tons of magic in this humble little film, which may owe its comparatively high place on the list to it being one of my childhood favourites. But it still seems to me, after a love for many other childhood cartoons has faded, the 'Robin Hood' successfully overcomes its shortcomings with its brisk pace, underrated songs and fantastic voice work. Peter Ustinov and Terry-Thomas are fantastic as the comedy double act of villains, Prince John and Sir Hiss, while Phil Harris (Little John) is always good value as a voice actor, even if he never varies his performance. 'Robin Hood' is made up of a series of incidents rather than a strong ongoing plot, something which many critics cited as a weakness, but this is true to the legend and its episodic nature and it doesn't hurt the film a bit. Getting Roger Miller to write and sing some of the songs was a masterstroke too, with the mournful 'Not in Nottingham' being one of my favourite Disney songs ever, as is 'The Phoney King of England', a witty, upbeat number by Johnny Mercer.
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Japanese director Mamora Hosoda started out by making feature length versions of popular franchises, such as several of the 'Digimon' movies. But in the mid 00s he moved away from this with his excellent 'The Girl Who Leapt Through Time'. A compelling high school romance with a sci-fi element, 'The Girl Who Leapt Through Time' is a beautiful assertion that Hosoda could do more than just rely on the pre-existing popularity of franchises.

Although the eventual conclusion of the story is not especially satisfying, the ride itself is great as we follow seventeen year old Makoto in her discovery that she can suddenly make time-leaps, a power that she exploits readily for the most trivial and selfish of reasons. Eventually, however, she comes to realise the effect this leaping around can have on others. Makoto is an endearingly klutzy heroine, emerging from her time-leaps entangled with objects she has collided with and, in one of the best scenes, utilising her powers in a futile attempt to escape a moment of social awkwardness which repeats with a relentless inevitability. Hosoda oversees this with the expertise of a great storyteller, something he followed through on with his superb next film 'Summer Wars'.
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People who added this item 403 Average listal rating (248 ratings) 7.7 IMDB Rating 7.7
In a great year for animation, this beautiful hand-drawn treat became the surprise fifth nomination for Best Animated Feature Oscar. An Irish-French-Belgian production, 'The Secret of Kells' is a magical little dip into Irish mythology whch follows a fictionalised version of the creation of the Book of Kells. It follows the adventures of Brendan, an Abbot's nephew who is expected to follow in his uncles footsteps but has his own ideas. The Abbey which they inhabit is under threat from Vikings, which provides the film with a meaty, dark plot thrust which combines nicely with its magical supernatural elements, such as Brendan's wonderful journey into the forest and run in with a spirit. Director Tomm Moore and his team were influenced by Richard Williams lost masterpiece 'The Thief and the Cobbler' and this is clear in much of the animation, which can only be a good thing.
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People who added this item 52 Average listal rating (26 ratings) 7.1 IMDB Rating 7.2
'Robot Carnival' is an absolutely brilliant though largely unknown Japanese anthology film that was released in Japan in 1987 but only reached Western audiences in 1991. Featuring eight stories by different directors, all of which involve robots in some way, 'Robot Carnival' features several different styles and, more importantly, different tones which makes it constantly interesting and entertaining. The sequences themselves are of extremely high quality, the one exception being the so-so sci-fi action hokum of 'Deprive'.

Elsewhere there is the blackly comic mad scientist shaggy dog story 'Franken's Gears', the teenage girl romance of 'Star Light Angel', the avant garde beauty of 'Cloud' and the comedy action propoganda spoof of 'A Tale of Two Robots'. All are impressive but the clear highlights are the hauntingly melancholy 'Presence', in which an emotionallly isolated man creates and then destroys a robot woman, an action which stays with him for the rest of his life, and 'Nightmare', a darkly funny horror which simultaneously pays tribute to two Disney films, 'Fantasia' and 'The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad'.

Perhaps my favourite of all though are the film's opening, closing and epilogue sections by Katsuhiro Otomo ('Akira'), in which a literal robot carnival, a gigantic machine originally intended for entertainment, has become a rampaging, rusted weapon of destruction.
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People who added this item 402 Average listal rating (251 ratings) 7.5 IMDB Rating 7.6
Mamoru Hosoda's next film after 'The Girl Who Leapt Through Time' was this even better . 'Summer Wars' is a fast moving comedy adventure in which a gifted maths student, Kenji, is forced to pose as an acquaintances fiance when she visits her oddball extended family for her great grandmother's 90th birthday. On top of this, Kenji also becomes entangled in an online war when a stranger begins destroying the virtual reality online world he is a moderator for. Things escalate from there in both domestic and online warfare, with the stakes ramping up to unexpectedly dire levels. 'Summer Wars' is a consistently thrilling animated take on the Summer blockbuster, with plenty of thrills and laughs, lively characters and attractive artwork. A real blast and a promising sign that Hosoda may be becoming one of the most inventive living animation directors.
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People who added this item 58 Average listal rating (43 ratings) 7.4 IMDB Rating 7.6
Arrugas (2011)
Ignacio Ferreras worked as an animator on Sylvain Chomet's masterpiece 'The Illusionist' and his first feature as a director more than lives up to the high expectations this connection breeds. Based on the comic book by Paco Roca (who also co-wrote the screenplay), 'Wrinkles' is a touching, funny, realistic and, crucially, completely unsentimental look at growing old. Ferreras skilfully avoids any of the usual nonsense that portrays the mere aging process as something heroic, or dying as something beautiful, instead opting for a moving but unmanipulative depiction of the last years of life and lucidity.

Set almost entirely in an old people's home, this Spanish feature follows the story of Emilio, a man in the early stages of Alzheimer's, and his introduction to Miguel, a roguish veteran of the home whose antics veer between amoral and downright sinister but who pledges to help Emilio avoid being taken to the dreaded upper floor of the home, where the 'assisted' cases (also known as 'the lost causes') are kept. There are plenty of surprising narrative developments and complex character developments for anyone who fears this may be depressing, and the traditional cel animation, complete with its autumnal colour palette, invest the whole thing with the perfect melancholy of a rapidly diminishing art, itself struggling against being consigned to animation's metaphorical home.
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Since I was very young I have loved Aardman Animations but I greatly preferred their numerous exceptional short films ('The Wrong Trousers' being one of the great masterpieces of the medium) to their disappointing features. I even found the much praised Wallace and Gromit feature 'Curse of the Were-Rabbit' to be overstretched and half-hearted. So I was delighted to see this cracking and extremely funny film live up to the charm of Aradman's short film catalogue.

Chock full of gags, many of them extremely clever, some delightfully silly, 'The Pirates! Bands of Misfits' (aka 'The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists') is a fast-moving, laugh a minute film which doesn't entirely sacrifice emotional involvement for the sake of a cheap laugh. In the central role of Pirate Captain, Hugh Grant gives his best performance and is practically unrecognisable. The stop motion animation is fantastic as always and all signs point to 'The Pirates! Band of Misfits' becoming a firm favourite with animation fans.
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People who added this item 327 Average listal rating (145 ratings) 7.1 IMDB Rating 7.6
Memories (1995)
Based on three manga short stories by Katsuhiro Otomo and co-written by future Japanese animation great Satoshi Kon, 'Memories' is another superb Japanese anthology film to place beside 'Robot Carnival' in the underrated classics file. If 'Memories' has a major flaw its that it makes the mistake of opening with its strongest segment, the breathtaking 'Magnetic Rose', in which two engineers on a salvage mission in space encounter the ghostly apparition of a dead opera singer. Visually stunning as well as narratively complex and compelling, 'Magnetic Rose' is a minor animation masterpiece with which the other two segments can't quite compete.

Which isn't to say they aren't still excellent. The satirical, pitch-black sci-fi comedy 'Stink Bomb' sees an unwitting young lab technician develop a deadly stench which kills everyone who encounters it. Funny, grotesque and exciting, 'Stink Bomb' is reminiscent of Otomo's script for 'Roujin Z' in its humorous approach to darker themes. 'Cannon Fodder', meanwhile, is a stylish, brief glimpse at the lives of a young boy and his father who are inhabitants of a city at war with an unseen, possibly imagined enemy and whose lives are built around firing the enormous cannons that make up most of their city. It's an understated little anti-war piece that never makes anything too explicit and leaves much to the viewer's own interpretation.
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People who added this item 24 Average listal rating (12 ratings) 7.5 IMDB Rating 7
Bill Plympton's second feature is perhaps closer to what fans of Plympton's shorts might have expected. In contrast to the relatively gentle 'The Tune', 'I Married a Strange Person' is full of extreme stomach-turning violence and graphic sex scenes... and it's an absolute blast!!! The story of a newly wed who suddenly develops the power to transform people and objects with the power of his mind, 'I Married a Strange Person' gives Plympton free reign to indulge his love of grotesque, painful metamorphoses by way of a barrage of visual puns and surrealist gags.

A few years later Plympton continued his obsessive pursuit of the extreme with the even sicker 'Mutant Aliens'. Unfortunately, this time he forgot to put in the wit that 'I Married a Strange Person' hinges on and the result was a nihilistic mess that was easily Plympton's worst film to date. Watching the two films together, it's easy to see what is missing from 'Mutant Aliens'. It works to the same formula but 'I Married a Strange Person' adds a smidgeon of human warmth, a more coherent plot in which there is a sort of logic to the ever escalating farcical events, and the impression that Plympton is enjoying exploring the baser elements of sex and violence out of a genuine fascination with them, rather than just maturbating as he sketches.
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People who added this item 6735 Average listal rating (4516 ratings) 7.2 IMDB Rating 8
After his brilliant debut feature 'The Iron Giant' was mismarketed into a box office disappointment, director Brad Bird carried across much of the same production team for his first film with Pixar, 'The Incredibles'. Far from a box office disappointment, 'The Incredibles' captured the hearts and minds of children and adults alike, becoming a critical and commercial smash. Rewatching the film recently, it's not hard to see why this brilliant film is held in such high regard. Its satire on superhero films mixed with suburban sitcoms provides both breakneck fantastical thrills and relatable observations on everyday life. The premise of superheroes who have been forced into relocation programmes because their crime-fighting incurred lawsuits for the damage it inflicted is both ingenious and brilliantly executed, with the middle-aged versions of the heroes longing nostalgically for a time when their powers didn't have to be supressed. 'The Incredibles' provides everything you could want in a superhero adventure but adds a depth that, in its own way, is every bit as tragic as the usual dead-parents legend that lurks behind more conventional superhero stories.
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People who added this item 417 Average listal rating (221 ratings) 7.6 IMDB Rating 7.5
Legendary Czech animator Jan Svankmajer's first feature, 'Alice' is probably the most artistically successful adaptation of Lewis Carroll's 'Alice in Wonderland'. Svankmajer taps perfectly into the air of foreboding that is present in all versions but which is often downplayed in favour of fairy tale whimsy.

Svankmajer utilises his favoured medium of stop-motion animation (combined with some live action) and the results are deliciously creepy and darkly hilarious. Highlights include a hysterically funny, jarring Mad Hatter's Tea Party and an unforgettably mangy, hideous White Rabbit. Svankmajer ends the film on a suitably brutal note, smothered in the blackest of comedy. 'Alice' truly is a unique film and, while it may alarm those who know only the Disney adaptation, it will doubtless delight animation fans who relish the unusual and the offbeat.
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French animated feature 'The King and the Mockingbird' has a lengthy history and it is important to research before watching as there are several versions of the film. Begun in 1948, the definitive version of 'The King and the Mockingbird' was not released until 1980. Director Paul Grimault had the film taken out of his hands by his struggling studio, who released it unfinished in 1952 against Grimault's wishes. In the interim several versions of the film have been released, with title like 'The Curious Adventures of Mr. Wonderbird' or 'Mr. Bird to the Rescue'.

The version that must be seen to be fully appreciated is the 1980 version, which Grimault managed to secure funding to complete over 30 years after it was begun. This version is usually referred to by it's French title 'Le Roi et l'oiseau' and is hard to come by with English subtitles, though I was lucky enough to finally see a version with them.

'Le Roi et l'oiseau' is an extremely unusual film and fans of Western animation may be totally baffled by it. A surrealist, chaotically plotted tale of an evil king and his jealousy over the love between a chimney sweep and a shepherdess. This description doesn't begin to scratch the surface however. For instance, I haven't even mentioned that the lovers are actually painting come to life. Or that the king is arbitrarily deposed by a painting of himself early on in the story. Or that the lovers are assisted by a bird who hates the king for killing his wife. Or the bat-police... oh, you'd better just see it for yourselves!

Although the plot borders on the nonsensical, there is so much to 'Le Roi et l'oiseau' visually that it genuinely doesn't matter. The characters play second fiddle to the gorgeous animations of the towering, shapeshifting palace. The definitive version of 'Le Roi et l'oiseau' also ends on an angry image that leaves a real impact and is missing from all other versions.
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The era of the Disney Package Films is one of the studios most consistently underrated eras. With budgets and timescales severely cut by the arrival of the war, Disney shifted their focus from the game-changing feature animations they had been working on and instead began bundling together featurettes into vaguely themed packages of several separate stories. Walt himself called this his 'mashed potatoes and gravy' era, acknowledging that these works were not in the same league as 'Pinocchio' or 'Bambi', but he underestimated his own studios abilities to still create classics under heavy restrictions. It says much for the natural abilities of Disney's employees that they make the most of the resources at their disposal and tap into a low-budget charm that still feels prestige.

'The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad' was the last of these package films and is made up of an aborted feature version 'The Wind in the Willows' that was hastily finished as a featurette when it was deemed to be too far below the studios standards, and a version of 'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow' which was planned as a feature but quickly shortened due to a lack of material. As shorter films, these stories work better than they ever could have as overstretched features and their contrasting moods (one a whimsical British satire, the other a spooky musical) play off each other beautifully, especially with memorable narrations by Basil Rathbone and Bing Crosby.

'The Wind in the Willows' portion of the film is routinely overrated, shoved aside to get to the more critically-lauded 'Sleepy Hollow' section. But 'The Wind in the Willows' part was what I initially fell in love with, having seen it as a separate short on TV one Christmas. Taking the bare bones of Kenneth Grahame's story, it could hardly be called a faithful adaptation but Disney plug up some holes in the original narrative, such as the fact that in Grahame's book Toad essentially ends up a remorseless fugitive from justice, and they add a new character who steals every scene he's in; Cyril, a horse reportedly based on George Formby.

Disney have always done wonderful horses and the 'Sleepy Hollow' segment features another one, the silent steed who accompanies Ichabod Crane on his chilling journey through the forest which brings him face to face with the Headless Horseman. This section is one of the most unusual and effective creations of Disney's entire history. Beginning as a folksy, colourful musical about a battle for a lady's affections between an arrogant school teacher and a local bully, the story does not have any wholly sympathetic characters and, as the mood darkens, so the film becomes even more ethically ambiguous. The finale, in which Ichabod desperately tries to escape the Headless Horseman, is the studio at its absolute best and the ending is somewhat shocking, even as it retains its suitability for family viewing by maintaining a light-hearted Halloween-style spookiness that makes the horrific content fun and inclusive.
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During the first decade of the 21st century, Brad Bird became one of the biggest names in animated features when he directed two of Pixar's best loved films. But before that he directed this modern classic, a charming and very funny blend of traditional animation with well-placed elements of computer animation. Based on Ted Hughes' novel 'The Iron Man', 'The Iron Giant' tells the story of a young boy named Hogarth who discovers a giant robot and befriends him against the backdrop of 1950s Cold War America. It sounds pretty straightforward, dull and sentimental from that synopsis and Warner Bros Animation's spectacular mismarketing of the film certainly painted it that way, turning a potential event of a film into a commercial failure.

Warner Bros Animation was struggling to recoup losses on their previous animated feature, 'Quest for Camelot', which failed due to the small matter of it being one of the worst animated features of all time. What Bird gave them in 'The Iron Giant' was an incredible leap forward, an intelligent, extremely funny film with wonderful visuals, a witty edge and the potential for mass appeal. Somehow they just didn't know what they had on their hands and 'The Iron Giant' fell by the wayside, only beginning to pick up some commercial success to match its critical plaudits when it was released on Home Video.

'The Iron Giant' is indeed a modern animation classic. In the title role, Vin Diesel is absolutely wonderful, making the giant one of the most effective pathos-evoking-gargantuans since the days of 'Frankenstein' and 'King Kong'. The warmth and charm of the visuals bring a real magic to proceedings but 'The Iron Giant' is far removed from the Disney style, pre-empting Bird's smart scripts for 'The Incredibles' and 'Ratatouille'. The character of Kent Mansley, a paranoid, ambitious government agent who serves as the film's unconventional villain, is one of the film's other major strengths. Wonderfully voiced by Christopher McDonald, Mansley is the sort of figure rarely found in animated family films but who injects a whole other level into the story and ultimately gives us a glimpse of the terrifying implications of Cold War paranoia.
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Posted: 3 years, 3 months ago at May 15 15:46
Interesting selection, with work going into the comments :) My own animated favourites: www.listal.com/list/my-favourite-animated-films

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