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Added by Andy Goulding on 28 Dec 2011 07:12
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Non-Disney, Non-Pixar, Non-Ghibli Animated Films

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People who added this item 194 Average listal rating (84 ratings) 7.9 IMDB Rating 7.9
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 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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Several of the earliest animated features used the medium of stop-motion puppets. The earliest to do so was Aleksandr Ptushko's Soviet stop-motion/live action hybrid 'The New Gulliver', an amusing early animated film of limited appeal. Germany's 'The Seven Ravens' was also an early stop-motion feature but clearly the first truly great film using this form of animation was Ladislas Starevich's 'The Story of the Fox'. Although it was completed as early as 1930 in terms of animation, 'The Story of the Fox' did not get a release until 1937, the same year as 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs', although it still beat Disney's film to screens by several months.

Based on the famous Renard the Fox fables, 'The Story of the Fox' may be hard to stomach for modern audiences used to good triumphing over evil in every narrative. Here, our main hero is in fact an amoral rogue who commits acts of mischevious anarchy, unprovoked brutality and even red-toothed murder. His ultimate fate displays a satirical cynicism rarely seen in films of this era. It's genuinely wonderful to see these early, scraggly stop-motion puppets come to life and their wirey, slightly grotesque appearaces are a clear and acknowledged influence on Wes Anderson's superb 'Fantastic Mr. Fox' some seventy years down the line.
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People who added this item 91 Average listal rating (60 ratings) 6.4 IMDB Rating 6.8
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 (as frequently used in the ugly films of Ralph Bakshi, one independent animation name you will not find on this list). 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 33 Average listal rating (17 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 3 Average listal rating (1 ratings) 7 IMDB Rating 7.6
The first feature length cel-animated film to come out of the Soviet Union, 'Propavshaya gramota' ('The Lost Letter') is a fascinating adaptation of a story by Nikolai Gogol, which see a Cossack travel to Hell in order to retrieve a letter he has been charged with delivering to the Tsarina. Although the versions currently available are fairly murky, this can't disguise the genuine energy of this brief feature, which betrays a noticeable debt to the contemporary work of the Fleischers. Although it isn't quite a masterpiece, 'The Lost Letter' is an enjoyable and historically notable curio which animation fans should enjoy.
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Ivan Ivanov-Vano was often called the Patriach of Soviet Animation. His most well known film is this 1947 storybook charmer about a boy and magic horse. Although its adherence to dialogue-in-verse throughout the entire runtime gets a little wearing, the visuals, while far more rudimentary than American contemporaries of the time, are alive with energy and bursting with colour, while the episodic narrative packs plenty into a short runtime of just under an hour.

While Soviet animation of this era is known for largely sticking to an enforced conservatism, Ivanov-Vano's love for his work is clear in the finished film. If this were ever brought into question, the director removed all doubt when in 1975, believing the original film to be degraded beyond saving, he remade the film in its entirety as 'Ivan and his Magic Pony', even adding another adventure to its plot, thereby extending the runtime to 70 minutes. Both films are fine works but I prefer the 1947 original for both it's historical significance and captivating liveliness.
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People who added this item 17 Average listal rating (5 ratings) 6.6 IMDB Rating 6.7
This little-seen version of Lewis Caroll's 'Alice in Wonderland' was a joint British/French production, directed by Dallas Bower but dominated by the wonderful if slightly creepy (as befits the material) stop-motion puppets of French animation pioneer Lou Bunin. Framed by live action sequences and starring a live action Alice, the film is thoroughly charming if flawed (the songs, for instance, are half-realised at best) and deserves to be more widely recognised.

Unfortunately a bullying Disney also planned to release their own version of 'Alice in Wonderland' (which emerged two years later) and embroiled the makers of this version in an unsuccessful but damaging legal dispute. While neither film proved to be a commercial success, Disney's version found latter day fame through television screenings and rereleases, while Bower and Bunin's film has sunk almost without trace.
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People who added this item 363 Average listal rating (202 ratings) 6.9 IMDB Rating 7.2
Animal Farm (1954)
John Halas and Joy Batchelor's adaptation of George Orwell's allegorical masterpiece became the first British commercial animated feature (an earlier film, 'Handling Ships', was a Navy training film and therefore not released) and marked a distinctly different tone from the popular Disney films. Though critics noticed some small influences from the mighty American studio (such as the cutesy comic relief duckling), Halas and Batchelor's film was far darker and more unrelenting. While Disney took flack for killing Bambi's mother off-screen, 'Animal Farm' necessarily kills off several of its main characters, some with subtle off-screen implications and others far more vividly (Old Major's lifeless corpse keels over right towards the viewer!).

A masterpiece of child-traumatising brilliance, 'Animal Farm' has also come in for much criticism for its perceived subversion of Orwell's message. It is now well known that the CIA were involved with funding the film and exerted some influence on its content as part of its Cold War cultural offensive. The film's alternate ending is the most roundly critised element, although it is some way off being the happy ending it is sometimes supposed to be and the credits role on a hauntingly memorable image loaded with potentially negative implications.
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People who added this item 52 Average listal rating (25 ratings) 7.3 IMDB Rating 7.8
Lev Atamanov's lovely animated feature of Hans Christian Andersen's 'The Snow Queen' is one of the most respected and influential Russian animations of its era. It famously influenced Hayao Miyazaki to go into animation, a fact that has seen it preserved and brought to many more audiences than it would otherwise have reached. For all this, 'The Snow Queen' is an attractive but fairly straightforward telling of a fairy tale, much in keeping with the conservatism of Russian work from the era. Like 'The Humpbacked Horse' though, it is bursting with energy and Atamanov has clearly put his own personal stamp on the film, with the Queen herself proving a particular mesmerising figure. As is often the case with foreign animation, 'The Snow Queen' is available in many different versions for English language speakers, including subtitled and dubbed, but also several which cut out portions and one infamous one that adds a corny live action Christmas introduction with Art Linkletter. It's something of a minefield tracking down a decent copy on DVD but animation fans should have little trouble finding versions to watch online.
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People who added this item 32 Average listal rating (9 ratings) 7.8 IMDB Rating 7.2
Brilliant Czech puppet animator Jiri Trnka made several animated features alongside his famous shorts (the most famous of these shorts being 1965's subversive masterpiece 'The Hand'). The most readily available of these in the Western world is his largely faithful adaptation of Shakespeare's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'. Told with the deliberate pacing that characterises all Trnka's films and which some viewers used to faster paced animations may find testing, 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' captures all the magic that is so vital to Shakespeare's tale through Trnka's masterful manipulation of his expressionless yet astonishingly expressive puppets. Bottom and Puck are particularly magnificent in bufoonish beauty and impish grace respectively. An affection for Shakespeare's tale itself is probably necessary to fully appreciate Trnka's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' but few could deny the delicate artistry on show here.
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People who added this item 2 Average listal rating (1 ratings) 7 IMDB Rating 6.8
Klyuch (1961)
Lev Atamanov is best known for his feature length version of 'The Snow Queen' but the real lost gem in his canon is 'The Key', a didactic story about the importance of giving something back to the world rather than just coasting along and enjoying yourself. There's a real Russian feel to the message here which puts an unusual spin on the story. Disney would never make baddies out of the fairies who come to bless a new child's birth with the gift of eternal happiness but Atamanov gets inside the idea of what this oft-used plot device would actually mean, as well as examining how one person's idea of happiness could be another's idea of hell. Atamanov moves away from the more traditional animation of 'The Snow Queen', embracing the minimalistic UPA style that was in vogue at the time and which suits the satirical material better.
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People who added this item 20 Average listal rating (8 ratings) 8.6 IMDB Rating 8.2
'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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People who added this item 22 Average listal rating (12 ratings) 8 IMDB Rating 7.5
West and Soda (1965)
Italian animation legend Bruno Bozzetto's first feature animation is an amusing spoof of Western clichés that is only fitfully brilliant but entertaining throughout. Essentially borrowing its plot from 'Shane', 'West and Soda' follows the attempts of two evil cowboys to get hold of a determined young woman's land (the only fertile patch in the whole area) by intimidating her into marrying their boss. Enter a mysterious stranger in possession of a large gold nugget...

Bozzetto knows his Westerns well and the best scenes in 'West and Soda' are when it strays from the plot in favour of revelling in comedic riffs on the clichés of the genre. Bozzetto's attractively simplistic drawing style gives the film a minimalistic beauty and the pacing means the movie builds up a kinetic head of steam, even if this is occasionally at the expense of the pitch perfect timing Bozzetto regularly achieved in his many classic shorts. All in all though, 'West and Soda' is something of a little gold nugget itself, frequently overlooked in favour of Bozzetto's later masterpiece 'Allegro Non Troppo'.
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People who added this item 563 Average listal rating (350 ratings) 7.2 IMDB Rating 7.4
Made as an attempt to fulfill The Beatles' contractual obligation to provide United Artists with a third film (following the classic 'Hard Day's Night' and the underrated fun of 'Help') that they wouldn't actually have to appear in, the animated Beatles adventure 'Yellow Submarine' actually emerged as an animation classic. Initially hoping to distance themselves from what they assumed would be an inferior product, the band ultimately loved the result so much that they requested to make a cameo appearance at the end (easily the cheesiest, weakest part of the movie!).

Rendered in a psychedelic style which provides a perfect aethetic match for the music and the sensibilities of the times, 'Yellow Submarine' benefits enormously from a witty script crammed full of puns, non-sequiturs and references to Beatles songs. The plot, in which the band travels to Pepperland in order to battle the Blue Meanies who are destroying the land with negativity, makes room for several fluid changes of animation style and incorporates many brilliant music video style asides for pre-existing and purpose-written Beatles songs.

With brilliant music, stunning, unusual animation, a fun plot and excellent voice acting, 'Yellow Submarine' exceeded all expectations to become one of the best loved animated features of its era.
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People who added this item 14 Average listal rating (10 ratings) 7.1 IMDB Rating 7.4
The SuperVips (1968)
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 124 Average listal rating (72 ratings) 7.4 IMDB Rating 7.4
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 9 Average listal rating (4 ratings) 8.5 IMDB Rating 7.2
For those who have never heard of 'The Magic Roundabout' (or 'Le Manege echante' to give it its original name), it was a series of five minute French stop motion animations created by Serge Danot about an enchanted garden and its inhabitants. In the UK, the BBC purchased Danot's series but rather than translate the scripts or even confirm the official stories, they handed them to the superbly witty actor and presenter Eric Thompson (father of actress Emma Thompson), who created his own stories and characters just by watching the action.

Thompson's British version of the series picked up a huge cult following amongst adults, who often caught it in its timeslot just prior to the early evening news. The older generation appreciated Thompson's witty quips and references, many of which went right over the heads of children. When Danot created a full length feature film of the series then, it was only natural that Thompson should create and narrate his own spin on it. The fantastic 'Dougal and the Blue Cat' retains all the wit of the original series and adds a much darker edge in its plot about an evil, Yorkshire-accented cat named Buxton. Although not particularly well-known, this excellent spin-off film continued the show's cult following and has recently been released on DVD, partly thanks to the efforts of British film critic and lifelong fan Mark Kermode, who has long championed this little gem.
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People who added this item 58 Average listal rating (32 ratings) 7.1 IMDB Rating 7
To say I have mixed feelings about 'The Phantom Tollbooth' is an understatement. If I had to name the two strongest influences on my pre-teen youth, Norton Juster's book 'The Phantom Tollbooth' and the cartoons of Chuck Jones would be high on the list of contenders. So a film adaptation of Juster's book directed by Jones should have been a dream come true. 'The Phantom Tollbooth's only crime then is not living up to insurmountable expectations.

'The Phantom Tollbooth' really is an unbelieveably special book to me. It taught me about wordplay and that learning was a good thing and not something to be avoided and derided. It was given to me by my Dad, which will always make it a tear-jerkingly happy memory of the first time I shared something on an intellectual level with my own father. Add to this the fact that the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons are and always will be some of my favourite creations of all time and a major factor in the developement of my sense of humour, and 'The Phantom Tollbooth' never had a chance of living up to expectations.

What Chuck Jones's 'The Phantom Tollbooth' is is an inventive, fun, enjoyable feature with lots of great characters, warm visuals and even some good songs. What it isn't is the world of wonderment that the source novel unlocked in my mind as an impressionable little boy. What it also isn't is 'One Froggy Evening', 'What's Opera Doc', 'Duck Amuck' or any number of the seven minute masterpieces that Jones directed in his heyday at Warner Bros. It doesn't even quite live up to later Jones classics like 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas' or his other short adaptation of a Norton Juster story, 'The Dot and the Line'.

I'd recommend 'The Phantom Tollbooth' to animation fans and almost guarantee that if you didn't grow up with the book then you'll have a good time with the film. And there are flashes of Chuck Jones's genius in sequences such as the Doldrums sequence. But ultimately, though I like it as a stand alone piece, I suppose 'The Phantom Tollbooth' will always be to me a bit of a missed opportunity.
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People who added this item 16 Average listal rating (7 ratings) 8.6 IMDB Rating 8
The Point (1971)
Based on an original fable written by musician Harry Nilsson, who provides the idiosyncratic soundtrack, 'The Point' is a fantastic animated TV movie about a little boy named Oblio who is born with a round head into a world where everything is pointed. Directed by Fred Wolf, who had recently won an Oscar for his animated short 'The Box', 'The Point' is endearingly scrappy in its charming animation style which brings its storybook world to life. The satire on prejudice is, aptly enough, quite sharp, underscored by a lingering 60s idealism. Due to contractual reasons, the film has been revoiced several times, with narrators ranging from Dustin Hoffman to Ringo Starr.
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People who added this item 3 Average listal rating (2 ratings) 9 IMDB Rating 7.6
The first animated feature made by the critically acclaimed Pannonia Film Studio, a prolific Hungarian studio that is an amazing treasure trove to uncover for animation fans, 'Johnny Corncob' is one of those films that you can't believe you never heard of before when you first see it. A work of visual magnificence, 'Johnny Corncob' is the debut feature of Marcell Jankovics, the great animator best known to English-speaking audiences for his Oscar nominated short 'Sisyphus'. In sharp contrast to that great short's visceral sketchiness, 'Johnny Corncob' is a film bursting with colour and kaleidoscopic undulations. A simple tale of two lovers torn apart by forces beyond their control, 'Johnny Corncob' takes its titular hero from his home on a fantastical journey in which he encounters brutal robbers, rival army battalions, towering giants and an ever-present malevolent witch-faced moon. The story wanders but it is merely a hook on which to hang the incredible animation, which owes an obvious debt to 'Yellow Submarine' but which Jankovics takes to glorious extremes. 'Johnny Corncob' is a glittering gem just waiting to be unearthed by curious animation fans, and a more accessible doorway into Jankovics' even more remarkable second feature, 'Son of White Mare'.
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People who added this item 98 Average listal rating (52 ratings) 7.6 IMDB Rating 8.4
As an animation enthusiast, the discovery of Ivo Caprino's Norwegian stop-motion animated film 'Pinchcliffe Grand Prix' was a dream come true. Although it is largely unknown in Britain, 'Pinchcliffe Grand Prix' remains the biggest box office hit of all time in Norway, where it sold 5.5 million tickets in a country with a population of 4.9 million! It is also shown on TV every Christmas in Norway in the same way that Wallace and Gromit make annual festive airings over here.

The plot of 'Pinchcliffe Grand Prix' is simple, even if some elements sound a tad bizarre. Bicycle repair man Theodore Rimspoke lives at the top of very large mountain, the irony being that no-one would go that far to get their bike fixed, especially since they couldn't ride it! Consequently, Theodore spends most of his time tinkering with amateur inventions. Theodore lives with his two animal companions, Sonny Duckworth, an optimistic bird, and Lambert, a melancholy, nervous hedgehog. Seeing in the news that Theodore's former assistant, Rudolph Gore-Slimey, has stolen the plans for his racing car engine and subsequently become Formula One World Champion, the trio set about building a rival car called Il Tempo Gigante, with which to challenge Gore-Slimey's ill-gotten World Champion title.

'Pinchcliffe Grand Prix' will be of special interest to car lovers and especially Formula One fans. I am neither but the joy I got from the animation and incredible action sequences, I can well imagine being mirrored in Grand Prix lovers by the exquisitely realised atmosphere of a race day and the fetishistic focus on the building of the car. After its slow start, the film begins to pick up pace with the construction of Il Tempo Gigante, a midnight sabotage scene and a chaotic, superbly inventive and exhiliratingly unneccesary musical interlude! But the real draw for most viewers will be the race itself. After the lovably gentle opening hour, the Grand Prix of the title takes up the entire final third of the film and is every bit as exciting as you might hope. A surprising and delightful treat for those watching the British dub is that the voiceover duties for the last half hour are almost entirely taken over by none other than Formula One legend Murray Walker, who provides a running commentary on the race.
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People who added this item 14 Average listal rating (4 ratings) 3.8 IMDB Rating 7.1
An early entry into the wonderful canon of Hungarian Pannonia Studios, this bonkers psychedelic trip of a film has become the subject of many 'did-I-really-see-that?' childhood memories and has acquired a cult following due to its bizarre content. The wandering narrative follows the adventures of Hugo, the only hippo spared in a large hippo cull. He is adopted by a group of children but the adults disapprove and set about removing the troublesome hippo from their distracted offsprings' lives.

I never saw 'Hugo the Hippo' as a youngster and was well aware of its reputation by the time I saw it as an adult so I had some idea of what to expect (although the hallucinatory vegetable army did take me by surprise!). It's true, this is a weird film but its unusualness is actually a plus, making it one of the most unique animated features on the list. It's unfair to focus only on 'Hugo the Hippo's trippiness as so many reviews do. Although the story isn't especially gripping, it goes in enough directions to keep the viewer entertained and is solidly supported by some great songs and vivid, colourful artwork which make watching it a real pleasure. It's reminiscent of some of those brilliant animated inserts on 'Sesame Street' (but minus the educational value), all strung together to make an enjoyable and underrated feature film.
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People who added this item 78 Average listal rating (36 ratings) 7.7 IMDB Rating 7.5
I grew up watching brilliant Italian animator Bruno Bozzetto's 'Mr. Rossi' cartoons but it was only as an adult that I discovered his classic animated feature 'Allegro non Troppo'. This astonishing work of brilliance is both a parody of and homage to Disney's 'Fantasia', the feature length anthology film of animated pieces inspired by and set to classical music. Disney's film has gone down in history as a masterpiece and it does feature some of the most beautiful animation of all time. But it also features abominabally kitschy sequences and interminably dull ones too. It is simultaneously admirably ambitious, breathtakingly wonderful and mind-numbingly pompous and overwrought.

While Disney must be congratulated for boundary pushing and for inspirational capacity, I ultimately much prefer Bozzetto's film. Although his animation style may at first seem primitive in comparison to Disney's, the film reaches epic heights in such sequences as Ravel's 'Bolero', in which some slime in the bottom of a cola bottle evolves steadily into a marching army of dinosaurs. Also widely celebrated is Sibelius's 'Valse triste', a sequence in which a cat wanders through the ruins of a destroyed house and remembers happier times through a series of ghostly images. In a film of primarily comic sequences it strikes a disarmingly tragic note, although the film's opening sequence involving an aging satyr coming to terms with his diminishing sexual capabilities also shares a sense of bittersweet pathos.

Between the animated sequences there are live action segments which are nowhere near as effective, relying on slightly over-the-top grotesquerie but this matters little when the animated sequences are so superb. Plus one of these live action sequences features a cameo by Bozzetto's most famous creation, Mr. Rossi, whom he callously burns to death!
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People who added this item 4 Average listal rating (2 ratings) 8 IMDB Rating 8.4
Lúdas Matyi (1977)
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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People who added this item 672 Average listal rating (374 ratings) 7.4 IMDB Rating 7.7
Originally slated to be directed by brilliantly innovative animator John Hubley, this animated adaptation of Richard Adams' 'Watership Down' was handed over to producer Michael Rosen who did a phenomonal job in his directorial debut. Staying true to the dark, violent nature of the source text, Rosen's film is an unforgettable classic which has frightened and upset but also mesmerised generation after generation of children.

For years a reliable staple of UK Easter television schedules (because, y'know, it's got rabbits in... and snares... and veiled allusions to the Holocaust), 'Watership Down' is enduring proof that children don't all just want cuddly animals going on non-threatening adventures. The realstic rabbits are just barely anthropomophic and their personalities are given great depth by a veritable hall of fame of British thespians including John Hurt, Richard Briers, Ralph Richardson and Michael Hordern. Brilliantly providing the film's only comic relief is Zero Mostel as German seagull Keehar, who also introduced many children to the phrase 'Piss off'!

'Watership Down' is magical precisely because of its realism, offering an experience like few other animated films before it.
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People who added this item 22 Average listal rating (8 ratings) 7.4 IMDB Rating 7.3
Speaking of upsetting animated films, 'Ringing Bell of Chirin' must be one of the most relentlessly downbeat on the list. Lasting a barely feature length 47 minutes, 'Ringing Bell of Chirin' uses every moment of its short runtime to create a sense of melancholic foreboding. You'd never know from looking at its cutesy-poo cover but 'Ringing Bell of Chirin' quickly foresakes its apparantly fluffy opening scenes in favour of a matriachal murder that makes Bambi's mum seem like a heartwarming moment by comparison!

'Ringing Bell of Chirin' doesn't stop at that though. Having lost his mother to a wolf attack, little Chirin decides that in order to survive he must learn the ways of the wolf and choose as his teacher none other than his own mother's assassin. Where the film goes with this concept is unexpected (as is so much of 'Ringing Bell of Chirin') and the ending will stay with you once the credits roll. A excellent if somewhat gruelling little film, 'Ringing Bell of Chirin' has been subjected to numerous interpretations but even without an obvious moral it is worth seeking out for its atmospheric animation and sheer uniqueness.
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When making this list I took the tough decision of excluding Studio Ghibli films as I felt the majority of them had become too well known to feature on a list intended to highlight overlooked animated features. But there are undoubtedly films released by that wonderful studio which have not become as famous as their hits 'Spirited Away', 'Princess Mononoke' and 'My Neighbour Totoro'. The likes of 'Whisper of the Heart', 'Only Yesterday' and 'My Neighbours the Yamadas' are just a few examples of treasurable, lesser known films released by Ghibli.

So it gave me great pleasure to realise that my Ghibli ban did not extend to Hayao Miyazaki's first feature 'The Castle of Cagliostro', which predated the founding of the Ghibli studio. Based on manga series 'Lupin III', 'The Castle of Cagliostro' is one of several films about the master thief Arsene Lupin and his determined nemesis Inspector Zenigata. Fans of the series often criticise the film for being less edgy and making the main character less flawed and more heroic, but having seen other examples of the Lupin series I much prefer Miyazaki's version.

A thrilling, old-fashioned action adventure tale which evokes memories of great Saturday morning cartoons but features much higher production values and script quality, 'The Castle of Cagliostro' finds the genius of Miyazaki arriving fully formed and the talent that would go on to produce fantastical classics like 'Castle in the Sky' and 'Spirited Away' is clearly in evidence. The film has a slightly more irreverent edge than some of the more famous Miyazaki films but this would resurface in his wonderful adult noir-fantasy 'Porco Rosso'.
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For those who found the action of 'Havoc in Heaven' too lengthy, too chaotic and the film's anti-hero too unlikable, 'Nezha Conquers the Dragon King' offers a more palatable alternative. The film follows the story of the warrior deity Nezha (who had a cameo in 'Havoc in Heaven', unsuccessfully taking on Sun Wukong in battle) and his ongoing fight with the Dragon king of the Eastern Sea (also featured in 'Havoc in Heaven').

While it may lack the visual dazzle of 'Havoc in Heaven', this shorter, pacier Chinese animated feature is still extraordinarily entertaining, focusing again on some nifty fight scenes but this time giving us a clear hero to root for. Unlike the self-aggrandising antic of Sun Wukong, Nezha's motives for fighting are to put a stop to the bullying, murderous ways of the Dragon king and his kin. Despite opposition from his own family, Nezha fights on and while we are in little doubt of the ultimate outcome, the journey is still a thrilling one. The colourful 70s animation, though it wavers in quality, remains appealing throughout and the story, slim though it is, moves at a real lick.
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People who added this item 41 Average listal rating (19 ratings) 7.9 IMDB Rating 7.6
The debut feature by legendary Anime director Rintaro, 'Galaxy Express 999' condenses a lengthy manga and 113 episode television series into a two hour and ten minute film. Although fans of the original may have been incensed by this adaptation, from what I can tell Rintaro has done a sterling job, creating an epic sci-fi tale with elements of the revenge western. It follows the tale of Tetsuro, a young boy who is out to avenge the murder of his mother and will do anything to obtain a ticket for the Galaxy Express, a space train that only visits Earth once a year. He manages this through an apparently chance encounter with Maetel, a strange woman who bears an uncanny resemblance to Tetsuro's late mother. Together, the two go in search of the evil Count Mecha, with Tetsuro determined to obtain the machine-body that will make him strong enough to fight the Count But what is the real price of this transformation.

While the original series saw Tetsuro and Maetel visit over a hundred planets in their quest, 'Galaxy Express 999' the movie condenses this to just 4. Although this does mean that the narrative has to include some incredible fortuitous coincidences, the story never seems less than epic and the sometimes limited animation is disguised in the fantastic artwork and sprawling space settings.
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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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People who added this item 7 Average listal rating (3 ratings) 9 IMDB Rating 7.5
Foam Bath (1980)
The only feature length film by painter/animator Gyorgy Kovasznai, 'Habfurdo' ('Foam Bath') is one of the most bizarre animated features I've ever seen (although Pannonia Studios already had a track record with the notably barmy 'Hugo the Hippo'). A contemporary adult musical which largely takes place in one small room, 'Foam Bath' tells the story of a nervous wreck of a bridegroom who visits the roommate of his would-be-bride in an attempt to get her to call off his wedding because he can't stand his betrothed's family. Their overwrought dialogue is punctuated by strange, upbeat little songs and all sorts of loopy animation techniques which make for a fascinating and somewhat unsettling experience, even as the film takes a surprisingly sharp turn into farce. Unlike any animated feature you'll have ever seen, 'Foam Bath' is certainly an acquired taste but animation enthusiasts should find much to enjoy in its bold design and absurd combination of slim plot and tongue-in-cheek musical accompaniment.
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People who added this item 3 Average listal rating (1 ratings) 9 IMDB Rating 6.7
I Go Pogo (1980)
Marc Paul Chinoy's stop-motion adaptation of the Pogo comic strips of Walt Kelly, 'I Go Pogo' is often decried by fans of Kelly as not being as delicately witty as its source material. Not being familiar with the Pogo comic strips myself, I can only go on what is on screen but I really enjoyed it. Although the political satire is undoubtedly heavy-handed in places and the incessant background music annoying, the script is very funny, the voice cast (including Vincent Price and Stan Freberg) is excellent and the simple clay models utterly charming. While Will Vinton is often cited as making the first Claymation feature with his classic 'The Adventures of Mark Twain', 'I Go Pogo' might just have the claim on having beaten him to the punch.
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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 10 Average listal rating (1 ratings) 8 IMDB Rating 7
Based on John Gardner's novel 'Grendel', which retells the 'Beowulf' legend from the point of view of the monster Grendel, Alexander Stitt's very funny and unusual Australian animation should please adults and children alike. For adults there is the cerebral subject matter (a small amount of knowledge about 'Beowulf' helps a great deal) and the voice talents of Peter Ustinov as the titular monster. For children there are the antics the daft inhabitants of the kingdom and the simple but effective animation style which is colourful and pleasingly basic.

As an adult with an actively nurtured inner-child, 'Grendel Grendel Grendel' appealed to me across the board. True, there are a handful of seriously awful musical numbers to get through but those aside, I smiled all the way through this film. It evoked childhood favourite like 'Danger Mouse', 'Count Duckula' and 'Victor and Hugo', albeit with a greater literary underpinning. Given its overall tone, the final emotionally affecting moments are surprising but fitting and effective.
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Despite his high critical standing, I've never been able to warm to the animated features of Rene Laloux. 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 32 Average listal rating (19 ratings) 7.8 IMDB Rating 7.9
Perhaps the most internationally revered of all the great films to come out of Hungary's Pannonia Studio, Marcell Jankovics's 'Son of White Mare' is even more visually stunning than his debut 'Johnny Corncob'. While 'Johnny Corncob' had revelled in kaleidoscopic imagery heavily influenced by 60s psychedelia, 'Son of White Mare' takes things to the next level with burningly vivid visuals that you can barely believe could be sustained throughout a whole feature. Although there is an entertaining plot involving heroes, dragons and princesses here to keep viewers watching, the real attraction is the amazing animation, with symbolism, suggestion and eyeball-scorching colour pushed to the forefront. An amazing work.
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People who added this item 192 Average listal rating (91 ratings) 7.6 IMDB Rating 7.9
'The Plague Dogs', from the makers of the darkly brilliant 'Watership Down' and based on another Richard Adams book, is an unbelievably depressing animated film squarely aimed at adults with little concession to children. And it's all the better for it. While it may not be as regularly rewatchable as 'Watership Down', 'The Plague Dogs' has much to say about man's capacity for animal cruelty and it doesn't fudge the message with any cutesy or comic asides.

Following the adventures of a pair of laboratory dogs who escape (although one of them, Snitter, has clearly been operated on already and is somewhat mentally affected) but find surviving in the outside world difficult, especially when they must also evade their former captors who are tracking them across the countryside, 'The Plague Dogs' goes much further than 'Watership Down'. Death hangs even heavier in the air with five prominent deaths throughout the film (including an unforgettably grim moment in which a man is accidentally shot in the face), and the swearing that was restricted to 'Piss off' in 'Watership Down' is stronger here too. There are parrallels. The look of the film is similar to 'Watership Down' and John Hurt returns as the voice of Snitter, but 'The Plague Dogs' is a film to approach with caution. Animation fans should find much to appreciate but animal lovers and the easily upset will have a harrowing time.
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People who added this item 489 Average listal rating (253 ratings) 7.4 IMDB Rating 7.5
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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People who added this item 721 Average listal rating (459 ratings) 7.6 IMDB Rating 7.6
Former Disney animator Don Bluth, dismayed by Disney's cost-cutting techniques at the expense of quality, left the studio taking eight other animators with him and set up his own studio with the intention of returning animation to its golden age. The first film Bluth directed, 'The Secret of NIMH', is usually considered his best. It is certainly a cut above many of the Disney films from the era, which saw the studio degenerating into 'Black Cauldron' badness.

Although it was produced on a tighter budget, 'The Secret of NIMH' is an extremely beautiful film and a good deal more entertaining than much of Bluth's disappointing subsequent output ('An American Tail' aside). But it also exhibits some of the awkward features that mar most of Bluth's films, including vague and wandering plotting and a maddening insistence on always casting Dom DeLuise! With the benefit of hindsight 'The Secret of NIMH' seems like a glimpse of what could have been if Bluth had only worked with stronger screenplays.
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People who added this item 55 Average listal rating (31 ratings) 7.4 IMDB Rating 7
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 19 Average listal rating (5 ratings) 6.6 IMDB Rating 7.1
Directed by John Korty and produced by George Lucas, 'Twice Upon a Time' is a wonderful and wonderfully weird comedy adventure. Using a primitive but effective style of animation in which plastic cutouts are moved on a light table, 'Twice Upon a Time' feels like a companion piece to 'Grendel Grendel Grendel' in its easy charm, its combination of the silly and clever and its winning simplicity.

Although the story is all over the place (intentionally and not to the film's detriment), 'Twice Upon a Time' is often hilarious in its non-sequiturs, beautifully delivered by a voice cast made up mostly of improvisational comedians. Animation fans will probably recognise Lorenzo Music (who voiced Garfield and Peter Venkman in 'The Real Ghostbusters') as Ralph the All-Purpose Animal, a droll shape-shifter who acts as the film's unlikely hero. Also excellent are Judith Kahan as a down-to-earth Fairy Godmother and Marshall Efron as the villain of the piece, Synonamess Botch. Best of all though is James Cranna in the roles of Scuzzbopper (gotta love those names), a shrill voiced jester, and hysterically self-centred and useless superhero Rod Rescueman.

Although some may find it overwhelmingly weird at first (the film opens with some of its most outlandishly illogical narrative backflips, such as Ralph and Mumford's attempts to take out the trash), once you settle into the film's rhythm and style it is a treat throughout. 'Twice Upon a Time' is currently hard to come by due to its release in several versions, including one featuring some swearing which director John Korty has long attempted to suppress. My advice would be to watch any version of this lovely film, should you be so lucky as to stumble on the opportunity.
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People who added this item 24 Average listal rating (12 ratings) 7.8 IMDB Rating 7.8
This TV-movie adaptation of Kenneth Grahame's classic novel was made by the great Cosgrove Hall Films, the British animation studio that made some of the best TV shows of my youth including 'Danger Mouse', 'Count Duckula', 'Victor and Hugo' and 'Chorlton and the Wheelies'. In comparison with Disney's 1949 adaptation, this version of 'The Wind in the Willows' is far more faithful to the text, its languid pace allowing us time to appreciate the beauty of the riverbank settings that were so crucial to the atmosphere of Grahame's source novel.

The stop-motion puppets are intricately designed and brought to life in terrifically crafted countryside settings. The animation is dated but still impressive and the realisation of the songs that are actually written in the text is wonderful, particularly Toad's triumphant recital of 'When the Toad Came Home' as he marches to battle. Only three chapters from the original book are omitted (including, somewhat surprisingly, the second half of Toad's daring escape from prison, which I can only assume was left out due to budgetary concerns) but all three of them were eventually adapted as stand-alone episodes of the successful TV series that Cosgrove Hall went on to make with the same puppets and sets. Such close adherence to the text makes it slightly disappointing and surprising that the film strays at the climax and recreates Disney's revised and crass 'here-we-go-again' finale, although if the subsequent TV series was already planned then I suppose it was necessary to establish that Toad was not a reformed character.
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People who added this item 3 Average listal rating (1 ratings) 8 IMDB Rating 6.9
Abra Cadabra (1983)
Graphic designer Alexander Stitt is one of the great hidden treasures of the animated feature. His solitary two films are utterly unique and the sort of unexpected gems that are a joy to unearth. The second and sadly last,'Abra Cadabra', is a witty take on the Pied Piper story only with added space wizards! The visual style is quite unlike any other animated feature I've come across, completely forsaking inking in favour of bold colour splodges of characters. The script is witty with plenty for both children and adults, without resorting to the cheap nudge-wink veiled dirty jokes and adult references that are par for the course in modern, less sure-footed animated films. A series of tongue in cheek reaction-captions punctuate the action, flashing up comments like 'GOODNESS!' in big white letters at key dramatic moments. The humour draws on both pantomime and modern satire and the fleeting musical numbers are all adapted from famous nursery rhymes or other well known traditional songs. These disparate ingredients knit together wonderfully into an utterly charming whole.
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People who added this item 81 Average listal rating (49 ratings) 7.8 IMDB Rating 7.5
Although he may note be a household name, Will Vinton is one of the most important names in the development of stop motion animation during the 70s and 80s. Coining the term 'Claymation' to describe his striking clay sculptures, Vinton's film are exquisitely organic. You can see that these creations are lumps of clay and yet you believe in them completely and the visible nature of the process somehow makes the results even more appealing. Vinton had already been nominated for several Oscars for his short works (winning in 1974 for the seminal 'Closed Mondays') and the following year he would create his most popular on-going characters in the shape of The California Raisins. In between these achievements, Vinton's feature length masterpiece 'The Adventures of Mark Twain' somehow slipped through the cracks.

Right from the outset, 'The Adventures of Mark Twain' is a beautiful creation. We see a book open and spew forth a torrent of clay water which forms into the Mississippi river. It also quickly becomes apparent why the film failed to make much of a commercial impact. Despite its jaw-dropping visuals, it is too cerebral a creation for most, not to mention its over-reliance on the audience's familiarity with the life and works of Mark Twain. The narrative combines a Jules Verne-esque adventure starring Mark Twain and his creations Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn and Becky Thatcher with snippets from Twain's writings and a psychological exploration of the author himself. Some segments, such as the version of Twain's first short story 'The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County' or the adaptation of 'The Diaries of Adam and Eve', are instantly appealing for all viewers (although the target audience is adults over children) while others, particularly the infamously creepy 'Mysterious Stranger' sequence, are baffling to anyone without some idea of Twain's oeuvre. The main throughline, which follows Twain's attempts to catch up with Haley's Comet in a self-designed airship, is dense with references to Twain's life, with much of the dialogue culled from his famous quotes. When I first saw 'The Adventures of Mark Twain' I knew little of the author and found it almost completely confusing. The visuals were so gorgeous however that I resolved to learn more about Twain in order to better appreciate the film. This lead me to the wonders of Twain's work and in doing so introduced me to one of my favourite authors. Happily, when I returned to 'The Adventures of Mark Twain' richer for having read some of Twain's novels and read up on the life of the man himself, I found the film much easier to follow and a complete delight. My advice to any animation lovers would be to seek this film out but maybe study a little Mark Twain first. You won't regret it.
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People who added this item 1121 Average listal rating (708 ratings) 7 IMDB Rating 6.9
Don Bluth's second animated feature has all the usual problems of a Bluth production (wandering plot, weak characterisation) but at this stage Bluth's desires to create something akin to Disney's golden age were still driving him to make interesting work. While the story is slight, it moves quickly and the visuals, though inconsistent in quality, are often beautiful.

'An American Tail' is not as visually arresting as Bluth's debut 'The Secret of NIMH' but it is an easier, lighter watch. The darker edge of the earlier film is still apparent, not least in the ingenious musical sequence 'There Are No Cats in America', in which various mice recall the murders of their loved ones by cats in mournful verses, only to undermine any pathos with the joyous chorus. However, the film feels overall like a step towards the more conventional, not least in its inclusion of songs, which were absent from '...NIMH'. One of these songs, the ballad 'Somewhere Out There', has managed to become more famous than the film itself, so much so that many people believe it to be a Disney number.
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People who added this item 218 Average listal rating (94 ratings) 7.5 IMDB Rating 7.8
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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People who added this item 48 Average listal rating (18 ratings) 7.8 IMDB Rating 8
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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People who added this item 41 Average listal rating (21 ratings) 7 IMDB Rating 8.4
Cat City (1986)
The charmingly witty and simple 'Cat City' is a Hungarian animated feature from director Bela Ternovszky which parodies gangster and spy films, notably the James Bond franchise. It's simple plot, involving a mouse agent's attempts to obtain the secret plans for a machine that could save his species from the feline domination of their planet, is peppered with humorous digressions, such as a vicious cat crimelord and his snivelling feline underling's attempts to find an equivalent weapon or the hiring of a completely ineffectual group of gangster rats to dispose of the hero.

'Cat City's trump card is its confidence in its own simplicity. The animation is not dazzling but it is energetically alive and charming; the story is wantonly cliché-ridden but plays up to these tropes and humorously subverts them. Although it's not quite the masterpiece its most avid fans would have you believe (a small group of IMDB users are adamant that it deserves a place in the top 250 films ever made), 'Cat City' is a gem of undiscovered feature animation that adults and children should enjoy in equal measure, even if the original Hungarian puns that apparently litter the film are indecipherable to foreign viewers.
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People who added this item 450 Average listal rating (256 ratings) 6.8 IMDB Rating 7.3
Once upon a time, two Disney animation employees had the idea of making an animated film using computer generated 3D backgrounds. They took their idea to two high-level Disney executives who dismissed the idea on the grounds that it would be too costly. The executives felt so strongly about this that a few minutes after the meeting they informed one of the employees that his job had been terminated. That man was John Lasseter and that movie was 'The Brave Little Toaster'.

Although this story immediately provokes a feeling of outrage, animation fans like myself have a lot to thank Disney for. Their termination of Lasseter allowed him to pursue his interest in computer animation by setting up Pixar, a company who would eventually go on to make some of the greatest animated films of all time and put Disney's contemporary output completely in the shade. Their rejection of 'The Brave Little Toaster' also meant that it was taken instead to the independent Hyperion Pictures and made into an infinitely more charming, energetic and original production than would have been produced under Disney at this time.


'The Brave Little Toaster' is an indie film in the truest sense, produced against the odds but with a creative freedom that would doubtless have been reduced by studio interference. Disney backed the film by purchasing the television and video rights and Hyperion managed to gain further backing from a couple of other investors but the film went into production with a budget of only $2.3 million, compared to an average of $24 for Disney animated features of the time and about $12 million for Don Bluth films. Consequently, the animation has a cheap TV look to it but this is rendered entirely superfluous by the ample charm, energy and wit that characterises everything about 'The Brave Little Toaster'.

Based on the novel of the same name by Thomas M. Disch, 'The Brave Little Toaster' follows the adventures of five outdated appliances who have been abandoned by their "master" in his family's former home, a country cabin. Sick of waiting in false hope for his return, the appliances decide to set out on a journey to the city to track their master down. It sounds like a fairly standard, kiddy film concept but 'The Brave Little Toaster' actually turns out to have dark, melancholy atmosphere constantly bristling beneath its brightly rendered surface.

The melancholy and peril in 'The Brave Little Toaster' is more than balanced out by the cheeriness and originality of its comedy, the brightness and inventiveness of its visuals and the sweetness of its message. 'The Brave Little Toaster' is a film that transcends its modest budget to lodge itself in the viewers' hearts and minds. It certainly never left John Lasseter's head and proved to be a major influence on the classic 'Toy Story' series (1995-2010), with 'Toy Story 3' particularly betraying a strong influence. 'The Brave Little Toaster' is one of those rare 80s cartoons that is exactly as good as, if not better than, you remembered thanks to its refusal to talk down to children and its multiple age-range appeal. Whatever age you happen to be, it's not too late to discover this remarkable film for the first time.
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'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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As an obsessive lover of the medium of animation, I have always loved the masterworks of Disney, the modern classics of Pixar and the breathtaking Japanese animated films of Studio Ghibli. Most people are familiar with the films from these three sources but to stop at that is to miss out on whole other worlds of animated brilliance. This is my attempt to compile as definitive a list of the lesser known animated feature films I love as possible. The only rule is that they cannot be the work of any of the three studios named above and I must deem the films worthy of inclusion (you'll notice many famous absences, including the overrated 'Shrek' series and the horrendous mess that was 'Happy Feet'). I intend to keep adding to this list as I see more of these gems so if you have any suggestions or recommendations please leave a comment and I will endeavour to follow them up.

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Comments

Posted: 4 years, 9 months ago at Jan 3 17:19
Since it was largely a Disney production I couldn't include it
Posted: 4 years, 7 months ago at Feb 28 17:45
Might I also suggest The Transformers: The Movie (1986)? Far better than the real life feature films of today *hangs head* Great list, by the way!
Posted: 4 years, 7 months ago at Mar 1 1:52
You ever gotten around to Vampire Hunter D bloodlust or Sword of the stranger?
Posted: 4 years, 7 months ago at Mar 1 3:51
Wonderful list! :D
Posted: 4 years, 7 months ago at Mar 1 10:50
Awesome! Any love for Anastasia or Titan A.E.?
Posted: 4 years, 7 months ago at Mar 1 11:19
One of the best lists on this site, by far.

Suggest that you check some east european and soviet/russian animation as well.

And I think you would enjoy Laloux's works: Forbidden Planet, Time Masters and Gandahar.
Posted: 4 years, 7 months ago at Mar 1 12:37
Love this list!!!
Awesome movies here, some of them I didn't hear about!!
Thanks for let me know about them..
Watership Down scare me so much when I was a child!!!
why don' t you add some Soviet animation films like the "Snow Queen"??
http://www.listal.com/movie/the-snow-queen-1957
Or some "Pannonia Film Studio" (the best Hungarian cartoon producing company) Like Vuk??
http://www.listal.com/movie/vuk-1981
Or the fantastic cartoon By Italian cartoonist
Enzo D'Alò(LUcky and Zorba)
http://www.listal.com/movie/lucky-and-zorba
Posted: 4 years, 7 months ago at Mar 1 14:52
Definitely one of the best lists about animated features. Great work!
Posted: 4 years, 7 months ago at Mar 2 18:10
Great work!
Posted: 4 years, 7 months ago at Mar 3 11:01
Thanks guys, for both the suggestions and the love for the list. It was a bit of a labour of love for me and I had a great time compiling it. I'll try and get around to adding to it some more sometime too.
Posted: 4 years, 3 months ago at Jul 3 22:39
Great list! For suggestions, I recommend watching Arashi No Yoru Ni( One Stormy Night)and Piano Forest when you have the chance.
Posted: 4 years, 3 months ago at Jul 4 3:51
Posted: 3 years, 4 months ago at Jun 8 16:18
Wonderful list
Posted: 3 years, 2 months ago at Aug 15 0:42
I loved, loved, loved this list
Posted: 3 years ago at Oct 1 3:12
Perfect Blue, The Prince of Egypt, El Dorado, Boxtrolls, Paranorman, Anastasia, The Swan Princess
Posted: 1 year, 4 months ago at May 24 0:57
Thanks for putting together this list. Sadly, almost none of these are available on Netflix, Amazon Prime, OR Hulu.

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