Animation is not a genre. It is an artform. Western is a genre. action is a genre. Animation can be anything. It can tell any story and be anything. (Next person to call it a genre gets punched in the face)
Two of the worst camps of people are:
- People that automatically dismiss animation as a children’s medium
- People that argue that film isn’t art because it’s the byproduct of multiple collaborators and not a singular vision
Which is ironic considering the process of making an animated film consists of a rapid succession of hand drawn images in a sequential order. Which is to say, every frame of an animated film is a work of literal art. And it might be the most important artform because as Bird put it, an animated film can be anything.
Not only is every genre available, animation affords artists the canvas in which to create anything. There’s always a level of suspension of disbelief when it comes to live action that animation never suffers from. Animation taps into the primordial part of our brains that separates the real and the unreal, the logic and the surreal.
We subconsciously understand that since real people aren’t involved, the rules are different. There’s no other art form that speaks to every generation and culture.
Because imagination is universal. And this list will be a celebration of the makers of imagination.
This is The 100 Greatest Animated Films Of All Time.
20. Finding Nemo
“Little Nemo’s adventures in aqua land.”
I’ve mentioned my theoretical Disney three part strategy of success multiple times already but they’re not the only studio with a gameplan. Pixar has their own three step formula to gold town.
- The cast can be as big as you want but the main focal point has to be a duo.
- Randy Newman.
- Make em cry.
Now, their three step formula is a bit more loosey goosey than Disney’s but the first step is set in stone. Every single film with the exception of Brave and A Bug’s Life has a duo as the main characters. Wall-E mixes it up and has the duo be a romantic pair but every other film is pulling the ol’ Abbott and Costello. One straight man and one yuckster.
They’ve had a ton of great pairings over the years but for my money, none can top Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneres in Finding Nemo. Woody and Buzz are more iconic and Mike and Sully are probably funnier? but there’s something about Marlin and Dory that hit all the right buttons.
19. Ghost In The Shell
“The live action remake is painful.”
If there was a holy trinity of anime, Ghost in the Shell would totally be the son or at the very least the holy ghost. Whichever one is the least important. It doesn’t have the extreme imagery of hentai nor the iconography of an Akira but Ghost in the Shell is one of the founding fathers of the genre. Coming out long before the Pokemons and Naruto’s made anime mainstream, Ghost in the Shell was far ahead of the curve in terms of filling that niche. And fill that niche it does.
This film and it’s universe has been ripped off so many times, that the live action version was cursed from the start. Imagine a world without The Matrix. Because that film doesn’t exist without them being “inspired” by this film first. Who knew a film about a naked Japanese robot would prove to be so popular.
18. The Nightmare Before Christmas
“Say it with me- ‘Tim Burton did not direct this movie.'”
I wonder what Tim Burton’s career would look like if Disney had any faith in his talents back in the day. In 1982, Burton pitched a couple of film projects based on the short films he had made (Hanzel and Gretel and Frankenweenie) and the poem he had wrote (The Nightmare Before Christmas) but Disney took one look at his Robert Smith looking ass and said no dice. A decade later, after the success of both Beetlejuice and Batman, Disney went ahead and threw handfuls of money at him till he made the film. then waited another 20 years to ask him to make Frankenweenie. And now he’s producing nothing but Disney remakes.
I know hindsight is 20/20 but whoever passed on him originally must have golf balls with googly eyes glued to them for eyes. I’m still waiting for his version of Hansel and Gretel to finally get produced. It’s only been over two decades.
17. Grave Of The Fireflies
“Depression: The Movie.”
In 1988, Studio Ghibli pulled a Spielberg. They released two films back-to-back, an adventure film for the whole family (Jurassic Park, My Neighbor Totoro) and than an unflinching look at war (Schindler’s List, Grave of the Fireflies.) It was a great year for animation but a terrible year for parents assuming this film was fire children.
Much like Watership Down, Grave of the Fireflies couldn’t be further from a children’s film if it tried. Dealing with the ramifications of war on children, the film is brutally realistic and heartbreakingly sad. It’s not an easy watch but it might be one of the most important films ever made.
“The transformation scene in this is scarier than any werewolf scene.”
I’ve read many a theory about how this film is a metaphor for puberty–theorists point to his nose as an obvious phallic symbol and the donkey transformation scene is out of control hormones–but I think it’s story is pretty straightforward and not subtle in the slightest. It’s all about how Hollywood destroys child actors.
No masturbation parables or hidden anti semantic imagery ‘the nose is uncut and that fish is clearly not kosher.’ Just a warning to children that acting in Hollywood will destroy you. Everything bad happens once Pinocchio decides to run away to become a theater whore. The whale symbolizes the machine that will chew you up and spit you out and the carnival is clearly Hollywood, where every vice is celebrated and the whole place is run by jackasses.
“Funny Donkey quote inserted here.”
Starting life as a Chris Farley vehicle, the producers had to scrap all of his dialogue–which was estimated to be anywhere from 70 to 90% complete–after his untimely death. Deciding to recast the role instead ditching the project, the producers eventually cast Farley’s Saturday Night Live co-star Mike Myers and the rest was history.
That is until he saw a rough cut and hated his own voice. Before he decided to go with the now iconic Scottish accent for the role, Myers went through three different accents and actually halted production to re-record all of his dialogue three different times till he found the right voice. It cost the studio millions and he almost got fired and sued. But then the producers heard the voice and the rest was history.
Moral of the story: Canadians can get away with anything.
14. The Incredibles
“The single greatest superhero film to date.”
I think, more than almost any other animated film, this should be taught in film schools as the perfect example of plotting and character. Every character is fully formed and believable. They all have goals and an arc. There are no superfluous characters and there’s not a single toy character in sight. Admittedly their powers being tied directly to their personalities is a bit on the nose but that’s a minor quibble. That’s like complaining that Wall-E looks a little too much like Johnny-5. It’s barely a complaint.
My only real complaint is that there’s not enough Frozone. That’s honest to god the only issue I have with this film. Not enough of the great shit. I think it’s their most re-watchable, most entertaining, best written film they’ve ever made. Which is going to need some explaining considering there’s three Pixar films ahead of it but just accept that you’ll never understand the complex algorithm and just move onto the next entry.
13. The Little Mermaid
“It’s better down where it’s wetter is a pick up line for women only. Do not use this line if you are a man.”
I feel like the tide has been slowly turning on this film over the last couple of years. I’ve heard a lot of complaints regarding the fact that Ariel does nothing at the end and that Eric has to save her and how superficial their love is considering she never says anything to him and blah blah blah.
Here are the facts kids:
- The songs are top notch perfection
- Ursula is based on Divine, which is fucking amazing
- Ariel is the hottest Disney princess
- There’s a dick on the cover of the original VHS, which is punk as hell
- The animal sidekicks aren’t terrible
If you dislike this film because you’ve heard the soundtrack a million times, I understand. If you hate it because Ariel is annoying as hell through most of the running time, I can understand that but if getting upset that a Disney princess doesn’t hold up to microscopic scrutiny, well brother, I only have one thing to say to you:
Stop being a snarfblatt.
“Dumbo is not his name. It’s a nickname like Rocky or Indiana Jones. His real name is Damblo: the wonder donkey.”
If you were to ask a group of random shlubs what their favorite Disney film is, the answers would usually depend on their age. Kids love the Frozen and Moana, teenagers love the Little Mermaid and Aladdin (and the Nightmare Before Christmas but that’s not a goddamn Disney movie) and the older crowd might pick a Lion King or Beauty and the Beast (because 30 is old now. Goddamn millennials taken all the stuff) but you ask a group of professional animators or artists and they’ll always go Dumbo.
There’s something about this film that resonates with people within the industry. Leonard Maltin loves it. The nine old men considered it the “bee’s knees” or “the cat’s tits” or whatever the fuck old people used to call shit. Goddamn old people with their slang.
Oh and this is the only Disney film to harness the incredible talents of voice god Mel Blanc. That’s probably why all the old people love it. They know what’s up.
11. Toy Story 3
“An animated Schindler’s List.”
With each and every new Pixar release, it feels as though the Monty Python foot is going to come crashing down obliterating their perfect track record. Some would argue that Cars was the first sign that the studio wasn’t infallible but considering it made more money in merchandising than every other film they made (not including Toy Story) combined, I would argue against it being a misfire. Each film somehow feels better than the one before it and they started with a masterpiece. It is one of the best track records any studio has ever had but all good things eventually come to an end and so too were the kings of animation eventually, well not dethroned because they’re still amazing but the crown is getting a bit rusty.
And it’s all because of Toy Story 3.
I feel like this film is the perfect amalgamation of every thing they strive for. Characters, story, emotional beats, the humor. It checks every box. It checks the boxes a little too well. This film is their flag in the mountain of animation but the problem with that is, once you hit the top, there’s no where left to go but down. After this, we got unnecessary sequels, unnecessary prequels, two films that had troubled productions and two great films buried in there somewhere.
This might arguably be their best but it also paved the way for their worst.