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.
“Let it go.”
When you’ve grown up on a steady diet of Disney, like I and many others have, you tend to notice the same beats repeated over and over again. I have no way of confirming my theory but (as I’ve mentioned multiple times before) I believe Disney has three rules to success that, with the exception of their 00’s output (shudder), they try and never stray from.
- The film most be about either a princess or anthropomorphic animal.
- It needs a hit song.
- Needs a character you can turn into a toy.
Every single film they make seems to be born under these stipulations. Some integrate the rules well, like Aladdin and Lion King and others are Frozen. Frozen is what happens when the Disney machine breaks and starts Xeroxing itself. Like those memes that started popping up lately that had Seinfeld scripts created by predictive text keyboard, Frozen is almost a parody of itself. It has the princess, it has the superfluous toy character, it has the sassy animal and by god, does it have the song.
But what a song it is.
29. Watership Down
“If you’ve never seen this, make sure you make it a double bill with the Plague Dogs. That’s a good time Saturday night.”
I’m a man of simple pleasures. I’m the living embodiment of those ridiculously cheesy hallmark cards that like to remind of us that “giving is better than receiving.” But the gifts I give are that of film recommendations. Making people watch something crazy that they might not have seen otherwise, is truly the best gift of all. Most of these films fall more into the 80’s cheese side of the spectrum but my all time favorite film to watch with people is Watership Down.
Because if you don’t know, oooooh boy.
First things first, Watership Down is not for children. Look at that poster. That poster is *chef kissing fingers* muah. Beautiful. It lulls you into a false sense of comfort. You’re tricked into believing it’s about a group of cute ass bunnies and it’s not. This film is so over the top violent, it makes the Passion of The Christ look like Jesus Christ Superstar.
That’s not an exaggeration.
You will see bunnies get caught in snare traps, you will see bunnies get torn apart by dogs, you will see them battle to the death. And after you witness the animated horrors that lie within, you’ll immediately want to trick the nearest possible person into watching it.
Preferably a child.
“The cats name is Lucifer. What the hell Disney??”
This is almost the perfect “classic” Disney film. Say what you will about the Disney machine but they know how to make the definitive version of whatever fairy tale their adapting. The Cinderella story has been around forever but it’s impossible to not compare whatever version it is to this one. It really is the gold standard.
But I have to say, there’s a lot of mice action in this. It’s not something you realize when you’re a kid because they’re cute ass rat creatures but as a cynical adult, all I kept thinking was “y’all just milking this clock.” I admire their attempt at stretching the runtime but the film really should be called “Cinderella: Queen of da rats.”
27. Monsters, Inc.
“Kitty! [Cue waterworks]”
One of my major problems with animated films not made by either Disney or Pixar, is the fact that they rely heavily on celebrities to sell their films. Dreamworks is the biggest offender of this but it’s honestly a problem every single studio is guilty of. Take for example last years Sing or The Secret Life of Pets or Trolls. They’re all filled with talented actors but do you honestly think Matthew McConaughey was the best choice to play a down on his luck koala or Justin Timberlake for a morose troll who refuses to sing? I’m not criticizing their acting ability, just the decision to cast them in the first place. You know there wasn’t an audition process is all I’m saying.
When one looks at Monsters, Inc and sees all the time and effort that went into making it as perfect as humanly possible, one can only imagine what this film would’ve been like if Dreamworks made it. They wouldn’t have scrapped the entire story (the original pitch was 100% different. George Sanderson was the lead and was a terrible monster who couldn’t scare anyone until a little girl teaches him how to be scary) and I bet dollars to donuts that Jim Carrey would’ve been cast in the lead. Thank god for Pixar.
26. Wallace And Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit
Since we’re already on the shitting-on-Dreamworks train, might as well use them to segue into this film. They actually suggested that Aardman replace Peter Sallis as the voice of Wallace with that of George Clooney. Sallis was so instrumental to the success of Wallace, that Aardman retried those characters after his death. That would be like a Japanese company buying Disney and then making Mickey Mouse sound more like Beat Takashi. Actually, that’s a pretty awesome idea.
While not as good as the Wrong Trousers (which isn’t long enough to be considered for the list but if it was eligible, it would be in the top five), The Curse of the Were-Rabbit has all of the hallmarks of one of their amazing shorts. Amazing sight gags, clever dialogue and cheese.
And not a single George Clooney in sight.
25. Castle In The Sky
“The original title was Laputa: Castle in the Sky but for obvious reasons, that had to be changed.”
There’s an obvious reason why Miyazaki is beloved by millions of people worldwide. It’s not because he tells the best stories or is the best director, it’s because, much like Spielberg, he’s a master at telling the adventure story. The characters go through a journey and the audience is along for the ride. It’s the purest form of storytelling. Adventure stories are effective because they tap into the imagination unlike any other form of storytelling. They remind us what it was like to be a child, where everything was mysterious and filled with wonder.
Miyazaki has built his entire career out of capturing that imagination and putting it on the big screen. Castle In The Sky is pure imagination fuel. The universe he creates is wholly original and feels like it was designed from the bottom up to appeal to both children and the child inside all of us.
There’s magic, sky pirates, robots that inspired the Iron Giant, floating cities and even James Van Der Beek. What more do you want?
“Rats would be terrible chefs. Now a raccoon…”
There’s something almost hypnotic about the process behind a great chef creating a meal. Watching them pick and prepare the ingredients, deciding which dish would pair better with which wine and so forth. It really is an artform. Ratatouille perfectly captures the hypnotic quality of the artform while also creating a fun, heartwarming story with a great message for kids.
“Anybody can cook.”
Now, taken at face value, the message is that a great chef can come from anywhere but replace chef with any form of artist and the sentiment is still true. Anyone can make great art. In the most important monologue of the film, the villainous food critic (played wonderfully by Peter O’Toole) states:
“…but there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the *new*. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new needs friends.”
That’s what the film is ultimately about. Challenging the status quo. Shaking shit up. Be the *new* the world desperately needs.
23. Toy Story 2
“We should get on our knees and thank the good lord above that the subtitle wasn’t: 2 infinity and beyond”
Speaking of the lord of cinema, man, someone up there really wanted us to see this film. Starting life as a direct to video sequel, Lasseter eventually convinced Eisner that that idea was dumb. Like, really really fucking stupid. No offense to the cats who originally developed it (the premise is actually pretty solid and would totally work) but the direct to video sequels all have, to put it kindly “an air of shit stank” attached to them. They may have saved the studio from financial ruin but they’re not the greatest of films.
But escaping the hellscape of DTV, wouldn’t be the only challenge the film would have to over come.
Somebody working on the film (who I believe has never been identified) accidentally input the wrong code into a computer and deleted the entire fucking film. The film was damn near done and some guy (who, I can’t stress this enough, has never been identified) accidentally deleted the entire film.
But thankfully somebody had the good sense to make a back up copy. The supervising director made a copy to work on it from home because she had recently had a baby. Galyn Susman was so committed to creating an amazing film, that not even her sabbatical could stop her.
Susman might actually be the god of cinema.
“If I hear ‘a whole new world’ in one more goddamn singing competition show, I’m gonna burn down an orphanage on Christmas.”
How the hell is there not a voice acting category at the Oscars? It’s been said numerous times but it bares repeating, Robin Williams gives the greatest voice performance of all time in this film. There is no school in existence that can teach you to ad-lib like Williams. It’s a supernatural gift that only certain people have ever possessed.
He added so much shit to the script, it made the film ineligible for an adapted screenplay nomination. They had over 16 hours of material from his numerous recording sessions. He created one of the most beloved characters in the Disney pantheon from scratch and that’s only one element of this film. This is what all Disney films aspire to be.
Again, why the hell is there no voice acting category at the Oscars?
21. It’s Such A Beautiful Day
“Bill picked up his new medication, went home, and masturbated for seven hours.”
Don Hertzfeldt is a fucking genius. That word gets thrown around a lot but in this case, it actually might be an understatement. He’s been producing hand drawn masterpieces for over 20 years and has gotten better with each new project.
Starting life as three stand alone shorts–Everything Will Be Ok, I Am So Proud Of You, It’s Such A Beautiful Day–Hertzfeldt wisely decided to put them together to form one long story. And what a story it is.
The story is about Bill. Bill is just a normal, run of the mill guy. Nothing spectacular or extraordinary about him. He gets up, does his morning ritual and then goes to work. Wash, rinse, repeat. That is until Bill starts hearing things. And then he starts seeing things.
The film is about mental illness. How the mind can turn on us and how we can fight back. The film is about Bill’s fight against his own mind. Does he win? Does he lose? I can’t say but I can say, regardless of the outcome, Everything will be ok.