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.
80. Ernest And Celestine
“Like Ernest goes to camp but Ernest is a bear and the camp is a mouse that comes to him. So not like Ernest goes to camp at all, really.”
When Bruce Lee coined the phrase “simplicity is the key to brilliance”, I guarantee he never thought it would be the foundation on which a film about a mouse and a bear becoming friends would be born but here we are. There’s many words you can use to describe Ernest and Celestine. Whimsical is a good one and so is charming but I think on the whole, the best word to sum up this film is simple.
For some reason, the word simple has developed negative connotations over the years. It’s used to describe things that are too easy or people who are too slow. But back in the day, simple meant uncomplicated. A film with a simple plot usually meant it was a film the entire family could see. It’s the difference between the Maltese Falcon and the Wizard of Oz.
Ernest and Celestine is simple and according to Bruce Lee, that’s one step away from brilliance baby.
79. Peter Pan
“Let’s just pretend ‘What makes the red man red’ isn’t in this, shall we?”
When J.M Barrie originally pitched his idea for the play this film would eventually be based on, he was called crazy by everyone that heard it. There’s mirrored lights and tiny bells standing in for the main fairy, there’s an adult woman playing a young boy and a papier-mâché crocodile that desperately wants to eat a pirate.
That sounds pretty terrible on paper. It sounds like the early 1900’s version of Spider-Man: Turn of the Dark (remember that shit show) but because Barrie was a genius, he made it work.
Cut to half a century later and Disney is frothing at the bit to get a piece of that sweet money pie but since he too, was a genius, he decided to make the whole thing animated.
Tinkerbell was no longer a light, she was a fully realized, three dimensional character. Peter was no longer a young woman being hoisted around like a marionette puppet anymore. The play is amazing and it spawned a book. The book was amazing and it inspired the movie. The movie is amazing and nothing has topped it yet. This is the definitive version of this story.
78. The Secret Of NIMH
“Why isn’t there a parody of this called The Secret of Leonard NIMHoy?”
This is one of the most important animated films ever made. In 1979, after working with the Disney company off and on for over 20 years, Don Bluth (along with 9 other animators) left the studio to start his own production company.
This was the first film he made.
It carries with it, not only the burden of adaptation (it’s based on the novel Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH) but the weight of independence. This was the first film from the first studio that challenged the house of mouse and in a day and age where Mickey has a complete monopoly over all things, that needs to be commended.
Imagine if a small team broke away from Marvel and started cranking out their own superhero films. And then imagine that those films were as good as the MCU. It’s almost inconceivable but that’s what Bluth did. And because of his astronomically large balls, The Secret of NIMH easily earns a spot on this list.
77. Alice In Wonderland
“Why is a raven like a writing desk?”
There’s a popular theory that the author of Alice in Wonderland was also Jack the Ripper. Conspiracy theorists state his missing journals, his predilection towards young women and his insane novels as evidence. It’s a fun theory but it’s all poppycock.
Lewis Carroll wasn’t Jack the Ripper nor did he write the novel to seduce a young woman by the name of Alice. He actually wrote the book as a satire against mathematics.
Take a minute to look over his Wikipedia page. A couple of things will instantly pop out at you. First– his name isn’t Lewis Carroll. Second–he was a reverend. And lastly– the word mathematician is all over that page.
If, for some reason you’re still on his page, take a look at the other novels he wrote that didn’t involve talking caterpillars. They’re all math books.
When you look at the dates of when he wrote Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland against when math was starting to change, you’ll notice that they line up perfectly. His novel was a reaction to what he probably referred to as “bullshit crazy math.”
That means your favorite film to quote while high on the devil’s weed, was actually written by an angry nerd who loved math sooo much, he needed to troll the new academia with a book that made them all look like crazy fools.
To quote Adventure Time, “that’s mathematical!”
“We were somewhere around Barstow, on the edge of the desert, when the drugs began to take hold.”
Instead of recording voice-overs in booths, every actor acted out every scene of this film in character. They didn’t rotoscope or mo-cap the actors, they just used the footage as visual aid to help the animators. So there’s a version of this film that’s entirely live action with minimal sets and actors playing multiple parts. As a fan of the film Dogville, the minimalist approach really fascinates me.
But that’s not the film we got. Instead, we got Chinatown by way of Hunter S. Thompson. A surrealistic western for children, this film defies logic. It should not exist. Kids haven’t dug westerns in about 50 years and they never (trust me, I speak from experience) liked Chinatown. But against all odds, this film works and works like a charm.
75. Yellow Submarine
“We all live in a yellow submarine.”
Far too crazy to be dismissed as a simple vanity project, Yellow Submarine was the last film project the fab four collaborated on together (not including the documentary Let It Be, which you can only find on vhs) and they definitely saved the craziest for last.
Instead of an actual script, the film feels like it was made up by a Beatles themed Mad Libs, where all the answers involve the Beatles and and the questions are the Beatles. The plot is literally a string of Beatles songs connected to other Beatles songs.
- They pick up Ringo in Liverpool (Eleanor Rigby)
- They ride around a Yellow Submarine
- They have to save Sgt. Pepper and his lonely Hearts Club Band
- They meet the Nowhere Man
- They travel through time and the band sings ‘When I’m 64’
- John gets catapulted into the sky, so naturally he sings Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
And on and on and on. It’s an animated greatest hits album with some of the trippiest visuals of its time. If you’re a fan of the Beatles, this is cat nip but for all others, stay far, far away.
74. The Tale Of The Fox
“The Fantastic(ally mischievous) Mr. Fox”
Practically unknown outside of Germany and France, Reynard the Fox’s origins trace back to Germanic lore from 1170. He’s a mischievous trickster that loves fucking shit up. His stories usually involve either fucking with the church or fucking with the aristocracy. Or both.
He gives no shits.
He’s such a popular character, that he starred in a film that came out 8 months before Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Which if you’re not a math nerd means he was around for 760 years. That’s an abnormally long life for a character who’s sole characteristic is to fuck with people.
Fun Fact: Disney actually thought about making a film about Reynard but ultimately decided he was too much of an asshole to be considered the hero. But years later, he would actually be used as inspiration in the designs of both Robin Hood and Nick the Fox from Zootopia.
73. 101 Dalmatians
“This vampire bat, this inhuman beast / She ought to be locked up and never released / The world was such a wholesome place until / Cruella, Cruella De Vil.”
If you collected each villain from Disney’s vast rogues gallery and put them in a room together, no one would sit next to Cruella De Vil. There’s far more despicable characters and some that are legitimately evil but there’s no defending puppy murder. It’s terrible and frankly, a waste of a puppy. Chinchillas are way fucking softer. They bathe in dust. Dust! Fascinating.
This film saved the studio. Sleeping Beauty was such a box office disappointment, that there were strong talks about closing the animation department. That is until Ub Iwerks came in and saved the day.
He modified a Xerox camera to transfer drawings by animators directly to animation cells, eliminating inking, which saved an enormous amount of time and money.
That technical advancement was so revolutionary, that it changed the industry forever and earned him an honorary Oscar.
So not only did Ub Iwerks create the mouse that created the studio, he would eventually create the machine that would save it from financial ruin. He created and saved Disney and you don’t even know his name. Shame on you.
72. The Adventures Of Tintin
“Not to be confused with The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin.”
If the proposed trilogy ever happens and the sequels are as good as this one, I’d have no problem declaring this the greatest adventure series ever made.
Yes, even over Indiana Jones.
Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson and Edgar Wright came together to collaborate on an adventure film and not a single person in America gave a shit. We constantly bemoan the lack of original films being produced and regularly decry Spielberg for becoming lazy but he turned in a film that’s so energetic and fun, it comfortably sits alongside his best action films. It drives me crazy that there’s three fucking Despicable Me films (suffice it to say, Despicable Me nor the Minions will be making an appearance on this list) and we couldn’t get one sequel to this.
Spielberg never lost it. We just stopped caring.
71. The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh
“Wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in their enchanted place on top of the forest, a little bear will always be waiting.”
For my money, Winnie the Pooh is synonymous with Disney. As much as I love Mickey, Donald and Goofy, they don’t hold a candle to the Pooh and the gang. There’s something about these characters that’s universal. Whether there’s any truth to the myth that each character represents a specific mental disorder, I.E; Pigglet=anxiety, Tigger=ADHD, Eeyore=Depression, Rabbit= OCD, et cetera, I have no idea but that myth is somewhat believable.
I believe children gain a better understanding of themselves because of these characters. Because each character trait is present. There’s the hyper active Tigger and the nervous Piglet and the annoying ass Gopher. Each and every child can identify with at least one of these characters. They’re universal.
Mickey, Donald and Goofy don’t have that sane appeal. No kid sees himself in Mickey Mouse. A kid may like Mickey but he doesn’t see himself as Mickey. There’s plenty of kids who either see themselves as Tigger or want to be Tigger.
They’re amazing characters that will definitely stand the test of time.
TTFN= Ta Ta For Now.