We’ve got a pretty straightforward Roundtable topic this week. With ‘Rango’ at the top of last weekend’s box office, and ‘Mars Needs Moms’ opening today, this seems like an appropriate time to take a look at some of our favorite animated films.
We didn’t plan this at all, but once the responses started rolling it, it seems that we all picked animated movies that aren’t yet available on Blu-ray. The movie studios need to correct these oversights as soon as possible.
- ‘Spirited Away‘ – I’m a big fan of Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, and his Oscar award winning film ‘Spirited Away’ is my favorite. It’s a masterpiece from start to finish, and takes a very different approach to the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ type of a story. The animation and storytelling in ‘Spirited Away’ is top notch, and it’s also a high point for Joe Hishaishi, the John Williams to Miyazaki’s Spielberg. The music in the film is second-to-none. There’s only so much I can say about this film before I fall completely into hyperbole, so I’ll close by saying that if you haven’t seen it, you need to see it. Go. Now.
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
- ‘The Iron Giant‘ – There really aren’t all that many movies I can say this about, but ‘The Iron Giant’ is perfect. This Cold War-era tale about a boy and his 100 ft. tall alien robot is a family movie in the truest sense. The writing is endlessly sharp and clever, respecting both its characters and the intelligence of its audience. An emotional streak radiates from every last frame: the wide-eyed awe of the sight of the Iron Giant, the infectious joy when Hogarth’s towering robot pal first takes flight, and the sincerity of a climactic speech that always leaves me in tears. This story about friendship and acceptance is the movie ‘E.T.’ should’ve been. It’s thrilling, it’s ridiculously fun, its emotions hit like a slug in the gut, and every bit of that is wholly earned. Having a skilled roster of voice actors behind it and such gorgeous visuals also count as checks in the “Win!” column. Hopefully a proper release on Blu-ray isn’t too far off on the horizon. Director/co-writer Brad Bird followed up ‘The Iron Giant’ by taking the reins of ‘The Incredibles’, and I’m sure that’s mentioned somewhere else in this roundup as well.
- ‘The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh‘ – Yeah, that’s right! Got a problem with this one? As someone who grew up in a house without a VCR, my family used to rent VCRs that came in big briefcases. We’d then have to rig them up with old coaxial cables when we decided to have a movie night every six months or so. God, this sounds so ‘Little House on the Prairie’ now. For some reason, I always chose either this movie or ‘Masters of the Universe‘. There was clearly something wrong with me. I won’t try to defend that Dolph Lundgren He-Man fiasco, but I still love Winnie the Pooh. The sequence with him falling out of the honey tree had me falling off the couch with laughter when I was little. Chalk it up to childhood nostalgia, but I can’t wait to watch this one with my own kids. Plus, ya gotta admit, the theory that everyone you know fits the mold of a Winnie the Pooh character still holds true. I’d say I’m either Rabbit or Piglet. Who are you?
- ‘The Triplets of Belleville‘ – This movie has story, humor, song, and lovely animation. I actually saw the documentary ‘Belleville Rendez-Vous: The Making of’ first, and it’s worth a watch on its own just to learn more about all that goes into building a full-length animated movie. One of the reasons I like foreign films is that they often use actors who don’t have Hollywood cookie-cutter looks; they have interesting facial features and imperfect bodies. Maybe I find them more relatable somehow. The characters in ‘Triplets’ strike that same chord – from the impossibly fat dog on tiny little legs, to the over-exaggerated features of the bicyclists and all the giant noses. They’re both grotesque and familiar at the same time. This is well worth a watch if you’re not in the mood for overly perfect Disney characters, or the modern stylings of Pixar animation.
- ‘The Incredibles‘ – The reasons are varied and many for why I think writer-director Brad Bird’s ‘The Incredibles’ is just about the greatest animated film since sliced animated bread. For one, it’s the rare animated movie with truly novelistic scope. This thing is set over several decades, and has a number of recurring characters (Edna Mode, costume designer to the superheroes, might be one of the most inspired cinematic characters, well, ever) and themes (loyalty, “specialness,” legacy). What’s more is how adult everything is. Syndrome (deliciously voiced by Jason Lee) want to kill Mr. Incredible’s children, a bleak conceit indeed (and something that’s attempted several times throughout the course of the film). What about the extended metaphor of Bob (Craig T. Nelson) and his return to super-heroics? There’s a reason Helen looks so conspicuously at Mirage’s hair, left behind on Bob’s suit. He might have gotten his mojo back, but he might be spending that mojo elsewhere, if you catch my drift. What about the action sequences, which bristle with a raw intensity rarely seen in live action movies not directed by John McTiernan or Paul Greengrass? (Also, think about how many nameless thugs Dash is responsible for killing. Amazing.) The movie serves as a Rolodex of comic book shout-outs, from ‘The Spirit’ to ‘Watchmen’ and a half-dozen James Bond movies in between, without ever feeling wink-wink, nudge-nudge-y. Then there’s my favorite moment out of any Pixar film, and one of my favorite movie moments period: when Helen very succinctly and poignantly explains to Violet the tenants of feminism – that even in the face of something very bold and scary, you don’t have to be afraid. ‘The Incredibles’ was the first Pixar film to really feel like it came from a singular filmmaking voice (because, um, it was). It remains unparalleled in the animation field. It’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime masterpieces that I am so thankful I saw. I remember the first time I watched the film in the theater, and thought to myself, “This must have been what it was like to see ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ for the first time.” Goddamn, I love this movie.
- ‘The End of Evangelion‘ – In a year or so, every single thing found in this film will be considered obsolete and “non-canonical,” due to the four-film series retelling of the story, but few animated flicks have the mixture of raw power and deep philosophical and religious thought as ‘Neon Genesis Evangelion: The End of Evangelion’. The final episodes of the anime series were considered a letdown, since the story’s climax was shown through the minds of the characters rather than their actions. Two films were made to give fans what they wanted. The first, ‘Death & Rebirth’, was a pile of shit, let’s be frank. The first half consists of a recap of the television show, and the second half is totally redundant to the next film. ‘The End of Evangelion’ doesn’t waste time, and goes straight for new content, including everything shown in the latter half of ‘Death & Rebirth’. Sure, ‘End’ does get a bit out there, and may outsmart more than a few viewers, but there’s no other depiction of the end of the world that can rival this flick’s lasting imagery, or its mixture of revelation and insanity. – Insanity, that’s putting it lightly. We see the characters put through hell, quite literally. There are even fewer anime films that give characters such fitting, unapologetic, sometimes maliciously cruel endings. There’s not an inch of this movie I’d change. It’s wall-to-wall brilliance, disturbing yet intriguing. That’s why the new ‘Evangelion’ film series will have a lot to live up to when the final two movies debut simultaneously. You can’t beat perfection. It will be interesting to see how many ideas and scenes from ‘The End of Evangelion’ find their way into the final acts.
- ‘Laputa: Castle in the Sky‘ – Dick stole my thunder a little bit with his pick of ‘Spirited Away’. That movie is a masterpiece, and probably Hayao Miyazaki’s best film overall. However, my favorite is still one of the director’s earliest works, the Jules Verne-ian fantasy ‘Laputa: Castle in the Sky’ (or just ‘Castle in the Sky’, as Disney retitled it). I first watched this as part of an assignment to review the whole group of Miyazaki films that Disney had released on DVD as a sweep back in 2002. Strictly looking at the cover art and the plot summary, this one seemed to interest me the least of the bunch. I assumed that it was aimed at very young children and wouldn’t hold my attention. However, once I watched it, I fell in love with it. The movie is a fabulously retro vision of 19th Century futurism. (It was an early example of Steampunk back when that genre was still innovative, long before the anime community played it out.) It’s a fantastic combination of magic, science and myth rolled together into a rousing adventure. It has action, intrigue, comedy, romance, and beautiful imagery to spare.
We know that you’ve got some thoughts on this too. Tell us about your favorite animated films (whether already available on Blu-ray or not).