Last Friday, Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs opened in wide release. If early reviews are to be trusted, this film adaptation of the beloved children’s book will be another entry into the growing corpus of animated films that delight kids, adults and critics. To mark the occasion, here is a list of ten animated films worth watching again and again and again. They aren’t necessarily the highest rated films on Rotten Tomatoes, nor are they all the highest grossing. However, each one is viscerally affecting and philosophically profound. They’re also among my personal favorites and, if you haven’t seen them lately (or at all), I recommend finding a copy soon.
10. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993): Though Tim Burton often gets credit for this film, it was actually directed by Henry Selick and tells the story of Jack Skellington’s efforts to bring Christmas to Halloween Town. Of course, the film has a number of catchy songs written by Danny Elfman, but it also helped prove to the movie-going public that stop motion animation could be fun, entertaining, and profitable.
9. Persepolis (2007): This is a decidedly “grown-up” film, but few animated features are as innovative or faithful to their source material. In this case, the film was adapted from Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical graphic novel that recounts the events of the Iranian Revolution. It also demonstrates the political and social power that animation can have as it explains to its audience world events that still resonate today.
8. Mulan (1998): As one of the later films in Disney’s animation renaissance (which began with The Little Mermaid), Mulan boasts innovative animation and catchy songs. What’s even more impressive, however, is that the film features a female protagonist who is neither a stock character nor even a princess.
7. Wallace and Gromit (1989-2008): While The Curse of the Were-Rabbit was entertaining, few things can compare to the civil pleasure of watching the Wallace and Gromit short films. Beginning with “A Grand Day Out” in 1989, these films each tell the story of hapless inventor Wallace and his world-wise dog Gromit. Together the two fix the destruction caused by Wallace’s inventions, eat Wensleydale cheese and bring a decidedly personal touch to animated filmmaking. (If you look closely you can actually see the animator’s fingerprints in the clay on the characters’ faces.)
6. Howl’s Moving Castle (2004): Not nessecarily Hayao Miyazaki’s most acclaimed film (though very well regarded in its own right), Howl’s Moving Castle tells the story of the cursed teenage girl Sophie and her experiences with demons, witches, wizards and a castle that can move from place to place. As with virtually all Miyazaki films, this one pairs a complex story with a detailed, contemplative animation style that is sometimes missed in the CG saturated world of American animation.
5. Coraline (2008): A modest but respected hit last summer, Coraline paired strong animation with an even stronger story. While that alone might have set it apart from other, similar films, it also balanced the dark and the fantastic to create a tangible, terrifying and wholly delicious world. As of right now, it also stands as director Henry Selick’s magnum opus.
4. Wall-E (2008): Virtually any Pixar movie could be on this list, but Wall-E stands a bit higher than many others for its daring script and palatable, nonpartisan advocacy of sustainable living. Many aptly compared Wall-E to Charlie Chaplin, and the worst part of that comparison is that we won’t get to see the rickety robot in film after film.
3. Pinocchio (1940): Many films have adapted Carlo Collodi’s original story, but no version is as seminal as Walt Disney’s. While a breakthrough in animation when it debuted, Pinocchio is still visually impressive and emotionally poignant as it explores the relationship between parents and children (and all of the theological questions such relationships imply). It also benefits from having one of Disney’s best, and most complex, male protagonists.
2. The Man Who Planted Trees (1987): Adapted from Frédéric Back’s book of the same name, this short film tells the story of a solitary man who spends his life turning an alpine wasteland into a forest. The story is moving and the animation stunning. With its themes about the power of the individual and the importance responsible environmental behavior, The Man Who Planted Trees also becomes more relevant every day.
1. The Iron Giant (1999): I’ve cried two times in the last six years — once when my then girlfriend, now wife, almost broke up with me and once when I first watched Vin Diesel’s character say “superman” at the climax of this movie. Directed by Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Ratatouille), this film is a reflection on Cold War Americana, as well as atonement and self-sacrifice. It also may well be Bird’s best film, which is really saying something.
Jim Dalrymple is a pop culture correspondent for Rhombus. You can follow him on Twitter @jimmycdii.
Tags: Animation, Coraline, Howl's Moving Castle, Mulan, Persepolis, Pinnochio, Pixar, The Iron Giant, The Man Who Planted Trees, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Wall-E, Wallace and Gromit, Walt Disney
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