Monday, July 4, 2011

Top 10 Animated Films All-Time: Pt. II

Before unveiling my top 5, there are some honorable mentions that I’d like to hand out:

Sword in the Stone
Toy Story 3
WALL*E (Just missed the top 10)
The Secret of Nimh (scared the crap out of me as a kid)
Melody Time (so underrated)
The Jungle Book
Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

#5:  The Illusionist (2010)

Only non-Disney entry on the list, which I also wrote about in detail here in my top-10 of 2010 list.  I do try to be objective most of the time, and objectively this is a brilliant film, but for me there’s a subjective component as well: anytime there’s a relatively unknown and unseen film, in true hipster fashion I will champion that film all the more.  It’s just human nature.  Regardless, this film is beautiful both aesthetically and thematically; it’s sweet, fun, heartbreaking, and unique.  Everyone needs to go to Redbox and rent this immediately. 

#4:  Alice in Wonderland (1951)

Let's be honest: the hookah-smoking caterpillar
is the coolest Disney character EVER.
3 films on my list, including Alice, Fantasia, and my #1 choice, were all considered flops by Disney at the time of their release.  With Alice, this makes a lot of sense to me, because it doesn’t strike me as the type of film that would enthrall a majority of children in the ‘50’s—it definitely lets its freak flag fly a lot, which is when it’s at its best.  It’s also the reason that Tim Burton’s version this past year doesn’t hold a candle to the animated version; for all of Tim’s hype of being an off-kilter director, he tried to make the setting weird without letting the story play out in such wonderfully chaotic and confusing fashion as this one does—a fatal mistake.

#3:  Ratatouille (2007)

My second Brad Bird film on this list, and Pixar’s best, as far as this blogger is concerned.  As if the beautifully-detailed animation of Paris, the sophisticated and lavish portrayal of France’s food culture, and the outstanding musical score weren’t enough, what really makes this film an accomplishment is the story and the writing, which was Oscar-nominated.  Perhaps no other film that I’ve ever seen has so poignantly shown the struggles of an artist—the struggle of being recognized by his industry as an unknown, and the struggle for understanding and acceptance from his family.  This is highlighted by some great writing in one of the best parts of the film, a monologue by food critic Anton Ego, in a review of Remy’s food:

Great animation here from the good folks at Pixar.
In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. But the bitter truth we critics must face is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. Last night, I experienced something new, an extraordinary meal from a singularly unexpected source. To say that both the meal and its maker have challenged my preconceptions about fine cooking is a gross understatement. They have rocked me to my core.  In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau's famous motto: Anyone can cook. But I realize, only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.

#2: Beauty & The Beast (1991)

Clocking in near the top of the list is my favorite of the early-90’s comeback films from Disney, and the first animated film ever to be nominated for Best Picture.  It also contains my favorite music of all the Disney films.  If you don’t get at least a little emotional when Belle walks down the stairs to the ballroom while the piano prelude to “Beauty and the Beast” plays, then please go find a soul somewhere.  Other aspects that make it a top contender:

1.  The film’s intro: great music coupled with an artfully crafted retelling of how the Beast became a beast through stained-glass window storyboards.
2.  Belle is the most beautiful animated female in history.  By Far.  Is that a weird thing to say?
3.  Great supporting cast, Lumiere in particular. 
4.  Best love story of all the Disney movies.
5.  Great rustic animation of the French town, the castle & surrounding land, and the various set pieces, such as the lodge where Gaston hangs out.
6.  (Belle is hot).

#1: Sleeping Beauty (1959)

Many of you knew this was coming.  Recently, my while trying to defend my adoration of this film to my brother-in-law, he accused my parents of not raising me right.  Seeing as my top two films here have “Beauty” in the title, I’m questioning that myself.  However, allow me to defend my #1 pick through an explanation and a few videos.  

The animation in this film was modeled after medieval art, and the sort of sharp, angular way it is drawn is visually beautiful yet dark and harrowing at the same time.  It also has one of my favorite villains of all time, Maleficent, who is graceful, eloquent and oddly beautiful all while being arguably the most evil biyatch ever put on screen.  The musical score is great--it's solely Tchaikovsky's music from his ballet, which I think is cool since it's the only Disney movie to do something like that.  Just look at the use of these design elements coupled with a creepy part of the musical score in this section (with Chinese subtitles, no less!)

Pretty creepy.  For some more creepiness, if you have the time, watch this final encounter with Maleficent as she turns into the dragon.  The music here is just ridiculously good, and the artistic elements even better if you realize what the animators are going for—one might assume that the angular art is elementary, but it actually perfectly resembles the harsh nature of the film as well as the medieval time period itself.  Particularly, the thorns and the flames in this scene, as well as the castle, are a good example of that objective. Check it out:

I appreciate the producers of the film trying to do something truly different--it was kind of risky to animate like that instead of using the usual sort of "soft", kid-friendly animation and the typical "fun" Disney original songs which are not present here--and oddly enough in their endeavor to create a true work of art they also ended up making something that kids of all generations since have enjoyed nonetheless.  A unique visual style along with great music is something that will always, always, always appeal to me as a movie-goer. 

That's my list.  Hope you have enjoyed this magical journey.  The End.

1 comment:

Josh said...

Great list.