Many of my favorite films are animated films. I love animation because regardless of subject matter, they will always make me feel like a little kid. There’s a special brand of imagination that comes with being an animator. This is due to the literal blank canvas that they are given. In this list are ten animated films that I would consider great.
The Adventures of Prince Achmed (Carl Koch, Lotte Reinuger): Our shadows are us at our most playful. Who has never made a basic shadow puppet with their hands out of boredom? This early film uses the ancient art of shadow puppets to create a world that allows our imagination to run wild.
Finding Nemo (Andrew Stanton): There’s never a big enough screen when watching “Finding Nemo.” A simple story of a father going beyond the greatest of lengths to find his son – and to tell him how old sea turtles are – opens the doors to truly show the beauty of the sea. From that moment when a lone sea anemone takes up a small corner of the frame while sunlight penetrates the vastness of the ocean, to the moment when our heroes find themselves in the belly of the gentles of creatures, “Finding Nemo” will continue to be fresh for generations to come.
Grave of the Fireflies (Isao Takahata): It is one of the most realistic animations ever made. It touches our hearts and teaches us that war effects lives on both sides and that innocence is being destroyed. When Setsuko falls asleep due to starvation of weakness, a voice-over of her loving brother Seita informs us that she never woke up. “Grave of the Fireflies” is the final punctuation on how the craft has evolved while at the same time continuing the age old tradition of storytelling as a means of teaching.
Pinocchio (Ben Sharpsteen): The anthem of this film is appropriately the anthem of the company that brought it to our screens. It was this film that brought some form of dimension to animation as we glide through town scenes and layers of beautiful backdrops. Pinocchio’s wish to become a real boy is a story that will remain in our vocabulary for as long as there is language.
Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs (William Cotrell): The one that started it all must certainly be on all lists that dare to category the greatest of animated films. Walt Disney took a story that was familiar and allowed his animators’ imaginations to run wild. Hollywood thought that a feature length animated film would never work and as history and the world knows, Hollywood was proven wrong. Truly Disney at its best.
Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki): If “Snow White” is Disney at its finest, than Studio Ghibli’s finest is Hayao Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away.” More hands on than Disney, Miyazaki allowed his imagination to burst into a frenzy of color and movement in this film about a girl who struggles to bring back her parents. The scene in which the spirits emerge as young Chihiro finds a way to escape is one of the most riveting examples of Japanese animation ever created. With this film, Miyazaki showed what a true filmmaker is capable of.
The Triplets of Belleville (Sylvain Chomet): This French film is one of the most stylized of this list. With little to no spoken dialogue, it allows the audience to focus strictly on the art. It’s almost feels like a satirical commentary on the modern world with its crime element and over exaggerated and bloated characters.
Toy Story (John Lasseter): There’s not much to say about “Toy Story.” What people love about the movie is its story that when it comes down to it, is about love and compassion for someone else even when their love for you doesn’t seem as clear as it used to.
Waking Life (Richard Linklater): “Waking Life” is a film that did not need to be animated yet it was absolutely essential that it be. Director Richard Linklater uses the medium to aid the philosophical conversations had between characters. It was never meant to look good, it was only meant to be about conversation around nothing; and Richard Linklater is the king of nothing.
Yellow Submarine (George Dunning): The Beatles do it best. Their music matches perfectly with this psychedelic trip-fest that will forever define their visual style. It’s not only fun to listen to – I mean come on, it’s the Beatles – but it’s also a treat for the eyes. The art doesn’t need to make sense, all that matters is that the Yellow Submarine preserve music for the world.
Fantasia (Various Directors under Disney)
Heavy Traffic (Ralph Bakshi)
The King and the Mockingbird (Paul Grimault)
The Lion King (Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff)
My Neighbor Totoro (Hayao Miyazaki)
Persepolis (Marjane Satrapi, Vincent Paronnaud)
The Prince of Egypt (Simon Wells, Brenda Chapman, Steve Hickner)
The Thief and the Cobbler (Richard Williams)
Up (Pete Docter)
Watership Down (Martin Rosen)