Back in October of 2014, I set out a goal to write a series of post focusing on movie genres. I was determined to write at least one post each week, revealing my favorite movie franchise in each genre. A few weeks in, it turned into a bi-weekly project. Now it’s more or less a monthly project. With that being said I only have about three or four genres left to cover, which should lead us into the summer blockbuster season. Before I finish out my original plan for this series, I want to focus on animation films. I know there are a lot of people that categorize animation films as their own genre, but they’re not a genre. Animation is simply another medium for storytelling. Animation takes on many different forms, traditional 2-D animation, Stop-Motion / Claymation, and 3-D animation, to name a few.
Animation is important to film history, we basically wouldn't have live action movies without it. Animation dates back to the Paleolithic cave painting era. We have found various cave paints with animals “in motion” symbolized by many legged creatures. In the 18th century, many spinning devices were created to achieve the illusion of motion of an illustration, most notably the Zoetrope. Animation evolved again in the form of flip books. In the 1900’s the flip book idea was expanded upon, which created what we know today as, traditional animation. Back then, each scene was drawn by hand, then photographed, then played back in rapid succession. Those techniques were improved upon spawning many short silent animated films. Walt Disney and the Warner Brother entered the animation game in the 20’s and 30’s, changing the industry forever. They brought color and sound to this new medium. Disney ran with this new medium, creating one of the first full length animation films, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. After that, animation evolved over the years, revealing different techniques, including stop-motion and computer animation.
Now that you know a brief history of animation, let’s explore some of the greatest animation films. I want to let you guys know I’m a fan of Pixar and the films they produce. A few years back you may have caught me saying something along the line of, “Pixar is perfect.” During that same time frame I had to write a paper on a pioneer in the computer graphics world. I chose Edwin “Ed” Catmull, the president of Pixar, who helped design the software Pixar used to create their movies. I’m going to stray from my Pixar bias by not making a top 10 list complied of noting but Pixar films. Instead, I’m going to compile a hand full of top five lists that exemplify each of the animation styles. I have the lists broken down, more or less, by production companies: Pixar, Walt Disney Animation, DreamWorks Animation, Studio Ghibli, and Stop-Motion Animation. Let’s Get To It.
- Toy Story Franchise
- The Incredibles
- Monsters Inc.
- The Lion King
- The Jungle Book
- How to Train Your Dragon
- Kung Fu Panda
- The Prince of Egypt
- Princess Mononoke
- Spirited Away
- Castle in the Sky
- Grave of the Fireflies
- Kiki’s Delivery Service
Stop-Motion Animation Films:
- The Fantastic Mr. Fox
- The Nightmare Before Christmas
- Classic Christmas Claymation Movies
- James and the Giant Peach
This is where I normally write a short paragraph as to why each movie is on my list. Because of the sheer number of films I have included in this post, I have opted to only give explanations for the five number one’s.
I would call the Toy Story franchise Pixar’s main flagship because that is where Pixar got its start in the animated feature film business. Before Pixar was an animation company they were a computer graphics company for Lucasfilms. George Lucas sold the technology rights to Steve Jobs for five million dollars. Jobs became the main investor of the new division. Dr. Edwin Catmull and Dr. Alvy Ray Smith ran the company as President and Executive Vice President. Walt Disney Studios took notice and started incorporating the “Pixar” technology into their projects. When “Pixar” was at its all-time low they hired on the Disney animator John Lasseter, who made a good case for the “Pixar” technology by making animated shorts, including Luxo Jr. This started a good relationship between Disney and Pixar, which lead a $26 million three picture deal with Disney. The first movie in this deal was Toy Story. Toy Story was inspired by one of Pixar’s animated shorts, Tin Toy, that tells a story from a small tin toy’s perspective. John Lasseter took that idea and expanded upon it, making a wonderful film.
The Lion King is by far my all-time favorite animated Disney movie. If you have been following this series at all, you may recall The Lion King took my number one spot for best Musical Movie from the 90’s, rightfully so, with all the great musical numbers. There are many elements of this film that just work perfectly. I personally love the story the most, which draws inspiration from the biblical stories of Joseph, and Moses as well as the Shakespearean play Hamlet. I find it fascinating that The Lion King was one of the last movies, Disney made in the traditional way, before putting their faith in CGI animation that Pixar brought to the animation game.
I tend to jokingly say something along the line of “DreamWorks animation makes one good movie out of ten.” Sadly, this is more or less true, I would even go as far to say they only have two or three great films, one of those being How to Train Your Dragon. What I like the most about How to Train Your Dragon is the personalities attached to the each character, including the dragons. Personally I think it was the personalities of the dragons, especially Toothless, that sold this film.
Let’s talk about a group of animated films that I believe less people, including myself, have seen. I’m talking about the films that have come out of Studio Ghibli / Films by Hayao Miyazaki. These films are always very beautiful. It becomes fairly hard to describe the intricacies of these films. Most of these films are living paintings. With that being said, these films tactical serious themes and tell very human stories. Personally the film from Studio Ghibli that best exemplifies all those qualities is Princess Mononoke.
I have a great deal of respect for a stop-motion animator. It takes a great deal of patience to work in that medium of animation. It’s safe to say most people would place The Nightmare Before Christmas at the top of their stop-motion animation list. That’s a fair placement because The Nightmare Before Christmas revolutionized that style of animation / storytelling. Even though I enjoy The Nightmare Before Christmas I personally like The Fantastic Mr. Fox, maybe it’s because they change all the curse words to “cuss”. The film also has a stellar cast and that’s another contributing factor to why I like this film. It’s such a fun movie.
Well, you have seen my top animated movies, what are your favorites?