Category: Movies


OK, clearly I have no sense of how long an update’s going to take. Apologies for this latest delay.

On the bright side, we’re finally here: My Top 5 6 5 Animated Movies Of All Time! (OK, so it actually turned out to be a Top 6 because I forgot about an old favorite.)

Technically I suppose that makes this a Top 16, but since I’m too lazy to go back and renumber everything I’ve listed thus far, I’m just putting the new one up as tied for #3 with my original pick.
Here goes!

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5) The Nightmare Before Christmas. When this movie first came out, a 12-year-old me was highly skeptical. I’d seen Batman and Beetlejuice and liked them OK, but I wasn’t really keen on seeing Tim Burton do an honest-to-God kid’s movie.

I’m pleased to say that I couldn’t have been more wrong. I think almost everyone’s seen this movie, and I make it an annual Halloween tradition. The characters are flawed, but engaging and likable, the stop-motion is the finest I’ve ever seen, and the songs, by Tim Burton’s go-to-guy Danny Elfman, are up there with some of the best music Disney has to offer. It’s a really well-told story with a fascinating mythology. I love the idea of the Holiday Worlds, and how they seem to be microcosms of the public consciousness’s perception of these holidays. (so does that mean St. Patrick’s Day Town is full of drunk leprechauns, green beer, and rainbows? DISCUSS :p)

I don’t know what else to say about this movie. Chances are you’ve already seen it. If you haven’t, do yourself a favor and watch it next Halloween or Christmastime. 😀

4) The Iron Giant. This is a fairly recent discovery for me, as I had only heard of it in passing when it first came out and didn’t actually try and find out more until much, much later. Of course now I’m kicking myself for not having discovered this gem earlier.

This is the most down-to-Earth animated movie I’ve ever seen. Despite being about a giant robot from space, this one was a great look at a period of American history I think we’d just as soon forget ever existed: the Cold War. The wonder of the Giant is offset by the fear of the period, and it makes for some wonderful building tension.

A lot of the real appeal, IMHO, is the characters themselves, and how fleshed-out and real they all feel. The relationships are intriguing and well-played out, and some of the most compelling stuff comes from these relationships…the villain covering the kid protagonist’s mouth with chloroform was one of the most chilling things I’ve ever seen in an animated movie, a medium where kids are usually pretty safe. Besides the villain (which is kind of the point), I cannot think of a single character I disliked or was annoyed by. And Vin Diesel’s performance as the voice of the Giant has to be heard to be believed. The few lines he gets are loaded.

This is kind of a cult classic compared to a lot of the movies on my list, particularly my Disney and Pixar entries, but I strongly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t seen it yet.

3) The Lion King and The Flight Of Dragons. This tie exists for a very good reason, as these are two sides of a coin to my way of thinking.
I’ll talk about the more famous one first. Lion King is one of those movies everyone has seen, and everyone’s got an opinion on it. Part Bambi, part Hamlet, part Macbeth, with a shot or two lifted from a 1965 anime series (though they have little in common besides those couple of shots and a few coincidences listed on the site), it was basically Disney using the same idea they had in Bambi, to tell a story from the perspective of the animal kingdom as opposed to people, or anthropomorphic animals like in their Mickey/Donald/Goofy shorts (or their adaptation of Robin Hood).

Everything about the production design on this movie was researched exhaustively, and it really does show, from the lushness of the scenery to the way every character moves, keeping true to their species while still conveying emotion. It’s not as hardcore-realistic as Watership Down, but in some ways I prefer the Disney animation…the characters are much more relatable and the emotional impact much harder hitting when you see the human element behind these acting animals. It wasn’t afraid to portray serious things Disney had previously shied away from, like death, depression, guilt, depravity, and madness, and it did it all without talking down or pulling many punches.

Critics pan the story for being derivative, but I’d argue that the blending of the disparate elements of the different stories was what made Lion King work so well. The writers took elements from all sorts of well-known stories and blended them together to craft Lion King into a unique  story all its own, that feels like the others and yet separate from them. Plus, the other stories don’t have the happiest of endings (except some versions of Kimba), so Lion King is the one to watch if you don’t want to come away depressed.

Talking about the story-blending leads me to The Flight Of Dragons. This is one a lot fewer people have heard of, which I think is a shame, as it’s one of the best high-fantasy animated movies on the market.

For the plot of Flight of Dragons, Rankin & Bass amalgamated two books…Peter Dickinson’s art book by the same name on how dragons could theoretically exist, complete with explanations for how they flew and breathed fire, and Gordon R. Dickson’s “The Dragon And The George,” the first book in his Dragon Knight series of novels. Most of the plot and characters are from the latter book, simply replacing the main character with an animated avatar of Peter Dickinson, but the explanations given for dragon biology are right out of Dickinson’s own book.

Visually, I find this one as beautiful as Lion King, in its own way. For a movie made in 1982, it’s impressive, every inch hand-drawn in Rankin & Bass’s inimitable style. The effects in particular stand out, between the hand-drawn curls of cloud-shaped fire and the surreal imagery that surrounds the climax.

The voice-acting is impressive, with Harry Morgan, James Gregory, John Ritter, Victor Buono, and James Earl Jones all giving great performances. Best of all, unlike The Last Unicorn, this one isn’t a musical, which means no embarrassing singing performances to distract from the quality of the cast.  The only song, “Flight Of Dragons” is performed by Don McLean, and for my money, I prefer it over “American Pie” any day.

But again, the selling point with this movie is the story. The high-adventure fantastic quest is here in all its glory, with unexpected allies, deadly perils, an evil wizard, a damsel in distress, and the fate of the world at stake. It’s by turns adult and dark, and playful and humorous, with enough of both to keep from getting either too adult or too kiddy, although I definitely wouldn’t recommend it to very young children. But the underlying plot, of science versus magic, is where this movie really shines. Without giving away too much, it’s hard for a self-proclaimed witch like me to see myself making the same choice Dickinson does at the end of the film.

These two movies are good examples of storytellers at work. The originality of both works may be in question, but they revisit classic archetypes in such a way that gives a fresh spin on their respective tales. While chances are you’ve already seen Lion King, I recommend Flight of Dragons to everyone who likes fantasy, good animation, or both.

2)  The Secret of NIMH. Another 1982 entry, this movie was Don Bluth’s first feature-length film.

I love a lot of Don Bluth’s work. Even though I complained about the original American Tail when I listed Fievel Goes West as #15, the only reason for my pathos is because I really got to care about him, and thus drawn into the movie. All Dogs Go To Heaven, Titan A.E, Anastasia, and The Land Before Time all sucked me in because of the quality of their storytelling and the sense of wonder I felt during each movie that contrasted with the heavy emotional impact all these films carried (yes, even Anastasia. I’m a sucker for the Disney formula done right, even if it’s not by Disney).

But I really do believe Bluth’s first offering was his best. No one told him what he could and couldn’t do, so The Secret of NIMH was pure creativity, without any influence from a studio telling him what not to put in there, and a backlash against the cheapness of animated productions of the time…and it shows. The production values here are off the charts, with dazzling special effects, fluid, seamless animation that still holds up today, and a team of writers and artists who would go on to produce legendary works in the years to come (including Brenda Chapman, Vera Lanpher, and Bruce Timm, all before they rose to fame for other projects).

The story is probably the most unconventional hero’s quest ever, following a widowed mother of four as she sets out on a journey to save her family. While the rats of NIMH have a highly compelling backstory and mythology all their own, it’s Mrs. Brisby’s quiet determination sells this movie. Mrs. Brisby (changed from Frisby in the novel to avoid lawsuits from the makers of the Frisbee toy) is intrepid and brave, but a different kind of brave than the normal action hero. She spends most of the movie either meekly diffident to others or terrified out of her wits, but still ventures forth and seeks out the help she needs, whether from a curmudgeonly professorial mouse (voiced by Arthur Malet), an inept crow (Dom DeLuise, in the first of many roles he would play for Bluth’s films) an all-knowing Owl (the late John Carradine, father of the late David Carradine and an old-time acting legend in his own right), or a clan of ostracized, super-smart rats (Peter Strauss, Derek Jacobi, and Paul Shenar, among others). She’s a Mama Bear on a level with Molly Weasley, if not in quite the same way. However, for all that she’s not an Action Mom, the sense that she would go to the ends of the Earth and back for her children is still there.

The movie isn’t quite perfect, even though it’s amazing…the ending is immensely gratifying on an emotional level, but doesn’t make a lot of sense in the context of a movie that had previously been (mostly) grounded in reality. However, I like a little magic in my movies, and when the payoff is as richly rewarding and relieving as that one was, I call a little suspension of disbelief a fair trade. So I can let that slide and give Secret of NIMH a well-earned spot as my second-favorite animated movie of all time.

1) Beauty And The Beast. There are very, very few movies I’m willing to call “perfect.” Even in some of my all-time favorite cartoons, there’s a flaw in the writing, or the animation isn’t quite up to today’s standards, or something about it just isn’t quite there.

I’m happy to say that I found a movie I consider perfect in Beauty And The Beast. The songs are beautiful, memorable, and fun at varying turns. My favorite is Angela Lansbury’s touching, maternal rendition of the title theme. The animation is flowing and seamless and holds up beautifully, even more than 20 years after the fact. And the story?

Well, let’s just say I sat down and went over this story with a fine-toothed comb, looking for even the slightest little thing to complain about. And not a single thing came to mind. I can’t find anything wrong with this movie. Even things that, on the surface, seem to not make much sense, actually hold up under closer scrutiny. And that takes real talent, especially for a fairy tale.

The characters are similarly wonderful. Belle and the Beast are my two favorite Disney characters. Belle is understanding, sweet, kind, and patient, but she’s no one’s fool and anything but a doormat; she will push back if she’s pushed too far. The Beast’s character arc is an awesome redemption story about the changing power of caring for others, and climbing out of the depths of one’s own depression at the same time. Gaston is a brilliant villain in that he’s mostly a harmless, spoiled buffoon, but his motives and methods get darker and darker as he continually fails to get his way. And the household objects, Lumiere, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts, and the rest, are the best kind of Disney supporting character; they’re quirky, charming, and funny, but still contribute to the plot and its resolution in important ways.

Caring about all these characters as much as I do makes the ending that much sweeter. If it had only been the Beast’s human form at stake, the eventual transformation might have struck me as overdone. But with his life in the balance, along with the human forms of all the household staff and the original form of the castle itself, the reward was just right.

I don’t know what else to say; I thought I’d have more. Suffice it to say that this is my all-time favorite animated movie, and one of my favorite movies of all time, period.

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Thanks for reading my Top 15 Animated Movies of all time. 🙂 Feel free to post a comment below if you have anything to say about my choices, whether you agree or disagree. I’m always up for a discussion!

To recap:

15) An American Tail: Fievel Goes West

14) Up

13) The Phantom Tollbooth

12) Cinderella III: A Twist In Time

11) The Hunchback Of Notre Dame

10) The Prince Of Egypt

9) Watership Down

8) WALL•E

7) Sleeping Beauty

6)Tangled

5) The Nightmare Before Christmas

4) The Iron Giant

3) The Lion King and The Flight Of Dragons (tied)

2) The Secret Of NIMH

1) Beauty And The Beast

Runners-up will be posted in a few days’ time (assuming I don’t lose track of time again). Those will be the movies that I like, even love, but not quite enough to put them in my Top 15 16 15.

Keep an eye out, and thanks again for joining me! 😀

Hi again everyone! 😀

Yesterday I started my Top 15 Animated Movies countdown. Today continues that trend, with movies #10 through 6.

As I said last time, feel free to leave a comment below if you agree, disagree, or just want to add a list of your own. 🙂 I’m more than happy to discuss any of these wonderful films with you in greater detail!

Without further ado, let’s jump into it!

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10) The Prince of Egypt. I should make it clear, without inciting too much religious debate: I am not a Christian. As a result, going into this movie, I was afraid it was going to be as sermonistic as the Greatest Adventure cartoon series, or worse, like Cecil B. DeMille’s epically preachy magnum opus, The Ten Commandments.

Imagine, then, my delight when it turned out to be not only not preachy, but a character-driven story instead, more about the adopted Moses and his relationship with his two families…the one he was born into and the one he was raised by…than about the “mission from God.” Even the parts of the movie where Moses deals with his god are done well, by making them touching and powerful on a personal level and making God feel like a loving, protective figure, rather than the all-powerful authority he was depicted as in Commandments.

The movie is epic, in every sense of the word. It has an absolutely wonderful score by Hans Zimmer, with songs by Stephen Schwartz that don’t ruin the tone of the movie in the slightest. It’s got an all-star list of voice-actors (including Val Kilmer, Ralph Fiennes, Michelle Pfeiffer, Steve Martin, Martin Short, Jeff Goldblum, Sandra Bullock, and Patrick Stewart in a role that took me by complete surprise), and some inspired animation with fascinating style choices, including a surreal dream sequence told entirely in moving hieroglyphics.

The story, despite being an animated musical, handles things in an extremely serious manner, keeping the dignity of the original story well and truly intact while giving the characters a dimension of personal relatability that was originally not even present in the source material. Moses and Rameses really feel like brothers, conflicted by their respective roles versus their affection for each other, and Tzipporah, Moses’ wife, is much expanded and fleshed out into a beautifully defiant, strong, supportive character.

This is by far my favorite DreamWorks movie ever. In the days before Shrek gave them a comedic niche, the studio really did their best to be as good as Disney at the “animated epic” game, and this was one of the films that I feel succeeded beautifully. Whether you believe in Christianity or not (and I don’t), I strongly recommend giving this movie a look. I think there’s something in it for people of every faith to take away. 🙂

9) Watership Down. Everyone knows this as “that cute bunny rabbit movie that is NOT FOR KIDS!!!” I, on the other hand, saw this when I was seven and fell in love with it.

The big thing this movie has going for it is the story. It’s adult, complex, and at the same time speaks to something pretty universal; the desire for a better life. I like a lot of movies like this, but this is the first one I ever saw.

For such a dark, serious movie, it does have its fair share of laughs…mostly inspired by Keehar the seabird. But I love this movie specifically because it doesn’t pull its punches or talk down to the audience…characters fight, bleed, and die, sometimes horribly, and the movie treats it as part of life. At the same time, though, I appreciate that it doesn’t do a lot for shock value, though there are some scenes that are more graphic and disturbing than others. But the life-or-death stakes are well-sold nonetheless, and the movie sells that these characters are really in danger, which makes it that much more of a relief when they come out of danger again.

It’s an emotional roller-coaster, but one that I strongly recommend for anyone who can handle it. It’s violent and can get disturbing at times, but it’s also extremely touching and heartfelt at other times, and stands IMO alongside the best of the Don Bluth movies. If I ever had children (an unlikely possibility), I’d share this movie with them. 🙂

8) WALL•E. This movie is one of the most innovative things I feel Western Animation has ever produced.

As I mentioned in my Up entry at #14, Pixar is a pretty hit-and-miss studio for me. I suppose the reason is the films they push the hardest are usually the ones I care about the least (i.e. Cars, Finding Nemo, etc.) Not that these films are bad, they just don’t leave much of an impression.

That said, I believe WALL-E is their best film, if only because it’s a million contradictory things at once. It’s simple, but profound. It’s fluffy, but fraught with implications. It’s cute and funny, but heart-wrenching and nightmarish. It’s a charming, romantic comedy of errors; it’s a foreboding look into what the future could be like.

Regardless of what you think of the story and its implications, the animation is absolutely top-notch. I was even hesitant to put this in an “animated movies” list at first, because only the humans on the Axiom look animated. Everything else…the robots, the ships, the world…looks realistic enough to reach out and touch. But it was all done with a computer, so it counts. WALL-E really challenged what CGI is capable of, IMO. The titular trash compactor is capable of emoting in simple, touching ways I never could have imagined, as are many of the other robots.

WALL-E was the biggest animated success of its era, and with good reason; aside from being on the absolute cutting-edge of animation technology, Pixar proved that they could take morals like environmentalism and personal responsibility and rework them in ways that made you aware without smacking you in the face. I’d say “go see it!” but chances are, you already have. 🙂

7) Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. What WALL-E is to innovation in animation, Sleeping Beauty is to traditionalism: an exemplar. Everything in this film looks lush, elegant, and artistic, with a stylization and tapestry-like scope that gives it a look unlike any other movie ever made.

The story is a fairy-tale in the truest sense, and the action is amazing, especially for a movie with such a simple premise. People have complained about the characters of Princess Aurora and Prince Phillip, that they’re not terribly well fleshed-out or interesting. I’d make the counter-argument that they’re not the focuses of the Disney version’s story; that instead the story’s about the three good fairies and their evil arch-nemesis, which makes this one really ahead of its time. The fairies are like three different kinds of grandmothers: Flora the take-charge matriarch, Fauna the sweet-natured diplomat, and Merriweather the fiesty unconventional. (I loved Merriweather best out of all of them) And Maleficent is one of the most magnificent villains in all Disney, regardless of gender. A big part of this is the animation, again, but it’s also in Eleanor Audley’s amazing vocal performance.

The songs are touching and beautifully sung (it helped that they got a classical opera singer for Briar Rose), and the score was adapted from Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty Ballet. I love Tchaikovsky, so this is a no-brainer for me.

This was the first Disney movie I ever saw, and to this day remains one of my favorites that I can go back to and see over and over again. 🙂

6) Tangled. I could go on about the amazing CG, the awesome songs, or the excellent blend between comedic and dramatic moments. They’re all worthy of copious amounts of praise.

But the thing that puts this one so high up on my list is the main story, and Rapunzel’s character arc in particular. She’s just such an amazing character. I love that she starts off in such oppressive circumstances but doesn’t let them get to her. I love that she’s brave enough to go with Flynn Rider on her adventures, that her dream and idealism is strong enough to win practically anyone over to her cause, and that in the end she stands up to the villain.

Her arc is a metaphor for the best possible outcome of someone in an abusive relationship. It’s a message of empowerment to everyone who’s ever been in a relationship like that, and I found it to be deeply personally validating.

The rest of the story is amazing as well; Flynn Rider is a fun character with a sensitive, compelling side, the villain manages to be both fun and monstrous on a par with the great villains of the past, and the side characters are vastly entertaining. Even the token “funny sidekick” animals in this are awesome! (Especially the horse!) But the part of the movie that really sold me is Rapunzel herself, and her story arc.

The Nostalgia Critic said he didn’t care for the main characters’ voices. He felt Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi were just themselves behind a microphone. I respectfully disagree, at least in Moore’s case. I used to be a fan of her music, around about the time her style changed from bubblegum pop into her own sound. In Tangled, I feel Rapunzel’s really got her own voice, with character and charm unique and distinct from Mandy Moore, and that’s one of the hallmarks of a well-acted character.

All in all, I feel Tangled is a truly worthy addition to the Disney canon, and a great new direction for Disney to take their efforts.

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We’re coming up on the home stretch, guys and girls! Tomorrow, my Top 5 Favorite Animated Movies Of All Time!

Honorable mentions, and there are a lot of them, will get their own entry sometime later in the week, with brief blurbs about why I like them and why they didn’t make it.

Till then! 😀

Hey all! Triplenerdscore is back, refocused, and hopefully here to stay!

You’ll notice I chose to get away from the X-Men for a while. If you’re wondering, the simple fact is that I have many nerdy interests, of which X-Men is only one. There are many other fandoms I embrace, and many other things I enjoy, and I originally intended this blog to be a soapbox for me to talk about all of them.

For example: I love cartoons.

I am completely unashamed of this fact. In fact, it can be argued that they made me who I am, as I wouldn’t be as much a nerd as I am at all if not for the fact that I watched X-MEN: The Animated Series and its DC counterpart, Batman, as a kid.

So in a multi-part journal inspired by the enterprising folks at ThatGuyWithTheGlasses.com, I’m going to share my all-time favorite animated movies and TV series. A special segment will be given over to anime as well, because even though I don’t have 15 favorite anime, the ones I like are, IMO, worthy of mention.

Tonight I’m going to start sharing the feature-length animated movies I love the most, and a (hopefully brief) rundown as to why.

Why Top 15? “Because I like to go five steps beyond.” *LOL* OK, that was only funny to me. But seriously, if I had to choose only ten, I’d be doing some great movies a serious disservice. As it is I feel I’m leaving out some very good ones.

Note that these are personal favorites, not necessarily a mark on the quality of said pictures. I’ll explain my more questionable choices in greater detail, which means some may be longer than others. 🙂

So here we go! My Top 15 favorite animated feature-length films, numbers 15 to 11!

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15) An American Tail: Fievel Goes West. People are probably going to be surprised that I like this one better than the first. But I’m going to defend myself by saying that even though I love Don Bluth, I feel that the original American Tail had a few flaws…like the fact that every five minutes, it seemed, Fievel and his family would pass right by each other while the audience screamed in frustration. In this, during the time that Fievel is lost, he’s really lost, and it feels much stronger as a result. I also like the songs here a lot more: “Dreams to Dream” and “The Girl You Left Behind” are fantastic, and got a lot less airplay than “Somewhere Out There.”

But let’s judge the film on its own merits, not just compare it to the last one. To me, it feels like an adventure film, first and foremost. I love that. Again, I think the songs are excellent, and a couple of them make sense to be in the movie (still not sure about “Way Out West,” but then I’ll give that one a pass, since it was basically this film’s “There Are No Cats In America.” And “Rawhide” just has no excuse at all…) I like that it wasn’t a social metaphor for life at the turn of the last century; it let the story stand out on its own more. The animation is brilliant and smooth, the colors and landscape lush and vivid, and the voice acting top-notch. My favorites are, of course, Dom DeLuise as Dom DeLuise…I mean Tiger…Amy Irving as Miss Kitty, and John Cleese’s epically cultured Cat R. Waul. I admit, the story’s a little weak, but in the long run, I think it’s more for the sake of fun than anything else. All in all it’s a fun romp with some good characters, great animation, and just an excellent time-waster.

Wow…if they’re all this long I might end up killing the word count before I’m halfway done!

14) Up. Pixar has always been kind of a ‘meh, they’re OK’ studio for me, with three exceptions: WALL-E (my number 8 pick), Toy Story 3, and Up.

Up is pure innovation from start to finish. This is one movie that really shows what computer animation is capable of when fueled by human imagination. Most of Pixar’s work has been like this, but Up had a couple of edges over the pack: namely, the two main characters were human, which made them more relatable to me than cars, fish, or robots. They were also unlikely heroes…the overachieving junior scout and a widowed seventy-something. Of course, adorable talking dogs and giant Dr. Seuss birds show up, but the story’s really about Carl and Russell at its heart.

The other thing I loved about this movie is its heart. For all the wild, weird, and wonderful visuals I was treated to, the emotional core of this movie never got forgotten. Themes of love, loss, friendship, parenthood, and hero-worship are all explored without taking away from the sense of wonder and adventure a movie like this should contain. It’s one of the best adventure films I’ve ever seen, and I certainly recommend it as a fresh take on the idea of a “family” film.

13) The Phantom Tollbooth. This is another controversial favorite, but must of the controversy I get is from fans of the book who insist that I pick it up and read it instead.

And I would, if I didn’t have such fond memories of this film.

It’s basically The Wizard Of Oz with a “learning is fun!” Aesop attached. A boy named Milo, bored out of his mind, gets a giant box dropped in his living room, which converts into a turnpike tollbooth that whirls him away to the Kingdom of Wisdom, where he journeys through a pseudo-satirical wonderland, including the feuding kingdoms of words and numbers, the abode of a Doctor of Dissonance, and even the pedestal where a legendary conductor orchestrates the sky itself.

This film is a Chuck Jones work, and IMO it’s on a par with his best Looney Tunes work. His characters are engaging and individual; there’s endearing ones like Milo, Tock the watch-dog, and Faintly Macabre (the Not-So-Wicked Which), but there’s also surreal ones like Officer Short-Shrift and the Spelling Bee, beautiful ones in the Princesses of Rhyme & Reason, and even downright frightening figures like the Terrible Trivium and the Gelatinous Giant. As I understand it, these were all illustrated in the book, but Jones lent his special touch and made these designs his own. And Mel Blanc and Thurl Ravenscroft, among others, make this a strong voice cast, especially for a 1969 movie. Even Butch Patrick, who was primarily a live-action child actor at the time, delivers a good vocal performance as Milo during the cartoon segment.

All in all, if you haven’t read the book, you’re more likely to enjoy this movie. But even if you have, give this a shot. It’s not a perfect adaptation, but it’s still pretty solid and one of the movies I remember fondly to this day.

12) Cinderella III: A Twist In Time. Let’s be honest, most direct-to-video Disney sequels suck. They’re either rehashings of the original stories with the kids of the original characters, or ‘hero of first movie finds love interest.’

Cinderella III was neither of these. After the abysmal bore that was Cinderella II, I was extremely dubious about this sequel. I mean, where can you go with a story that originally didn’t really even have much in the way of a conflict?

I was happily proven wrong. The animation is TV quality, but it’s on the upper end of TV quality, which was a relief compared to comparatively dismal early efforts, like The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride or Aladdin: The Return Of Jafar. The voices, while they don’t match up perfectly with the originals, are a few of my favorite voice actors and really give solid performances. Actual effort in a Disney sequel is hard to come by, IMO, but this one pulls it off.

The story, without giving too much away, really takes one of the most victimized of Disney’s princesses and brings her up to the level of the heroines of Disney’s Renaissance. She’s still no Belle or Mulan, but she’s no longer relegated to the same weak-willed pile as Snow White or Aurora. The Prince is well-characterized too…and there’s really no contest, he was originally the weakest Prince. He was voiceless arm-candy in the first movie, and while he still doesn’t get a name this time, he gets good lines and action scenes, and a chance to live up to the “Prince Charming” archetype. I don’t think Disney’s ever been as self-aware in a project (that wasn’t outright satire) as they were in this movie. By far the most compelling story arc, though, belongs to Anastasia, one of the stepsisters. I was really taken aback by what they did with this character, and found myself delighted to sympathize with her in a way I never thought possible.
The movie has its flaws, I’ll be honest, but I didn’t find them horrible. They didn’t ruin the movie for me. The hardest thing to get through, ironically enough, was the song in the first five minutes. I’ll admit, it was pretty bad. But once you get past that, the movie really kicks off and gets compelling fast. This is the only DTV movie to make my list, but I think it deserves its spot.

11) Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame. In 1996, Disney needed a colossal hit to recover from the critical and commercial disappointment that was Pocahontas. They releaseda musical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s famous satirical tragedy about a misshapen bell-ringer and his love for a Gypsy woman.

Yeah. I can see why it didn’t do too well at the box office.

But fortunately, history seems to have vindicated this movie somewhat…it’s one of the darkest, most adult, most honest-to-God dramatic endeavors in Disney’s animated canon to date.

The main characters, Quasimodo, Phoebus, and Esmerelda, are likable and well-designed. Disney made Quasimodo Ugly Cute, of course, but I feel it was really the voice actor, Amadeus’s Tom Hulce, who sold him as an endearing character. Esmerelda and Phoebus are more of a blend between the animation and the actors…and it says something that when I listen to them talk, I don’t hear Demi Moore and Kevin Kline behind a microphone, which is more than I can say for a lot of other, less well-done celebrity voice actors (this is why Dreamworks’ Sinbad movie isn’t on this list, even though I enjoy it.)

But the real highlights of this movie are two things: the villain, Judge Claude Frollo, and the musical score. The music is epic and sweeping in all the appropriate moments, tender and touching in the right places, and that amazing Latin choir makes everything feel freaking huge. And Frollo himself is easily the most despicable villain in a Disney movie, and one of the worst monsters in animated movies in general. His screwed-up mentality and the power he wields to make others’ lives miserable are arguably more menacing than the black magic wielded by some of Disney’s other greats. He’s scary because he’s believable; the film explores his motivations and gives him complexity, but never lets you forget the fact that he does truly horrible things with these motivations as excuses. Plus, he gets perhaps the most epic villain song in the history of Disney, rivalled perhaps only by “The Plagues” from Prince of Egypt (a movie also on my list which I’ll get to later).

All in all, I have very few problems with this movie, except for one: Those damned singing gargoyles. Actually, I don’t even find two of them that bad…but Jason Alexander’s Hugo came extremely close to ruining this movie for me. To this day, I still have to skip “A Guy Like You” so I can watch the movie all the way through. Fortunately, they contribute next to nothing relevant to the plot, so they’re relatively easy to ignore.

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So that’s #15-11 of my Top 15 Animated Movies. Next time, we’ll look at #10-6, and save the best for last with #5 to my #1 Favorite Animated Movie Of All Time.

Hope you enjoyed this, and continue to enjoy my work! Feel free to leave a comment below if you agree, disagree, or just want to say hi. 🙂