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!
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.
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! 😀