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. 🙂