The Best (with Caveats) Animated Films

by Bill Gibron

3 April 2014


5 - 1

#5 - Persepolis

In an unusual move, especially for such a sensitive subject, Marjane Satrapi decided to describe her life in Iran before and after the Fall of the Shah and the rise of the Islamic Revolution in graphic novel form. The resulting comic became a sensation, so naturally, French filmmaker Vincent Paronnaud came along and, with Satrapi’s assistance, came up with an amazing motion picture adaptation. Similar to Waltz with Bashir, which also highlighted to horrors of war in the Middle East via brilliantly conceived cartooning, this film finds the humanity in the Hell that was growing up during the rise of religious fundamentalism. Truly inspired.

#4 - Allegro Non Troppo

Many have forgotten this film, especially given its foreign arthouse credentials and its lack of a legitimate DVD/Blu-ray release (at least, in this territory). But Bruno Bozzetto’s clever satire on Disney and all things Fantasia is just as compelling, and creative, as the omnibus inspiration from 35 years before. Of course, this being a parody, a certain level of humor can be found in its divergent sequences. There’s even a bit of heartbreak, especially a sequence involving a stray cat and its memories of being a beloved house pet. If any film on this list deserves to be rediscovered, it’s this former festival circuit fave.

#3 - South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut

So crude. So clever. So classic. This wasn’t the response many believed they’d have when it was announced that Trey Parker and Matt Stone wanted to take their curse-word characters from the stupid little podunk Colorado TV town and turn them loose on the big screen (well, maybe the first part of that alliterative triptych). This remains, hands down, one of the funniest and most insightful social commentaries ever committed to film. From how to handle your unruly children to blaming anyone else but the parents for their problems, the end result is a laugh riot that retains its meaning long after the shock has worn off.

#2 - Yellow Submarine

The Beatles were battling among themselves, so when it came time to complete their commitment to United Artists for a third film, they were less than enthusiastic. With the disappointing outcome of Magical Mystery Tour, the boys didn’t want to go live action again. They believed animation would best represent their new psychedelic ideas, and in the end, they were right. While their participation was rather limited, the outcome was a Summer of Love sensation, and a classic cartoon that would endure long after the band broke up and flower power turned sour. Even today, it’s Peter Max meets rotoscope revelry stands as an animation milestone.

#1 - The Iron Giant

One word: “Superman!” That’s all you really need to know about this early Brad Bird masterpiece. With a script approved by the book’s author Ted Hughes himself, and a brilliant use of Cold War era iconography, the fledgling filmmaker managed to find the right combination of heroism and heart, something he would excel at later on in efforts such as The Incredibles and Ratatouille. While he’s gone on to have a successful live action career, Bird’s work on this and his other animated films shows someone who clearly understands the artform. He is, indeed, the genre’s true purveyor of pen and ink perfection.

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