Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Animated Thoughts: The Top 25 Animated Features, Epilogue

Here's a couple films that didn't make my list, but I think are worth seeing if you have the chance. They missed my top spots for one reason or another--plot holes, animation that was a little less than stellar, weak dialog, or just personal preference. But that doesn't mean that they aren't worth your time.

1. The Iron Giant
A fun romp with great voice acting and animation, a wonderful story, well thought-out characters, and almost seamless visual compositing between the 2d cel animation and 3d CGI characters which was directed by future Incredibles director: Brad Bird. It got a little too political for my tastes at the end with it's shout out to the anti-gun lobby, but it was still a great film nonetheless that deserved to do far better in the box office than it did.

Availability: Available in the States. Video-to-go has a copy.

2. Jason and the Argonauts
An incredible use of stop motion animation and old-school compositing by master animator Ray Harryhausen. The skeleton fight from this film is still a classic example of stop-motion animation composited with live action which, apparently, took Harryhausen three months to complete. For those of you interested in stop-motion animation, the hour-long documentary "The Harryhausen Chronicles" can be seen on at the following link: YouTube. It's a must-see for budding stop-motion animators who have enjoyed films like Laika's stop-motion films Coraline and Paranorman (or trailers from their upcoming film The Boxtrolls).

Availability: Available in the States. Video-to-go has a copy (make sure it's the 1963 version starring Todd Armstrong with stop-motion effects by Ray Harryhausen, not the 2000 Hallmark production with Jason London and Natasha Henstridge).

3. The Last Unicorn
Ah, a classic Rankin/Bass production--stilted animation, campy dialogue, and not-too-subtle anti-Semitic characters (he said mostly in jest; seriously, a magician named "Schmendrick"? Hmmm...). Still, as a kid who grew up playing Dungeons and Dragons, I greatly enjoyed this film as a child. And along with another Rankin/Bass classic, A Flight of Dragons, I still enjoy it today. It's a beautiful film that deserves to be introduced to a new, present-day audience. Rankin/Bass had some really interesting productions back in the day ranging from the stop-motion holiday specials we all know and love (Rudolph, Frosty the Snowman) to Tolkien classics The Hobbit and the Return of the King. One little tidbit that most people don't know: almost all of their productions were animated in Japan! I have to wonder if The Last Unicorn inspired any Japanese animators in their younger years given the sizable number of fantasy Isekai anime series nowadays.

Availability: Available in the States. Video-to-go has a copy.

4. Allegro Non Troppo
Bruno Bozzetto's answer to Walt Disney's Fantasia. The live action storyline that introduces each animated segment is pretty tedious. Best just to fast forward through it in order to get to some superb and dynamically inventive animation. Throughout the film, there's this wistful, melancholy feeling to many of the stories that is illustrated brilliantly in one of my favorite sequences where a cat, wandering around a burnt out building, remembers what it was like to be part of a loving family. Still animating today, Bozzetto's more recent animated shorts are always a favorite of mine whenever they're included in the line up at the Ottawa International Animation Festival.

Availability: Available in the States. Video-to-go has a copy.

5. 9
Shane Acker's 9 started out as a short film which he parlayed into a feature-length animated film. 9 was a very good short that didn't make the translation into feature as well as it could have. The story, visuals, and animation in this "stitchpunk" tale were supurb, however, the film's main weakness was it's dialog. Seriously, you could make a drinking game out of every time a character gasps in shock. But, regardless of its flaws, 9 remains a very unique film that's worth seeing.

Availability: Available in the States. Video-to-go has a copy.

6.Technotise, Edit y Ja
Not a very deep story, and it borrows probably a little more than it should from Ghost in the Shell, but Technotise is still a fun film that looks like it jumped right off the pages of Heavy Metal (Metal Hurlant) magazine. It's not a rock-opera like the Heavy Metal movie, nor is it an animated Sci-Fi B-Movie like Heavy Metal 2000, it's just a good science fiction story out of Serbia.

Availability: Not available in the States. Up until recently this film was available for streaming online via Amazon's streaming service. It remains to be seen if it'll be offered again.

It's here that I wrap up this series on my blog with a shout-out to local video stores. Here in Lansing, Video To Go is a second home for film buffs and a cornerstone of the film loving community. Owned by Tom Leach, whose son Justin would go on to become an animator on such films as Ghost in the Shell: Innocence, and Ice Age, Video To Go is the best place I have ever found to see many of the popular classic films of animation as well as more recent films that rarely get seen.

When doing research for this series of blog posts, I was floored to see animated films like The Painting, Persepolis, Cool World, Fritz the Cat, Chico and Rita, and Jin-Roh on Video To Go's shelves--just waiting to be discovered by a new audience. These, and many other animated films are ones that you normally only see at animation festivals or through limited run direct order DVDs. It gives me great hope for the medium of animation, knowing that there are men like Tom who aren't afraid of streaming video services and national video rental chains and are willing to risk their money by bringing adult, independent, and avant-garde animation DVDs to local audiences.

So before you spend a half-hour on Netflix, searching for something to watch, consider making that drive down to your local video store (like Video To Go) and spending that time browsing their shelves. Not only will you be supporting a local business but you might just discover one of these rare gems of animation that could become a part of your list of animated films that everybody should see at least once.

Thank you for your time.

Charles Wilson
Smudge Animation LLC