Animation is a genre of filmmaking that I respect and admire the most, along with Science Fiction and Horror, it holds some of filmakings most intelligent and diverse storytelling. Its something that I, like most people, grew up with. Most children would have watched cartoons at a young age because of its bright colours and songs but as you get older you begin to appreciate it a whole lot more.
I’ve always adored Pixar, then I began to love Studio Ghibli and now I’m catching up on Disneys back catalogue. Many animations these days aren’t just for kids, they’re intelligent tales that can capture the hearts and imaginations of both children and adults alike.
There’s a certain cynical view that some people might adopt that films made with children in mind, are somehow, creatively, less artistic than other films. This is, of course, wrong, these animation studios have been proving for years that films aimed at children can be just as captivating for adults, and that adults can experience joy and wonder at animations aimed at them similarly.
In this list I will give you a brief list of some of my favourite animated films, of all shapes and sizes. Some have a place in my heart based off of child hood love, some based off my new tastes as an adult.
I’m going to say now that because I love 80% of Pixars films and a lot of Disney’s, and so because Its only a top 10, I will only pick two of my favourites from each of my 3 favourite studios, Pixar, Walt Disney and Studio Ghibli. This is simply to create a more varied top 10 that includes films from other studios, otherwise my top 10 would be mostly Pixar.
In no particular order, here we go.
Ratatouille is my favourite animated film, and my 3rd favourite film, of all time. Its an utterly beautiful film that hits all the right marks for me. Having gone to Disneyland Paris many time, I’ve grown to associate France and Disney as one of my favourite nostalgias. Ratatouille combines these two things together in a film that’s breathtaking in its beauty and captivates me with every re watch.
With stunning animation, a moral of great substance and Michael Giacchinos very best score that fills me with joy the very second I hear it, it’s a heartfelt and engaging animation that stands up with the very best. It’s also very funny, containing lots of classic slapstick, reminiscent of silent film stars, and remains child friendly whilst being a very ‘grown up’ film. Anton Ego’s speech at the end is utterly wonderful and perfectly executed and its full of many surprises. I love it, I adore it.
This is also one of my favourite bits of music ever.
After Ratatouille, my short list for next favourite Pixar film was hard, if it wasn’t Nemo, it would be a Toy Story, The Incredibles, Wall.E, Up, Monsters Inc or Inside Out. In the end I went for Finding Nemo because of a number of reasons, firstly its animation is peerless, stunningly realised and beautifully rendered, it washes over you and leaves you joyful.
Secondly, the music is relaxing and calming, its sweeping, and scary, and delicate. The voice artists are perfect, the humour is funny but purposeful, the stakes are real and the set pieces extraordinary and exciting. It gets a 2nd place spot simply because of it’s unparalleled beauty.
The Princess and the Frog
My favourite film of Disneys oeuvre is undoubtedly The Princess and the Frog. I have a real love for the culture of certain parts of America, in particular, I’m a big fan of New Orleans and its Jazz culture, being a fan of that style of music. Thus, this film really just gels with my personal opinions, its animation is hand drawn, the music, by Randy Newman, is catchy and engaging, and the moral of the film is fantastic.
The main character is a huge role model for children, working hard to get where she wants and not giving up. The other characters are fun and memorable, and even though it has the potential to have the usual Disney sidekick problem, the film beats it by creating engaging people. The villain, the ever wonderful Keith David, plays with voodoo and gives the film a deliciously dark vibe and an eerie otherworldly depth. The first film classic of the second Disney renaissance.
Lilo and Stitch
Another film that I love based off of its culture, this time, it’s Hawaii. The music, the setting, all enchant me. The film is a lot of fun, with an interesting, if slightly jarring, mix of space aliens and Hawaiian themes. Yet, in the end the leads are charming, Stitch is an adorable creature and Lilo a loveable child.
Whilst there’s a fun film going on here, the side running story is Lilos sister Nani struggling to keep custody of her sister. Its a deep and personal story that gives the film depth, showing her to be a great character who provides one of animations strongest female characters. It has wonderful animation and great characters, which make it a wonderful adventure for the ages.
The film that began my deep well of love for Studio Ghibli and the film that continues to be my absolute favourite. Classic animation drawn with depth, subtlety and heart. A story for the ages, a folklorian tale of imagination and humanity, it transcends Studio Ghiblis high benchmark and sets a new one.
Imaginative, beautiful, funny, wise, exciting, scary, and, that word again, stunning. This is a film that should be compulsory for every child in the world, it’s one for the ages, and anyone who can’t understand how majestic it is, must be a mud river spirit and be full of human garbage.
Laputa: Castle in the sky
It was between this and Kikis Delivery Service for my second place Ghibli spot. Laputa is one of the most straightforward Ghibli films, there is, in the sense that its a romping good action adventure, with flying airships, pirates, guns, robots, tanks and everything in-between. Watch it with a grin on your face as pirates battle bad guys in the air, tear up as a lonely robot trudges through a beautiful garden and be amazed as we see what lies beneath Laputa in a colossal final act.
Another beautiful score, an engaging cast of characters, finely detailed animation and just a really great action adventure film that really romps along.
Based on the book by Neil Gaiman and produced by small studio, Laika, Coraline is a strange but wonderful film that is highly imaginative and thoroughly engaging. It has a gothic, twisted fairytale vibe, like something out of the head of Tim Burton. Its made using stop motion, so the design and artistry is clearly very intricate, you can feel the love that went into it.
The music is delightful and lilting that helps to represent the world of the film in an innocent, fairytale like atmosphere. The story is eerie and affecting whilst the voice artists are spot on. It’s a really fantastic and evocative film that really captured my imagination and heart.
With its offbeat style, eccentric characters, bizarre story and gloomy attitude, this is a film that you wouldn’t think to be very appealing to children. Yet this French made film is an odd delight with life in every frame, and a relentlessly strange appearance that might put off mainstream audiences, but will be interesting for people interested in cinema and trying new things.
The music is interesting and has a nice swing to it, whilst the animation is increasingly jaunty and stylised with great imagination. It’s not for everyone, but I really love it and its style is so different to other animations. Another film called The Illusionist, also made by the same people is a delight as well.
The Nightmare before Christmas
A film that everyone knows, and everyone knows that it must go on at Christmas without fail. A Tim Burton produced film that has some of the most memorable Halloween and Christmas songs around and a classic stop motion animation style that gives it a real life. The story is fun and memorable whilst the characters are scary, funny and great versions of classic horror icons.
As a film that should be on in every household at least once a year, this is probably one of the most beloved animations next to Toy Story and The Lion King. It has a great story that creates its own mythos about holiday traditions and its a movie that kids love because it’s creative, christmassy and scary, which is exactly what they want from a film really.
The Land Before Time
Pretty much my No.1 film as a child, along with Jurassic Park it fuelled my initial childhood dream to be a palaeontologist and remains one of the best nostalgia hits its possible for me to get. It’s a film I want to show to my future kids, because as a child it utterly enchanted me. The animation is styled classically, making everything feel very earthy and real. The music, by the late James Horner, is beautiful and memorable, the characters endearing and the story engaging.
Its a film that has real heart and soul, it makes you cry and it keeps you entertained. There’s a real moral message behind it and teaches you about the circle of life, before The Lion King did. Its a real animated classic and remains a favourite of mine, and will do for a long time.
So there, I hope you enjoyed this post about some of my favourite animated films. If you enjoyed this, give it a like and let me know if you’d like to see more stuff about animation, or any other genre. Thanks for reading 🙂