Elijah's Favorite Animated Films
Hey, everybody! I’m baaaaaccccckkkkkk!
…I am not ashamed for making that reference.
Anyways, I know that it’s been about eight months since my review of Black Panther, and I have not been producing much new content. However, I have decided that I’m gonna try to get 433 Films running again, so be on the lookout for new content. For my comeback piece, however, I couldn’t think of a film to review seeing as most of the films I’ve seen haven’t been worthy of a full-length review (except for A Star is Born, which I will see again as I fell asleep through it the first time I saw it…it was late at night…anyway…). So, I thought the best thing to do would be to write an article about one of my passions: animation.
Ever since I was a kid, I have loved animated films, whether they be from Disney, DreamWorks, Pixar, Warner Bros., or even small upstart companies. This is because when I was younger, I drew all the time, wearing out countless Magna-Doodles, Etch-a-Sketches, and notebooks. And to this day, even though I don’t draw nearly as much anymore, the art of animation still fascinates me, to an extent where I even want to get back into drawing. In fact, whenever I get an animated film from the library, I always make sure to listen to the commentaries from the filmmakers because it’s always fascinating to hear just how much work went into the film. So today, I’m gonna be listing my favorite animated films of all time. This list won’t be in any sort of order or organization, I will just be listing the films sort of at random. So, let’s not waste any time and get down to the list!
The Iron Giant
Brad Bird’s directorial debut about an alien giant befriending a young boy in Cold War-era America is possibly one of the most emotionally affecting animated films that Warner Bros. basically didn’t know how to market when it first came out. But over the years, it thankfully found new life on home video and DVD and has gotten the love that it deserved, to an extent where in 2015, Warner Bros. released a signature edition that contained two new additional scenes which I won’t spoil. But setting that all that aside, The Iron Giant deftly touches on themes of identity, friendship, and even manages to slyly and comedically critique the Cold War paranoia of the American public at the time without tumbling into Dr. Strangelove levels of cynicism. And it’s probably one of the best movies having anything to do with Superman since the Christopher Reeve film. You’ll know what I mean once you watch it…and you might wanna keep some tissues handy.
The Road to El Dorado
Yet another film that didn’t do well upon initial release but has gained cult status since the growth of the Internet. And while it’s nowhere near as resonant or powerful as The Iron Giant, The Road to El Dorado is one heck of a fun movie. The chemistry between Kevin Kline and Kenneth Branagh works like gangbusters, Hans Zimmer and John Powell’s score is rousing (sounding at times very much like a precursor to their Kung Fu Panda music), and the comedy is always smart and on-point. In fact, the good stuff is so good that it’s easy to overlook the stuff that doesn’t work so well, like Tzekel-Kan not being that interesting of a villain or the Elton John songs feeling a little unnecessary, although I will admit that “It’s Tough to Be a God” is incredibly catchy. But again, it doesn’t really matter because the movie is mostly just about watching Kline and Branagh expertly improv their way through a comedic version of Kipling’s The Man who Would Be King. In fact, I would argue that this film will make you laugh harder than most modern comedies.
The Emperors’s New Groove
Seriously, what can I say about this one that hasn’t already been said before? The Emperor’s New Groove is just a riot of a film. The fourth wall-breaking is genius, David Spade is probably at his funniest as Kuzco, and Kronk and Yzma are probably two of Disney’s funniest villains ever. But thankfully, the film also knows when to slow down on the jokes and have an emotional center, which also works well. In fact, the only thing of note I can really say is that there’s a documentary about the making of this film called The Sweatbox (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21Z1WHQDXn4), directed by Sting’s wife Trudy Styler, which exposes just how much of a different animal this movie was before they completely retooled it. You can check it out on YouTube, which you should do before it gets taken down again…anyway, moving on.
Talk about a movie that takes a simple idea and just gets great results from it. Fantasia was truly a labor of love for Walt Disney and his associates, and you can definitely feel that love coming through in every frame. The animation is top-tier, the musical selections are genius, and everything about this film transports your mind to another state of being (sorry if that sounded a little pretentious). This is probably my favorite Disney film of all time, and I don’t think I’ve seen one since that had the guts to go as experimental or even as dark as this one did. Not much more to say but this is a great film.
Atlantis: The Lost Empire
I know I’ve said in a previous article that this film doesn’t totally work when all is said and done – mostly due to trying to accomplish too much in too little time – but I just can’t help but admit how cool this movie is! Apparently when making this film, Disney hired Hellboy creator Mike Mignola to help with the character designs, and you can definitely see his art style influencing the style of the film. Think about it, did you ever notice how angular the style of this movie gets at times? In fact, Roger Ebert himself compared the film to looking like a comic from Marvel. But aside from that, all of the characters are uniquely offbeat and interesting, and if given more screen time, they could have made a great motley crew of explorers. So, all in all, I’d call the movie a mixed bag leaning more towards the good side.
Admit it, y'all. You probably forgot about this one. But we sci-fi geeks definitely remember. Titan A.E. was released during that heyday of science-fiction/action films during the late 90s and early 2000s…and pretty much bombed spectacularly, leading to Fox Animation Studios instantly shutting down. And yeah, one can’t deny just how derivative this movie feels in the plot department sometimes. But on the other hand…man, what a fun ride! I mean, yeah, it’s not necessarily swinging for the fences in terms of character development or plot mechanics, but sometimes all a movie needs to be is entertaining, and this movie is extremely entertaining. The technology looks cool (even if the CG animation doesn’t totally hold up), the action is fun, the cast is eclectic, brimming with Joss Whedon-esque levels of quirkiness (which figures because he contributed to this script), and overall, it’s just a fun time.
Yeah, yeah, I know this might sound like I’m cheating considering that this is technically a live-action/animation hybrid, but honestly, the live-action parts are just so bad that if it’s all the same to you, I’m just willing to pretend that they don’t exist. But when the animated portion kicks in, the film gets fun. The world inside Frank’s body is incredibly well-realized and stylized, the Warner Bros. animation is on-point, Chris Rock is funny as Ozzy, and the dynamic between him and David Hyde Pierce as Drix is fun to watch. Plus, this movie has got an all-time great devious vocal performance from Laurence Fishburne as Thrax the Virus, who for my money is probably one of the best non-Disney animated villains out there.
A Christmas Carol – 1971
This is an animated short film produced by Looney Tunes director Chuck Jones and directed by future Roger Rabbit animation director Richard Williams and stars Alastair Sim, reprising his role as Scrooge from the 1951 version. In terms of adapting the classic Charles Dickens tale, it goes through pretty much the same beats without any major surprises. But the true draw of this short film is the animation, which - being from Richard Williams and company - is surreal, beautiful, and frightening when it needs to be. Definitely deserving of the Academy Award that it won and a worthy fixture for Christmastime viewing!
The Batman/Superman Movie: World's Finest
Again, kind of a cheat considering that this is really just a compilation of three episodes from Superman: The Animated Series. But regardless, this is still an entertaining superhero movie. Kevin Conroy and Tim Daly definitely understand the characters of Batman and Superman respectively, Mark Hamill is still one of the best Jokers around, and the animation is strikingly Gothic and stylized. How is it that a compilation movie from 1997 turns out to be a better Batman/Superman team-up movie than a 2016 big-budget extravaganza? Life is weird.
And last, but certainly not least, we have…
The Prince of Egypt
OK, guys, I know I said I wasn’t gonna go in any kind of order with this list in terms of quality. But sorry. Objectively speaking, The Prince of Egypt is far and away my favorite animated film of all time. It’s got everything that a great film should have; sympathetic characters, a sense of scope, a wonderful score by Hans Zimmer, and top-shelf animation! But what I love the most about this film is how committed it is to its somber tone. It doesn’t feel the need to lessen the dramatic weight of proceedings by inserting an extraneous comedic sidekick for the kids. It just cares about retelling the classic story of Moses in a way that appeals to modern day filmgoers’ sensibilities but also stays true to the spirit of the story.
The movie also contains one of my favorite moments in all of cinema. After the Angel of Death has struck Egypt and taken the life of the firstborn, we see a beautiful establishing shot of Ramses carrying the corpse of his son to a deathbed. The shot is so well composed, and the lighting looks like something out of Citizen Kane.
But what follows is even more powerful. Moses tries to comfort Ramses, only to be rejected. He then walks away and outside the palace, he hears the wailing of the Egyptian population, backed up by a cello playing a sorrowful Eb-minor melody. Not being able to handle it anymore, Moses breaks down and cries.
Pure artistry that is.
And that’s why The Prince of Egypt is my favorite animated film of all time.
Again, I must ask how a 1998 animated film from what was then an upstart film studio turned out to be a better retelling of the Moses story than a 2014 epic directed by Ridley Scott. Like I said before, life is weird.
So, that’s my list. Agree? Disagree. Let me know in the comments below. Take care!