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Top 10 Animated Movies For The Holidays

MS in Preventive Medicine; Masters' level Psychology and Russian; Science Core: astronomy, biology, genetics, mathematics, and more.



Why Animation?

The films I have chosen in this list seem to me to be those that have impacted society immensely and led the way for 21st Century innovations in animation. They can be considered a list of old classics.

Animated movies are often a cherished element of childhood and have been so since the latter half of the 20th Century. For example, I recall one small girl that watched The Little Mermaid every day for two years. Modern kids often have a favorite animated VHS tape or DVD at home and they can even play them in the SUV on road trips.

Animation grabs the attention of children and can be used to calm, entertain, and educate them, all while making them laugh. I think this can be a good thing in moderation- fourteen hours a day of animated films is likely a poor viewing diet, but a healthy place can be made for animated films in the life of a child.

Many animated films are fitted with some more-advanced humor references tucked in between the speaking animals, princesses, and heroes in order to make them "fun for the entire family." They entertain adults as well and provide revenues for successful studios like Disney, Warner Brothers, Big Idea (Veggie Tales), Dreamworks (Moses; Madagascar, Penguins of Madagascar), and others.

Before Kindle book readers, CGI animation, and more-advanced technologies, there were silent black-and-white animated shorts books to stimulate the imagination and provide wholesome humor for children. Not all of us had many books growing up, though -- Craig Ferguson had a magic attic in his childhood home. He and his sister Lynn, a writer for his Late Late Show, still believe in the magic of that attic and their own imaginations. I think it shows especially in the musical numbers that feature puppets. Animation and puppetry are fun, and some films combine both.

New Cartoon Favorites

Two new features of the 2010s may replace some on this list. Number one may become "Frozen." Not only was it consistently popular for two years after the release date, but Disney also made such funny follow-up cartoons, that the whole franchise will become as popular as "Star Wars."


"The Lego Movie" is the other feature that is sure to replace some other films on this list.


During summer of 2015, "The Minions Movie may prove to be another replacement for films on this group of favorites.

An actress and actor portray Poppins and Bert on the King Arthur Carousel at Disneyland in 2011.

An actress and actor portray Poppins and Bert on the King Arthur Carousel at Disneyland in 2011.

New From Disney Studios

Before looking at the Top 10 List through the years, which includes some Walt Disney films, here is one more recent holiday movie that is not animated, but contains arguments over the use of animation.

This film is Saving Mr. Banks, which may win a few Oscars for 2013.

While closely consulting on the production of the film Mary Poppins from her book, P.L. Travers denounced animation as an insult to her main character. No matter what she said or did, Disney included animated footage of penguins dancing with Dick van Dyke. Travers was incensed.

Beyond that detail, the film story of Travers and Disney includes surprising and important details of the difficult childhoods of both. Then we can understand why Walt Disney wanted Mr. Banks in the Poppins story to resemble his own father. Poppins's help to Mr. Banks in the film was to serve as a resolution to the help needed by the fathers of both P.L.Travers and Walt Disney.

This film will become a classic, with Tom Hanks portraying Disney and Emma Thompson playing Travers. As viewers listen to tape recordings of Travers at the end of the film, they swear that it must be Emma Thompson.

Disneyland and Disney World and all the related theme parks take on a new meaning after seeing Saving Mr. Banks. After his childhood and his early work on Mickey Mouse, the reasons are clear for Disney's wishing to build The Happiest Place On Earth.

It is so happy that teenagers work at Disneyland, come back to work full-time after college, and even maintain part-time work there in their retirement. It must be a very happy place.

1940 - Number 1

The greatest animated film of all time is likely one that I have never viewed completely - Walt Disney's Fantasia. In 2015, it celebrated the 75th anniversary of its original release.

I've seen clips from it and part of a "making of..." background film about it and know that for its era, it was a huge project and very cutting edge. Today, Collector's DVDs are available of this animation, including scenes cut from the original film.

The clips I saw as a child on TV were my first introduction to Classic Music, leading me to love of Night on Bald Mountain and Cossack Dance. as well as images of outer space.

Fantasia was envisioned and produced as a feature-length concert film, an experiment in incorporating classical musical with attention-grabbing animated characters like dancing brooms, dancing mushrooms, ballet hippos, and many more. A few of the classics from the film include:

  • Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker Suite
  • Paul Dukas's The Sorcerer's Apprentice
  • Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain
  • Schubert's Ave Maria

1937 - Number 2

Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs is a Disney film that has impacted several generations of youngsters.

Based in part on the childrens' tale Snow White and Rose Red, this animated feature produced some of the most widely recognized characters, literary themes, and music around the world. the seven dwarfs and the Mirror-Mirror theme have been adapted and parodied in all forms of performance arts, comic strips, and literature.

In 1937, this film was the first full-length sound and color animated film in history. Previous films had been made with stop action in Germany and France, and with paper cutouts in Germany. Another was made in black-and-white in South America, and others were silent features or shorts.

Taking almost 4 years to complete, it was a major undertaking. Despite negative name-calling that called the project Disney's Folly, Snow White became one of the largest entertainment successes of all time.

1950 - Number 3

Cinderella is the animated Disney feature that gave us our "proverbial rags to riches story" and proved to every little girl that any little girl can be a princess and grow up to be a queen of her own life.

This is my favorite Disney "princess film," because of the dance scene in which the magical mice repeatedly change the color of her ball gown (and because of the talking mice).

1939 - Number 4

Gulliver's Travels is the successful 1939 Academy Award-nominated animated feature in Technicolor.

Its director was Dave Fleischer and with producer Max Fleischer of Fleischer Studios, he made Popeye and Betty Boop famous. Popeye was a favorite of mine and still is today.

This film was offered as competition for Disney's Snow White and was also successful at the box office. Today the film is in the public domain and available on the Internet.

1940 - Rabbits and Wooden Puppets - Number 5

Pinocchio is based on the children's story Pinocchio: Tale of a Puppet by Carlo Collodi in 1883 and probably The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams in 1922.

In both stories, either a puppet wants to become a "real boy" or a stuffed toy bunny wants to become a "real rabbit." I think the message of each is that love received makes one a human being.

Pinocchio and its famous music and characters have become taken for granted in American culture. Poignantly, When You Wish Upon a Star was played over the Disneyland PA system when Walt Disney died and people cried, cast and guests alike.

This song and the philosophy behind it are the reasons that some people get a job at Disneyland straight out of high school and work clear through their retirement years. Guests keep coming back, sometimes begging to be carried if they are unwell. It's another world where dreams come true and one that many wish the real world could become.

The movie has affected American culture in many ways -- For example, what did Commander Riker call Data, the android-wishing-to-become-human in the first episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation®? - Pinocchio.

1964 - Number 6

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a Christmas classic since 1964.

Based on a Christmas poem from 1939, this TV animated film special has been aired at least once yearly since the early 1970s. it is usually shown several times in December so that no one misses it.

Several classic 20th Century Christmas songs are featured in this animation, many sung by Burl Ives's voicing as a snowman. In fact "A Holly Jolly Christmas" is played 1000s of times on the radio and on some mall PA systems every holiday season in America.

1968 - Number 7

Yellow Submarine

A friend of mine who is an artist owns this DVD and I think that it is her favorite. At one time, she owned a yellow Volkswagen Bug to go with it.

Surreal and colorful and harking back to the time that the Beatles were together, Yellow Submarine creates another world when she plays the DVD.

A Charlie Brown Christmas - Number 8

A classic short animated film from 1965, this one is usually shown during the winter holidays in combination with another Charlie Brown cartoon to make a full hour of viewing.

The film holds a halogen beam to the commercialization and capitalistic-secularism of a faith-based Christmas. In the 1950s - 1960s, writers and comics such as Stan Freberg and Tom Lehrer hit this topic hard, and Charlie Brown lent a different angle to the argument.

However, at least in America, we have two Christmases - the secular celebration and the faith-based Birthday of Jesus (even though celebrated in probably the wrong season).

Everyone is free to celebrate, one, both, or neither Christmas. Some communities like my own even hold a Festivus celebration (from the Seinfeld TV series). Such alternatives have an effect on at least some children every year, persuading them not to over-consume.

2008 - Number 9

Finding Nemo is all about fish, but really about people, and people watch this film every year as a tradition.

A young fish lad wants to be allowed more freedom and authority over his own life and gets his chance at great expense. He is lost in a larger world of oceans, sea creatures, dentists, gulls, and aquariums. Somehow, he makes it back home with the help of his fellow aquarium mates from the dentist's office and his father becomes a bit more reasonable.

Not only does this film teach tolerance and respect for all races, genders, and ages under the umbrella of life in general, it is entertaining. For example, the see gulls screeching "Mine, mine, mine!" and the European valet-like aquarium shrimp make me laugh after many viewings. The voices of Ellen DeGeneres and Stephen Root make the film all the more hilarious.

1993 - Number 10

Nightmare Before Christmas was released in 1993, offering the first of a new wave of Tim Burton animation.

Combining Halloween and Christmas with competition and dreams come true, this film is entertaining, odd, and unforgettable.

A couple of particularly comic scenes include a two-faced mayor that has a happy face on one half of his entire head and a mean face on the other and a mad scientist that opens his own skull on a hinge to scratch his brain while thinking.

© 2009 Patty Inglish MS


Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on September 26, 2009:

@arrrgonaut - I'm a professional film critic, though part-time. The films in this list are either/or/and innovative, first of their kind, of great social/psych or cultural impact of a certain thrust for the first time, etc. Thanks for your comments and questions.

arrrgonaut from Tennessee on September 25, 2009:

Your list is good. I'm happy to see Fantasia is number one. But I'm curious to know what your rankings are based on. Popularity? Awards? Box office gross? Or just personal preference as an amateur critic?

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on September 25, 2009:

Hi, fellow animated classics lovers!

You know, I am really nutz about Nemo's the acquarium shrimp that reminds me of French matre 'Ds in films of the 30s and 40s. And human nature is evident as well, as you say, Lisa HW. Cartoons are much fun for adults, too.

Lisa HW from Massachusetts on September 25, 2009:

Disney's "Cinderella" is my favorite. Now that I'm past the cynicism of youth, I've seen past the face-value story and on to the aspects of human nature depicted in it.

My family knows I love animated kids' classics, so I've received Little Mermaid, Anastasia, and others as gifts. LOL

wesleycox from Back in Texas, at least until August 2012 on September 24, 2009:

Nothing will ever beat the classics. I think that is because they are the first films children really watch. Both of my daughters have seen these movies, exceptions being Fantasia, Yellow Submarine, Gullivers Travels, and Nightmare before Christmas. Great list.

Triplet Mom from West Coast on September 23, 2009:

Great movie selections! I love animated movies and they are great to give as gifts.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on September 23, 2009:

Hi dohn121 - teh vid is the first part of the film and the others are all grouped together on youtube. I hope links still show up at the end of Part 1.

Hmrjmr1 - Bugs was my favorite cartoon even through high school. I'd forgotten the music involved. Thanks!

Hmrjmr1 from Georgia, USA on September 23, 2009:

Patty - A great List, Fantasia and (believe it or not) Bugs Bunny were great classical music introductions during my childhood. I still love Rosini's overtures cause of Bugs

dohn121 from Hudson Valley, New York on September 23, 2009:

I really liked your selection of all of these wonderful movies. I've seen all for the exception of Gulliver's Travel but will shortly. I see that you and I have like-tastes when it comes to movies overall. I really enjoyed this hub, Patty. Thank you!