The Secret of Kells
If you have children, you may have seen this pop up as a suggestion in your Netflix queue. Do yourself a favor and click it, for you and for them. It watches like a feature-length Irish Samurai Jack. I’m not usually a fan of forced-perspective watercolor backgrounds, typically the hallmark of cheaply produced 90’s serial cartoons, but as the animation is excellent it can be forgiven. Imgur likes cats, right? Pangur Bán is a devilish cat with heterochromatic eyes who is the subject of at least one haunting melody. The film did atrocious at the box office, either because it was a foreign film (still in English, no subs or dubs) or the simplistic animation style. Let’s show it some love.
The Thief and the Cobbler
I have mixed feelings about including this movie on the list. It started out as a love affair between a director and his animated masterpiece, but after years (technically, decades) of toil creating some of the most visually stunning scenes in animated history, the battered film was sloppily nailed up and sent to video by a third party. Detracting from the original movie were voiceovers of the thief (originally intended to be a silent character) and some songs, one of which is a blatant Jasmine ripoff. In fact, much of the movie will have you saying “Hey, this is Aladdin”, but production began in the 60’s so it is distinctly the predecessor. It’s still worth a watch, especially as you tell yourself “computers were not used in the making of these battle sequences”. And for the black and white chase scene in the palace, you may want to have some LSD standing by.
Plot plot plot. Use that as your mantra when you watch this film. The origin of the story is simple, some writers sat down, hammered out a complete script for an animated film, and then said “Well, time to invest in some 3D software and animate up in this bitch.” The textures and movements of the characters won’t bedazzle you, but the ingenious plot twists (not counting the poorly hidden antagonist) and strong voice acting compensate. And if you aren’t humming “Be Prepared” when it’s over, then you can just go to hell and die.
Rock & Rule
Let’s put aside the plot idea that an aging rock superstar is looking for a voice that will unlock the path for a demon to conquer the world. Let’s overlook the 80’s rock theme of the film which animated songs by Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, and Earth, Wind, & Fire. Let’s overlook the anthropomorphic main characters from a world in vague parallel to our own. Lastly, let’s overlook the near bankruptcy this film caused its production studio. Instead, let’s focus on the snide dialogue from Omar, the male protagonist; the Schlepper brothers as rollerskating henchmen; the astoundingly creepy Mok; and the organic yet fluid animation that captured subtle facial expressions, a soundtrack that smells of big hair and legwarmers, and a quickly paced comedy/romance tale of an up and coming band that splits itself apart for fame. You’ll have to suspend your disbelief a bit for the plot, and if you think 80’s music sucks, you’ll be rolling your eyes a lot. Otherwise, pull out your Judas Priest shirt and have a good time.
Grab the popcorn, grab the kids! And grab a shotgun so you can blow your brains out afterwards! What, you think animation is for children? You think it’s all innocence and daisies? Welcome to Homeward Bound: What Could Have Happened Edition. In this joyous film, two dogs escape from a medical testing facility. The first scene shows them being tested and tortured, then escaping through the animal incinerator. The feels train flings brakelessly downhill from there. Everyone who tries to help them dies. Do you know how awful movies like Beauty & the Beast or Tangled would be if they ended right as the protagonist dies? Well, now you can find out. There is no happy ending. There is no happy middle. There are no happy parts at all. If you think I’m exaggerating, test it out. The movie poster title says “Escape to a different world and share the adventure of a lifetime.” I don’t think that person saw the movie. I picked this picture because it makes everything look hopeful. Heh.
Cat’s Don’t Dance
If you haven’t heard of this film, blame marketing. I’ll bear my heart and say this is just about my most favorite animated movie but was a horrible casualty of a studio merger and nearly non-existent marketing. This film is every bit as good as any Disney movie with songs by Randy Newman, voices by Scott Bakula, Jasmine Guy, Don Knotts, and Kathy Najimy (typecast as a hippo, but whatevs, she’s still brilliant). The story centers around blindly optimistic Danny, a cat who goes to Hollywood in the late 30’s to pursue his acting dream, only to find out that animals are only bit players in Hollywood. He tries to change that despite manipulations by Darla Dimple, a Shirley-Temple-esque girl who is currently all the rage on the red carpet. Do the animals win? Just watch it. If you aren’t moved by Tell Me Lies (sung by Natalie Cole), then you’ve never had a dream die in your arms.
Eight Crazy Nights
If you don’t like Adam Sandler, move along. If you do like Adam Sandler, maybe move along anyway. I won’t lie, this movie is half train-wreck and half recycled Adam Sandler jokes. In fact, the nicest thing you can find in most on-line reviews is that the animation is good. Which is true, it’s fantastic! Too good. Strangely good. As a fan of animation as an art, that’s a huge reason this made the list. I don’t even like most of his humor and found some of the characters obnoxious, but I am in love with the idea of a protagonist who hates life and has no reason to change and resists everyone’s best efforts to help him. A sucker for cheap feels, that’s me. Plus, dammit, the animation is SO GOOD. And for the OCD among you, it’s not a coincidence I put this movie as number 7 on the list. Crazy, no?
Ernest & Celestine
I love every second of this movie. Every. Second. Pick any second and strand me on a desert island with it and I’ll watch it over and over again and die of starvation instead of finding food. Beautiful simplistic coloring, masterful animation, a plot you can predict but a journey worthwhile.
Starchaser: The Legend of Orin
No, I’m not the least bit ashamed to add this movie to the list. Playing on the heels of Star Wars and the “lone straggler who demolishes an interstellar empire” plot line, It’s an excellent pearl of 80’s animation. It holds strongly as an action movie, the chase scenes are thrilling from the mutants in the bog right up to the early era computer generated spaceship rotoscoping. At the very least, I love the early Bender: the womanizing, scarf-wearing, cigar-chomping bounty hunter Dagg and his unique way with female robots.
Mary and Max
It starts when an unloved misfit Australian girl rips a page out of a New York phone book and sends a letter to a random stranger in hopes of finding a pen pal. It ends with you and a half-used box of tissues sobbing hysterically into your can of sweetened condensed milk. Despite the glacially paced narrative and misplaced crude humor (I love a good fart joke, but is is necessary for the background animals to be pooping all the time?), the movie will resonate with those who love people who try hard and never get ahead. It’s a thing called “real life” and I suspect the Imgur audience will find kinship, maybe with Mary, maybe with Max. I won’t tell you which one I am.
Extra – Aachi and Ssipak
I know I said no Anime, but I’ll draw the line at calling this Anime because it’s Korean. Argue with me if you must but, I guarantee you that I won’t care. This movie has crazy fucking action scenes and a tremendous amount of the plot is focused on things going into and coming out of butts. Watch it.