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Our 11 Favorite Animated Movies - 12 Days of TMA

We continue the 12 Days of The Movie Advocate with our 11 favorite animated movies. Enjoy!

Ben's List:

11. Wizards

Wizards might not be objectively “good,” but Ralph Bakshi’s bizarre post-apocalyptic epic sticks with me. I love the idea of collaging animation styles, and Bakshi was the best besides Disney at that – the good wizard is a Saturday morning cartoon yet his fairy sidekick is straight out of Hustler. Rotoscoping mashes up against traditional cell animation and there’s even some WWII source footage thrown in there. Bakshi was a interesting mind. Scatterbrained and seedy, but interesting.

10. A Town Called Panic

I think I’m just putting this on the list because I want more people to see it. I want ALL the people to see it. The manic, slapstick stop-motion adventures of Horse, Cowboy, and Indian are exhilarating and piss-your-pants hilarious. This movie is like sucking on a giant pixie stick for 80 minutes.

9. The Iron Giant

I don’t rewatch this as much as I should. It’s great to see Brad Bird’s feature debut become the celebrated classic it deserves to be. This is one classy production.

8. The Nightmare before Christmas

Though I’ve cooled on Tim Burton over the years, Nightmare was huge for me during my teenage years. I’m a huge fan of the Rankin/Bass holiday specials, so this movie strokes my geek spot just as pleasurably as any Star Wars homage ever could. Danny Elfman’s finest moment.

7. Robin Hood

As hippy-dippy as Disney ever got. The best parts of Michael Curtiz’s masterpiece The Adventures of Robin Hood are distilled and kiddie-fied. The stoned soundtrack and laid back animation combine to make this one of my ultimate “comfort movies.”

6. The Incredibles

More Brad Bird. The dude is an amazing action director, which you will experience soon enough in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. He cut his teeth on the action genre with The Incredibles, and pretty much schooled 99% of all other action directors on his first try…in a kid’s movie. I could take or leave the Ayn Randian undertones, but the Incredibles is stylistically, er, incredible.

5. Howl’s Moving Castle

The fact that Howl’s Moving Castle is my favorite Myazaki movie baffles a lot of people, but I am equally baffled by the general indifference towards the movie. Just in terms of “world building,” this is the most inspired, rich, suggestive universe Myazaki has ever played around in. The plot walks a tightrope between unpredictable and arbitrary, which I think is part of the charm. There are passages of this movie that are divinely haunting and beautiful and the character work is unparalleled in Myazaki’s oeuvre.

4. The Adventures of Prince Achmed

By far the oldest movie on the list, Prince Achmed is a hidden nugget of pure gold in the annals of film history. Dating to 1926, Lotte Reiniger’s visionary adaptation of Arabian Nights tells the story with paper and metal cutouts on abstract colored backgrounds. It is the most amazing possible version of that admittedly dry description. Reiniger draws real pathos and excitement out of lifeless pieces of paper, which, come to think of it, is sort of the textbook definition of great animation.

3. Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer

I’m a total sucker for insular animated worlds. Rankin/Bass productions hold a special place in my heart, and this is certainly the best work of their career. If I was the kind of nerd who collected memorabilia, you better believe my house would be covered with figurines of the Bumble and Yukon Cornelius. Now mush. Mush!

2. Finding Nemo

Finding Nemo is a perfect movie. The incredible detail given to these beautifully rendered environments and the way that the story is deftly guided by oceanography and zoology betrays the amount of work put into this production. Finding Nemo features Thomas Newman’s best score, and some of the most impactful montage and editing in recent memory. It’s a beautiful movie on every level.

1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

My god, it’s just… just… the best. It’s motherfucking Snow White, for fuck’s sake. Animation has never been better. Film in general has rarely been better.

Editor's note: check out Ben's article on Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, and Hitler here -J
Justin's List
11. Justice League: The New Frontier

My favorite of the DTV DC animated movies. The New Frontier is concerned with the Silver Age incarnations of character and placing them within the larger zeitgeist of late 50's/early 60's culture. The title is a reference to JFK's famous speech about space exploration. The New Frontier represents all the hopes and fears of the nuclear age.

10. Coraline

This made the list because I'm married to a wonderful woman who is essentially Coraline grown up. This adaptation of Neil Gaiman's children's book is charming and spooky, two things that children's movies seldom get right.

9. Brave Little Toaster

One of my favorite cartoons as a kid. It's been ages since I've seen this, and I'm not sure if it would hold up. I am really intrigued about using household appliances as a stand-in for pets in this Homeward Bound type story. There's something kind of heartbreaking and charming about this movie.

8. Paper Rad: Taking out the Trash

I'm not sure that this counts as a movie in the strictest sense. This is a compilation of shorts from the Pittsburgh art collective. People from my generation will find it eerily prescient and familiar as Adult Swim type humor meshes with Rose Art and Trapper Keeper art of yore.

7. Princess Mononoke

My favorite Miyazaki movie, and one that on paper it looks like I wouldn't like. A beautiful and stirring example of how good fantasy can be in the right hands.
6. Fantastic Mr. Fox

The Fantastic Mr. fox was my favorite movie of 2009. Wes Anderson brought a book by one of my favorite authors to life. What the team achieved with stop motion is a good argument against the increasingly prevalent computer generated animation that seems to be a requirement these days.
5. Sword in the Stone

It seems a little weird to say, but the thing I love most about The Sword and the Stone is its pacing. If this movie came out today, at least half the movie would be spent with teenage/young-adult Arthur kicking ass. I love the idea of Arthur as a skinny weakling learning the ropes from Merlin. The animation is classic 60's Disney and shows a devotion to design that's been lost for decades.

4. Incredibles

My favorite Pixar movie. A way better Fantastic 4 movie than either of the Fantastic 4 movies. Brad Bird was the best thing about Pixar and the golden age of The Simpsons. Bird understands what makes families compelling and manages to bring out the best in them despite the characters' flaws. In that, he somehow manages to capture what we know to be true in real life.
3. Perfect Blue

As much as I love this movie, it made me insanely mad that we lost the director, Satoshi Kon, at such a young age. This is the most cogent and understanding movie made about the nature of celebrity and exploitation.
2. Heavy Metal

A big dumb movie with lots of boobs and violence. Heavy Metal is celluloid id, a triumph of schlock, and one of my all-time favorite movies.

1. Dumbo

CG movies will never be as good as hand drawn movies until they can nail the looseness and expressiveness of the animation of Dumbo. A very short movie that shakes me to the core every time I watch it. Dumbo will break your heart, scare the shit out of you, and fill you with hope. What else could you want from a movie?

Luke's list:
-side note: The Thief and the Cobbler would have ended up on this list if I would have seen all three versions before making this list. Like my buddy/film prof April used to say, "you can't review a movie you haven't seen."
11. Fantasia

I'm keeping it to one "classic" Disney movie in this list. This one doesn't count as a "classic" Disney movie because the general population just saw it once and slept through it, or bought it and never watched it, out of some sense of loyalty towards Disney. Sorry, but that's totally true. Yes there is a groundswell of true believers, but they're probably the same people who loved 2001: A Space Odyssey (guilty). I LOVED this movie as a kid, and it would end up on a list coming up in a few days if it weren't such a shining achievement in animation that it would be tarnished by being placed next to that string of embarrassing movies. You'll see. And if you haven't seen this, seriously, dust off that VHS copy in your basement and slap it in the VCR.

Tied for 9. An American Tale: Fievel Goes West

Mind you, I haven't seen this movie since I was a child, but it was such an effective movie that I'll stand up to defend it any day of the week. Yes, An American Tale 1 had more memorable music (There Are No Cats in America, Somewhere Out There), but this movie was pure adventure, and probably the first "western" I could, without shame, admit that I enjoyed (come on, kids hate westerns).

Tied for 9. The Rescuers Down Under

This one also doesn't count as a "classic" Disney because no one remembers that Disney did it. It's essentially the same idea as with Fievel Goes West: you take (an) established character(s) and place them in a new environment, the environment lending itself to the conflict just as much as actual plot points. But, as with Fievel Goes West, it's pure adventure, the animation so vivid and unique that to this day I'd be able to tell a scene from it just from a quick glance.

8. The Iron Giant

I've only just recently seen this movie, and I have to say I was moved to tears. It's joyous, unconventional, straight up bonkers story makes up a movie that you'd be hard pressed to find the equal of.

7. Robin Hood

This is the "classic" Disney movie that made my list. It's, in my mind, the best example of everything a "classic" Disney movie ought to be, and it doesn't have any of the weird, reprehensible morals that the "princess" movies are known for.

6. The Secret of Kells

Short, yes, but an acheivement in showing how non-Disney, more expressive style can still get the story across, and delight the eye. Granted, it's not the most experimental, but it's still fairly distinct compared to the standard forms of animation.

5. Perfect Blue

I'm also keeping it to one Satoshi Kon movie. This movie is messed UP. Story aside, the cinematic, explosive nature of the movie couldn't possibly be better represented by the art, and the direction. Just all around a gripping thriller. One that you would be most likely to be able to show to someone who distrusts "anime," and possibly make them a believer. If not with this movie, then certainly with the next pick...

4. Princess Mononoke

I'm aaalso keeping it to one Miyazaki movie. The one, the movie that sparked a generation to become Japanophiles, a trend we still have yet to escape ... and you'll not find me complaining, because the more money we can pump into Miyazaki's coffers, the better.

3. The Hobbit

Basically like watching a watercolor painting in action. I've rarely seen a style of animation so precisely match the tone of the story. Like watching pure magic unfold before your eyes.

2. Wall-E

Aaaand I'm keeping it to one Pixar movie, and this is definitely my top. I remember walking out of it thinking to myself "is it wrong that I may have a new favorite movie?" That's while wiping away tears, mind you. It's got probably my favorite opening scene from any movie I've ever seen.

1. Phantom Tollbooth

A faithful adaptation of the brilliant children's book, one of the greatest injustices of the modern era was made right just last year when a remastered version of this was finally released on DVD. Which means that, when you're done reading the articles on this site, you need to find a way to procure a copy. It's colorful, imaginative, fun, and filled with lessons I find myself still in need of taking to heart. Absolute brilliance.

Ryan's List :
11. Ferngully

First of all, I’m not really an “animation guy”, and second of all, FULL DISCLOSURE: I haven’t seen this shit since probably 1990, so in no way can I speak to it’s quality as an adult. As I recall, the main guy who gets shrunk into a fairy size and fights toxic sludge alongside a wise-cracking bat was pretty hot for a cartoon. And yes, that’s all the reason I need.

Editor's note: there's a shocking amount of Ferngully cosplay that I saw while looking for that picture. -J
10. The “Don’t Walk Away” sequence in Xanadu

In which Olivia Newton John (Kira) and Michael Beck (Sonny) are having a date at the Holiday Bowl, and are then suddenly, inexplicably and awesomely turned into cartoon birds, fish, and fairy-things while the Electric Light Orchestra sings the best power ballad in the history of roller-disco.

9. The Black Cauldron

“Wait, DISNEY? WTF IS THIS? SRSLY? Ok. I’m scared. This is great.” – Ryan Thompson, age 7

8. Coraline

Totally original, harrowingly beautiful, and good in a grown-up way, not just for the kids. Also features a delightful, prickly, and downright unlikeable main character voiced by a spry Dakota Fanning.

7. Avatar: The Last Airbender

I told you I’m not really an animation guy. Not to be a jerk, like, “UGH BABY MOVIES”, I just don’t really seek it out much. BLIND SPOT. Although The Boyfriend has made me watch Avatar: The Last Airbender a few times (I HATED EVERY SECOND).

6. Editor's note: watch My Neighbor Totoro -J.

If you’re expecting some Hayao Miyazaki, you’re shit out of luck, ‘cause I’ve never seen any.

5. Wall-E

I liked WALL-E a lot.

4. Despicable Me

They keep showing Despicable Me on HBO, and it’s pretty fun.

3. Ratatouille

Okay, back to the list. I also kind of liked Ratatouille.

2. The Incredibles

I don’t know what it is about it. The stylized landscapes and character design, the unconventional voice casting (Sarah Vowell and Craig T. Nelson? Ok, sure.), the action scenes better than in most summer blockbusters. It’s an instant classic. Nostalgia, humor and actual pathos.

1. The Secret of NIMH

When I was a wee child, my sister and I were allowed to go to the Albertson’s in Idaho Falls and rent one ACTUAL VHS per week – I inevitably chose NIMH every single time. It’s a children’s movie starring a cast of rodents dealing with the metaphysical fall out of animal testing. What’s not to love!? It’s also, to a child (and most adults), terrifying. Chock full of supporting characters like The Great Owl, Nicodemus, and Dragon, the farmer’s hellcat, the field in which Mrs. Brisby lives is a virtual warzone of supernatural animals. I never get sick of it.

What are your favorites?

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Our 11 Favorite Animated Movies - 12 Days of TMA + TIME