Time Out's 50 greatest animated films: part 2
In celebration of the release of Pixar's 'Up' and Wes Anderson's beautiful stop-motion rendering of Roald Dahl's 'Fantastic Mr Fox', Time Out ushers in the help of master animator Terry Gilliam – whose own partially animated 'The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus' opens in cinemas this month – to run down 50 of the greatest animated features of all time
40. Animal Farm (1954)Directed by John Halas & Joy BatchelorAll films are created equal, but...This adaptation of George Orwell’s barnyard allegory of Stalinism was a notable affair even before the credits came up: It was the first worldwide release for a UK animated feature; there was rumoured CIA meddling; and it received an ‘X’-rating from the BBFC. An epic, sweeping tale of revolution, corruption and greed set against the backdrop of a small farm just outside Eastbourne, Orwell’s parable proves a perfect fit for the pen ’n’ paintpot process. Though the animation style echoes the Disney school, there’s a very British aesthetic at work here, and while the look of the film has not dated especially well, as a whole, it's still as chilling, charming and challenging as it was 50 years ago. Just make sure you turn it off before that allegedly CIA-sponsored ‘farmyard funnies’ epilogue… ALDClick here for a clip of ‘Animal Farm
39. Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For TheatresDirected by Matt Maiellaro & Dave WillisNumber one in the hood, G Those who like their humour deliciously surreal but can only ingest bite-sized chunks of sugar-concentrated comic entertainment in any one go, should find the curious misadventures of three animated fast-food aberrations: Meatwad, Master Shake and Frylock an addictive mirth fix, if something of an acquired taste. Known collectively as Aqua Teen Hunger Force (ATHF) the shape-shifting burger patty, acid-spitting milkshake and chip-chucking packet of French fries eschew trad hero antics for general lazing about in their New Jersey semi, occasionally goading their porno-obsessed hick neighbour Carl into some tirade or another. Hilariously ad-libbed voiceovers make up for a lack of any significant plotting although the spin-off movie of the cult series includes a world-conquering exercise machine (the ‘Insan-o-flex'), an idiotbot from the future, an alien watermelon and a fat German-accented Plutonian. But for the ATHF, that's just another day in Jersey. OW
Watch the trailer here
38. Ratatouille (2007)Directed by Brad BirdThe film that dares to ask, 'Can rats get Michelin Stars?'For many, ‘Ratatouille’ represented a watershed for Pixar studios, not only in that it verified that they were able to salvage (the term seems inadequate) a film which, by their own Herculean standards, wasn’t quite working in its original incarnation, but that they could create a star out of one of earth’s lowest forms of life: the French... Only joking! A sewer rat. Said furry vermin (named Remy) is the eponymous character of this piquant fairytale which aims to prove the simple theory that ‘anyone can cook’. Learning from a famous TV chef, he eventually wheedles his way under the hat of a bumbling sous-chef and controls him by pulling his hair. The film proved that big budget family animation didn’t have to have one eye on merchandising off-shoots, cultural referencing and appealing to specific age groups, offering an old school tongue-tingling a la carte menu of character, story and emotion. The highlight for many critics remains the draconian food columnist who receives a lost vision of childhood innocence when biting in to Remy’s world-beating ratatouille. Merveilleux! DJSee Adam Buxton describe the plot of the film via the medium of Gabba Read the Time Out review of 'Ratatouille'
37. A Soldier’s Tale (1984)Directed by RO Blechman & Christian BlackwoodThe Devil went down to GeorgiaStravinsky and Russian folklore – rather than stunning artwork – are the main attractions of this dreamlike story of temptation that follows a returning soldier's attempt to make his way home with his precious violin. An illiterate innocent, his way is dogged by the Prince of Lies, magnificently voiced by Max von Sydow, who is determined to bring this meandering soul beneath his domination. The line-drawings ripple with careless, shimmering energy, always threatening turn into something new, and the style perfectly evokes the thin veil between this world and the next that the Soldier increasingly finds himself pushing against on his lonely road. PF
Watch Max von Sydow as the Devil
36. The Lord of the Rings (1978)Directed by Ralph BakshiMiddle Earth meltdownSome will no doubt disagree with the inclusion of Bakshi’s half-formed tilt at Tolkein’s magnum opus: the animation is garish, the plot confusing and the tone is all over the place. But in the post-Peter Jackson realm in which Tolkein fans now luxuriate like sated cave trolls, it’s easy to forget that back in 1978, the outside chance of seeing any manifestation of LotR on the big screen meant that many were willing to look past the film’s many, and often bizarre, shortcomings and tag along for a slightly demented wander through a generally recognisable approximation of Middle Earth.
And though he may have ultimately lost the War of the Rings,
Bakshi does win a few memorable battles along the way. The fighting is as
gruesome as Tolkein’s descriptions, the pace is brisk and the Black Riders –
especially when sniffing out Frodo on the Old Road (a scene that Jackson’s film
copies beat for beat) and going postal in the back rooms of The Prancing Pony –
are you're-sure-this-shit’s-for-kids? scary. The film remains a noble failure
but the fact that these images stick in the mind even after repeated viewings
of Jackson’s towering achievement is a testament to Bakshi’s imagination in
bringing Middle Earth to life. ALD
Terry Gilliam says...‘I hated it. Bakshi was a strange one who took some of my favourite material and never managed pull it off completely on screen, He always seemed to be more ambitious than the money allowed. And the end result was, to me, horrible.'
Watch Bag End
Read the Time Out review of 'The Lord Of The Rings'
35. Beavis and Butt-head Do America (1996)Directed by Mike Judge and Yvette KaplanHuhuh. Huh. Huhuhuh. Huhuh. HuhNo one believed that the exploits of America’s favourite mentally challenged metalheads – previously confined to five-minute bursts on MTV – could possibly sustain a full-length feature. And admittedly, there are longueurs in ‘Beavis and Butthead Do America’, scenes in which the relentless cackling and scattershot parodies of stock American authority figures begin to grate. But these are strongly outweighed by the film’s scattered moments of comic brilliance: Beavis’s gradual realisation that their TV has been stolen, as he repeatedly looks from the empty table to the dirty footprints on the floor to the shattered window and back again; his frequent lapses into sugar-fuelled mania as crazed, Nixonian Latin American alter-ego Cornholio; the boys’ frequent run-ins with a berserker army sergeant bent on exploring their bodily orifices. Creator Mike Judge may have switched decisively to live action – with decidedly mixed results – but there’s no denying that the recent return of his finest creations as part of the marketing campaign for his new film ‘Extract’ provoked intense feelings of happy nostalgia. THWatch Beavis and Butt-head on set
Read the Time Out review of 'Beavis and Butthead Do America'
34. Ghost in the Shell (1995)Directed by Mamoru OshiiBecause ‘The Matrix’ is for sissies…This brain-basting cyberpunk android anime is often considered the ‘other’ Manga screen adaptation to be cherished by Western audiences (the first being ‘Akira’). Yet, there’s something about the impenetrability of ‘Ghost in the Shell’ that perhaps makes it, if not the more interesting film, then certainly one with a more rewarding rewatch factor. Its shocking (and strangely alluring) poster image (see right) saw a naked humanoid robot with industrial cables jutting out of her body. She’s the special agent at the center of the film, a partially human woman with a robotic ‘shell’ whose job it is to take down particularly dangerous crims (think ‘Robocop’ with a PhD in neuroscience?). Taking in political assassinations, cyber terrorism and questions of the potentially destructive relationship between humans and technology, you get the sense that director Oshii is just as interested in the philosophical bent of his tale as he is in creating lush and memorable visuals, while the Phillip Glass-like soundtrack of tribal drumming and high-pitched chanting lends the film a chilling, apocalyptic edge. DJ
Watch the trailer here
Read the Time Out review of 'Ghost in the Shell'
33. Aladdin (1992)Directed by Ron Clements and John MuskerSwords, sandals and stand-upDisney married the technical wizardry of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ (1991) to the exuberance of ‘The Little Mermaid’ (1989), stirred in a good deal of pacy action and harnessed Robin Williams’s hyperactive grandstanding for their most all-round satisfying animated feature of the modern era. It’s fair to say that without Williams as the boisterous genie - part dyspeptic carnival barker, part free-associating speedfreak – who comes to Aladdin’s aid, it might have been little more than a well-crafted ethnic romp (cf ‘Pocahontas’, ‘Mulan’ etc), but his breathless energy sends the film reeling from the bazaar to the bizarre. Despite a few especially dewy showtunes and an off-the-peg baddie, ‘Aladdin’ remains an absolute hoot from start to finish. ALD
Click here to rub the magic lamp…
32. Kirikou and the SorceressDirected by Michel OcelotBaby, it’s youRampantly independent French animation powerhouse Michel Ocelot has delivered four esoteric, but totally accessible features (and numerous prizewinning shorts) since he began filmmaking in the early eighties. Though his recent ‘Azur & Asmar’ and 2000’s ‘Princes and Princesses’ were sparkling and ornate modern updates on Lotte Reineger’s famous silhouette puppet technique, the films for which he is best known are his two featuring the scampish (and perpetually denuded) superpowered baby, Kirikou. Loosely based on West African folk tales, with this first Kirikou film Ocelot fashioned a ripping fable that combined a traditional battle of good (Kirikou) versus evil (a sorceress who has used her power to dry up the local spring and capture all the men of the village) and injected it with a subtle commentary on corruption, female empowerment and the progress of modern African society, no less. DJ
Watch a taster from the film here
Read the Time Out review of 'Kirikou and the Sorceress'
31. WALL-E (2008)Directed by Andrew StantonPostcards from the post-apocalypseChaplin and Keaton were the two names that cropped up most often in the (mostly glowing) reviews of Andrew Stanton’s charming eco space ballet, ‘WALL-E’. Yet, what of Jacques Tati, the French clown whose beguiling comedies carried with them a note of caution with regards to our unchecked desire for industrialisation and technological advancement? WALL-E is basically one of those mechanised street-sweeping contraptions with cute human attributes, but like Tati in, say, ‘Play Time’, he is also ill-at-ease when it comes to dealing with the futuristic landscape, only really coming alive when fragments of the old world – whether that’s collecting trinkets from the debris or watching a battered VHS copy of Michael Crawford musical ‘Hello Dolly!’ – begin to surface. His romance with svelte fembot EVE sees the couple turning the garbage-strewn planet into a ballroom for their adorable robo love rituals. Stanton’s penetrating social message scorned a planet that looked to technology to deal with the past excesses but also delivered a pristine melodrama where the all-conquering power of love was even able to solve the existential crises of a pair of clanking robots. DJ
Terry Gilliam says...'A stunning bit of work. The scenes on what was left of planet Earth are just so beautiful: one of the great silent movies. And the most stunning artwork! It says more about ecology and society than any live action film – all the people on their loungers floating around, brilliant stuff. Their social comment was so smart and right on the button.'
Watch the trailer here Read the Time Out review of 'WALL-E' Click here for 30 through to 21
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