Time Out's 50 greatest animated films: part 6

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In celebration of the release of both 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

1. My Neighbour Totoro (1988)

Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
A hushed modern masterpiece.
If, hypothetically speaking, the late Yazujiro Ozu were ever inclined to experiment with the animated medium, one feels that Miyazaki's timeless hymn to the innocence of childhood, ‘My Neighbour Totoro', is the type of film he'd have created. It's a work that provides heart-rending and miraculously acute insight into the subtle, silent psychological interactions of a family on the precipice of tragedy and it's a story told through the curious eyes (and minds) of excitable pre-teen sisters, Satsuki and Mei.Like much of Ozu's oeuvre (specifically films like 1932's ‘I Was Born, But... ' and 1953's ‘Tokyo Story'), it's a film which recognises that real life does not consist of neat dramatic arcs, and in telling its miniature tale of how Satsuki and Mei deal with relocating to the countryside to be near their mother (who is bedridden in a nearby hospital), it never exploits the situation in search of cheap pathos or undue narrative contrivance. Tragedy? Death? Ozu? Yes, it's a film of profoundly serious intention, but the masterly, feather-light fashion in which the story is unravelled and the delightfully constructive and level-headed conclusions it draws over a faultless 83 minutes will leave you with a beaming smile and, in all probability, a tear of exasperated joy.

totoro.jpg

Already an institution in its native Japan and a surefire favourite of anyone faintly familiar with the Ghibli oeuvre, there was a chance in the mid-'80s when it was doubtful that ‘Totoro' was ever going to see the light of day. At the time, Studio Ghibli was not financially self-sufficient, and thus had to convince independent backers that their upcoming projects were worthy of bankrolling. So when Miyazaki originally proposed the outline for a film about two small girls retreating into their imaginations to come to terms with the responsibilities of the real world, the money men (perhaps understandably) kept their wallets tightly shut. It was only when the studio agreed to simultaneously make ‘Grave of the Fireflies' (see number 13), directed by Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata, that funds were eventually released and Miyazaki was able to start work on this deeply idiosyncratic and personal project.

Effortlessly fusing the delicately forged imagined kingdoms of Lewis Carroll with the lackadaisical whimsy of AA Milne, the eponymous Totoro is revealed as a giant, waddling ball of fur who charmingly ushers the girls through their period of grief. The minimalism of Totoro's character represents a seam of restraint and sensitivity which runs though all aspects of the film: Instead of using animation to merely recreate the imagination (and unleash a colourful panoply of garish monsters), ‘Totoro' is a film about imagination, one which feels uniquely attuned to the type of creatures that girls of such a young age would really dream up – the Soot Spirits are little black balls, their mode of transport is a contraption which is half bus, half cat. Indeed, Miyazaki is just as enthralled by real creatures – such as tadpoles – as he is in the fantastical beasts of the forest.

my neighbor totoro 2.jpg

Though told predominantly from the perspective of children, the film also offers sagely musings on the subconscious ways in which adults attempt to withdraw their children from the realities of death. There's something curious about the girls' protective father as you feel that his eerily tactile mode of parenting masks a desperate ploy to make them forget about their mother's problems. Yet, slowly they become ever more alert to the potential gravity of the situation which culminates in one of the film's most heartbreaking scenes where Mei runs off in an effort to present her mother with an ear of corn in order speed up her recovery.

As usual with Ghibli's output, the story is brought to life with exquisite hand-drawn visuals that exude the artisanal lustre of classic Disney while being totally fresh, unique and engaging in their own right. There isn't a single inch of a single frame where you feel an effort hasn't been made to pull you into this world and to place you next to these characters. The lush backdrops of rural Japan – ponds, fields and woodland clearings – recall the soothing landscapes painted by Monet, while the uncomplicated designs of the monsters and humans strive (and largely achieve) to make the story and the feelings as rich and relatable as possible.

But I'm only piercing the surface of what ‘Totoro' is really ‘about', as among all of the above it provides an authentic portrait of burgeoning teenage love, a investigation into the mechanics of making new friends and a urgent call for us to safeguard the natural world. Ultimately, though, it's a film which says that all you need to be happy is love and imagination. How life affirming is that? DJ
Watch the US trailer here

Read the Time Out review of '
My Neighbour Totoro'

Explore the list: | 50-41 | 40-31 | 30-21 | 20-11 | 10-2 |

Author: Derek Adams, Dave Calhoun, Adam Lee Davies, Paul Fairclough, Tom Huddleston, David Jenkins & Ossian Ward



Users say

390 comments
some anon
some anon

This list is abysmal. I can't say for sure what I would pick as #1 since I think all my favorite films are awesome, but what the heck, dudes who wrote this list? Totoro is a beautiful vision of childhood, but what exactly makes it so much better than Princess Mononoke or (which wasn't even on the list!) Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind? Heck, why is Mononoke so far down the list anyways? Then there's the absolutely bizarre choices in this selection. Admittedly, I have not seen a bunch of these things, but Beavis and Butthead? South Park? Aqua Teen Hunger Force? Ferngully?!?!?! I've certainly seen Ferngully, and it doesn't belong here. Now, some animated flicks that were apparently missed: The aforementioned Nausicaa, Laputa: Castle in the Sky, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Prince of Egypt. THE PRINCE OF EGYPT, MAN. That one blew my mind, it really did. I really don't see how it couldn't get a spot a "Bestest Animated Movie List Evur" if a stinker like Ferngully did.

Leonard Dixon
Leonard Dixon

They got #1 right. ~ My top 17 list, of ones I've seen: [not including CGI films] My Neighbor Totoro - Miyazaki, 1988 Grave of the Fireflies - Takahata, 1988 Princess Mononoke - Miyazaki, 1997 Kiki's Delivery Service - Miyazaki, 1989 Pinocchio - Disney (Luske), 1940 Spirited Away - Miyazaki, 2001 Howl's Moving Castle - Miyazaki, 2004 Ponyo - Miyazaki, 2008 Castle in the Sky - Miyazaki, 1986 Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind - Miyazaki, 1984 Fantasia - Disney (Algar), 1940 Snow White - Disney, 1937 The Lion King - Disney (Allers), 1994 Watership Down - Rosen & Guy, 1978 Millenium Actress - Kon, 2001 Perfect Blue - Kon, 1998 Yellow Submarine - Dunning, 1968 Yes, Studio Ghibli is that much better than other animation studios.

Zach
Zach

This list feels like the creators of this list were doing this to please themselves. Not the audincance. The moment I saw Cloudly at No. 49 I knew this list was going to be bad (thow the film was not bad). After looking at this list, it seems like this list overloaded with anime (even though some on then are good). Another problem is that Robin hood is the second highest Disney movie at no. 10 on the list. Really? Is it better than the Lion King, Beauty and the beast and Lady and the tramp? I dont think so. Another problem is No.1 which is Totoro. It's a good movie and all. But number 1? It deserves to be on the list. Maybe top 10 and definitely top 20, but number 1? In an award that should go to the lion king or beauty or Toy story or snow white. Most important, they've chose BAD movies for the top 50. Literally 3/4 of the list is bleh. If your going to do that. You should add the lion king or finding nemo or shrek or lady and the tramp or beauty and the beast or monsters inc, But NO!!!! We like Cloudly and aqua teen hunger force or final fantasy or Robin Hood or animal farm because we want to look unique and they have academy awards and they don't and because they look like shark tale and chicken little and ice age 4 in comparison and they cost less than them and they made millions of dollars and they didn't flop. This list in beyond bleh! I'm going home!

Beer
Beer

No the max?

Eat Butt.....er
Eat Butt.....er

WHAT THE HECK, HOMIES?! Where is Toy Story 3?! I'm gonna slap you guys. And then dump you into a pile of dookie. Suck on that! And you can suck eggs too, you ugly fart faces. Okay sorry about that. But really...

You Suck
You Suck

This sucks!! Where is Lion King and Toy Story 3?!

Anon
Anon

So, I'm thinking some of the darker, scummier, lower quality pot-head films maybe could have been omitted to include the rest of Miyuzaki's stuff or at least lion king. I mean... Oh, and I can't remember the name right, but My Neighbors the Yamadas (close to the name I think) is a very good animated "movie" and deserves a place!

michael smith
michael smith

Ok, when the wind blows is devastating. Grave of the fireflies is heartbreaking. But one animated movie exists that is 1000 times heavier, graphic, devastating and beautiful. Barefoot Gen, an astonishing anime set during the hiroshima bombings. It is the single most underrated war film of all time, regardless of which country made it, or whether its animated or live action. It is an all round more fulfilling as a movie experience, and it moves me in a way that cannot be put into words. Everybody who has seen it has thrilled over it, regardless of taste. Yes, the animation is raw and pehaps lacking the technique of Ghibli productions, but it suits the film perfectly. Also, a sequel exists that features superior animation, and also comes highly recommended. It has been overshadowed by grave of the fireflies, but for my money, barefoot gen is the better fil., and worthy of a place in the top ten. Btw...any list of great animation that lacks Lady and The Tramp, The Lion King and Beauty and The Beast, and yet features south park, lord of the rings, heavy metal and fern gully is a joke. They are overlooked to make this list appear cool. I think this list is superficial and despite a wide range of styles, many are style over substance. How else can you explain the prescence of a scanner darkly? And also, Sleeping Beauty is a very beautiful animation. Its disney at its darkest. However, Hunchback of Notre Dame should have been on this list in its place. And as for the lack of Naussicaa and Laputa, o dear. Paprika? Where is Pom Poko? The Little Mermaid? Once again, why the lord of the rings? Its disgusting, and memorable only for its embarrassing animation. This list is nothing but pretentious.

becky
becky

The land before time was the first animated film I remember watching disappointed it's not made the list, It's such a great film and one of my favourites, I still cry at it today,

sam
sam

what about the original land before time? and why is south park in the top ten. never herd of #1 in my life

Dada Nabhaniilananda
Dada Nabhaniilananda

I would have included Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind, Castle in the Sky, and Howl's Moving Castle (despite it's somewhat disjointed plot) somewhere in the top 20. I read somewhere that Miyazaki is worshiped as a god by the Disney animators. May be a Hollywood myth, but it would seem appropriate.

Dada Nabhaniilananda
Dada Nabhaniilananda

I fell in love with Miyazaki's films when I saw Princess Mononoke, and have watched them all more than once. Totoro is indeed a moving masterpiece that captures the innocence and magic of childhood. Your review is similarly moving - you've conveyed the spirit of the film very effectively. It is clear that this film has affected you deeply, as it has so many of us.

Zach D
Zach D

Actually, my favorite animated Oshi Mamoru film is not 'Ghost in the Shell', but rather 'Uresei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer'. For an early 80s film you saw shades of other domestic US films that would come much, much later (to say which would spoil the film).

Zach D
Zach D

Actually, my favorite animated Oshi Mamoru film is not 'Ghost in the Shell', but rather 'Uresei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer'. For an early 80s film you saw shades of other domestic US films that would come much, much later (to say which would spoil the film).

Joana
Joana

Lion King?!!??!?!?!!?

MC
MC

The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast not featuring is insane. They were commercially mammoth, deservedly lauded and technically inspired. The CGI for the Beast and Belle dance scene was never before attempted and the wildebeest stampede was unprecedented; not to mention the respective stories, characters, music and legacies. Pixar's Toy Story was a leap forward and they've mad great films since, but to feature The Incredibles and Wall-E over these movies is egregious. I'll assume South Park's inclusion is a bad joke - an excellent piece of satire, but a catastrophic animated movie.

Evie
Evie

Some people are hating on Ghibli movies for no reason. How can you say it isn't art or any good? The animation was so advanced for its time and the stories are amazing. Toy Story is good but it is Top 5 not number 1. A Lot of these films took years just to draw. Totoro, Spirited away, Howls Moving Castle and Grave of the Fireflies are far more advanced than many animated films of this age, and people just can't see it as they rely on CGI to give them a 'good' experience. Gilliam you have done me proud, as a lover of Ghibli films, I feel like they are not recognised as true animation because they are Japanese (don't ask me why). Disney may have bought the rights for distribution of Ghibli products in the US and UK, but these films are far superior to most Disney films. I love Pixar collaborations but other than that, Disney only disappoints nowadays (with the exception of Lady and the Tramp but that's relatively old). Disagree all you like, I know decent films when I see one.

me,my,gang
me,my,gang

TOY STORY SHOULD BE NO.1 THIS IS A CRIME YOUR SICK AND WHERES NEMO, GNEMO AND JUILET AND DESPICABLE ME YOU DONT KNOW A GOOD FILM WHEN YOU SEEE ONE :(

Snakecharmer40
Snakecharmer40

Well, that was a waste of time. Apart from a couple of exceptions, most in that list are not true animated films anyway. CGI is not proper animation. Personally, I think that CGI is a pale imitation. Whereas proper animation, by hand looks stunning. CGI, for the most part looks cheap and nasty. Give me proper animation any day.

thaddvin
thaddvin

I like the selection , but I didn't see howl moving castle which is a very good flim.

Anando
Anando

I like the list but u have obviously overlooked some animations which are known to be amazing not just by normal viewers but by critics as well. For E.g : The Plague Dogs , The animatrix (specially the second renaissance ) ...also you may disagree but in all honesty I feel The grave of fireflies is better than Spirited away.

jafuf
jafuf

Yet another 'list' made by morons for morons...with the added impact of one of the worst directors in the medium. Less than half the films listed are true animated films (films drawn by an artists hands). Computer animation requires little true artistic talent. And I haven't yet seen a Japanese 'anime' film that I have liked. They have little talent for the medium. And 'Tortoro' is CRAP!!!

mark
mark

I Would have put Snow White and the seven dwarfs at number 1 the animation of the Queen at the mirror is diabolical and vocaly still sends chills up your spine. every drawing was done by hand and the balance of brilliant timeless animation of sheer emotional terror and harmonious beautiful scenery is inspirational forever.

limlim
limlim

lion king, mulan, MEGAMIND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Magnus
Magnus

Ghilbi > Disney Deal with it

Matthew
Matthew

Wow, I'm thrilled with ths choice! Totoro is not the easy choice,but the thoughtful and correct choice. The Ozu comparison dead on. This is such a profoundly deep film and stays true to it's animation. A cohesive mix of style and emotional complexity. Hurrah!

Kyle
Kyle

How in god's name is Charlotte's Web not in the top 100??? R out of your mind!!! Not to mention, missing some Disney classics as well! Need to re-evaluate this list man!

Shmendrick
Shmendrick

You all need to make up your mind if animated film = kids film. Cause "good" kids films do not by any means have to be good films. The best animated films have value to grown ups and still entertain and educte kids.lion king is JUST A KIDS FILM.let it BE! an animated film should be so much more.

Angela
Angela

TOTORO!!! THE BEST... Although I must say my favorite from Miyazaki sama es "Mononoke Hime", but Totoro is just beautiful!

GregH
GregH

The Lion King isn't on here because it's trite, paint-by-numbers crap that proves that you can't go wrong by catering to the lowest common denominator. Because that's what Disney is about: profit.

Michael O'Farrell
Michael O'Farrell

I find it hard to believe that Disney's "Lady and the Tramp" is nowhere to be found on this list. I think it's one of the finest animated films ever produced and should be placed in the Disney canon right after "Snow White", Pinocchio", "Fantasia". "Bambi" and "Dumbo" in order of importance. It also happened to be the first animated feature to utilize the Cinemascope wide screen process, giving it automatic landmark status and the animators made use of the new screen ratio brilliantly. Superb animation, incredible voice work by the actors, a first rate score and witty songs ( a major contribution by Peggy Lee and Sonny Burke) and gorgeous background art make the film one of animation's legendary achievements.

Sindelle
Sindelle

Wow....I didn't know Beavis and Butthead, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, and Yellow Submarine were some of the greatest animated films of all time......Oh wait they're not.

Adam
Adam

Who cares which films ended up on the list.... just watch the crap out of your favorite movies. Oh and by the way, The Wall should definitely be on this list

Douglas
Douglas

WHERE THE F*** is "The Lion King"??? This movie is 100% better than 96% of this list!!!!!!!And some of the movies on this list are a f***** joke, sorry!

Douglas
Douglas

WHERE THE F*** is "The Lion King"??? This movie is 100% better than 96% of this list!!!!!!!And some of the movies on this list are a f***** joke, sorry!

diego
diego

what about beauty and the beast. its not even on the top 50 :C

james
james

The lion king is the best film of all time,let alone kids film.it shouldn't have been put in with bambi.its not really a remake of bambi in my opinion.two totally different films.other than that decent list.toy story 3 tho?

Schneider
Schneider

And the Ponyo movie? Many Japanese experts believe that this film is the greatest work of Hayao Miyazaki (Studio Ghibli), along with My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away. You should put it first on that list, tied with My Neighbor Totoro. Surely!

tURBILLON
tURBILLON

oh my god. please stop it with the disney and funny pixar films. there are real pieces of art among some lesser known animation films. this is not the pop charts of animation,

no_data
no_data

I prefer Howl's Moving Castle, but Miyazaki M U S T be the number one!

judeeam
judeeam

Prince of Egypt should also be included, it's one of the timeless masterpiece animation.

Elijah
Elijah

I was hoping Heavy Traffic would make this list, I'd replace it with Bakshi's Lord of the Rings.

NotHappy!
NotHappy!

THE LION KING!!! I know you can't please anyone but THE LION KING?!? That was one of the greatest animations of all time. The artwork was amazing and the colour and depth and emotional ride you were taken on was incredible. Totoro? What have people come to, Wall-E was a simple run around animation for god sakes. The only companies worthy of the top ten are Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks, with only few exceptions.

celine
celine

To everyone upset about the lion king, he mentioned it, he grouped it with bambi because of their similar plots

Swapniel
Swapniel

where is megamind, ICE AGE, planet 51, Despicable Me... dis one is d best among first best 10 animated movies till date...

birdy
birdy

some of the movies shouldn't really be on there, but I'm extremely surprised that an overrated pixar movie wasn't number one. that's a good thing

Charmian O'Brien
Charmian O'Brien

Wonderful! I'm so happy number to know "My Neighbour Totoro" the one, Beautiful work of art.

Chris
Chris

Why is Hercules and tarzan not on the list ?! >:(



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