Time Out's 50 greatest animated films, with added commentary by Terry Gilliam
In celebration of the release of Pixar's 'Up' and Wes Anderson's beautiful stop-motion rendering of Roald Dahl's 'The 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
50. Heavy Metal (1981)Directed by Gerald PottertonLick my love pump!
As an exercise in nakedly exploiting the sweaty peccadilloes of the teenage male, ‘Heavy Metal' would appear at first glance to be a sure-fire winner: an adaptation of stories stripped from the pages of ultraviolent French sex-comic, Métal Hurlant, with a slew of churning metal anthems booming over the top. It's everything an adolescent boy could wish for, non?
Sadly, it's not the breast-filled
bloodbath of orgiastic carnage set to the savage cacophony of Iron Maiden and
Sabbath that one remembers. What we're in fact offered is a jarringly discontinuous parade of badly drawn
cockamamie featuring heavy-set, matronly women riding tigers to the strains of
art-rock also-rans Devo covering ‘Working in a Goldmine’ or Stevie Nicks
bleating away over an inscrutable snippet of hamstrung space opera. At the
time though, it was boss! ALD
Watch a blast of ‘Heavy Metal’
49. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (2009)Directed by Phil LordThis time, the food fights back…
Too soon? Perhaps, but we’re convinced that this maddeningly ingenious and wildly original smart kids’ adventure will one day take its rightful place in the animated pantheon. In time-honoured cartoon fashion, ‘Cloudy… ’ takes a simple idea – scientist creates machine that turns water into food – and milks it for all its worth: you want spaghetti tornadoes? Ice-cream snowfalls? Palaces made of jelly? Killer Gummi-Bears? ‘Cloudy… ’ has it all.
But perhaps the film’s most notable characteristic is it’s
absolute refusal to fall prey to this century’s most annoying cartoon bugbear:
cultural referencing. From the industry in-jokes of ‘Shrek’ to
the soul-searching self-help psychology of the ‘Ice Age’ movies, animators seem
to have forgotten how to make movies for kids without patronising their
parents. ‘Cloudy… ’ gets the balance just right, with a winning parade of witty
asides, outrageous sight gags and beautifully judged character moments. TH
Watch the great Bruce Campbell introducing the movie
48. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)Directed by Hironobu SakaguchiAll fur coat, no knickersWith its impenetrable plot, lazy voice casting and dialogue that sounds as if it’s been mangled through an online interpreter, there’s little to be said for the narrative elements of this CGI spin-off of the enduring computer game franchise. But turn the sound down and slap some mellow beats into the CD player – we suggest Slowdive or mid-period Simple Minds – and you’ve got yourself some serious ambient eye candy. Full-tilt gun battles, ethereal aliens and stately space action fills every frame, and with the sound off you have the added bonus of having to invent your own plot, which will almost certainly be more cogent than the one the filmmakers came up with. ALDWatch the trailer that promised so much…
47. Sleeping Beauty (1959)Directed by Clyde GeronimiDisney meets Nick Cave.Everything about ‘Sleeping Beauty’ is huge and grand, from its wildly kinky villain and wonderful score to the sweeping, colourful animation. The only quibble is that they are all put to the service of a story that doesn’t really actually get round to going anywhere. It might well have its roots firmly set in the elemental undertow of classic fairy tale, but any such tale needs to be adapted for its age, and while the basic premise is sound as a pound, there’s hardly enough going on in this Disney adaptation to get it over the finishing line. The design and animation remain a marvel, but the vague miasma of nightmares past that drip from every frame – added to the torpid plot – has dated the film rather badly. ALD
Watch the Disney Princess legacy…
Read the Time Out review of 'Sleeping Beauty'
46. PaprikaDirected by Satoshi KonBrain-bending pop-cultural noir from the pulp MiyazakiPushing through the fourth wall and throttling your brain into submission, 'Paprika' posits the notion that the psyche unbound would be the most destructive force on earth as a therapeutic invention for making dreams come to life falls into the wrong hands. The scenario is home to an array of brash set-pieces which take place in both modern-day Japan and the noirish inner world of one police detective’s mind. They usually consist of a fantastical parade of childhood icons and Freudian nightmares that edge ever closer to the real world. It’s a playful, complex psychological disaster movie with dark sexual undertones that happens to have been animated in the eye-scorching style of early-morning kids' TV fodder. PF
Watch the unhinged mind-parade
45. Transformers – The Movie (1986)Directed by Nelson ShinIn space no-one can hear you, StarscreamThe final film role of Scatman Crothers….and, yes, Orson Welles also snaffled up a madballs array of vocal talent that takes in Eric Idle, Casey Kasem and Leonard Nimoy for an adventure that somewhat desperately announced itself to be ‘Beyond Good. Beyond Evil. Beyond Your Wildest Imagination.’ Despite being loud, muddled and cheesy, it’s still a wonder that it failed to pull in audiences. But for those who did manage to mither their parents into taking them along, it was event cinema of Death Star proportions and the very zenith of the animator’s art. ALDWatch the trailer to ‘Transformers’ Read the Time Out review of 'Transformers – The Movie'
44. Waking Life (2001) / A Scanner Darkly (2006)Directed by Richard LinklaterI think the technical term is ‘talky’?Definitive take-‘em-or-leave-‘em entries, Richard Linklater’s pioneering philosophical doodle ‘Waking Life’ is known best as the film that brought the term Rotoscoping to the unwashed masses. In basic terms, it’s a process that involves animating live footage which gives the actions and movements a realist sheen, but also allows lots of room for experimentation when it comes to size, colour and context. The resultant film was essentially an animated version of the director’s meandering debut, ‘Slacker’, which pieced together a selection of tortuous conversations and monologues and threw a brilliant tango soundtrack over the top. ‘A Scanner Darkly’ saw a more refined and fluid use of the technique, this time roping in a host of A-listers (Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr, Winona Ryder) to act out a Philip K Dick story about a mind-expanding drug that is sweeping the nation and the newly developed government software that allows one to enter the mind of another. While neither quite managed to attain the much-sought-after status of ‘mind-blowing’, they sure were real purty. DJWatch a typical scene from the film here
43. Happy Feet (2006)Directed by George MillerIt’s ‘March of the Penguins’ with tap.Hard to believe the director responsible for the post-apocalyptic ‘Mad Max’ trio could have turned his hand to something as schmaltzy as an animated coming-of-age musical starring a dancing penguin. But mawkish moments aside, ‘Happy Feet’ is a joyous little toe-tapping extravaganza quite unlike any other animated film to date. Granted, the production team didn’t have to worry about creating complex, interactive backgrounds since the setting itself is a total whiteout, but the fluidity of the characters and some of the set pieces are exquisitely rendered. What impresses most, though, is the way the film switches, without warning, from a cute song-and-dance comedy – with some classic tunes – to a dark, stark and shocking ecology message about habitat destruction and animal incarceration. The result is a children’s film that engages the full gamut of emotions. Miller is currently working on follow-ups to both of his franchises: ‘Happy Feet 2 in 3D’ and ‘Mad Max 4’. Hope they don’t muddle up the rushes in the editing suite. DA See the penguins do Boogie Wonderland
Read the Time Out review of 'Happy Feet'
42. Fritz the Cat (1972)Directed by Ralph BakshiWho’s the cat that won't cop out when there’s danger all about?A hippy redneck cat boppin’ and scattin’ his way across Harlem in search of reefer, sex and shits ‘n’ giggles may seem perfectly reasonable subject matter for an animated film these days. But in 1972, things were a little different. Despite being unnecessarily crass in places and occasionally – albeit unconvincingly – veering off toward the right wing, Bakshi’s adaptation of cartoonist Robert Crumb’s feline funster comic strip made a mint at both the regular box-office and on the bongo circuit. A rash of sequels followed, including ‘The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat’, ‘Saigon Fritz’ and ‘Fritz's Adventures in Boobland’, but none had the swagger or groove of the original. ALDClick here for the trailer
Read the Time Out review of 'Fritz the Cat'
41. FernGully: The Last Rainforest (1992)Directed by Bill KroyerCharming kiddie flick for lentil-lovers everywhere.
With the recent release of satellite imagery depicting the continuing destruction of vast swathes of rainforest, this is a timely moment to revisit Bill Kroyer’s 1992 eco-flavoured, fantasy fable about a fairy charged with helping to protect her little pastel-coloured glade from the advancing ‘humans'. An unabashed dig at international logging and the destruction it causes to both flora and fauna, Kroyer’s ahead-of-its-time film wins no prizes for animation (despite a few inventive, near-psychedelic sequences) and the music sucks big time. But its message was always loud and clear – despite falling on deaf ears. DA
Watch some eco base-jumping
Author: Derek Adams, Dave Calhoun, Adam Lee Davies, Paul Fairclough, Tom Huddleston, David Jenkins & Ossian Ward
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