When people watch a traditionally animated film often they think it must be a Disney film … but that’s not always true. In fact, there are huge numbers of brilliant animated films, created in this style, that were made by different studios. Sadly, because Disney dominates the market, you often don’t hear about these films anymore and many of them don’t get watched, so here is a list of my top 5 favourites that you need to watch!
Check out the accompanying video to this post on the MIC youtube channel here!!
5. ‘THE IRON GIANT’ – 1999 – WARNER BROS. FEATURE ANIMATION
‘The Iron Giant’ is based in a Cold War affected 1957, and follows Hogarth Hughes, a young boy who befriends a gentle, giant, metal-eating robot from outer-space and tries to teach him about the confusing world the Giant has found himself in. As the story progresses and the paranoid government discovers the Giant’s existence, it becomes a fight for survival as Hogarth desperately tried to stop them from destroying his friend.
The film really effectively highlights the light and dark aspects of human behavior. As their friendship blossoms, Hogarth teaches the clueless Giant about life, death, right and wrong, in a way that is both touching and insightful. In stark contrast, the main antagonist of the film, the paranoid agent, Kent Mansley, presumes that the Giant must be a weapon and so moves to destroy him, without any attempt to understand him.
Seeing the way that the two characters react sends a really strong message that there is a right and wrong way to respond to something you don’t understand and also highlights the paranoia that was around in Cold War America.
Sadly, as a result of a terrible marketing campaign, this gem has got a bit lost in time, but ‘The Iron Giant’ is funny, touching and well directed and I highly recommend it!
4. ‘THE ROAD TO EL DORADO’ – 2000 – DREAMWORKS PICTURES
This film is fun from start to finish! Kenneth Branagh and Kevin Kline provide the voices of Miguel and Tulio, Spanish con-artists who, through a series of chance mishaps, stumble across El Dorado, the lost city of gold, where they are mistakenly taken for Gods. Miguel and Tulio initially plan to play along in order to get away with as much gold as they can, but in the process of bumbling through their act, they start to fall in love with the city, it’s many wonders, and it’s people.
The film is primarily a humourous adventure story with Miguel and Tulio providing witty, fast-talking commentary throughout. The chemistry between the two is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the film, making their fallout near the film’s climax all the more impactful.
One of the real stand-outs of the film is the visual impact of El Dorado itself. The city of gold is a beautiful, vibrant set which allows you to share in the protagonist’s awe as they first see the city.
Another highlight is the fantastic selection of songs by Elton John and Tim Rice which set the atmosphere perfectly.
Join in with this laugh a minute trailblazer and give ‘The Road to El Dorado’ a watch today!
3. ‘THE BFG’ – 1989 – COSGROVE HALL FILMS
Yes! That’s right, the old one … the good one … not the 2016 one.
‘The BFG’ is my personal favourite Roald Dahl book, and this film is the true representation of it.
It’s the story of Sophie, a little girl who’s stolen by a giant after she catches a glimpse of him one night when she can’t sleep. After discovering that he is in fact and nice and jumbly, dream blowing giant called the Big Friendly Giant, together they set out to stop the other evil giants from going out at night to eat innocent people out of their beds.
The thing that’s great about this film is that it has a fabulous balance between fun and fear. The scenes where the BFG shows Sophie the more fantastical aspects of Giant Country, such as the dreams and frobscottle are joyful, magical and accompanied by some lovely songs which reflect those feelings, but always intermingled is the looming presence of the other giants who’s evils ways become more and more prominent until the only option is to stop them.
This film bravely doesn’t shy away from the horror aspect of the evil giants. They’re grotesque, drooling, cruel and unrepentant, but that peril was what made this movie powerful. Kids want to be scared, that’s why they tell ghost stories, stay up late, and want to watch horror movies. These feelings resonate, and it’s that lasting impression which brings them back to watch it again and again in a way that I predict won’t happen with the 2016 BFG film.
With a standout performance from David Jason as the BFG bringing a lovable quirkiness which is perfect for the role, ‘The BFG,’ with its the perfect blend of fun, magic and horror is a must see film with a rare seal of approval from the author himself!
2. ANASTASIA – 1997 – FOX ANIMATION STUDIOS
This is about as close to a ‘Disney Renaissance’ film as you’ll get.
The story starts in Russia when the nefarious Rasputin puts a curse of Tsar Nicholas II and his family, selling his soul so that they might perish. This leads to the Russian revolution in which the family is all killed, but the youngest daughter, Anastasia, is mysteriously lost and unaccounted for. The story then jumps forward ten years, to a young woman named Anya, who sets out on a journey to discover who she really is. She travels with a young con man named Dimitri and his friend and former nobleman, Vlad, who are looking to receive a reward from the dowager empress for finding her lost grandaughter, Anastasia.
‘Anastasia’ has everything, and all-star cast, an intriguing story, some fantastic visuals and some Oscar winning, songs which enrich the personalities of their characters and fantastically create atmosphere.
The cast includes Meg Ryan, John Cusak, Kelsey Grammer and Angela Lansbury, but the true stand-outs are Christopher Lloyd as the evil Rasputin and his sidekick, Bartock, an albino bat played by Hank Azaria. The two work as a fantastic double act, providing both humour and menace to the film, driving the plot forward as they try to destroy the last remaining Romanov.
If you’re a fan of 90s Disney, you’ll love this film. I guarantee it!
1. ‘THE LAND BEFORE TIME’ – 1988 – SULLIVAN BLUTH STUDIOS
People talk about Disney’s power to really make you feel the emotional impact of an event, Bambi’s mother, Mufasa death or Dumbo’s mother being caged for example. This film trumps the lot!
It follows the story of Littlefoot, a young long-necked dinosaur who is separated from his grandparents after his mother is killed by ‘Sharptooth’ a bloodthirsty Tyranosaurus.
The film is set at the beginning of the extinction of the dinosaurs when plants are dying and earthquakes are a regular occurrence, and Littlefoot’s family had been travelling to ‘the Great Valley,’ a place that’s still green and lush. Littlefoot continues to travel onwards and meets four young companions who have also become separated form their families. Together they march on to ‘the Great Valley,’ needing to overcome starvation, fatigue and the contrast danger of Sharptooth.
This story has everything! It’s a story of friendship, loss, and an epic journey to overcome all the odds. It’s a breathtaking emotional roller-coaster that has you gripped the whole way through.
This story, combined with Don Bluth’s fantastic animation style, crafted when he was a Disney employee and expanded upon as he struck out on his own. This film is a masterpiece of animation history that will have you coming back again and again and again!
Watch it! Rigth now! Go on … off you go.
That’s our list, but there are a huge number of other great animated films out there. What are your favourites? Let us know in the comments and make sure to check back for more content from the MIC blog.