|Scene from "Lilo & Stitch" courtesy of|
#30. The Triplets of Belleville (2003)Sylvain Chomet's first feature film featured an elderly woman named Madame Souza pushing her grandson Champion (whom she raises) into cycling, so that he eventually competes in the famed Tour de France. But, during a mountainous region of the race, it seems he is kidnapped. From there, we follow Madame Souza, Champion's dog Bruno, and three elderly song-and-dance sisters known as the Triplets of Belleveille as they search for Champion. Armed with some warped, but realistic qualities (paired with a little crude humor here and there), Triplets does a wonderful job presenting a funny, interesting story of a woman's drive and determination and the crazy characters she meets along the way. The film was nominated for two Oscars, including Best Animated Film and Best Original Song.
#29. Waltz with Bashir (2008)Israeli director Ari Folman delivers one of the most interesting pieces of animation with Waltz with Bashir, a pseudo-documentary about his experience in the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. Since Folman does not remember the incident or this period in his life, he begins to recount it with the help of other veterans. As he hears more and more stories, his memories start to creep back into his damaged psyche, only making them more and more surreal and damaging. Surprisingly skipped over for a nomination for Best Animated Film (won by #21 on our list), the Academy apparently viewed it as less-qualified compared to Bolt and Kung Fu Panda (neither are on our list). Still, it picked up a nomination for Best Foreign Film and stands as one of the most original approaches to film animation we've ever seen.
#28. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
Filmmaker Wes Anderson tends to make niche-driven films, not meant to be enjoyed by the greater public. His most accessible film to date was this creative adaptation of a Roald Dahl novel about a daring fox who can't keep himself from causing mischief. Done with stop motion animation (a lost art, some would say), this wonderfully wrought film is incredibly imaginative and original. With an unmatched voice cast including George Clooney as the titular hero, Maryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, Owen Wilson, Adrian Brody, Anderson himself, Michael Gambon, Roman Coppola, Brian Cox and more, it grabbed Oscar nominations for Best Animated Film and Best Original Score. Yes, it still feels like a Wes Anderson film, but it makes magic out of a rarely used technique that just seems to fit the story perfectly.
#27. Robin Hood (1973)
From a fantastic fox to a heroic one, Disney's 1973 retelling of the life of the English outlaw Robin Hood is a beautifully imagined take on an oft-adapted story. Using an "animals replacing humans" style, Robin Hood and his merry men are foxes, bears, and so on, while the evil Prince John (voiced by Peter Ustinov) is a lion. Just as the other adaptations of this folklore, Robin Hood "steals from the rich to give to the poor," unjustly cast out as a rebel by a tyrannical regime. Sure enough, Robin wins the heart of Maid Marian and works to support the over-taxed common man, even in the face of an archery contest meant to draw our hero out of hiding. In the end, it's a light, but enjoyable story that helped define Disney's humanoid animal approach.
#26. Sleeping Beauty (1959)
It's one of the most beloved fairy tales of all time with one of the most recognizable villains in Disney lore. 1959's Sleeping Beauty is based on the classic Charles Perrault story (he also wrote "Cinderella" and "Puss in Boots"), but has a little Disney flair. When an evil queen named Maleficent casts a spell on a princess, she remains asleep until her upcoming 16th birthday, when she will die by a poisoned spinning wheel. The king places her under protection of three fairies who, for lack of a better description, aren't all "with it." It's a very simple story and not by any means a fantastic film, but it's a landmark in animated cinema - until 1989's The Little Mermaid, this was the last real fairy tale Disney had adapted for the screen.
#25. The Incredibles (2004)
Director Brad Bird's first Pixar film was really the film that demonstrated how good the production company can be when it hits its stride. The story of a suburban family that just so happens to be a group of retired superheroes, The Incredibles grabbed four Oscar nominations, winning two (Best Animated Film, Best Sound Editing). Featuring the voices of Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, and Jason Lee (as the villain with the fantastic name "Syndrome"), the film touches on the difficulties of growing older, the pain of not doing what you love, and the strength you can find in your own family. It's a "comic book movie," in a way, but with much more heart.
#24. Bambi (1942)
The fifth animated film to come from the Disney production studio, Bambi was also the first to deal very seriously with death. Hailed as the "prince of the forest," Bambi slowly learns how to interact with other animals, how to talk, how to walk, and all the other things children do. Then, when the winter comes, tragedy strikes as Bambi loses his mother (I think this is common knowledge by now but, if it isn't, sorry for the spoiler). A film about loss, maturity, and responsibility, Bambi furthered the already known fact that Disney knew how to implant serious themes into otherwise whimsical stories. Nominated for three Oscars (Best Original Song, Best Score, Best Sound), Bambi was the last strong narrative animated film Disney would release until 1950's Cinderella.
#23. Coraline (2009)
Seems a little high, doesn't it? Well, this Henry Selick directed, Tim Burton produced film is so high on the list because it managed to create a world unlike any other animated film that predated it. Nominated for Best Animated Film (in a really good year for animated films), Coraline tells the tale of a young girl who runs away to another world that seems like a parallel, but better version of her own life. But, looks can be deceiving, as this world begins to unravel and things aren't as they seem. Featuring the voices of Dakota Fanning and Teri Hatcher, Coraline stands out as one of the best uses to date of 3D technology (a medium I hate) and one of the most imaginative films in recent history.
#22. Princess Mononoke (1997)
Another Studio Ghibli offering directed by Hayao Miyazaki, Princess Mononoke took the style Miyazaki had been working to perfect and applied it to a much more adult story of adventure and war (rated PG-13). A young warrior names Ashitaka is cursed and goes to the west to find a cure, where he comes upon an epic battle between the humans and the Gods of the forest, including a brave woman named Princess Mononoke, who was raised by a wolf God. As Ashitaka tries to bring the sides together, he is mistakenly viewed as an enemy of both. A much more mature offering from Miyazaki, Mononoke contains a surprising amount of violence for a Studio Ghibli film. The American version features voice work from a stellar cast, including Billy Crudup, Billy Bob Thornton, Minnie Driver, Claire Danes, and Jada Pinkett Smith.
#21. WALL-E (2008)
This is easily my favorite Pixar film and, if released a year later, it would have been nominated for Best Picture (they changed the format to 10 nominees the following year). The second Disney/Pixar film directed by Andrew Stanton, WALL-E is the story of a waste collecting robot in the future who finds himself swept into an epic journey through space. When he meets EVE, a drone sent to find life on the planet Earth, he quickly falls in love and will do anything to be by her side, especially after such a lonely existence. An interesting take on our fast food lifestyle and growing problems with physical inactivity, WALL-E also gives its audience a sweet love story and, though it gets a little scattered in the third act, provides us with some gorgeous visuals and an incredibly fun ride.
Over halfway through...what could be #1? Numbers 20 through 11 coming up next.