Thursday, April 20, 2017

My Favorite Animated Films (Part 2 of 2)

I was talking to someone recently about why and how I feel that, mainly in recent years, I tend to like animated films on average better than live action ones. After thinking about it, I felt that this is because the creators of animated films have to make films that cater to children but that adults can enjoy as well. As such, the creators of these movies tend to focus more on story-building, character development, and strong and positive conflict resolution. When I put together a list of films that made an impact to me, a couple of them were animated. It made me wonder what my favorite animated films are. And since I had just seen Beauty and the Beast, I decided to take that question a step further and list down my top 10 favorite animated films.

Note that these are my personal favorites. A lot of great animated films, such as Toy Story 3, Wall-E, and The Lion King are not on this list, despite the fact that I love those movies. It also doesn't include some films that I think I would love but haven't seen yet, such as My Neighbor Totoro or Spirited Away. This list contains movies that had stories, themes, and/or characters that resonated with me.

Warning: there are a lot of spoilers here so read at your own risk.

Read Part 1 here.

5. How to Train Your Dragon

What I love about How to Train Your Dragon is that it is the about seeing things differently and making up your mind based on what you observe and what has been proven to be true rather than by what others have said or claimed to be true. When Hiccup discovers and understands that, despite what every other Viking believes, dragons will not "always, always go for the kill", he changes his mind about them and sets out to learn more about them instead of figuring out ways to kill them. He establishes a special bond with Toothless, the Night Fury and it is this special bond that ends up saving the day. The people of Berk initially refuse to believe that dragons are not as vicious and destructive as they have been believed to be, but when they see the Berk kids working together with dragons, they change their minds as well. The scene where Stoick saves Toothless and acknowledges his mistaken judgment to Hiccup is powerful and I wish more people in real life were like Stoick.

4. The Incredibles

This is probably the only film in my list that doesn't have any of the strong, overarching themes that the others in this list have. However, what The Incredibles does is paint a lively yet relatable portrait of what families are like. It shows the concerns and insecurities people have and what their aches and aspirations are. The interaction between the family members is all too real. I love that part when Elastagirl tells her daughter that the people on the island aren't like the bad guys in the movie who will show restraint because they are children; these people will kill them. That they are all superheroes struggling with these real life situations somehow makes it more relatable. The script is solid, the animation is great, and even the theme about being special - or not special - does provide some food for thought.

3. The Hunchback of Notre Dame

This is surely the biggest shocker in my list. A scant few people will talk about this one as one of the best animated films ever. This might also be due to the fact that it is based on Victor Hugo's classic novel and people who have read the book will naturally compare the two and the book will always trump the animated movie. The thing to remember of course is that none of the Disney cartoons have ever been 100% accurate. If they were, Ariel should have turned into sea foam at the end of her movie and there would not have been any dancing teapots and candelabras in Beauty and the Beast. What I love about The Hunchback of Notre Dame is how much of a departure it is from what previous Disney films used to be. Bambi and The Lion King showed us some pretty shocking deaths of important characters, so seeing Quasimodo's mother killed at the steps of Notre Dame within the first few minutes of the film is probably not all that new. But it also delves into a lot of other darker and more daring themes. I've never seen a Disney cartoon talk about eternal damnation and,  shockingly, even lust. This movie even devotes one chilling song to lust - Hellfire - and with a line like "it's not my fault if in God's plan he made the devil so much stronger than a man", it definitely blew my expectations out of the water.

Then of course, there is that natural theme about outer beauty and about being accepted. This isn't just an issue that the deformed Quasimodo has to deal with. It is also something that the beautiful Esmeralda struggles with. That scene of Quasimodo's public humiliation was heartbreaking (watch that scene here) and Esmeralda releasing Quasimodo from his cruel torment and standing up to Frollo was very powerful (watch that scene here). She wasn't the only one standing up to a tyrannical leader; when Frollo commands his guard to burn down the village to find Esmeralda, Captain Phoebus defies him and is consequently sentenced to death. What I also loved about it is it's painful realism. As critic Roger Ebert said, there hadn't been a Disney film where two good guys - Quasimodo and Phoebus - were both interested in the lead female (Esmeralda). In the end, Esmeralda goes with Phoebus, the good-looking guy with a good heart. It's a very real situation and somehow I would have found it too patronizing if she ended up with Quasmido in the end. That said, that triumphant ending when Quasimodo is reintroduced to the city folk and is finally accepted is just truly moving. Seriously, there is a lot of powerful stuff in this movie. Oh, and the music and the animation (for its time) are also breathtaking. I really, truly believe that this is one of the most underrated animated films ever. Looking at the comments on the links I've shared here prove that I am not the only one who thinks so.

2. Zootopia

I have written in detail about how much I love Zootopia. Not only does it create a beautifully imagined and artistically designed world, it shows us how easy it is for even good people to discriminate and make judgments and hasty generalizations about others even if they don't mean to and even if they themselves have been victims of discrimination. It also shows us that when we do make that mistake, we need to acknowledge it, learn from it, and become a better person. The fact that the film is easy to watch despite such a heavy theme makes it even better. Read more about why i love this movie here.

1. Up

As I have stated before, Up is my favorite animated film. This movie talks about grief, loss, and loneliness in such a real, human way. It talks about how dreams might not always come true, and that if they don't, we shouldn't feel as if our lives are any less valuable or beautiful. Dreams can change because life happens. What is important is that our lives are filled with love and are shared with the people who matter to us. Read more about my thoughts on Up here and here.

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