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Blogging on demand meme: Animated movies 
11th-Mar-2008 08:44 pm
ginasketch asked me:
I'd like to know what some of your favorite animated movies/films are and maybe thoughts on animation in general.
Animation, like most visual and auditory artforms, is a brand of magic to me - I know when I like something, I can recognise a reaction in me, but buggered if I can fully explain what I like about it and how it manages that. I have difficulty discussing animation (or fine art, or music) on an intellectual level because I simply lack that level of understanding to make the leap from 'this is what I like' to 'these are the artistic merits and the technical construct of the artform'.

Words and stories, I'm on top of. I get poetical devices and verbal imagery and the power of the story on a fundamental level. I vaguely understand visual media, but on a visceral level. Music and other audio forms - not a clue. My point is: I like animation, in that I like a lot of animated pieces, but I can't properly explain why animation is superior or inferior to live action in a general case. Nevertheless, Gina asked for my favourite animated movies, and thus Gina gets.

Though I'm quite sad she didn't include serial forms in that, so I can't rave about the wonder that is Avatar. I suspect she did this on purpose.

I'm so ignorant of animation as a media, that I'm betting you can guess which movies I'm going to talk about before I even start, because I haven't seen a whole lot. Animé as a whole I don't mind, but I have difficulty paying attention long enough to the screen to actually follow subtitles, so I haven't seen much at all, and what I have seen doesn't often press my buttons, visually.

My tastes are so vanilla, in fact, that if someone says 'animated movies' to me, I'm invariably going to come up with Disney. Now, I quite like Disney - or don't mind it - as a whole. I occasionally like a simple, uncomplicated and sweet love story with good songs, and they provide. I have a very distinct memory of going to see Beauty and the Beast with my Dad when I was 11, and being blown away by the cinematography and the way 2D and 3D animation were combined - don't forget this is pre-Jurassic Park and CGI was relatively new. The spiral down from the chandelier during the title scene is quite rightly an iconic moment. The trouble is, of course, that as I became older, I realised just how tragic the entire story was: young girl dreams of running away and having adventures in the 'great wide somewhere', then is kidnapped, falls in love and stays with, the charming rich man in the nearest castle to her house.

So forget that movie - my favourite 2D Disney movie has got to be Mulan. Very very probably because it's got a girl dressed as a boy, and we know how much I love that trope. The songs are great, the characters - well, we'll ignore Eddie Murphy's horrible dragon, and say that Mulan is the only fleshed out character, but she's still awesome. She solves things her own way, she acts, not reacts, and it's she who saves the day, making her officially the greatest Disney Princess heroine ever. (Uh - animated: my favourite Disney heroine of all time is still live action, and a King). I vaguely wish they'd let her kill, but I guess that's too much to hope. Also - that rag doll blowing in the wind was a thousand times more effective than Frank Miller's stupid tree o' corpses.

This very blog topic came up, I think, because I mentioned that on Thursday I will be seeing the first animated movie ever to receive an X-rating in the UK: Animal Farm. Now, I've only seen this movie once before, a long time ago, so I won't talk about it at length except to mention that I didn't realise at the time of watching it, that it was a 'movie for grown ups'. Just as I never really realised that Watership Down, which I watched and rewatched as a young child, was not generally recommended as a kids movie.

If you haven't seen this - or read the book - then do so. It's amazing, and deep and moving and terrifying and all so very British. It sacred the life out of me as a child - Fiver's visions, the tales of what happened to the original warren, and the totalitarian Efrafa. Sometimes I would just watch the prologue that introduced us to the mythology of the rabbits, and turn off by the time the 'realistic' style kicked in, because it was that scary for a kid.

Though, I also didn't realise Ghostbusters was a comedy, back then, so what did I know?

Another nostalgia-ridden 'oldie' for me is Nick Park's Creature Comforts - you know the one. it inspired a whole range of British Electricity adverts back in the days when adverts were actually good. The audio track is a combination of interviews with zoo visitors and people talking about their own living accommodation, lovingly animated with stop motion animals to form a traditional mockumentary about zoo animals being interviewed with their lot.

Now, I know it's all the fashion for baby bats and stuff these days, but I liked  Nightmare before Christmas the first time. I still remember how confused and surprised I was when merchandise began appearing around Camden around what had been a secret little movie that I liked but no one ever talked about. The plot's a little weird and banal, sometimes, but it was the songs and the animation that sucked me in. Because the look of the thing is amazing, if very very Burton.

One more Tim Burton stop motion: James and the Giant Peach. Roald Dahl books are notoriously bad to adapt to screen - for all anyone says they like the Chocolate Factory movies, no one can say they're good adaptations, and the less said about the Witches and Matilda the better. In fact, the only movie adaptation Dahl is supposed to have liked during his lifetime was another animated feature: The BFG, but I'm pretty sure that James would satisfy him as well. And not just because it looks suitably like a Quentin Blake picture.

With the exception of Mulan, so far, the movies listed have been ones I love as animated movies because they just wouldn't work as live action, mostly because the characters aren't human, and the general feel is required to be something unachievable in photography, but when I first saw Toy Story, I loved it for it's apparent realism. I actually felt at the time - and maybe I still do - that the movie would be better if we never saw the humans or dogs at all - if it was all about the toys interacting with a world very well constructed with ground breaking CGI. Of course, the plot wouldn't work, but I love the way the toys in this movie actually look like moving, living plastic.

And finally on my list of animated movies what I like, is another fully CGI venture from the Other studio: Shrek. This I like for almost converse reasons; it feels like a Disney-esque cartoon, and it plays with that, happily lampooning the genre by means of looking and feeling like a cross between cartoon fantasy and Real 3 dimensions. And unlike in Mulan, Eddie Murphy actually works in this one.

And that, I think, brings us full circle.
11th-Mar-2008 08:46 pm (UTC)
Actually, by "films" I meant all forms- including serial.:)

I love Mulan. My opinion on the dragon is actually an inverted version of yours. I liked the dragon, I can't stand the Donkey.

James and the Giant Peach is such an underrated film. I must purchase it on dvd.

Noticing you seem to like stop-motion, did you know a studio is doing a version of Gaiman's Coraline in this format?:)

11th-Mar-2008 08:55 pm (UTC)
*clears throat*

Avatar the Last Airbender is sheer awesome and a brilliant world and the animation is superb - especially the way every character has their signature way of moving and every bending style is distinctly based on a particular martial art and the facial expressions and parodies are amazing and I love it.


And I did know about Coraline, actually. I can't wait.
11th-Mar-2008 08:52 pm (UTC)
Seeing "Beauty and the Beast" when you were 11?

Oh yeah, in my last whiny post I forgot to mention that I feel old too. >:P

Funny, I always wanted to see "Watership Down", but never have. I think I'm afraid of what it might be like.

"Creature Comforts" is one of those things I pop in the DVD player on a regular basis when I don't feel like watching something new. ^_^
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12th-Mar-2008 12:46 am (UTC)
I liked the book (tho I read it long ago), but I always assumed the movie would be kind of... cartoony.
12th-Mar-2008 12:47 am (UTC)
Funny, I thought I was logged in - LJ is playing with me today.
11th-Mar-2008 09:01 pm (UTC)
...hey I liked Tilda's movie.

Also: There was a JGP movie? When? Where? How? Why was I not informed?
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12th-Mar-2008 12:07 am (UTC)
I don't know who that is.
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12th-Mar-2008 12:13 am (UTC)
Huh. Okay.
11th-Mar-2008 09:03 pm (UTC)
I didn't know Ghostbusters was a comedy either. It scared me so bad I didn't watch it again until I was in uni and even then had to brace myself during the scenes about electric shocks and the weird thing the lady sees when she opens her refrigerator, though luckily the Stay-Puft monster was not as terrifying as when I was a small person.
11th-Mar-2008 09:05 pm (UTC)
Oh, animated films. How I intensely love them. I suspect it was in part from being brought up on Disney from infantry and I never outgrew it. I actually just re-watched Mulan for the first time and a long while. I had forgotten how fantastic it was.

I feel the need to pimp an oft forgotten animation film at this time, The Iron Giant. With Brad Bird at the helm, it should be a given that it's a great film. It has gorgeous animation, a great commentary on Cold War fears, engaging characters, and a lovely ending that always makes me cry.
11th-Mar-2008 09:09 pm (UTC)
The thing is, like with all adaptations of my favourite books, I do things like flail and say but they changed the name, it can't be good! at it.
11th-Mar-2008 09:09 pm (UTC)
I always blub at the end of Iron Giant too.

The word "superman" makes the dam burst.

Edited at 2008-03-11 21:09 (UTC)
12th-Mar-2008 08:07 am (UTC)
I adore Mulan, with a ridiculous passion. I rewatch it at least once a year if not more often - it's the film that got me over my adolescent phase of being Too Cool for Disney, Tool of the Hegemony, and plunged me into a shameless Disney-love once more.

I would almost argue that Mulan's more of an ensemble piece than most Disney films, though - sure, no character is as developed as she is, and the cute animal sidekicks aren't great, but she does get a team of human personalities to work with. I can't think of another Disney film that has that, though maybe I'm blanking.

Also, she has a mom and a grandma! \o/
12th-Mar-2008 10:30 am (UTC)
Watership Down scared the absolute bejasus out of me - still does, a bit. I started with a book of stills and captions from the movie, which was sufficient in itself to frighten me, then watched the film and read the novel. Wow.
12th-Mar-2008 12:48 pm (UTC)
On my DVD rack I'm looking at Robots (which is much fun if not as good as the other animated films out there) Corpse Bride, Finding Nemo, and Appleseed. I liked Animal Farm, but found Watership Down a little too scary when I saw parts of it as a small child.

If we're talking about serials then the "Human Body" one with the anthropomorphic blood cells was great.

I seem to recall a film where a scientist became trapped in a medieval fantasy world, and became stuck in the same body as a dragon, only escaping when he remembered that "two bodies cannot occupy the same space and time as one another". I seem to recall he defeated the baddie by giving him a quantum mechanics lecture. But I can't remember the name for the life of me.
12th-Mar-2008 04:37 pm (UTC)
I liked Watership down and Nightmare before Christmas.The films I have seen by studio ghibli are fantastic, Spirited Away, Pom Poko and Princess Mononoke. I must watch some more of studio Ghibli films. Pom Poko is my favourtie so far.
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