Great Animation Aims at Adults and Children
by Phil Boatwright

Recently, a poll was taken on Yahoo spotlighting great animated features.  While most were deserving of such regard, I found several missing from the list.  So allow me to add several that Yahoo Users must have forgot.

Yahoo Poll (The check marks indicate my opinion of the choices. Click the linked titles to read the Preview review, if available)

Finding Nemo  ✓✓✓✓
The Lion King  ✓✓✓✓
The Incredibles ✓✓✓✓
Shrek ✓✓✓
Ratatouille ✓✓✓
Toy Story ✓✓✓✓
Beauty and the Beast ✓✓✓✓
Aladdin ✓✓✓
Spirited Away
Monsters, Inc. ✓✓✓
Cars ✓✓✓✓
Shrek 2 ✓✓
The Little Mermaid ✓✓✓✓
Cinderella ✓✓✓✓
Princess Mononoke
Nightmare Before Christmas  ✓✓
Lady and the Tramp ✓✓✓✓
Dr. Suess’ Horton Hears a Who ✓✓ (the TV animated ½ hour version is superior)
Peter Pan ✓✓✓✓
Mulan ✓✓✓✓
Howl’s Moving Castle
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs ✓✓✓✓
Ice Age✓✓✓
Ice Age: The Metldown✓✓✓
The Simpsons Movie
Over the Hedge ✓✓✓✓
Sleeping Beauty ✓✓✓✓
The Jungle Book ✓✓✓✓
Bambi ✓✓✓✓

My Additions

101 Dalmatians.  (1961) A gentle charmer about London dweller Pongo, the Dalmatian, and his "pet" Roger.  After encountering the beautiful Perdita, a female Dalmatian, and her owner Anita, love and marriage soon bloom for two-legged and four-legged alike. But when the first litter of 15 adorable puppies comes along, villainess Cruella De Vil enters the scene, demanding to buy all the pups - for a one-of-a-kind fur coat! ✓✓✓✓

Pinocchio ✓✓✓

Prince of Egypt.  (1998) The story of Moses and the enslaved Hebrews is vividly brought to animated musical life through the sophisticated work of DreamWorks Studios. To borrow a line from another movie marvel, "No expense has been spared." ✓✓✓✓

Robin Hood (1973)  ✓✓✓

The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  (1996) Disney's 34th full length animated adventure is loosely based on the Victor Hugo classic about the deformed bell ringer who rescues a beautiful gypsy accused of witchcraft. The musical score by Alan Menken (The Little Mermaid, Beauty & the Beast, etc.), although not his most memorable, contains several poignant pieces, including a prayerful ballad, "God Help the Outcasts". This reverent and melodious piece serves to remind us of a true spiritual supplication, one which pleads for the poor, downtrodden and unloved.  ✓✓✓✓

The Iron Giant.  (1999) An imaginative little boy befriends a giant robot who doesn't seem to know how he came to be (something we never learn, although it appears in the beginning that he came from space). Highly entertaining, with humor aimed both at kids and adults. Set in the '50s, it's a little hard on the military and government secret agencies, but it also deals with spiritual issues, stating, "Souls don't die, they go on forever." Suggesting both filmmatic and thematic ideas from The Day The Earth Stood Still and King Kong, The Iron Giant is smart, funny, and exciting, but parents should attend with little ones, both to reassure and to explain certain messages.  PG (5 or 6 mild expletives; at one point a military general says "sweet mother of God"; a deer is killed by hunters; some intensity as our heroes are in danger by a pursuing army, and a fired nuclear missile; the robot has been programed to defend himself). ✓✓✓✓

Antz.  (1998) Voices of Woody Allen, Anne Bancroft, Danny Glover, Gene Hackman, Jennifer Lopez, Sylvester Stallone, Sharon Stone.  A dissatisfied worker ant becomes a reluctant hero by switching places with his soldier drone friend. It's a parable about caste systems, with a romance thrown in between a lowly worker and a future queen. In keeping with this generation's mantra that the individual is more important than the society to which he belongs, this film stresses individuality over conformity. Of course, this hypothesis, that the individual should come before the society, doesn't work in the ant world. If such a rebellion occurred, chaos would prevail, then lead to extinction. Hmmm.  PG (a few mild expletives, but I caught no harsh or profane language). ✓✓✓

A Bug’s Life.  (1998) In this computer-animated feature from Disney/Pixar, a colony of ants is raided each summer by larger bugs bent on taking a hefty portion of their hard-earned harvest. Finally, a dissatisfied worker ant takes it upon himself to locate tougher bugs who will protect his little village. (I expected to hear the theme from The Magnificent Seven at any moment.) More or less the Barney Fife of his community, our bumbling hero makes the mistake of procuring the services of a motley group of circus bugs who think they are going to entertain the invaders.  G (parents should be there to reassure little ones, but far less violent than Antz). ✓✓✓

Chicken Run is a claymation comedy set on a chicken farm where a flock of hens are determined to fly the coop before meeting a fowl fate. When a rooster, shot from a circus cannon, sails over the fence of a Stalag 17-like egg hatchery, the hens believe he can fly. Not wanting to go back to the circus, the rooster makes a deal. If they hide him, he will teach the chicks to fly. Of course, as we all know, don’t we, chickens can’t fly. With enough visually going on to keep little ones enthralled, it also contains sly, pun-riddled humor to keep the most anti-animation adult amused. And let’s not forget the sight gags. Picture a rooster in solitary, ala Steve McQueen’s Cooler Joe in The Great Escape. The expressive faces (chickens with teeth – is that great?), the pacing, adventure and witty dialogue make for a fun family movie outing. ✓✓✓✓

Curious George.  (2006) George is an inquisitive little monkey, more lovable than Cheetah.  Aided by a gentle story, highlighted by kid-friendly slapstick, engaging songs by Jack Johnson, and funny vocal assistance by Will Ferrell and Dick Van Dyke, Curious George gives movie-going families a delightful, sweet-tempered outing.  ✓✓✓

Fantasia 2000.  (2000)  The Classic update of Fantasia, contains the original segment, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” from the 1940 film, with seven new sequences, each introduced by diverse celebrities such as Steve Martin, Bette Midler, Itzhak Perlman, James Earl Jones, Penn & Teller, Quincy Jones, Angela Lansbury, and, of course, Mickey Mouse.  The ultimate purpose of art should always be to uplift the spirit of man. Truly, Fantasia 2000 measures up to that standard. It simply dazzles the senses. My favorite piece combines the sophisticated music of George Gershwin and the unmistakable linear style of Al Hirschfeld. “Rhapsody in Blue” is without question the quintessential sophisticated piece of its time. Maybe of all time. And Hirschfeld’s whimsical view of people’s foibles is delightfully revealing. Together, with the narrative of diverse characters weaving in and out of each other’s lives during the course of their daily routines, these two masters of their respective fields return the word erudite to storytelling.  Another favorite is the touching segment with Donald Duck boarding animals to the music of “Pomp and Circumstance.” It is both funny and poignant as Donald and his lady fair, Daisy, are separated before the journey begins only to be reunited by segment’s end. ✓✓✓✓

Lilo & Stitch.  (2002) Lilo is a lonely Hawaiian girl who adopts a small ugly “dog,” whom she names Stitch. Stitch would be the perfect pet if he weren’t in reality a genetic experiment who has escaped from an alien planet and crash-landed on Earth. Through her love, faith and unwavering belief in “ohana” (the Hawaiian concept of family), Lilo helps unlock Stitch’s heart and gives him the one thing he was never designed to have – the ability to care for someone else.  The dialogue is witty, with a very creative storyline that takes E.T. themes even further. The technical aspects are all first rate. The storyline has pacing and reason. The characters have been given warmth and dimension, with each creation full of charm and amazing facial expressions that either move you or cause you to bust out laughing. ✓✓✓✓

The Miracle Maker.  With the use of claymation and graphically striking two-dimensional animation, ABC first brought the story of Jesus to television for an Easter evening presentation.  Using disciplined and textured voices, an emotional score by Oscar-winner Anne Dudley, and state-of-the-art production values, this is an entertaining, inspirational, and well told version of the life of Christ.  ✓✓✓✓