Books with Pictures Part II—Movies With Pictures
by Branden Hart
Or at least, movies with thousands of pictures drawn by hand. Or created on the computer. Or created using stop-motion animation. Whatever.
So, you guys like talking about cartoons, eh? Well, there's even more to talk about than just what comes on TV every week. I've always been a huge fan of animated motion pictures, mostly because they always seemed to contain so much more content (and often, more mature content) than their television cousin, the Saturday morning cartoon. There are thousands of animated motion pictures out there, ranging from the family-friendly Disney movies we all grew up with, to Japanese hentai, which even some (maybe most?) adults can't bear to watch. Below are my personal favorite animated motion pictures.
1. Flight of Dragons (1982)
What American kid doesn't know the work of Arthur Rankin Jr.? From Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer to The Hobbit, I don't think there is a person in this country who hasn't been touched at some point by this man's work. One of his later films was Flight of Dragons, a fantasy piece set in a world where dragons, wizards, and warlocks exist and do battle to save or destroy humankind (as well as a venerable cast of other nasties). The cast includes John Ritter, who voices Peter Dickinson, a writer who has created a game in the vein of Dungeons and Dragons. James Earl Jones is a treat as the terrifying Ommadon.
The movie is based on books by Peter Dickinson and Gordon R. Dickinson. And while, as is the case with many animated movies, the story could use a little more fleshing out, it still represents a valued edition to the cartoon lexicon.
2. The Last Unicorn (1982)
Rankin strikes again, this time in an adaptation of the Peter S. Beagle novel of the same name. The all-star cast includes such familiar names as Alan Arkin, Jeff Bridges, Mia Farrow, Angela Lansbury, and Christopher Lee. Music for the movie was done by the group America, and though some people pan the sappy lyrics and often over-melodic tunes, I still get chills everytime I hear the opening theme. Documenting the quest of the last unicorn on Earth to find her brothers and sisters, it's a fascinating adventure, filled with its own lore and history, as well as characters that are often endearing and terrifying at the same time.
From drunk skeletons to trees with HUGE breasts, this movie has a bit of everything. Classic film for both kids and adults alike.
3. Jan Svankmajer's Alice (1988)
This adaptation of Lewis Carrol's classic tale Alice in Wonderland is NOT for children. In fact, if I had watched this movie as a kid, I would have ended up way more fucked up than I already am. Nevertheless, it remains a remarkable testament to Svankmajer's legacy as one of the best stop-motion animators of all time. While there is an almost incomprehensible story line and some scenes are completely nonsensical, the artistry that went into achieving the final product is amazing in and of itself. This is a movie you should watch when you are in a mood to just sit with your jaw dropped. It's that good.
4. Wizards (1977)
From Fritz the Cat to Fire and Ice to Cool World, Ralph Bakshi's contribution to animation can't be denied. But my favorite Ralph Bakshi film is Wizards, a story about the world that emerges on our planet after we obliterate it with nuclear weapons. Part a treatise on the value of learning from history, part fantastic adventure story, we follow the wizard Avatar on a quest to destroy his brother Blackwolf, who has begun using a film projector to portray films from the time of Hitler to terrify and help overcome his enemies. Fortunately, this film isn't all serious: it contains the cantaloupe-sized breasts that are a highlight of all Bashki films. And fortunately, most of them are on the women.
5. Fantastic Planet (1973)
This pioneering film by Rene Laloux is a wonderful science fiction piece. Taking place on another planet, filled with giants who turn humanoids into their pets. We then follow the humanoids on their quest for equality. This is a wonderful journey, with great psychedelic animation that portrays a fantastic world so unlike our own, but filled with characters and situations that reflect some of the problems we still face in our world today.
6. Light Years (1988)
Another Rene Laloux film, this time based on a novel by Jean-Pierre Andrevon. In a foreign world, those from Gandahar live in harmony with nature, until a threat from a thousand years in the future begins to threaten the peaceful land. It is left up to Sylvain, a young man, to find and demolish this threat. The animation is beautiful, and like Fantastic Planet, there are many psychedelic elements to the world created.
7. Akira (1988)
Arguably, Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira single-handedly changed animated movies forever. The quality and detail involved in the movie, as well as the sprawling storyline, are simply masterful. Taking place in a Tokyo that was destroyed twenty years before by a powerful catastrophe resembling a nuclear bomb blast, we follow the story of Kaneda, leader of a miscreant bike gang, and his sidekick Tetsuo, as they become unwillingly involved in government conspiracies and, in the end, a transformation that threatens the entire world. By all means a classic, the movie has typical Anime qualities—which means plenty of boobs, plenty of blood, and a particular scene at the end that can only be described as fantastically gross.
8. Triplets of Belleville (2003)
I'm particularly drawn to this movie not only for its superb animation, but because it doesn't have a lick of dialogue. I find that masterful—the ability to create a ninety minute story and then tell it without having the characters say one word is a true storytelling achievement. This movie is truly a work of art that should be experienced by everyone.
I know there are films I left off. And I know that the readers at FTTW will let me know what those movies are. Sound off motherfuckers!
Uber isn't really bad, he's just drawn that way.