Classic hand-drawn animation (The Jungle Book), anime/manga (Fist of the North Star), CG animation (Toy Story), overlaid animation (rotoscoping – A Scanner Darkly), stop-motion (Chicken Run), performance capture (Beowulf). We could go on. Indeed a Top Ten list could be compiled for any one of those techniques and you would still come nowhere near scraping the barrel.
It is indeed a rich art form. So, at the risk of reducing the list too much and also at the risk of leaving out too many beloved films, I’m going to go for range and variety rather than trying to rank every animated film in order of quality and then skim off the top six.
With the recent (and lacklustre) Epic hitting our screens and showcasing yet more in the way of jaw-dropping CG-world creation, it can be tempting to see CG-animation as the future and state of play of animation, but all of the other styles and techniques listed above still have their place. Epic seems to be getting pretty middling reviews, so may struggle to find its place in such exalted company, but we will see.
You cannot avoid the impact of Disney on animation.
Any animated Disney film from 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs through to 1967’s The Jungle Book could comfortably have made this list (including Pinocchio, 101 Dalmatians, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Bambi) and although a long fallow period followed Walt’s passing, eventually the studio got its act back together, delivering the thoroughly impressive sequence of The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King and Tarzan.
But Dumbo gets my vote. Okay, so the crows are more than slightly problematic in their racial stereotyping (long before Michael Bay caught flack for Mudflap and Skids in Transformers 2), but the psychedelic Elephants on Parade sequence (giving us trippy cinema decades before 2001), Mrs Jumbo’s trunk-cuddle of Dumbo, “When I see an Elephant Fly” and the big top sequences all elevate this to top-drawer status, animated or otherwise.
Charming, moving, exciting and hilarious, this will break your heart and then help put the pieces back together. Beautiful.