This week I watched five Animated films of differing styles and topics that were My Neighbour Totoro, The Incredibles, Nightmare Before Christmas, The Lion King and Grave of the Fireflies.

Now we are around the half way mark at week 26 I’m starting to consider the films which are not on the list and wonder how the voting for certain films was done. For example the Pixar and Miyazaki films are all stunning, brilliant movies and deserve to be in the top 250 movies or there about in terms of animated films but are they really the best animation has to offer? Wall-E was the clear favorite animated movie at the placing of 43 on our list (Now placed at 47 on the current IMDb list) and at the time of writing this post Toy Story 3 has actually got to No. 6 which is incredible.

I’m staggered that films like the stunning French masterpiece ‘Les Triplettes de Belleville’ by Sylvain Chomet is not on the list or anywhere near it at a rating of 7.6 as it is seriously one of the most incredible animated films I’ve ever seen or the film Akira which is one of the greatest and well loved Anime films of all time with a current rating of 7.9 is very close to being on the top 250 but surely deserving higher considering the impact it had, my Disney movie of choice Robin Hood sadly doesn’t feature in the list, then there is the outstanding Iron Giant which is just a work of brilliance and grossly under-appreciated or a personal favorite of mine Wings of Honneamise that has some of the most outstanding animation and intelligent storylines and then finally the greatest animated movie of all time Transformers: The Movie, one of the few films that makes me cry, all these films firmly deserve a place in the top 250 films if something like Lion King can make it, surely!.

I’ve already reviewed some animated movies from the list, Miyazaki and Pixar are the clear favorites and animated movies of choice and in terms of quality fully deserve it but surely there is a place for a wider selection of artists work to make it on there or even for classic Disney films to make more of an impression on it like Snow White, Fantasia or Pinocchio. I’ve never seen Perspolis, Paprika or Waltz with Bashir which I’ve heard are incredible but it seems they never get the credit they deserve due to the overwhelming love of Pixar and Miyazaki and I doubt that will change unless Pixar have a really bad run of films which I highly doubt will happen. What is interesting is that almost all of the none Pixar CG movies, like Kung Fu Panda (Good Fun), Ice Age (never seen), Shrek (which I despise), Over the Hedge (Ok) are not on the list even though they are very popular but they come nowhere near the quality in story and animation as Pixar manage to squeeze into their films. How to Train Your Dragon is the only one that has made it on the IMDb list since we started the project coming in at 175 which is pretty darn good and I’m yet to see it but I doubt it will hold its position in the list as long as the favorite Pixar movies have.

Then you have the classic stop motion animated films that have again started to become a popular choice for film makers with the recent arrival of Wes Anderson’s ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’ and future Tim Burton project Frankenweenie, there are also classics like Corraline, Wind in the Willows and Wallace and Gromit to get our teeth into. Stop motion animation was also used to glorious effect in a wonderful and rather unknown film called The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb that was made using a combination of stop-motion animation and pixilation (live actors shot frame-by-frame)that often had live actors and puppets sharing the frame at the same time which was just an incredible viewing experience.

Most fondly remembered though is the contribution made by the incredible Ray Harryhausen who created some of the greatest animated characters of all time in films like Sinbad, Jason and the Argonaults and my favourite The original Clash of the Titans (which should have been on the List) without his creative patience these films would never have worked.

I would be interested to hear your thoughts on this and please tell us your favorite animated films of all time.

No. 247 – (Tonari no Totoro) My Neighbor Totoro (1988) – Rating 7.9

My Neighbor Totoro has been voted one of the best animated movies of all time in almost every poll made, sometimes making the best ever and it’s clear to see why. I’ve never enjoyed watching a classically drawn animated film as much as this with incredible characters and a heart warming story that you can’t fail to be touched by or fail to enjoy.

My Neighbor Totoro tells a wonderfully simple story of two young girls named Satsuki and Mei who move into a new home with their father, their mother is sick and in the hospital so the sisters help their dad move into the new house. As they move in, they discover some soot spirits in the house and other magical spirits wandering round nearby and as the story progresses Mei, the younger sister, wanders into the woods chasing a little creature and discovers the ginormous Totoro, a creature that’s a cross between a bunny and a huge cuddly bear that has become one of the most iconic characters in animation.

Totoro and his little buddies can only be seen by the eyes of children and he soon makes friends with Mei and Satsuki and together they enjoy the forest and nature taking flight over the trees and countryside with Totoro and also take a trippy journey on Catbus which really shows off Miyazaki’s imagination and creativity to the full. One day Mei disappears trying to look for her mother, and Satsuki asks the forest spirits to help find her and conclude a deeply touching and unforgettable film.

The magic of My Neighbour Totoro is the simplicity of it, the completely against the grain plot of two girl leads and a sick/possibly dying mother which is not how western animation does things at all and to see the instantly lovable Totoro in action is so magical you wish he existed and you could take a ride with him, The animation is dated but none the less beautifully crafted from Miyazaki and studio Ghibli and altogether it made me feel happy after watching it and not many films have such a wonderful effect.

No. 176 – The Incredibles (2004) – Rating 8.1

At the time this was Pixar’s most daring movie as it was the first time they used solely human characters and a more adult storyline this time involving a less marketable toy range superheroes but hell did it succeed in every aspect.

The animation legend Brad Bird created a superhero film that can easily stand up against any superhero film ever made and introduced some excellent characters that are attributed from the superhero archives to give gthe story an instantly recognizable feel allowing no origin story and to let us accept that this is a world of humans of which some have powers. It’s when an incident of numerous injuries occur to innocent bystanders, after Mr Incredible saves the day, that lawsuits fly in and an order enforced that implies superheroes are a menace and are outlawed leaving all superheroes to go into hiding and live normal lives.

Some years later Mr Incredible is married with three kids all desperately trying to live their lives as normal humans hiding their powers from but when Mr Incredible gets the lure to come out of retirement to use his powers again by a mysterious company after former superhero colleagues go missing and only the Family Incredible can save the day. Of course there is a lot more to the storyline that and I could go on all day talking about every magical aspect of the film from Fro-Zone, the uber-cool Samuel L Jackson voiced Iceman superhero to the wonderful Island HQ of Syndrome (Buddy Pine) the villain of the film where some of the great action scenes take place or the wonderful explanations of why Superheroes shouldn’t where cloaks to the Family Incredible using their powers together to beat the bad guy, it’s all pretty much faultless.

The film has so much humor and charm thrown in with the thrilling action that it’s maybe Pixar’s most adult friendly movie to date with kids lives being threatened, tons of violence, a quite complex plot and sharp dialogue coming at us as fast as Dash can run, it’s a true pleasure to watch Pixar showing its muscles and again proving how it dominates the world of CG Animated movies with what looks like relative ease but of course it’s not, it takes a perfect team to bring a great story, incredible animation, stunning visuals, flawless sound and vocal work that is never equaled by any other animated film of its kind. Another fully deserving film on the list.

No. 229 – Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) – Rating 8.0

I’m pretty shocked this film was made back in 1993, I always seem to think it came out near the same time as The Corpse’s Bride back in 2005 and never seventeen years ago, i completely missed it and I was equally amazed by how good it was, not only in its utter perfection in stop motion animation but in its quality of storyline and character creation, it’s just utter genius.

With its unforgettable wonderfully weird opening musical number that introduces us to the inhabitants of Halloweentown, we meet the manic community which are devoted to annually creating frightening ways of scaring the hell out of people. However the hero of our film Jack Skellington or the Pumpkin King as he’s known to his friends gets tired of the old routine and whilst walking through the forest he comes upon a tree with a door to Christmastown where he finds the joys of Santa’s workers in preparation for Christmas and Jack wants a part of it.

Jack concocts a plan to kidnap Santa Claus and become the king of Christmas and attempts to get the rest of Halloweentown to join in with terrible consequences after they make horrific present creations of shrunken heads or devouring snakes but Jack unaware of the meaning of these presents sets off dressed in white beard and red outfit into the night sky drawn by his three reindeer skeletons and proceeds to distribute presents that terrify their recipients. Understanding his errors after ruining Christmas and with Santa being due to be eaten by Halloweentown’s evil Oogie Boogie man, Jack has a change of heart and has to race to save Santa and restore the worlds to their normal glory.

The stop motion animation is jaw dropping and sublime and the style has an obvious Tim Burton influence from start to finish with a look that is unique, gorgeous and so well designed which is all topped off with some excellent voiced characters to suit the excellent storyline. A Nightmare Before Christmas is a pure visual treat and a film that will stick with me for a long time to come and fully deserves its place in the top 250 list.

No. 150 – The Lion King (1994) – Rating 8.1

I’ve never been a huge fan of the classic Disney Animated movies, I’m not sure why but maybe it has something to do with the musical numbers that litter them as I kind of remember having a huge issue with the likes of Beauty and the Beast and its songs that never sat right with my tastes and what I wanted from my animated movies.

Disney’s 32nd Animated feature is a coming of age story for Simba (Matthew Broderick) a young lion cub who runs away after believing that he is responsible for his father’s death after his evil Uncle Scar (Jeremy Irons) sets Simba up which enables him to become leader. Scar takes over the lion kingdom and forms an alliance with the hyenas who go on to abuse their role in the new regime creating a miserable and barren place to live for the rest of the lions. Meanwhile Simba befriends Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella), a wart hog, and Timon (Nathan Lane), a meerkat, and learns all about Hakuna Matata growing up in the process to be a free living happy Lion

Eventually the time comes for Simba to confront his past when he comes across a starving Nala (his childhood friend) trying to eat his friends and protects them, After he meets Rafiki the baboon priest and also receives a message from the ghost of Mufassa, his father telling him the time has come to return back to his kingdom and confront Scar to save his family and take his rightful place as king.

The story is amazingly dark at times and emotional, the characters are strong but the songs from Elton John grind to the point of bleeding ears despite the Oscars it got and that it overshadowed Hans Zimmer’s score (also Oscar winning), but of course some songs are classics and instantly recognizable and help elevate it to the classic Disney film its regarded as but like I said something doesn’t sit right with me on the film despite some great vocal casting and incredible animation set pieces despite being computer generated (See below), it’s too soppy and at times nauscious, the pacing drags at times and lacks the fun factor that Robin Hood has or any Pixar film contains by the bucket full and I really can’t agree it deserves its place on the IMDb250 list when the likes of Snow White, Pinocchio or Dumbo don’t get near.

For me The Lion King is an average film and one that really doesn’t get me excited, it does have its moments and there is no doubt it was one of the last great animated movies from Disney for many years after its release in 1994 but with John Lasseter getting behind Disney’s push for hand drawn animation again and his involvement on Princess and the Frog it has finally brought Disney back on track.

No. 184 – Grave of the Fireflies (1988) – Rating 8.0

Grave of the Fireflies tells the emotionally draining story of a pair of orphans struggling to survive after the events of firebombing of Kobe at the end of World War II and it’s an incredible example of how animated movies can be more than just a “Cartoon” and be a truly haunting and dramatic work of art.

The film opens with the reveal that this is the day that our young male protagonist Seita died and the film looks back at how we come to this horrible ending of a teenage boy lying dead in a station.

The young brother and sister, Seita and Setsuko, find out that their mother didn’t survive a firebomb attack on their home town and leave for their aunt’s home to live but due to the rationing of food and their Aunts horrible perspectiveve of her lodgers the pair leave with what they can and take up refuge in an abandoned bomb shelter where a majority of the film takes place as they set up home and struggle with hunger, personal pride and prejudice in their own personal battle for survival.

I don’t think i’ve ever watched an animated film like Grave of the Fireflies that can equally amaze you with its stunning animated depiction of war then smack you in the face with its harsh reality of it too that will bring a tear to any viewer. The bond between the siblings is wonderful to watch and 100% believable which makes it even harder to watch as things deteriorate, it’s one of the most incredible anti war films ever made in any form heartbreaking drama doesn’t come better than this.

The animation is subtle but beautifully detailed in an effortlessly realistic style by Studio Ghibli director Isao Takahata and that equalled with one of the most memorable story lines makes Grave of the Fireflies one of the greatest animated films ever made and when you see Lion King sitting 34 places above you have to wonder how this isn’t sitting higher.

You can find Barry’s next update next week, catch you in two.

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