Just because Disney is my favourite thing in the world doesn’t mean I can’t like other forms of animation too. Here are my top ten favourite animated films not made by Disney.
NUMBER ONE: Persepolis
This is a sort of obscure, sort of popular French animated film based on the life and times of Marjane Satrapi, an Iranian woman who grew up during the Islamic Revolution in the 80s. The film is based on her graphic novel of the same name (which I also love and recommend), and while there are a few differences (probably for dramatic effect), both stories are wonderfully told. The film has the most gorgeous use of black-and-white animation and has a perfect balance of being dramatic and serious and downright funny. It’s an inspiring, absorbing story of the real life of one woman throughout the wonders and horrors of life.
NUMBER TWO: The Iron Giant
Definitely a classic. While it was a little too scary and serious for me as a child, whenever I watch it now, I grow to love it and appreciate it more. The Iron Giant himself is one of the greatest movie robots of all time (along with Baymax and WALL-E) and Hogarth is a really well-written, realistic, and likable kid character. It also deals with a lot of complex and deep and even thought-provoking issues without overwhelming the audience. In my opinion, this is Brad Bird’s magnum opus because is a multifaceted story with a lot of heart. There’s not much I can really say that hasn’t been said before, but basically, I’m glad I’ve given this movie another chance in my life.
NUMBER THREE: Most Studio Ghibli films
This company has made timeless films. With beautiful animation and music and compelling, complex stories, they nourished my childhood creativity. My absolute faves would be Howl’s Moving Castle, Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and The Cat Returns.
NUMBER FOUR: Kung Fu Panda
These movies are never a dull moment. They are funny, action-packed, gorgeous, and know when to be serious. Po is one of the best representations of a fat character that isn’t JUST jolly or JUST depressed (and not a villain either). I love the first two films equally, and while I don’t love the third movie as much (it’s noticeably tame compared to the second movie, probably because DreamWorks is trying to target a younger audience now), it’s still pretty enjoyable. These films don’t nearly get the recognition they deserve, for they are definitely some of DreamWork’s best. Go check them out if you haven’t!
NUMBER FIVE: The Book of Life
This film is the best example of a low-budget CGI film that has GORGEOUS animation. It also has a fantastic soundtrack and a lively and lovely story. You can really feel the love the director puts into this movie and the Mexican culture, which makes the movie even more special. It’s a real treat, everyone should see it.
NUMBER SIX: The LEGO Movie
This movie manages to be a lot of fun while also being really meta. It’s a very clever and well crafted film that makes fun of itself but also appreciates its audiences. I’m a little concerned that it will become overcomercialized with so many sequels and spinoffs (even though it was sort of making fun of that kind of stuff) but the original movie is still good.
NUMBER SEVEN: The Prince of Egypt
This is DreamWorks Animation’s best film. It’s a sweeping, epic tale based on a Biblical story made accessible for a wider audience. While some scenes can be too intense and hard to watch, overall it’s still a masterpiece; a sobering, absorbing, but ultimately uplifting story of hope and courage in harsh times.
NUMBER EIGHT: Anastasia
I’m going to be honest, I’m not a HUGE fan of Don Bluth’s works (I admire the man himself and his ambition, but the films aren’t exactly my cup of tea), and I kind of feel bad for listing the film that he made as a way to catch up with Disney instead of his more original stuff, but I can’t help it. In addition to being a childhood fave, the film is just STUNNING. This film’s music and visuals are just brilliant. Even if the story is not that great (it can be weird at times), it’s still a spectacle I can go back to viewing.
These are both made by the same company (LAIKA) and have the same genre (kid horror) and it was hard to pick which one I liked better. So I put them on the same spot. Both are really compelling stories of lonely children overcoming all odds; Coraline defeats a supreme evil and Norman helps a disturbed ghost be at peace. The stop-motion animation of course is great (Coraline is best appreciated in 3D) and I love how they’re not constricted by the genre (they show that kids movies can be risky). Both films are worth it.
NUMBER TEN: Leafie, a Hen Into the Wild
This film is kind of cheating because it’s not Western and it’s not anime (it’s Korean) but it still deserves to be mentioned. It’s a touching story about a domestic hen who leaves her farm to live in the wild and adopts an orphaned duck, and we see the bond that develops between them…and the hardships they overcome. While it can be a little too crude at times, it is still a work of art that needs to be mentioned more. It will simultaneously lift and break your heart.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Watership Down (too scary to watch anymore, but beautiful, thought-provoking, and brilliant), Megamind, How To Train Your Dragon (just the first movie), Shrek (the first two movies), Rise of the Guardians, Rango, The Adventures of Tintin, The Land Before Time, The Swan Princess (guilty pleasure), Beowulf, It’s Such a Beautiful Day.
And there you have it! Though it goes without saying I need to expand my palate…