Monday, September 22, 2014

1 Week, 5 Animated Films That I Had Never Seen Before

So a few weeks ago I asked the Rotoscopers fanbase to tweet me their suggestions for what animated films I should watch, and after compiling their answers and cross-checking them with what was available online for free, I came up with these five animated films that I watched for the first time.
  1. Hercules (1997)

    It's true! I had never seen it! On the podcast I'm famously known for having never seen Disney's Hercules all the way through before (watching it in high school AP English over the course of three days doesn't count), and the fact that I can't quote along with Morgan and Chelsea whenever they reference it is kind of a thing.

    So there I was, watching Hercules all the way through at long last, thanks to Netflix. I loved the anti-heroine, Megara. The main character that stood out to me the most was James Wood's Hades (whom Andreas Deja did not animate? Huh.). Y'know I really think ol' Hades and Izma should hook up. They're kind of the same strain.

    I was overall entertained but the sassy mini Gospel choir was confusing when juxtaposed next to the concept of Greek mythology. Maybe I'm taking the whole thing too seriously. I got a real Emperor's New Groove vibe out of the whole show, although Groove surpasses Hercules in its comedy and flow by far.

    Actually, you know who really stole the show for me? This guy:

    Stromboli aside, I had never seen a more delightful display of squetch (squash + stretch, try to keep up with me here) in my life. That guy was such a hilarious giant ball of fat that I had to rewind and re-watch his scenes again. Brilliant brilliant brilliant.
  2. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

    This one was also a notorious film in my life. I remember going to see it in theaters as a kid, but either the theater broke and we had to leave or Mom didn't like it and we ended up walking out.

    I knew that Hunchback was one of Disney's darker animated features, but I wasn't expecting the opening-sequence murder, the attempted abortion of the film's hero, and a villain song centered around a priest's intense feelings of lust for a gypsy dancer. All of these revolve around Frollo, who takes the cake IMHO as Disney's darkest villain.

    Phoebus, the seen-it-all-before soldier-turned liberator, deserves credit as a runaway hit character. I ended up liking Hunchback more than Jerkules because of the masterful animation, drama, and craftmanship of the film. I remember seeing this one layout drawing at Epcot and my jaw dropped. DaVinci - level skills.

  3. The Secret of Kells (2009)

    Cartoon Saloon? Never heard of it, although I could have sworn Genndy Tartakovsky had something to do with the animation. Turns out it didn't, although the overall style reminded me of Samurai Jack or something like Danny Phantom (not Tartakovsky but still).

    This was beautiful European gem that really channelled the magic of Medieval illuminated manuscripts, from the colors to the tricks with perspective. Even though the story delved more into pagan tradition than the history-savvy side of me would have liked, the faerie Aisling stole my heart and even got me all teary-eyed during her song. Not sure why but I guess that's how pagan magic works. I guess the only historical problem I had was that the Book of Kells was actually the four Christian Gospels, and the film merely hinted on this important element.

    Kells had brilliant character design (especially with the vikings) and gorgeous art design. Oh yeah, and the film has Hagrid. Bonus!
  4. ParaNorman (2012)

    I had regrettably missed this one too. From start to finish, ParaNorman had me giggling at the clever production design that effectively channelled the camp of old Romero zombie flicks. Even the zombies' musical cue was bleeding Romero. LAIKA's obvious passion for authenticity and perfection helped me get over its okay-ish typical teen scream/social-outcast-turned-unlikely-hero plot.

    The plentiful allusions to retro horror were great, and Norman's final confrontation with a certain vengeful spirit was classic LAIKA in terms of creepyness and raw sense of danger. And I laughed out loud watching the jock Mitch (fittingly voiced by Casey Affleck) doing his thing in ever scene that he did his thing in.
  5. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)Yes, yes yes. YES. Fantastic Mr. Fox was so good! It's LITERALLY a Wes Anderson film, complete with all the essential ingredients (awkward pauses, Bill Murray, and that's kind of it), in stop-motion form.
    As if Roald Dahl's source material didn't already set this film up for hilarity, Wes Anderson's unique take on the art of film makes it an instant alt-crowd hit. First off, the dialogue was masterfully crafted with, I'm assuming, zero tolerance for cheesyness that plagues animated films featuring big-Hollywood voice talent. I don't know exactly what Anderson did (something about dragging the cast out in the forest and forcing them to do improv?), but every other studio needs to take note of what he accomplished. The hilariously refined lives of the film's critters, who exist somewhere between Disney's Robin Hood and The Busy World of Richard Scarry in terms of amount of clothes worn, make so much sense when you combine them with the recorded lines. George Clooney, as always, creates the charming protagonist while Bill Murray manages to really channel his inner Bill Murray as the Bill Murray-esque badger. Bill Murray.

    The Americana style of the critters goes well with the too-British-for-Britain performance supplied by Michael Gambon as the film's antagonist. Willam Dafoe and Meryl Streep also did very well with their characters.

    Notable scenes included Mr. Fox's weirdo son's awkward love/hate/mostly hate relationship with his cousin Kristofferson, the end encounter with the wolf, and any scene that has the rat. Also, this:


  1. Bravo! Great mini reviews. Can't wait to read more of these!

  2. So glad you finally saw Hunchback and appreciated it. It's so dark, yet beautiful and fun! And how about those James Baxter sequences--madness!

  3. 3rd time, I'm typing this, so I pray it works now:

    Great review! It's surprising to see that you've never seen Hercules or THOND before, but also refreshing to hear your thoughts on the films after having just seen it.

    I've always been a fan of THOND for its darkness, Frollo, and that awesome Hellfire song. Hercules, I find, enjoyable...nothing more than that.

    The Secret of Kells was great although I feel the ending was somewhat abrupt from what I remember. ParaNorman is a film that I'm not a fan of, although I did enjoy it somewhat when seeing it.

    Alas, for Fantastic Mr. Fox, I'm like the only person in the world who doesn't like this film. I found it boring and lacking the charm and wit of the original book. But that's just me!

    Anyway, looking forward to reading more mini-reviews! I wish you were on Wordpress so I could just follow you to be alerted of new posts, but I guess you'll let us know of new posts via your Twitter account anyway.

  4. (Trying again bc my comment appears to have gotten eaten): Ah so glad you posted your reviews! I just recently saw Kells too and loved it! The style is so unique/I adore Pangur Ban haha :) I'm a Hercules fan like Morgan and Chelsea so I'm glad you finally saw that one too!

    I'm a huge fan of ParaNorman/LAIKA in general (I actually liked it way more than Frankenweenie that OTHER animated film playing on horror film tropes that came out in 2012 haha) and can't wait to watch it again as part of my annual line up of Halloween films.

    And finally...I actually haven't seen Fantastic Mr Fox yet, bc I'm not really a Wes Anderson fan... (SUCH a crime out here in LA haha) but I love the look of it from stills/trailers etc so I feel like I need to just get over my Wes prejudices already and watch it. I need to make a definitive list of animated films I need to see and just start knocking them out.