(Background for The Jungle Book (1967) )
Here are the final five films for the first half of my list. I have just realized I have a lot of Japanese films on this list. No worries. The two greatest animation producers are Japan and the United States.
31. アニマトリックス Animatorikkusu (The Animatrix), 2003
(Note: I accidentally got the date wrong but am too lazy to fix my list. I feel no guilt for this. But my OCD will probably get the better of me before long.) Based on The Matrix Trilogy, it is an anthology of nine short videos on the Matrix’s backstory. Directed by The Wachowskis, who also directed the other Matrix films, it was a surprisingly bestselling direct-to-video addition to the franchise. No, I have not seen it and I doubt it would mean much to me since I have never seen any of the Matrix films.
The animation is certainly interesting. Being separated into multiple stories, the animation varies. I would be more willing to put this anthology on my other list if I thought all the animation was equally brilliant. From what I could see, that is not the case. Such is the unfortunate reality of this style of film. To be fair, at least it illustrates a wide variety of styles, which adds a strange disconcerting atmosphere.
The Japanese influence is obvious but it is not the dominant style. This movie reminds me somewhat of the film Genius Party Beyond (2007/2008), which I wish I could include on this list but it does not connect cohesively into a single world or storyline. As a fan of animation, The Animatrix is a fascinating collection of different styles. Some stories are absolutely beautiful whereas others are average at best.
30. Up, 2009
The second animated film the Oscar board nominated for Best Picture, Pete Doctor’s creative movie is beautiful in a different way. The colors are very gentle, but vibrant when they need to be. This is especially clear with the balloons and Kevin’s feathers. it is interesting how otherworldly Paradise Falls seems through the eyes of animation; definitely a place one could picture living in peacefully and separate from the world.
If there is anything that I could say against the visuals it would be that sometimes the backgrounds seem too caricatured. For example, the rock dwellings Kevin and her family live in seem displaced in such a beautiful, green world. But that is stretching it a bit. I did not include this in my other list because I do not remember the beautiful animation too much when faced with its story and characters.
Just like Ratatouille and Finding Nemo, the story took precedence over the visuals. There are some films that rely heavily on backgrounds and animation to tell a story. (I will get to that on my other list.) Here, however, the focus turns elsewhere. That is not too say this movie does not have some gorgeous scenes. For myself, I had to do some digging to actually remember what it looked like. It is what it is I guess.
29. Tangled, 2010
This movie surprised me when I watched it a few years ago. If I had to choose between it and Frozen (2012), I would say this is better done. I loved how much work went into this film. This was partly due to Glen Keane’s involvement as well as his daughter Claire Keane, who also became a development artist for Disney. (Though I think she left the same time her Dad did in 2013. I am not sure.)
This is the only 3D animated movie I really like the character animation for. (I also admire those in Big Hero 6 (2014) but not as much.) But that is not the highlight of the movie. It is the beautiful backgrounds, especially how light shifts and swirls in some of the scenes. If there is one thing this movie excels at it is in creating gorgeous atmosphere. Here is why it is no on my other list. I wanted to see more German styles and references in the architecture and landscapes. Yes, I know this is technically not Germany but it is based on a German fairytale.
That is not saying I do not thoroughly approve of the work Disney artists did in Tangled. I am just saying I would have loved to see more details and adherences to the beautiful culture this film is based from.
I know little to nothing about this movie. Like Akira and Metropolis (2001) it has an urban setting and a punk-rock atmosphere. Surprisingly, I did not know about this movie until last week while looking through my Big Hero 6 art book. I believe it is a story surrounding two orphans who survive together in the slums of there town Takaramachi. Michael Arias, who also worked on The Animatrix, directed the film garnering some praise for the film’s animation.
I included this movie because I thought the visuals were unique in comparison to all the other films I mentioned so far. It is gritty, dirty and edgier for my taste but for some I believe it has a believable charm. Its beauty most likely comes from reminiscence. In other words, this is a film of memory. I have never lived in the slums so it does not ring so brightly for me as it does for others.
What does impress about the backgrounds are the amount of details put into every scene. This movie took a lot of work to create, especially in regards to the overall setup of the characters’ world. I believe it is hard to create a city different than the many portrayed in worldwide cinema. (Interesting fact, this trend started with Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927).) Though I will never see the movie, (rated R) I will say it has been a pleasure studying the movie and seeing its brilliant visuals.
27.おおかみこどもの雨と雪 (Ōkami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki Wolf Children), 2012
Here is yet another Mamoru Hosoda classic I have never seen. I have avoided it actually because I am afraid I will not like the story. Of all his films, this is probably the best received critically. It is understandable, since the story is not dating and based on something far more concrete. The story is definitely beautiful but so are its visuals. This is a movie many people have attached to. My theory is it is because its foundation lies in familial bonds and loving relationships.
Pastels dominate the films colors. It also does not rely heavily on shadowing. What really stands out is how Hosoda portrayed nature in rich fesses of greens, greys and reds. Like Summer Wars I think this film lacks the depth and perspective of other Japanese masters. Though the animation is admirable, it does not break the cartoonish mold of dominating anime. This makes sense because it is an anime studio which solely does the the animation.
I include Wolf Children because I know there are many attached to it emotionally. This is partly due to its delicate visuals. Though I would not rank it amongst Hayao Miyazaki’s works, I will say it is refreshing to know there are anime artists and studios that put such effort into their films. I really think what would make this film better visually is if the artists including shadowing to add depth to its characters. As they are, they do not fit well into the backgrounds because their lack of shadowing suspends them from their setting.
The next few posts will be MY personal favorites. Any I include show what I personally believe beauty is. As such, how I treat the next list will be different. From now on, I will rank them 26-1, from my least to my greatest. Thank you for reading and look forward to my next post!