The Most Visually Beautiful Animated Films: 15-11

15. The Lion King, 1994

The best way to describe this movie is BIG. Its scope and settings bring to life Africa’s vast beauty. I debated whether to put this or Hunchback on my top list. The Lion King won because of its lighting and unique setting. Plus, it did not have the annoying 3D crowds.


I love the subtle shades of pink and orange. It reminds me of the sunsets in Arizona that seem to spread into every corner of the sky. Though it may see strange how many colors and details are found in the African plains, much like the American West beauty sometimes hides in the simplest places.  It requires us to stop and pay attention to small details. 

I am not doing a good job explaining what makes this film so beautiful visually. Perhaps it is because it is self evident once you see it. If you have seen it before pay attention to the backgrounds, lighting and colors. 



14. メトロポリス Metoroporisu (Metropolis), 2001

The first time I saw Meteopolis I was dumbfounded. It was absolutely beautiful and not the boring sci-fi film I was expecting. Directed by Rintaro and loosely based on Osamu Tezuka‘s manga and Fritz Lang’s 1927 silent film Metropolis I believed it would be a ridiculous knockoff of one of my favorite films. But I was wrong. After it was over I stared at the empty screen for a long time and immediately bought it. 


This film combined hand-drawn and computer animation so well I could barely tell the two apart most times. What surprised me most was how much beauty resided in a corrupted, torn city. The most beautiful part of the movie came near the end when the Ziggurat blew apart to Ray Charles’ “I Can’t Stop Loving You”. 


I believe Meteopolis appealed to me so much because of its political implications and moral questions. However, I came to love it because of its gorgeous visuals. If you have not seen this I highly recommend it. 




13. 言の葉の庭 Kotonoha no Niwa (The Garden of Words), 2013/ The Book of Life, 2014 

Here is yet another film everyone tells me I need to see, but I just have not been in the mood. Despite this, I would have to be blind or stupid to not notice how stunning its visuals are. Written and directed by Mikoto Shinkai, who also did 5 Centimeters per Second (2007), many refer to him as the next Miyazaki. Though I would not go that far, I do think his films, especially this one, are beautiful. 


A combination of hand-drawn, rotoscope and computer animation it takes real life scenes and focuses on the idea of traditional Japanese love. Much of its visuals denote loneliness and isolation. I love the lighting throughout as well as how vibrant the colors are. 


I need to see this movie still but I would say check out. The visuals are enough to at least give it one viewing. Part of me knows though it will be sad. 





Now, this is the only slot with two films. I had been sitting figuring out films for these posts and somehow The Book of Life just slipped my mind until five or so days ago. I nearly tore my hair out in frustration because my list was basically already done. So, I decided to place it with Garden of Words

It’s story is rather blah, but it’s animation and style is incredible. This is the first, and probably only, mainstream animated film based on Mexican culture. It’s production studio Reel FX Creative Studios has not really done any other films. (Well they did do Freebirds (2013) but that was a painfully bad movie). I love love love this film’s designs especially in the Land of the Remembered. Though it was done with computer animation I could have sworn it was a stop-motion film. 


I need to buy the art book for this film. As a lover of Halloween, The Book of Life stands out as one of the most visually creative movies I have ever seen. I do not watch it for its story really. It’s the beautiful visuals I love. 



12. Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Gahoul, 2010

Here is yet another meh movie with gorgeous backgrounds and animation. Quite an anomaly, Village Roadside Pictures and Animal Logic produced it as a Warner Bros. film in the United States and Australia. It is based on Kathryn Lasky‘s children’s book series Guardians of Ga’Hoole and received average reviews from critics and audiences. 


It’s story is rather dull, but its visuals are breathtaking! There is one particular scene I have not forgotten even after all these years. It is when the main character flies through a storm. When I watched it five years ago I was struck by the details and ambiance of the scene. I do not recall what it was for but the imagery has stayed with me all these years. 


Computer animation does not impress me often but for this film it certainly earned my respect. If only the story writers could have come up with a more interesting plot. 



11. 崖の上のポニョ Gake no Ue no Ponyo (Ponyo), 2008

How to describe this film. Hayao Miyazaki based it off The Little Mermaid and came up with the idea after seeing Disney’s 1989 film. I saw this while still seeking out his films and thought it was cute. Of all his movies it is the one he specifically meant for very young children. Strangely, it was older audiences that connected to it better. 


Never before has the ocean been animated so beautifully. I wish I could have seen it in theaters. Roger Ebert, he seems to be the only critic I regularly agree with on anything, remarked ,

The film opens with a spellbinding, wordless sequence beneath the sea, showing floating jellyfish and scampering bottom-dwellersThe pastels of this scene make “Ponyo” one of the very rare movies where I want to sit in the front row, to drown in it. This is more than “artistry.” It is art.

I understand the desire to drown in its visuals. I remember I said Finding Nemo (2003) seemed to be stuck in a haze in its underwater scenes. Ponyo is different. Everything shines with color and it has an atmosphere you wish you could breath in. 


Though not my favorite Miyazaki film, I absolutely love its visuals and revel in its vivid shades of blue, gold, green and red. It should have been nominated for an academy award in 2009 but that is the tragedy of show business. 





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