The Most Visually Beautiful Animated Films: 5-1

Here we are finally at the end of the list. It had been an interesting journey but I feel satisfied with the choices I made. In my mind, beauty is often accompanied by stories I feel spiritually connected to. They open the mind and feed my hunger for divine things. These next five films opened those doors.

5. The Thief and the Cobbler, (1964-?)

Everything Aladdin was unable to accomplish in its visuals are stunningly displayed in this unfinished masterpiece. I watched the botched version with my family for years before I even considered its history. Through my innate curiosity, I watched the Recobbled Cut, put together by an admirer Garrett Gilchrist of the director Richard Williams, one of the most under appreciated animators in history. Making it as close to Williams vision as possible, they created something altogether unreal.

The beauty and artistry of Arabic art blossomed through this movie. The tile work and small details lost in so many film adaptations were immortalized. The time and dedication it took to make The Thief and the Cobbler could not match the demands of the film industry. And thus, this amazing piece of art, one of the most fulfilling animated works I have ever seen, was lost.

How many years does it take to finish what the animators did? If this movie had been finished, I believe it would have been the most perfect animated film ever done. I wish someone would finish it. I bask in the fine details of the backgrounds and how the story through the animation sings like a true Arabian tale unntainted by Western thinking.



4. かぐや姫の物語  Kaguya-hime no Monogatari  (The Tale of Princess Kaguya), 2013

I am not an adamant fan of Isao Takahata. His more crass style does not appeal to me as much as Miyazaki’s brilliance. But, as I saw this film I felt like a hole had been ripped open in me. I knew this story, that it would end unhappily. But I got lost in the flawless journey set by the backgrounds and animation. It was done primarily through watercolors and colored pencils.

It plays like a Japanese story scroll and takes audiences on a journey through the beauty of life. This is even evident in the sorrowful moments of grief, frustration and fear. Kaguya is a testament to traditional Japanese art. The soft colors, warm settings and tranquil lighting reminds us to stop and pay attention to how beautiful life is.

Recommending this film is difficult. It is definitely not primarily a children’s film as it has themes and pacing only a seasoned admirer of art could understand and appreciate. It was ignored at the Acadwmy Awards as yet another “Chinese film”. Watching this movie was a painfully beautiful experience for me that I will never forget.



3. Prince of Egypt, 1998

This is a very multi-dimensionally mature film. My mother and I talked about it a few days ago and concluded that even though children can understand it, it’s story and message rings most true for adults. Moses’ journey is an adult one, marked by fear, pain and incredible joy. There are no cutesy animal sidekicks, silly songs or side plots. It is a call for spiritual enlightenment.

Charles Solomon’s art book for this helped me understand the beauty of its backgrounds. They are reminiscent  of classic artists from the 18th century and burn with life. Prince of Egypt uses a similar technique as Tarzan in that much of its backgrounds and animation is done through computer software. But it is impossible to tell where.

I love how rich the autumn colors are throughout and how much depth even the most obscure scenes has.. Coupled with the gorgeous music, Prince of Egypt remains one of the most visually beautiful movies I have ever seen.



2.  風立ちぬ Kaze Tachinu (The Wind Rises), 2013

I will never be ashamed of talking too much about this gorgeous film. I waited two years to finally see it and was moved in ways I never expected. Its colors entrances me and it’s story profoundly impacted how wholly I view films. Miyazaki says this is his final movie. If it isn’t, then I feel beyond satisfied

I have talked about this move before passionately, in hopes that more people would stop and take the time to see it. It is astounding how much beauty Miyazaki can pull from the simple things: a fish bone, a plane flight, clouds, smoke, an earthquake, a wedding, a field of grass and even a graveyard of destroyed planes.

I love this movie and bask in the beauty of its animation and story. This is another film not made for children. It is an opportunity for adults to look deeper in the lives of the Japanese after WWI and see how even after suffering so much a man was able to live. Watch this film and I guarantee your mind will be opened to to beauty and richness of love and life.


1. The Song of the Sea, 2014

I knew before I ever saw this movie it was a beautiful film. It was almost unreal to me how lovely ever frame was. I am also an adament fan of the creator Tomm Moore’s other film The Secret of Kells (2009) and am grateful that through him hand -drawn animation is still alive. (This is the one and only Irish animated film on this list!) But he does not copy live action movies or even American or Japanese animation. His style is wholly unique to Irish art and culture.

When I saw Song of the Sea I felt I had returned to my childhood world of wonder. There was magic and beauty interwoven throughout every scene. Fairies danced and sang in the golden green, whales swam through waters etched with beautiful, innocent light, and a child’s song brought back to life the old world forgotten and beaten by sorrow.

Our world needs films like this. It needs for children to reminded of history and culture. It needs to understand that real joy and beauty is not found in crass or sensual pleasures. Above all, it needs help remembering how the world seemed to glow with magic before adulthood stepped in. I marvel at every frame in this movie and hope Tomm Moore continues to make gorgeous movies like this.



Thank you very much for reading and looking at my cluttered thoughts. I hope these posts have been as enlightening for you as they have for me.


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