40. Peter Pan (1953)- Captain Hook, Shave and Crocodile
Peter Pan has never really garnered that much prestige as a film. The highlight of the movie would have to be the character animation, especially for the side characters like Hook, Smee, Tinkerbell and the Lost Boys. This was actually the last film all of Disney’s Nine Old Men worked together. My favorite scene from this movie is Captain Hook’s first encounter with the crocodile before Smee shaves him. Although Frank Thomas was the head animator for Captain Hook’s design and animation, Wolfgang Reitherman directed the animation for this particular sequence.
This scene has great character animation. Specifically, it used EXAGGERATIONS to create authentic movement. Animators use exaggerations in character animation to increase a motion’s impact by making the idea or essence of that action more apparent. (This is most notably done in Anime when characters have over-the-top reactions or facial expressions.)
Though Hook, Smee, and the Crocodile don’t have excessive reactions, like anime or older cartoon characters, their reactions and movements have just enough pop to make their actions convincing and emotive.
39. Pinnochio (1940)- Coachman with Honest John
Pinocchio is one of Disney’s most critically acclaimed animated films. It introduced the multiplane camera to create depth and atmosphere in the backgrounds, and earned multiple academy awards for its music.
My favorite scene happens halfway through the movie. I’ve always loved the character’s design and animation for Honest John and The Coachman (see my post of Favorite Character Designs for more info). This scene has a fascinating visual narrative. On one hand, there are Honest John and his lackey bragging about selling off an innocent boy, and on the other is a cherubic man listening with amusement. Both characters are reversals. Honest John is not so honest and The Coachman, who looks friendly and trustworthy, is a monster. My absolute favorite moment is the swift animation after The Coachman calmly says, “No, no. There’s no risk. They never come back. . . as. . . boys!”
38. Ponyo (2009)- Ponyo on the Waves
This is a Hayao Miyazaki film. That means he storyboarded, directed, and created all the characters. That also means it is a spectacular film. Ponyo is Japan’s fifth highest grossing film of all time and critics praised it for its beautiful visuals and uplifting story. Though Studio Ghibli had used 3D animation for previous films, they decided to completely hand draw the film. Miyazaki believes when he makes a film, it needs to be the highest quality. He never releases a film he can’t be proud of.
He has so much to be proud of in this film. I love how the animators who worked with Miyazaki animated water. My favorite scene is as ethereal as it is adventurous. After she escapes from her father, she drinks from her father’s magic well. This results in her sisters transforming into giant fish made from ocean water. Ponyo, while searching for her friend Sosuke, runs onto of the waves as a little girl.
I remember seeing this scene for the first time and thinking, I haven’t seen something this magical in a long time.
37. Alice in Wonderland (1951)- The Cheshire Cat
Writers and movie directors have revised Lewis Carroll’s famous novel MANY times. By the time Walt Disney released this animated film, there were great expectations from a myriad of literary fans. However, American and British critics alike didn’t like it. Walt Disney, despite all the work he and animators poured into it, concluded the film failed because it lacked heart. Animator Ward Kimball thought there were too many directors trying to outdo each other, which caused the film to feel inconsistent. Disney producer and director, Ben Sharpsteen surmised after its terrible first showing, “We shouldn’t feel bad, fellas; it’s just something Walt had to get out of his system.” (The History of Animation Enchanted Drawings, Charles Solomon, pg. 190)
Despite all it has going against it, the animation and scattered stories are actually very well done. That is, as individual segments. Not as a whole movie. My favorite scene is Alice’s first conversation with the Cheshire Cat. Part of its charm lies in Sterling Holloway‘s voice acting as the Cheshire Cat and Ward Kimball, Eric Larson, John Lounsbarry’s character animation. As a character, the Cheshire Cat has great Appeal, meaning his design and personality are incredibly interesting. They reflect the whimsical nature Caroll must have meant for his original literary character.
I like this scene because it demonstrates how animators can use dynamic characters to direct a scene in the right direction.
36. How To Train Your Dragon (2010)- Becoming Friends
This particular scene from How to Train Your Dragon has a lot of energy and charm. Its amazing how music and character animation alone have led many wonderful animated scenes. Hiccup’s first really bonding scene with Toothless demonstrates how the best character developments don’t need elaborate dialogue. they just need engaging and readable visuals.
35. Only Yesterday (1991)- Sunrise
A film I only recently discovered, Only Yesterday is one Isao Takahata’s more beautiful visual narratives. In this movie especially, he found ways to portray meaningful ideas and character developments in everyday situations. This is especially true when the film’s protagonist Taeko starts working to pick Chrysanthemums early in the morning. The music feels almost religious as the scene shifts under the rising sun. Taeko and the other workers stop and appreciate the beautiful sunrise. And, as the light envelops their surroundings, Taeko smiles and breaths a sigh of relief. I love how in one minute, Takahata showed Taeko finding peace and contentment.
34. Bambi (1942)- Deer fight
Bambi’s fight with Ronno might be the most artistically rendered part of the film. Rather than relying on more humanistic movement like in earlier segments of the film, the animators decided to animate the deer more realistically with a darker, more detailed color scheme in the backgrounds. It has so much energy. It practically drips with conflict and symbolism through chiaroscuro lighting. For me, this part of the movie seems more meaningful because of its realism.
33. The Tale of Princess Kaguya (2014)- Running
Another great film by Isao Takahata, The Tale of Princess Kaguya, is one of the most beautifully animated films I have ever seen. Takahata strove to help viewers “imagine or recall the reality deep within the drawings” by primarily using colored pencils and watercolored backgrounds. The character designs and animation, as a result, feel both more artistic and raw.
The scene which encapsulates this feeling best happens at Princess Kaguya’s lowest moment. To show her grief, Takahata had er literally running through the walls of her palace prison, shedding her fine clothes as she fled back to the outside forests. When I saw this movie four years ago, I remember how sad I felt for her and staring open-mouthed at the raw emotion bursting through the screen.
32. Children of the Sea (2016)- Birth of a Universe
Studio 4°C‘s Children of the Sea as a whole is a visual wonder. I’ve never in my life seen something so mind-numbingly captivating. I’ll refrain from giving away any details on its story or character development, but I will explain a little about my favorite scene. I call this scene The Birth of a Universe. The main character, Ruka, goes to the ocean’s center and witnesses the intricacies of human life and nature. It reminded me a little of the book A Wind in the Door and how even a person is a universe to the billions of cells they carry.
31. A Silent Voice (2016)- The Ending
Kyoto Animation released this movie based on Reiko Yoshida‘s original manga in 2016. It has a beautiful story, impactful characters, and gorgeous animation and staging. There are many wonderful moments in the film, like Shoya and Shoko finally speaking honestly with each other, or Shoya saving Shoko at the fireworks festival. However, I decided to focus on the ending.
This ending encapsulates the film’s message of forgiveness and healing. Without any initial dialogue, the scene portrays Shoyo unplugging his ears, finally able to face his peers courageously. I love how it shows his world opening before his eyes and how he feels worthy of being part of its beauty.