Wednesday, January 13, 2010

FableVision's Top Animated Films of the Decade (2000-2009)

A few weeks ago the bunch of us at FableVision decided to poll the company to see what everyone's favorite animated films were of the closing decade (limited to features). Most of us voted, and we tallied the results. Without further ado, here are our Top Ten in descending numerical order with write-ups from the crew:

10. Kung Fu Panda (2008)

DreamWorks SKG hasn't had the best track record for good movies. For example, Shark Tale and Antz, didnt exactly raise the bar for CG animation. When I heard that they would be making an animated feature film about a young panda that learns martial arts, called Kung Fu Panda, I was instantly reminded of those little awkward ant(z) voiced by Woody Allen and Silvester Stallone. In doing so, I instantly threw out any thought of buying a ticket to see this movie. It was wrong for me to pre-judge this movie and I am sorry Jack Black, for thinking you were just another gimmick celebrity voice.

I did in fact watch Kung Fu Panda, and what I saw shattered the mold made by previous SKG movies. This was an honest to goodness original film, and best yet, it was BEAUTIFUL. Color Palettes to drool over, sweeping landscapes, and masterful lighting really stood this film apart from its predecessors. I think the only reason I can comfortably say this doesn't belong in the number 5 slot, is because of the first 10 minutes of the film. It was a jarring experience to go from what I consider some of the best 2D animation I've seen in a feature film, to transition over to 3D in the very next shot. A dangerous move that could have ruined the entire movie. However, it didn't and they managed to recapture my attention almost immediately.

skidoosh. —Keith Zulawnik

9. Shrek (2001)

If you were a squatter in the Bornemann kitchen, every so often you'd hear this exchange:

Jesse: Do you know....the Muffin Man?
Eric: The Muffin Man?
Eric (in a squeaky pitch): You're a monster!

No, my husband and I aren't obsessed with nursery rhymes. We are, of course, quoting from Shrek, the 2001 DreamWorks movie chronicling one ogre's quest to save a princess and rid his swamp of annoying fairytale campers. Shrek is a bit of a lumbering oxymoron -- full of "inside jokes" that every Disney-literate individual (translation: everyone) can share; bursting with messages of self-acceptance voiced by picture-perfect Hollywood stars. But only a Grumpy Dwarf would take Shrek too seriously. The main character makes a candle out of his earwax, for crying out loud. —Jesse H. Bornemann

8. Howl's Moving Castle (2004)

This beautiful film from Hayao Miyazaki, Japan's master of animation, plunges into a complex and visually fantastic world of demons and sorcery. Based on a novel, it is about a mousy young girl named Sophie who is transformed into a 90-year-old woman by a witch's spell. Slowed by the pains of sudden old age, she goes on a quest to undo the curse and stumbles across the wizard Howl and his great magical traveling castle. As she unravels the answer to her own dilemma, she finds herself tangled up in the chaos that surrounds the conflicted young wizard and risks everything in her determination to save the man she loves. —Tami Wicinas

7. The Triplets of Belleville (2003)

With a quirky story spun around a stubborn old lady, her bicycle loving Grandson, a dreaming dog, double agents, gangsters, and a group of old-time frog-eating vaudeville musicians, The Triplets of Belleville is…something completely different. Subtle humor makes this film geared more for adults than kids; you may find yourself smiling through the entire film without knowing exactly what’s tickling you. Nearly void of dialogue and moving at a relaxed (yet superbly timed) pace, the film calls all attention to the animation itself. Keep an eye out for bits of CGI blended seamlessly into the highly stylized artwork. Well worth a spot in your Netflix queue if you missed it, Triplets is possibly the hidden gem of the last decade. —Ryan McNulty

6. Persepolis (2007)

This French film is a must-see for anyone interested in a culture besides their own. Persepolis mixes politics and growing pains to tell the story of a girl growing up in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution. Adapted from the autobiographical graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis tells its story with wit and emotion, and is a compelling and beautifully animated film. As the rebellious Marjane becomes a young woman, we get a glimpse of Iranian history during a time of upheaval and change. And though deeply personal, the universal themes of growing up and finding one's identity in the world help make film accessible to everyone.

Persepolis stands apart from other graphic novel adaptations by bringing Satrapi's drawings to life, rather than attempting a live-action portrayal. Satrapi's simplistic black and white drawings show that truly great story-telling can be achieved without embellishment or flair, and leave a lasting impression. —Taryn Johnson

5. Monsters, Inc. (2001)

Monsters, Inc. is an imaginative story about what's really on the other side of your childhood closet door. The characters are endearing and the cast and clever writing doesn't disappoint audiences of any age. However, what I remember the most about the experience of seeing this in the theatre, was how vividly detailed Sully's wavy fur was illustrated. There was definitely a "wow" moment there for me, further convincing me that Toy Story was just Disney/Pixar's tip of the iceberg, and to follow their creations for the decade to come. —Heidi Hall

4. WALL•E (2008)

We're now all but numb to computer-generated animation. It's everywhere—accounting for most of the animated films released each year beginning with the arrival of Toy Story in 1995. Go back a little further and you'll remember the Pixar short Luxo, Jr., which features the hopping desk lamp later incorporated into their logo. With WALL•E, Pixar comes full circle by returning to CG animation in its original form and advancing it. In this case, using technology to breathe life into robots and machines. They take full advantage of the strengths of the medium, not trying to mimic cartoony hand-drawn animation or to dazzle you with fully-textured, cute, wise-cracking critters. It is the embodiment of everything that is right about CG.

WALL•E boasts a realism unlike any of their previous features, and is easily their most daring film to date—opening with nearly 45 minutes of dialogue-free story-telling. In it's place, we get intelligent boops and beeps with a wordless comedic charm which draws comparisons to silent film stars Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. WALL•E and EVE are incredibly genuine and expressive robots, revealing a greater humanity than any of their overweight human counterparts. Combine this with more than a few nods to the sci-fi genre, mix in a love story, and you have a near perfect piece of film-making. —Bob Flynn

3. Spirited Away (2002)

Spirited Away is a towering achievement in animation. Written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, it is the story of a young girl who becomes trapped in a magical world populated by spirits and demons. Chihiro faces many challenges, but her inner strength and spirit help her overcome all obstacles.

The meandering and sometimes puzzling plot is grounded by the strong central character, and the viewer follows her along through this strange world, discovering it with her. This film can be surreal and frightening at times, but also has moments of breathtaking beauty. The animation is stunning, the backgrounds beautiful, the musical score magical – an inspiring film from start to finish. —John Lechner

2. Finding Nemo (2003)

"Mine! Miiine! Miiine! Mine! Miiine!"

I can't be the only one who uses this squawking phrase at least once a week...and it's not the only quotable phrase from Pixar's 2003 release, Finding Nemo. Easily one if the best animated films of the decade, Finding Nemo has everything you could ask for: comedy, adventure, mistakes, rewards, tears, fears, colors, beauty...pivotal life changing moments, and "Bubbles! Bubbles!"

With an ocean of possibilities, Pixar has an easy cast of likeable characters from Clownfish to Anglerfish (i.e. cute vs. scary). The story starts on a sad note, but sets the tone for why Marlin is so protective of his son. (Pixar used this technique again with Up in 2009.) The rest of the story goes a little bit something like this: Nemo touches the butt with his gimpy fin and gets captured by Dentist, P. Sherman from 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney. Marlin pulls out all the stops to find Nemo, even though he starts off as a bit of a 'nervous nellie.' He meets forgetful Dory along the way and POOF! you have comedy. Wise fish, Jellyfish, and Mount Wannahakaloogie are only a few other reasons to watch Finding Nemo...

I won't give away any more, though mostly everyone has seen this movie. And, if you haven't...whether or not you want to believe it, you will love it. You need to SEE it, duuuude!

P.S. Why does John Ratzenberger have a part in every single one of Pixar's movies!? Likely, there's not really an answer, but I'm sure he'd respond to your silence by saying, "That's ok kid, don't hurt yourself." The best answer to this question is not ask so many questions. —Renée Kurilla

1. The Incredibles (2004)

There are very good reasons for why enough people put this wonderful movie on their top 5 best-animated-features-for-the-past-decade list and caused it to win overall. And here are some of the reasons I feel made this the great feature that it is.

The Incredibles created a believable world without ever referencing real world events/people, or breaking the 4th wall. This is important to me as I come to see a lot of entertainment series and movies using these elements like crutches to propel themselves. But of course if the story is good enough, you don't have to do that. As well, The Incredibles successfully bring together every important aspect of a superhero story with weakness and conflict. And it makes the superhero genre more accessible by placing it in a family setting, with characters most age groups can relate to and enjoy easily. Again strengthening the story.

Character and set design are very successfully and takes lots of themes and conventions from superhero (every type of superpower shown in film) and popular action and sci fi films and comics (pulp mad scientists of early day comics, through James Bond villainy), but avoids being derivative and makes those elements part of it's own story. Not to mention lighting, effects and animation techniques were more advanced than other animated features at the time and still hold up as some of the best stuff today.

The momentum of the story in combination with Michael Giachinno's score show how important Brad Bird was in directing the movie, in collaboration with John Lasseter's sensibilities. You see, Brad Bird is a FANTASTIC director, but even the greatest directors can go overboard if not reigned in a bit (i.e. George Lucas, Steven Spielberg.) Brad Bird's original stories and ideas for The Incredibles were great but a bit convoluted. It took other minds such as John Lasseter to help smooth out the story and simplify things to create the strong clear story we have today.

It's also very important to note that The Incredibles was the first CG animated feature to have an all human cast of main characters. Pixar used caricatures similar to classical Disney movies like 101 Dalmatians, again distilling their characters and best traits to make them seem more alive and have a greater impact than realistic models, and probably the most appealing representation of stylized comic book heros. Think of the opposite being it's contemporary, Polar Express, and how creepy and distracting from the story the super realistic characters were. —Hannah O'Neal

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Finally, here's a list of the other films that received votes from the FableVision crew:

AH! My Goddess, Astro Boy, Cars, Chicken Run, Coraline, Corpse Bride, Emperor's New Groove, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Final Fantasy, Lilo and Stitch, Meet the Robinsons, Metropolis, Millennium Actress, Paprika, Ponyo, Ratatouille, Tekkon Kinkreet, Titan A.E., UP, Waking Life, Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Wonder Woman

We hope you enjoyed our list.
Feel free to leave your own in the comments!


SGlascoe said...

I have to say that Finding Nemo is still one of my all time favorites!! Great pics FableVision!

roark said...

great list.