Friday, 23 November 2007
I said that I would revisit the animation theme, and compile a top ten of animated films made up to, but not later than, 1994. So here goes.
Now, we all know that Disney is a behemoth, an evil beast intent on world domination via mountains of plush and big round eyes, but, and I mentioned some of their films before, they have made some belters. Any list of animated movies up to 2000 is absurdly heavily weighted in their direction, and this in spite of some of the awful crap (I loved L&TT when I was a kid, mostly because of the Tramp character, I think, but it looks very poor now. There's something horrible about a woman called Darling Dear, don't you think?) they've generated alongside the pearls. There are, or at least were, in truth, few other film makers in the field in genuine competition, though I have striven to include a couple, and I have again not referenced the art house sector (apologies) but I think this is a lineup to grace anyone's video on demand collection.
So, without further ado, here, again in a reverse order kind of way, is my top 10 'vintage' animation movie list.
10. At number 10, I had a few candidates, and I found it quite tough as to which one I should call at the end of the day, so I apologise if this explanation is longer than those which will follow. In the end it was a toss-up between An American Tail and The Lord of The Rings. There are two non Disney entries here, for the sake of some attempt at balance in the list. Let's start with LOTR. I am a confirmed fantasist, as many of my friends will testify, and have been a Tolkien acolyte for some time. I listened to the LOTR Radio 4 serialisation, and I even read the bloody book, which would definitely be out of the question these days. I really liked this rotoscope film, with an excellent Gandalf and some very scary ring wraiths, but it was of course seriously compromised by the fact that it was only half finished. For that reason, it has to be consigned to the outer reaches of the chart. So that leaves An American Tail, which I think is a charming enough film. It was refreshing in itself in those days just to see a cartoon that was not made by Disney, and there is in addition an almost gothic feel to the animation style, somewhat similar to that of Basil the Great Mouse Detective. Little Fievel also tugs at the heart strings, doesn't he?
9. There are an awful lot of reasons to be angry with my next choice of film (the film, not the choice, already) as it is definitely saccharine coated and takes helluva liberties with the original story. But, Jeffrey Katzenberg had a knack of making stuff that pleased the audience, and there are so many moments of genuine warmth, and lots of fantastic songs, so that you would have to have a heart of stone, etc, etc... I refer of course to The Little Mermaid.
8. Rags, riches, witches (or at least fairy godmothers), princes, wishes, pumpkins, mice. It's all there. In glorious colourama. Cinderella! A small stolen gripe - such small feet, it's not natural.
7. A little more balance next, with the (and I choose my words carefully here) markedly English adaptation of Watership Down. This was a school text for me at the age of 12-13, and many of the boys in my school were sad enough to actually start speaking the rabbit language. Yes friends, they really did go for silflay in the school hall, and hraka in the school toilets. Frith! What's not to love about John Hurt and Richard Briers, even if Keehar is somehow worse in the film than he is in the book?
6. On we go, just about to nudge the top 5, and my next choice prolly would satisfy the vintage tag. It seems an odd story, perhaps because its original meaning was expropriated (following even earlier thefts to avert unhappy endings) by Comrade Walt, but it is strangely compelling. Some of the morals are easy enough to see, such as the value of education, and the duty we owe to our parents, but the overall moralising effect is rather vague. I speak of no less than Pinocchio. Stromboli is wonderfully ferocious, and I love the opening sequence as Geppetto's workshop is revealed and Jiminy Cricket introduces the story to us.
5. Into the top half, cartoon fans, and the 'one that started it all', Snow White And the Seven Dwarfs. It seems a little dated now, but not so much, considering it is 70 (!) years old, and - let's get picky - Snow White's voice and general demeanour are rather irritating. But other than that, it really is dazzling. It deserves its place as 'culturally significant' in the history of American film-making. The step-mother is great, as are all the cute little creatures of the forest.
4. In at Number 4 (and it's Disney all the way from here on in, folks) is that Middle Eastern mirthfest known as Aladdin. Robin Williams as the genie, the suave but dark Jafar, cheap gags, treasure, derring-do. Ya gotta love it. Right after the break, we're gonna hit the top 3.
3. Welcome back! Now we're in the end zone. Hold on to your hats. There has been a difference of opinion on this one, but overall, I really like it. Great compositions, dazzling animation effects, and a heroine who reads books. You know what I'm talking about, girlfriend. It's Beauty And The Beast. Oh yeah. Gaston is funny and scary. A true psychotic.
2. I'm sure the suspense must be killing you. It is me. To redress the balance, I am forced to put this movie into Number 2 spot. It is uneven, Bob Hoskins is a bit of a spanner, etc, but just for bringing together Looney Tunes and Disney alone the film deserves every plaudit. Ladies and gentle-bunnies, put your paws together for...
Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
1. I'm a sentimental soul, this cannot be denied. I am aware of criticism that the animation is flat, and have noticed Mowgli's feet floating above the vines, but I can't help it. There is no other movie for me. I saw Daniel Radcliffe in the recent drama about Kipling, and I have eaten the cakes and even (yes really) read the book(s). Still I am in love. Look for the Bear Necessities of the mightiest animated movie ever. I give you...
The Jungle Book.