There just no way to tip-toe around this one. I am a 31 year old child. I still avidly watch animated movies (fancy talk talk for long cartoons) and read comics & graphic novels (fancy talk for long comics). I felt vindicated when Time listed Watchmen as one of the 100 greatest novels of all time. I still hold out hold that we will one day see a film version of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. It will be glorious. And as for not limiting myself, I even watched a great deal of anime in my time, including Akira, Ghost in the Shell, and Ninja Scroll. But I felt I couldn’t list those are my favorite since it would reveal I’m a functioning sociopath. Wait, what?
Debilatating mental illness and penchant for violent cartoons aside, I still enjoy most of what Pixar & Disney puts out. The first 10 minutes of Up was some of the best storytelling that I’ve seen in an animated film in quite some time. Although overall, most animated films are rather bland, regurgitating the same stories and catch phrases using different objects are characters (fish, vehicles, sharks, bugs, toys). And if there’s a dance number to “I like to move, move it,” I may throw my shoe at the TV. Look, I can’t argue against Toy Story. Or Toy Story 3 (although I liked it better when it was called The Great Escape). The first Shrek was good to borderline really good, but that franchise has gotten as sad and awkward as a south Philly bar at last call.
1. The Incredibles (2004)
Director: Brad Bird
Ok, so Brad Bird is the man. The man just knows how to tell great stories with compassion and heart. (Side note: I’m extremely curious to see what he’s able to do with his first live action movie, directing the newest Mission Impossible with Captain Scientology, Sawyer from Lost, and Jeremy Renner.) Not to mention that this is probably in my top ten superhero movies of all time. It does a unbelievable job of toeing the line between kid and adult friendly, between childlike wonderment and adult cynicism & disenchantment.
Buried beneath the amazing animation, memorable quotes, and great action set pieces is a story about accepting who you are, no matter how different it makes you look to the outside world. (And if you haven’t noticed yet, that’s an underlying trend throughout this challenge.) Quickly paced and funny as hell, The Incredibles may be the perfect family movie for me. But if you dig a little deeper and compare the two stories, The Incredibles is basically Watchmen in cartoon form.
Try to pick out which one this is the plot to: a group of once great superheroes forced to expose their identities by the Government, they now live in secret, trying to be normal people, and yearning for the old days, struggling with themselves and what they once were. Until a threat so large that they must defy the Government and fight once again?
2. South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut (1999)
Director: Trey Parker
I worship at the altar of Trey Parker and Matt Stone. I find everything those guys are involved with absolutely hilarious. I own Orgazmo. I’ve seen Cannibal: The Musical. About 5 years ago, I went through every season of South Park to make sure I’d seen every episode. I think they are THAT funny. In my opinion, no one does a better job of skewering popular trends or consistently making me laugh than Trey & Matt. The South Park feature film was 81 minutes of pure hilarity. And the music was damn good too. I can’t wait to head up to NYC to see The Book of Mormon.
3. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
Director: Wes Anderson
I wanted to throw a curve ball here. I could have easily listed old school 80s animated movies of The Transformers or G.I. Joe on this list and been done with it. Or I could have gone the artsy farsty oh-look-at-me-I’m-all-cultured route and listed Spirit Away or Persepolis…and felt all smug and elitist. And again, don’t get it twisted: those are all great films.
But I was so surprised at how much I liked Wes Anderson’s throwback stop-motion animation project, that I had to put it on here. I remember the book fondly from my childhood, reading it on a standard rotation in the library with Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, A Bundle of Sticks, and the Shel Silverstein collection (Where the Sidewalk Ends, Light in the Attic). So I already have a pre-established love for the source material. I usually find Wes Anderson films to be moderately entertaining, but at little too self aware about how quirky and different they are. Admitted, Rushmore is fantastic. But here, Anderson took a beloved classic, added his trademark eccentricity, and crafted such a funny and entertaining movie that I wanted to share it with you…oh loyal ten readers.
Honorable Mention: Akira, Ghost in the Shell, Toy Story, G.I. Joe: The Movie, Iron Giant, Up, Ninja Scroll, Waltz with Bashir, Fantasia, Howl’s Moving Castle