The Animation Pimp: Beauty and the Stink
Fella in North Carolina recently asked me to name my favorite animation feature. I had no answer. I went to the toilet and thought about it. Three days later I emerged. Off the top of my head. I'd like to apologize in advance for the surprisingly hostile and vulgar tone of this piece, but I just can't, sorry.
The Iron Giant, (1999), Dir: Brad Bird
Thanks to Warner Bros. complete neglect of this film, the giant Artest Messa World Peace robot went virtually unnoticed in cinemas. It’s a shame cause it’s pretty good. Story features fantastic 1950s inspired designs, no crap songs, in fact, no songs at all, and, surprisingly, a bit of a critique of the U.S. government and military. Sadly it does have that ex-Friends stench trench and Harry Sinatra Jr.
Up, (2009), Dir: Pete Docter
An old man hanging out with a boy scout and balloons - and it's called Up!? Umm… yeah… NAMBLA boners everywhere. Wait? No, it ain’t like that. Instead, we get a fucking masterpiece about friendship, mortality, living your life before ya snuff it, and bad dogs. Real bad dogs. Hate them dogs.
Bambi, (1942), Dir: David Hand
Bambi’s mom gets murdered. Cool. Seriously, they get it right (rare in animation) by at least showing us that violence does have consequences. Peoples don't have chunks of buildings fall on them, get up and brush themselves off like most crap flicks would have you believe. Don’t believe me? Try it. Please. Also makes it pretty clear – in case you/me forgot – that we’re all gonna get smoked in the end. Accept it.
Yellow Submarine, (1968), Dir: George Dunning
The Beatles travel to Pepperland in their yellow submarine to save the people from the dastardly Blue Meanies. What makes this film so important in the history of animation is Heinz Edelman’s wildly imaginative psychedelic (a.k.a. stoner) design, which released animation from the shivering shackles of Disney and brought it crashing into the world of pop art. That said… meh…the wrong Beatles died.
Fritz the Cat, (1972) Dir: Ralph Bakshi
If Yellow Submarine unlocked the door of the kids rooms of animation features, Fritz the Cat busted them down. Based on comics by Robert Crumb (he was a big fan of the film. Ha. No. Loved it. Craved it. Jerked to it… with his brother), the X-rated film follows the life of Fritz, a college student cat, as he experiences sex, drugs, race riots in late sixties America. The first animation feature to attempt to tackle serious and relevant social themes. It’ll also make ya hard, well if you’re into cats… in THAT way. If you are, umm.. well… okay, I won’t judge. I like some pussies myself.
Akira, (1989) Dir: Katsuhiro Otomo
Introduced Japanese anime to American audiences. Maybe. A gang of teens living in post-apocalyptic Neo-Toyko try to save one of their members after he becomes a telekinetic psychopath. Like Bakshi's work, Akira addresses themes of social unrest, youth culture, and the prevailing fear of nuclear power and technology, but in a slicker way.
Waking Life (2001) Dir: Richard Linklater/Bob Sabiston
A young adult drifts through a dream-like existence encountering many characters who discuss philosophy. Sabiston’s unique digital rotoscope technique enhances Linklater's school of philosophical/existential themes, giving the film a disturbing state of instability, as though one is caught between life and death. Purists don’t like this Bobby's rotoscopy stuff. Purists like The Fleischer’s. They rotoscoped too, assholes.
Grave of the Fireflies, (1988), Dir: Isao Takahata
Saw it once. Loved it. Never want to see it again. Absolutely testy twisted film about two Japanese children forced to fend for themselves during World War II. Children are not the future. Let’s just leave it at that.
Spirited Away, (2001), Dir: Hayao Miyazaki
A whiny young girl sees her parents turn into pigs. To save them, she must enter a bizarre world filled with an assortment of good and bad characters. What’s remarkable about the film is not only grumpy old man Miyazaki’s rich imagination that fuses fairy tales, myth and ancient history, but his refusal (not in real life, though. No realistic him) to divide the world into simplistic notions of good and bad.
Mind Game, (2005) Dir: Masaaki Yuasa
A young man (Nishi) runs into his ex-girlfriend and they go to her family’s restaurant. While they talk, gangsters bust into the place and kill Nishi. From here on, the story goes nutty. Nishi goes to heaven, argues with God, escapes back to earth and gets swallowed by a whale (like Big Nose). Life as surreal, violent, absurd, smutty and wonderful. Just breathe it in, kids, breathe it in.
Raining Cats and Frogs, (2003), Dir: Jacques-Remy Girerd
Nice one here. Really. A family’s peaceful life is disrupted by a huge flood that threatens to destroy the planet. As the family rushes to save themselves and the animals, they learn that if the world is to survive, the animals and humans must learn to live together. A mesmerizing family film that is beautifully animated with striking character designs, likable characters and songs that aren’t annoying.