One of the earlier efforts from Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli,My Neighbor Totoro remains one of Miyazaki's best even 22 years later.
Totoro is the tale of two sisters who move to the countryside in postwar Japan. There, they meet a forest brimming with imaginative critters, including the large protective spirit known as Totoro. As with many of Miyazaki's works, the film deals with the clash of childhood innocence and the onset of adulthood and its harsh realities. Totoro succeeds at both because of its lush, vibrant visuals and its refusal to pander to the same storytelling cliches that derail so many Western animated films. No fan of Miyazaki or animation in general should go without adding My Neighbor Totoro to their library.
The last of the classic animated fairy tales produced by Walt Disney himself, this 1959 film was initially a disappointment at the box office, but has come to be recognized as one of the greatest and most beloved of Disney's golden era. This is the studio at its most iconic, with frolicking woodland creatures, a warbling princess, an evil sorceress and a handsome prince on a majestic steed.
Filled with vibrant color, modern designs and music based on the Tchaikovsky ballet, it looks and sounds different than any of the films that came before. The meticulously hand-painted cells inspired by medieval art have a stylized look to them and a striking palette filled with unusual combinations of violet, green, ochre, indigo and fuchsia. The final climactic battle between Prince Phillip and Maleficent in the form of a gigantic dragon remains one of the most beautiful and thrilling sequences ever animated.
Who would have thought an animated summer flick would have us all caring about…fine French cuisine?!
Yes, meet Remy, the cartoon world's first "foodie" hero. As a Parisian rat who's thumbed his nose at the family tradition of eating garbage and rolling around in filth, Remy represents the type of lead character that Pixar does best: The anxious, yet daring, oddball. Throw in some absolutely gorgeous colors, some kitchen misadventures and an unlikely friendship created over a simmering flame and humankind's great equalizer (food!) and you get a magically charming film about finding one's place in a world of harsh traditions.
One tiny bite of this amazing feast and you'll be instantly transported back to your childhood; when things made sense and the world was still filled with wonder.
Coming at the height of the Disney animation renaissance of the early 1990s, The Lion King was a huge hit - in fact, it remains the highest-grossing, traditionally-animated film ever released.
Today, in the year 2010, Simba and Scar and Mufasa are household names thanks to the enormous popularity of the sequels and soundtracks and Broadway plays and all the rest of it that have been based on the film, but back in 1994 who could have predicted that these characters would enter the lexicon of Disney's most popular creations?
Simba's journey to adulthood, retribution, and his rightful place as the Lion King isn't an especially new or groundbreaking tale - on the contrary, it's full of Disney cliches (tragic origin, comic animal sidekicks, life lessons learned, etc.). And yet, it works amazingly well, perhaps because of the unique vibe given the proceedings by the artists' African landscapes and the percussive beats of composers Elton John and Tim Rice. Combining tried and true concepts with new and interesting angles - call it the Disney Circle of Life.
Some may scoff at us including such a recent release, but this wasn't a hard decision for us, considering How to Train Your Dragon is easily one of the best films in recent memory, animated or not.
DreamWorks has had a run of successful computer-animated films since Shrek and several have been entertaining to be sure. ButDragon is the first one that has, for lack of a better term, a "Pixar feel." Which is to say, it worked on several levels, beyond simply being funny.
The story of Hiccup, an awkward kid trying to fit into the Viking society he was born into, this film benefits from some great humor ("It's not so much what you look like, it's what's inside that he can't stand"), but also some surprisingly emotional moments of impact, as when Hiccup bonds with Toothless – one of the dragons that are his people's longtime enemies. It might be a cliche to say something has "heart," but that's exactly the right term for this excellent film.