TOP 10 ANIMATED FILMS (CULT & PULP)
And now we round out my Top 10 Animated Films with my ongoing roll call of cult & pulp animated films, effectively as honorable mention short of the Top 10 itself or my special mentions of iconic status.
CORALINE (2009) – MIRRORMASK (2005)
This animated film will always have a special place in my heart – the cinematic adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s book of the same name. Neil Gaiman! But where’s the adaptation of his The Graveyard Book? That would be awesome!
Anyway, Coraline illustrates my introduction that animated films are predominantly fantasy or SF – it is clearly dark fantasy (or fairy tale, with more than a touch of Alice about it). It is from Laika – one of the unsung heroes of animation – in their characteristic stop-motion animation and by the same director as The Nightmare Before Christmas. It has essentially the same story as the book – the titular protagonist finds herself in an alternate world which is a mirror of her own, in which her Other Mother is far more attentive than her absent-minded parents. Things take a darker turn as her Other Mother seeks to keep her in the alternate world – with buttons sewn into her eyes! – and Coraline must gather all her wits and courage to escape.
Speaking of Neil Gaiman, special mention goes to that other Gaiman feature, Mirrormask – special that is, because it is not animated in the strict sense (and had a mixed reaction from critics). It was his project with his frequent illustrative collaborator Dave McKean who designed and directed it – in the words of TV Tropes, “Directed by acclaimed visual artist Dave McKean, and it shows. Written by acclaimed author/comic book guy Neil Gaiman, and it also shows”
Shot on shoestring budget of $4 million, it had interesting visual designs and the usual Gaiman touches, but lacked the narrative strength of Coraline – although it shared a similar story, as the young female protagonist finds herself in an alternative shadow world and the target of its Shadow Queen.
RATING: IT’S A RAVE! 4 STARS**** (3 STARS*** FOR MIRRORMASK)
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON (2010)
What’s not to like about this film, particularly for anyone that dreamed of their own dragon? What’s more – it awesomely combines both dragons and Vikings
Loosely based on the fantasy book series of that name, this film is set in a mythical Viking world of island settlements in which the Vikings (unfortunately) have an antagonistic relationship with the dragons. Teenage protagonist Hiccup seeks to follow in his burly Viking father’s (and their tribe’s)footsteps and become a dragon slayer, but upon bringing a Night Fury, one of the rarest and apparently most dangerous dragons, to ground, becomes something else entirely – that might just change everything more than any mere dragon slayer.
And besides – the Night Fury, christened Toothless, is adorable.
RATING: IT’S A RAVE! 4 STARS****
BIG HERO 6 (2014)
Technically, Big Hero 6 is a comic book film. Technically, but for one thing, very few people are familiar with the Marvel Comics Japanese superhero team Big Hero 6. For another, the cinematic Big Hero 6 are only loosely based on – you know, “inspired” by – the comics superhero team. And for yet another, although I enjoy my comics and my animation, I just prefer my screen adaptations of comics in live action form. So I prefer to identify this film amongst my animated film choices. Also – it’s Disney (and the first Disney animated film to feature Marvel characters, however obscure and obliquely).
The plot revolves around Hiro, a teenaged robotics genius in the fused Japanese-American city of San Fransokyo (however that happened – the United States lost the Second World War? Japan bought California?), who unfortunately loses his older brother (similarly a robotics genius) as well as his revolutionary mind-controlled microbots in a fire. Fortunately, he does have his brother’s creation, the inflatable health care robot, Baymax – the most goddamn adorable robot ever on screen.
He and Baymax then become the kernel of the titular superhero team – after Baymax is upgraded to be more badass, including ripping off Iron Man’s suit – along with his older brother’s former robotics colleagues (using their various technological innovations, combined with that most reliable superpower – money), prompted by a mysterious villain made supervillainous by staging the fire and stealing those microbots in the first place.
There was talk of a sequel (Big Hero Seven?) but it appears to be extending itself franchise-wise with an animated television series in 2017.
RATING – IT’S A RAVE! 4 STARS****