Top 5 (Non-Disney) Animations

Posted on February 20, 2011. Filed under: Top 5 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Following on from my post about childhood Disney memories, I thought I’d draw your attention to some non-Disney animations which are just as good, if not better, than some of the Disney standards.

5. Spirit

A film about a horse, with next to no dialogue besides a voice over by Matt Damon.  Not your standard movie pitch, but this somewhat unknown film actually has some great moments.  It’s entirely made by the music; a combination of Hans Zimmer’s dramatic orchestration and original music by Bryan Adams which serve to fill in for the missing dialogue.

It would have been so easy to tell this story with talking animals, just like nearly other animated feature out there, but the  fact that they didn’t makes Spirit just that little but different.

4.El Dorado

Another one by Dreamworks; this is just plain fun.  Voiced by Kevin Kline and  Kenneth Branagh, Spanish con artists Tulio and Miguel set out in search of the lost City of Gold and then have to decide what they value more, money or friendship.  It could be an incredibly schmaltzy story, but in fact it’s packed with laughs, more often for the grown ups than the kids, and with another knockout soundtrack.  This time Zimmer is joined by John Powell and the legendary Elton John, again letting the music tell the story in a way that feels more organic than having the characters bursting into song (although they do once).  Incidentally, this is one of the many outings of Zimmer’s “pirate theme,” which turns up in nearly every movie he’s worked on.

Dreamworks seem to have cornered the market in more “grown up” animations, which is probably why they dominate this list.

3. Happy Feet

This one tends to divide people, but at risk or repeating myself, it’s the music again that makes this one for me. John Powell has written a beautiful score, and I just love the way that various classic songs get mashed together.  The interplay of Mumble’s tap dancing with the music is also a brilliant touch.

But we’re sick of me gushing about music right, so what about the story? I will admit it slows down considerably in the middle where it teeters on the edge of getting that little bit too preachy about global warming, but I’m willing to forgive that on the basis that it’s a really original idea, with some loveable characters (stand up Robin Williams’ array of Adelie penguins) and a lot of heart.  The animation is also very well done, particularly in the rare glimpses of the human world, where, if you’re paying enough attention, you can spot a few famous names who helped with the mo-cap performances.

2. The Iron Giant

When this turned up on Ross McG’s list of films he watched over Christmas it made me smile, even if he did only catch 10 minutes of it. The Iron Giant is a fantastic film which far too few people have heard of.  Directed by Brad Bird, who went on to become one of the Pixar Gods, and with voices from Vin Diesel, Jennifer Aniston and Harry Connick Jr, this film contains lines that I still quote on a regular basis (“Sir, you’re in the road…”).  Set in a paranoid cold war America, the animation has a period feel to it, but the script is razor sharp and the story is heartwarming without being sickly.  If there’s one film on this list that I really want you to go out and watch, this is it.

1. Shrek

I tried to think of a less obvious number one. I really did. But you just can’t beat  Shrek. When it came out, everyone’s jaws dropped in unison…and then we started laughing.  Here is a move which takes everything Disney has been doing for the last 50 years and, as I once heard poetically put in an interview, “bitch slaps it.”  The Knight in shining armour is an Ogre, his side kick is an irritating Donkey who wont stop singing. The villain is knee height and voiced by John Lithgow. Every moment of the film was built for maximum laughs and hits the mark every time.  The first time I saw Shrek inflate a frog to make a balloon I nearly choked on my popcorn.

The thing I love most about Shrek though is the fact that it refuses to conform.  While every other film about someone who doesn’t quite fit in (Disney or otherwise) ends with the lead character becoming just like everybody else, in Shrek, our Princess finishes up the movie as an Ogre living in a swamp.  And that is exactly why it is one of the best animations to come out of any studio in the last decade.

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14 Responses to “Top 5 (Non-Disney) Animations”

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hehe, nice list Katie. Must watch all of the Iron Giant. Happy Feet is clawing codswallop, a real manipulative film. actually made me not like penguins, which is pretty remarkable.
a few that arent there off top of my head.. When The Wind Blows: the scariest cartoon ill ever watch.
Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm.
Watership Down.
The Secret of Kells – youd love that, Katie, I think

For a while I was worried, until you came to Iron Giant. And I agree with Shrek as well. Two non-Disney animated films I love are Prince of Egypt and Princess Mononoke. Even if you are not a fan of Japanese animation, Mononoke is one to check out.

Also, if I were making a list like this I’d be remissed if I didn’t include some familiar classics like Land Before Time and An American Tail.

Ross: how can anyone hate penguins? I knew you were evil.
Of that list, the only one I’ve seen part of is Watership Down which was just a bit freaky for a film about Rabbits.
I saw Kells on your Christmas list. I’ll keep an eye out for it.

Ian: I love Prince of Egypt. It nearly made the list but got pipped at the last minute. Yet another fantastic soundtrack. They did a Joseph one as well which is OK but disappointing in comparison.
I wasn’t that thrilled by Mononoke. I have two Ghibli fans in the family so I’ve seen at least parts of most of them, and I reckon Howl’s Moving Castle and My Neighbour Totoro are both better. But I’m not a massive fan of any of them if I’m honest.
I was wondering who would be the fisrt to bring up wither Mononoke or Spirited Away. You win the prize! 😛

I can’t believe I forgot Land Before Time and American Tale. Love them both, but probably not more than any of my top 5. I still watch all of those films quite happily, but I can distinctly remember growing tired of Land Before Time and whiel I loves American Tale when I was little I think I can live without it now.

The more you think about it, the more you remember I guess.

good shout on Prince of gypt, Ian. very underrated.

I concur Ian, defo need some Miyazaki, and some Manga. As good as shrek 1&2 were, part 3 was so bad it almost put me off the character, franchise and studio for life.
However the greatest animated film of all time – even INCLUDING Disney – is Street Fighter II the animated movie. Seriously, check it out, it’s awesome.

for once, i agree with Ross McD

Yeah when I said Shrek, I’m only talking about the first 2, after that they killed it.

As for street fighter….

Have you seen Spirited Away or Princess Mononoke Katie? I’m a bit surprised by the absence of some Hayao Miyazaki staples 🙂

If you look up at my reply to Ian, I have seen a lot of studio Ghibli films but if I’m honest I’m not a massive fan. I do like Howl’s Moving Castle, but that’s about it. Mononoke was just that little bit too weird for me.

Oh, man. I’ve been looking for a reason to watch The Iron Giant again for a while now. Thanks a bunch, yo.

Epic movie. We like Dean.

A most excellent choice for number one! I love “Shrek” so much that I’ve blocked out the fact that we’re up to, what, Shrek the 17th now? Plus an upcoming “Puss in Boots” offshoot? Sigh. Hollywood never can let a good thing exist on its own merits for me than 15 minutes.

Wow this is almost like a post I did called Underrated Animated Films:) Great to see some love for El Dorado (I just ADORE that one) ans well as The Iron Giant (one very dear to my heart…”YES…NO…Call me Dean!”) and Spirit (Bryan Adams is one of my favorite musicians).

Great to know you’re a fan of my fav Miyazaki films Howl’s Moving Castle even if you aren’t a Ghibli fan in general.

Tow others I enjoy are Land Before Time (which Ian mentioned) and Titan A.E. Fine list thou Katie, fine list:)

Hey, thanks for takin the time to stop by and comment. I really love El Dorado and The Iron Giant. I think it’s hard for non disney animations to get noticed sometimes, but there are a lot of great ones out there.

Land Before Time was a really great film that I watched over an over when I was little, but I’m less inclined to watch it now than I am some of the others. Titan AE I’ve never seen!

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