Thursday, May 24, 2012

My top ten favorite Non-Disney related animated movies (Updated Edition)

       Usually when people think of animated movies, they immediately think of Disney first and it’s hard not to imagine why, there’s just something so timeless and joyful about Disney that’s really hard to glance over. However, if you were to look past Disney and Pixar, you’ll notice that there are tones of other outstanding animated movies from other studios like DreamWorks kids, Amblin Animation and Don Bluth studios. So while there not Disney or Pixar, this is the list of other animated films that I hold most dear. So here they are, my top ten favorite Non-Disney related animated movies.   

                              Special Mention: Animated Movies Based on TV shows  

    This post has been updated sense it was first published, I originally included “Batman Mask of the Phantasm” and “The Simpsons Movie” because they’re both absolutely two of my favorite animated movies of all time. However, I listed them again on my “Top Ten Movies Based on TV shows” list, which felt a little repetitive. So I decided to remove both films from this post and give other favored animated movies of mine mention in their place. With that said, here are my top ten favorite Non-Disney related animated movies   

                                           10. Monster House (from Amblin Animation)

This is personally one of my favorite animated Halloween specials of all time, delivering audiences a very smart, exciting, action packed adventure that kids and adults could enjoy. Everything about this film is great, it has all the right Holiday charms, the characters are funny, the animation is sensational, the action is thrilling and best of all, this film features one of the greatest haunted houses in cinematic history.

                                             9. Megamind (from DreamWorks Animation)

 Superhero spoofs have been around for a while, but "Megamind" takes the formula to imaginative and hilarious new heights. Boasting an ingeniously original premise about a super-villain turned hero, and a set-up that both spoofs and celebrates classic superhero cliches. It's all strung together with top notch animation, a brisk pase, funny jokes that never go overbord, a rockin sound track and great characters that are as entertaining as they are sympathetic, most especiaclly Will Ferrell who delivers a very energetic and livly performence in the lead role of Megamind. 

                              8. An American Tail: Fievel Goes West (from Amblin Animation)

This is perhaps the only movie on my list to make it for purely nostalgic reasons. I absolutely adore this film, and trust me, I like the first "American Tail" movie too, however, that one’s only nice to occasionally look back at. This one literally rejuvenates a young kindred spirit within me and takes me back to that time as a child that was wholesome and carefree. It’s what I like to call an oasis movie, where you take a break from your current life, have some fun in your joyful, nostalgic past and then return to real life feeling refreshed. There’s just this wonderful charm that comes from the characters, the music, the animation and the Wild West setting that makes this movie feel so rich and cheerful. We also have some really good voice actors including the always fantastic John Cleese as the villain and the late great Jimmy Stewart as the old, down and out cowboy who just wants one last chance to be a hero. It’s hard to do this film justice and it honestly isn't something I’d recommend to people who haven’t seen it, because it’s really just something special you have to grow up with. 


                                               7. Shrek 2 (from DreamWorks Animation)

Hands down the best in the whole Shrek series, the same colorful characters from the last film are all back and better than before, only this time we get some outstanding new supporting characters to join the fun, most notably Puss in Boots who completely steals the show. This is a rare sequel that just feels so much fresher than the first film and it’s boasted with great animation, a genuinely sweet story, a very well rounded cast of talented voice actors and lots of laugh our loud hummer. It’s just a perfect blend of comedy, charms and in its own right, this is one of the best animated sequels that I feel is leaps and bounds better than the original. 

                                                    6. Coraline (from Universal Studios) 
This is one of those movies that’s far more of an experience than telling an actual story. It’s basically “Alice in Wonderland”, with an everyday girl finding herself in a new warped reality, the only difference is that this film is a million times cooler. I just love how creatively twisted, bizarre and imaginative this film is, ranging from fun and fluffy to dark and crazy. You just get this really cool feeling while watching it, like you’ve really left your world behind and have interred a new one that’s just as magical as it threatening. Best of all, I just love looking at all these creative sets, locations and characters knowing that it was all hand built with little to no computer animation used. It’s just so inventive and compliments the artistry of film without using modern day conventions. With a strong other worldly atmosphere, lots of amazing visuals, a richly imaginative story from Neil Gaiman and a strong lead voice performance from the always talented Dakota Fanning, “Coraline” is an animated movie experience that I won’t forget any time soon.

                                5. Anastasia (from 20th Century Fox and Don Bluth Animation)

This is one of those movies that’s just very well constructed, we have beautiful animation combined with lots of really fun and upbeat musical numbers (including one of the coolest villain songs ever). It’s a very fun, traditional love story with lots of terrific, comedic banter between the two leads. This is also another one of those films that’s brought to life by a very talented cast of celebrities. Coming from the animated master himself, Don Bluth, "Anastasia" is one animated treasure from my child hood that will still stay just as rich as I grow older.

                                    4. The Secret of NIMH (from Don Bluth Animation)
   Unlike An American Tail: Fievel Goes West, which was all charm and enjoyment, “The Secret of NIMH” is a dark, sophisticated and very well told story that respects young audiences with it's tone down subject matter. Despite being a film about talking mice, this film actually treats you like an adult and I continue to love it the older I get. It's such a treat when a film is great at one moment in your life and then suddenly it's better then you remember, and they just get stronger with repeated viewings. I especially love how this movies hero isn’t strong and heroic, instead she’s a frightened mother who has to brave her way through dangerous obstacles to save the life of her son. The settings are dark and uninviting and the kids are put in her place, making you feel the emotion and fear she is but her bravery is also felt and helps the audience stick with her and face the danger. The animation by Don Bluth is just a spectacle to behold and the musical score by Jerry Gold Smith is very beautiful, submersing you to the films rich atmosphere. The overall result is a complex story filled with magic, wonder, atmosphere, nostalgia, and beauty.

                           3. Titan A.E. (from 20th Century Fox and Don Bluth Animation)
 What makes this movie better than all the others, well, nothing really, this is just a personal favorite of mine. It’s nothing more then a classic adventure through outer space and I’m a complete nerd for stuff like that, actually it’s done a lot better here than most outer space journeys I’ve seen. The stakes and motivations behind what this journey is about are bigger than anything else. To put it bluntly, earth is destroyed, the human race is becoming extinct, and a small group of people are on a mission to find a ship that will give the humans a home. The characters are great, there's some really good plot twists, an awesome soundtrack and the movie features some of the most mind blowing, beautiful animation I’ve ever seen in an animated movie. It may not be a film for everybody but if you love fast passed, hi-tech, Sci-Fi adventures through outer space, then you simply couldn’t ask for anything better than this. 

                                 2. The Prince of Egypt (from DreamWorks Animation)
  Now here’s an animated movie that’s just epic, everything it does is just huge, lots of big emotions, a stirring hero villain conflict, incredible visuals and outstanding musical numbers. It’s a rare animated film that manages to bring this timeless religious story to life with so much dignity to the source material. There’s some really sharp voice acting in this film to boot and it’s a very well rounded cast of talented celebrities. Honestly, I think this film holds up over the original 1956 Cecil B. DeMille classic “The Ten Commandments”. It’s simply one of the greatest biblical stories of all time and I just love how powerfully this film captures the human emotion of the story and combines it with the sheer scope of its biblical size. 

       Before I reveal my number one favorite, here are my honorable mentions: 

 "The Polar Express”,
The Road to El Dorado”, 
"Madagascar 3: Europe's most Wanted
 “Kung Fu panda” movies, 
 “The Swan Princess”, 
The Land Before Time”, 
Watership Down”.

and my number one favorite is....

                             1. How to Train Your Dragon (from DreamWorks Animation) 
Hands down my favorite Non-Disney animated movie, and personally one of my favorite movies to come out in the past six years. I honestly never would have guessed that something this great could come from the Dream works studios. Oh they've done great movies in the past but this went beyond just good, fun entertainment for children. This plot is built on old conventions and concepts that have been done in other movie before but the story is just told so well, with honest dramatic depth, fleshed out characters, an excellent pace, and fascinating dragon characters that convey so much without even speaking. Then when you combine all this competent righting with it's dazzlingly detailed animation and some of the most breathtaking flight scenes to be experienced in the theater, it makes for an animated spectacle that truly sores. 



History of King Kong movies

Recently I posted a list of my top 10 favorite movie monsters, but King Kong wasn’t featured amongst them, not because I don’t like him, I just preferred the other ten monsters I selected. But now I feel like giving proper mention where it’s do, after all, King Kong is one of the biggest movie monsters of all time. So here’s a complete look at King Kong’s film legacy and my individual thoughts on each film. 
King Kong (1933)

 The 1933 classic “King Kong” is a rare monster movie that’s often regarded as one of the greatest classic movies of all time and honestly for a good reason. Considering that this is a film that came out when film was just being developed, it’s unbelievable what these film makers were able to accomplish with such amazing visual effects. Sure, now days it doesn’t look that stellar but for back then, it’s probably one of the biggest visual breakthroughs in film history. The Jungle setting is such a rich spectacle to look at, the stop motion monster effects are great (not forgetting all the awesome dinosaurs in the film) and the climax of Kong on the top of the Empire State Building is still just as cinematic as ever. On top of that, this is a classy story that explores the soul of a monster, making the audience cry and scream and the same time. It’s just a terrific combination of B monster movie clich├ęs and a timeless beauty and beast story, just a perfectly constructed adventure flick on all grounds.  
Son of Kong (1933)

 In that same year, 1933 there was a sequel titled “Son of Kong”. This was the only sequel to the first film and it will be a tradition that whenever they remake a new King Kong film, they’ll only have one sequel. This is an okay, good sequel, it brings back Carl Denham from the first film (and even played by the same actor) and it further develops his character. He’s feeling terrible for all he’s responsible for and after being abandoned on Skull Island again he discovers that Kong had a son. There are some fun moments, enjoyable stop motion effects and while it’s nothing great, it’s not terrible either. It’s just overshadowed by far better classic monster movies.

King Kong vs. Godzilla (1963)

 A foreign monster movie company called Toho (the same company that distributed Godzilla) required the rights to King Kong and planed on creating their own series of King Kong films, with him battling a new monster each time. Then it was decided that this series would begin by having King Kong battle their most famous monster, so in 1963 we got “King Kong vs. Godzilla”. This was the child hood fantasy of my dreams, the two most famous monsters of all time clashing in one film, and if a cheesy B monster flick is something you enjoy then that’s what you get. While continuing the Godzilla series, this film also works as a Japanese remake of the original American King Kong classic. We still have sailors going to an uncharted island (which features a giant octopus battle as opposed to Dinosaurs) where they discover King Kong, bring back to civilization where he get’s lose, grabs a young woman and climbs the tallest building, just done in a foreign setting with Godzilla thrown in the mix. This is the first time King Kong would be featured in a rubber suit as opposed to stop motion animation. It’s simply two rubber suited monsters going into battle, making for fun trashy entertainment.

King Kong Escapes (1968)

 In 1968, Toho released another film titled “King Kong Escapes”. In this film, King Kong battles two new monsters, a giant mechanical gorilla called Robot Kong and a dinosaur creature called Gorosaurus (and a brief fight with a sea serpent). This film also falls in the trashy entertainment category, just a bit stupider and lacking the same campy enjoyment of “King Kong vs. Godzilla”. For some reason, Toho didn’t release any more King Kong movies after this and focused more on their Godzilla series. So every King Kong movie after this is owned by American studios and to date he’s had no more foreign films. 
King Kong (1976)

 In 1976 there was an American remake, this time just titled “King Kong”. This one attempts to be more like the classic and modernizing it. There’s a good cast here (including Jeff Bridges as our lead hero) but the production quality is far less impressive then the original 1933 film. There aren’t any dinosaurs in this one, just a cheap looking giant snake that Kong briefly fights, the jungle is far less exciting to look at and the climax takes place on the World Trade Center as opposed to the Empire State Building. King Kong is again a guy in a gorilla costume but now he has this stupid smile which will make you either laugh or cringe in fear. Overall, I suppose this remake is passable for cheap B movie amusement but still not one that I recommend.

King Kong Lives (1986)

 A direct sequel followed in 1986 titled “King Kong Lives”. Apparently after the events of the last film, Kong survived, how he could survive being shot down by a helicopter and falling off the World Trade Center is beyond me but things only get stupider. After trying to kill Kong in the last film, a big group of people are spending lots of time and money trying to keep him alive, then some random guy in a random jungle just happens to find another giant Gorilla, except this one’s a female. The media isn’t that impressed either, they just treat the discover of another massive gorilla as yesterdays news. Kong finds himself falling in love with it and in the end, they have a son. We get lots of unbelievably stupid moments like this one scene when Kong sweeps the female Kong off her feet cares her through a battle field, much like how a knight in shining armor would carry a princess off into the sunset. We also have a scene where Kong is captured by a bunch of stock red necks that feed him bottles of bear and there’s just constant stupid, random scenes like that. The gorilla costumes look a lot sillier, the effects are terrible, the acting is over the top, it's just a mess. Linda Hamilton (who played Sarah Connor in "The Terminator" movies) does an okay job as the leading heroine but she doesn’t save this from being the worst of all the King Kong movies by far. It can’t even pass as trashy entertainment, it’s just trash, plain and simple. 

King Kong (2005)
 At last in 2005, there was yet another remake just titled “King Kong”. This film was written and directed by Peter Jackson, (who also did the “Lord of the Rings” movies). This was his dream project, to remake one of his all time favorite movies with respect and love for the source material. I congratulate Peter Jackson for putting so much effort into something that he really wanted to do and that it turned out to be such a smashing hit. But in all honesty, I didn’t like this film at all, I felt like it was trying way too hard to be more than a B monster movie which only made it feel stupider. The characters are extremely boring and the film spends way too much time with them, I mean for goodness sakes, it takes about 70 minutes just for them to get to the island. The film also losses itself with too many overly long battles with giant bugs and stampedes of Dinosaurs. Worst of all, the relation between the girl and the gorilla, is way over done. The original was very simple, creature gets curious about woman and the girl in return feels sorry for an innocent creature getting killed, but this remake actually has them going ice skating together, that’s actually on par with the stupidity of King Kong Lives”. It’s just 3 and a half hours of my life that I want back and this is coming from someone who actually enjoys those silly foreign Godzilla movies.
        The End