Animated films have become more artful and moving as more people realise they aren’t just for kids, with studios and indies alike creating stop-motion marvels, hand-drawn standouts, and CGI spectacles.

Indeed, the genre has grown so much since the turn of the century that it’s easy to forget that the Academy Awards didn’t even recognise animation until 2001.

The animated film as we know it has been around for nearly a century – an art form that, like live-action cinema, grew from shorts to become a major medium in its own right. The arrival of 1937’s Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs marked the beginning of feature-length output from Walt Disney Animation Studios. The animated film has since flourished and evolved from there. Spawning new pioneering technologies every year, new narratives, new studios, and newer visual styles

Persepolis (2007)

There aren’t many international animations that have achieved the same level of global success as Persepolis. The film takes place in the midst of the Islamic revolution – captured through a broad, unfussy style of animation in a mostly monochrome palette. This is a testament to the film’s storytelling power. Marjane Satrapi co-adapted the film based on her autobiographical graphic novel series of the same name. Satrapi relays the torment inflicted on her leftist family and friends by the Shah through the eyes of her punkish, Bruce Lee-loving tearaway by documenting her young life in Tehran and later Austria.

Fantastic Planet

An allegorical story about an alien planet inhabited by large, blue aliens who treat the planet’s diminutive human population as animals – either pets to be kept or rodents to be eradicated. What follows forth is a breathtakingly presented allegory about animal cruelty, strereotypes and prejudice, shown with all the forwardness of a proper science fiction novella.

The world is a psychedelic jumble of bizarre, trippy sci-fi landscapes and creature designs that are animated by rearranging paper cutouts to create the illusion of movement. It’s not exactly smooth, but that adds to the surrealism of its strangely unfamiliar world. This Czech-produced adventure is dark, surreal, and deeply strange, unlike anything else from the Disney/Pixar universe.

Loving Vincent 

“Loving Vincent,” the animated Vincent van Gogh biopic that attempted to retrace his final days, completely stunned audiences in 2017. The statistics surrounding Loving Vincent are out of this world. A team of 125 painters from 20 countries painted over 65,000 frames of film in the style of Vincent Van Gogh over a six-year period. The end result is simply stunning. Many of the frames are based around van Gogh’s paintings, and we experience the vision of this tragic artist. 

We understand him through his works and gain a vicarious understanding of how he saw the world.

It starts with Van Gogh’s quote, “We cannot speak other than through our paintings,” and by the end, Loving Vincent has become a vivid insight into the artist’s life by allowing the form to become the content.

Wizards 

Wizards is a 1977 animated fantasy film directed by Ralph Bakshi and is one movie to be surely seen with one of the many weed cartridges you can get either offline or even online. It’s a frustratingly flawed movie which is still undoubtedly one of the director’s best flicks. 

This futuristic fantasy epic just doesn’t fail to deliver, for those inclined to the movie’s premise. A story 10 million years from today being told, this dystopian, post apocalyptic world is torn between two powerful wizards, brothers who were mortal enemies from birth. 

A story of fairies & elves and that of sorcerers & demons, the master of animated magic, Ralph Bakshi gives birth to his most celebrated work of all time.  

The film is about a battle between the forces of magic and the forces of industrial revolution. It’s a very interesting story that is simplistic for sure, but very much complex in terms of world building and detail work.

Grave Of The Fireflies (1988)

Grave Of The Fireflies is the kind of masterpiece that you’ll probably only see once. The first film from Isao Takahata, the other pillar of Studio Ghibli alongside co-founder Hayao Miyazaki, is a harrowing, heartbreaking World War II story. This acts as both, a tribute to the lives lost as a result of the conflict’s ripple effects, and an indictment of the societal failures that resulted in the tragic deaths of so many lives away from the frontlines. 

It follows Seita, a teen, and his younger sister Setsuko as they flee their home city of Kobe after bombs destroy it. The two are struggling to survive in the wilderness, cherishing the time they have together before starvation sets in. The titular fireflies provide a faint glow in the evenings as the pair huddle in an abandoned bomb shelter, vividly animated and with stirring imagery. It’s masterful, it’s emotional, it feels personal and be warned – it’s sad, really really sad.

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