Seattle Cinema Survey – American Animated Films

Hello and welcome to the newest version of Seattle Cinema Survey, a collection of critics and ramblers from the area responding to various ramblings of my own.

This week’s question is, perhaps, convoluted. It is so with a purpose. With Pixar, the king of American animation having a new release this weekend, I asked; What’s your favorite American animated film of the 21st Century that is not a Pixar pic.

My answer is, well, the following great writer spoke about that choice more eloquently than I could so…

Michael Ward of Should I See It @ShouldISeeIt
Initially, when approaching this week’s survey, my mind jumped to Wes Anderson’s dazzling and fitfully funny Fantastic Mr. Fox. Then, I immediately thought of Phil Lord & Chris Miller’s brilliant The LEGO Movie, only to then recall how incredibly exposed and vulnerable I felt after watching Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson searing stop-motion film Anomalisa. I have loved so. so many animated films over the years but I am going to select a film that should have won an Oscar this past year for Best Animated Short Film.

Don Herzfeldt’s 17-minute World of Tomorrow is a masterpiece of the craft. Blending a futuristic story of a clone returning some 227 years from the future to speak to her child-like self, Herzfeldt has his “future Emily” sharing with “present-day Emily” what life has and will be like for her over that expanse of time.

Deeply symbolic, at first blush the stories of future Emily falling in love with a shapeshifting creature, being obsessed with a man without a brain on display in a museum, and even sharing feelings for an inanimate rock seem nonsensical and wacky. However, what Herzfeldt paints so vividly is a very astute observation that we are headed to a future where human interaction is dead, and each passing generation has replicated itself into losing the ability to interact with fellow human beings. As a result, each generation sheds more and more of what it means to be human and makes connections with devices, objects, and baubles which ask nothing from us in return.

The levity of the piece is provided by Herzfeldt’s 4-year-old niece, Winona Mae. As present-day Emily, her responses and reactions to the information being given to her by future Emily are genuine, honest, and wonderfully pure. To achieve her dialogue, Herzfeldt sat down with her and told her the story, showing her storyboards and cells of animation from the film, and recorded her actual responses. He then interjected those comments into the film.

There’s so much more to say, but I’ll stop. World of Tomorrow is simply wonderful filmmaking. The creativity is effortless, the visuals are crudely drawn, and yet beautiful to the concept. Once you connect with it, you have ironically experienced that same emotion that “future Emily” shared with that inanimate rock. You feel love and admiration for spending time with it, but it doesn’t even know you exist. And yet, somehow, that’s perfectly alright.

Jason Roestel of Examiner @filmbastard
Loved Gil Kenan’s Monster House. It’s spooky and funny and may sport the best Jon Heder role this side of Napoleon Dynamite. But I’m going with Spielberg’s The Adventures Of Tintin, which, for my money, is the best thing uncle Steve’s made since Munich. Great imaginators (not a real word by the way) head to animation when the natural world can no longer keep pace with their creativity, Spielberg took the opportunity on his first animated feature and went absolutely crazy with it. The Adventures of Tintin is the work of a mature filmmaker – it’s a misleadingly restrained feature, no question. But every frame, every sequence there are sparks of invention and ingenuity. Still holding out hope for a sequel.

Brent McKnight of Cinema Blend/The Last Thing I See @BrentMMcKnight

ParaNorman is hands down one of my favorite animated movies of the new millennium. Not only is Laika’s stop-motion feature gorgeous to look at, but it’s funny, touching, inventive, and, best of all, actually scary.

Ghosts, zombies, and the looming spectre of death are everywhere, and ParaNorman does the one thing I want out of a kid’s movie: it lets the kids have their day. Nothing pissed me off more when I was younger than a movie aimed at my age bracket, but that totally insulted my intelligence. You know the ones, where the kids are never in any real danger and the adults swoop in at the last moment to save the day.
Here the characters are in legitimate peril and are left to fend for themselves, and they’re given the credit for being smart, intuitive, and resourceful. ParaNorman also has a lot to say about the nature of bullying, but does so with subtlety, the message woven into the narrative instead of clubbing you over the head. And how many other movies targeted at younger audiences reference horror films from Friday the 13th to Night of the Living Dead and beyond?

Tim Hall of The People’s Critic @peoplescrtic

That’s easy; How to Train Your Dragon.

I remember leaving the film and being blown away. The world they built around Vikings and Dragons was amazing. There’s great voice acting by the crew and some amazing animation. The different visual concepts for dragons were fascinating, and it’s one of the few movies that utilized 3D well during the flight scenes.
Not to mention Toothless is a great character. His relationship with Hiccup is one of the best I’ve seen in an animated film. Watching the two of them grow together is one of the best parts of the movie.

Brian Taibl of Brian the Movie Guy @MovieGuyBrian
Fantastic Mr. Fox. No question. A witty, quirky, charming tale of a family-man fox doing what he must to provide for his family. A delightful blend of author Roald Dahl’s wily prose and director Wes Anderson’s deftly off-beat sensibilities. An animated masterpiece that better be mentioned by at least half (if not all) of the critics represented in this article.

Matt Oakes of Silver Screen Riot @SSRdotcom
Little contest on this one: Coraline. All the way. The first time I watched Coraline, I was living in New Zealand. My girlfriend at the time had mailed ot to me and I popped it into my MacBook and fell irreversibly under its spell. Admittedly, I was super high during that time period, but I liked it so much that immediately after it stopped playing, I put it on again. In 3D. Sure the spiking THC levels in my brain may have had some impact on that decision to afford it back-to-back watches (something I pretty much never do) but there’s something cryptic and magical about Henry Selick’s gorgeously-crafted masterpiece that demands prying eyes. The stop motion animation from Laika is groundbreaking, making Coraline’s grotesque misadventure all the more spell-binding. As the physical sets of Selick’s piece begin to shred to pieces, so too does the dark fantasy based on Neil Gaiman’s novel crescendo. Weirdly wonderful songs, fantastical quests, offbeat characters and sublime voice work all coalesce to make Coraline, an animated PG movie that is decidedly not for children, soar to improbably heights.

Erik Samdahl of Film Jabber @filmjabber
So many choices… Chicken Run is a forgotten classic, Rango is completely overlooked, and Wreck-It Ralph was fun as hell, but I’m going to go with the one movie I actually own, and that’s The Fantastic Mr. Fox, a star-studded, extremely dry and absurdly wonky adaptation by the extremely dry and absurdly wonky Wes Anderson.


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