5 Non-Classic Animated Films You Should Check Out
Like every animated film lover, I am so excited about the upcoming Incredibles 2 movie. Not only is The Incredibles my favorite Pixar movie, but it is also one of the best superhero movies and probably the best Fantastic Four movie we are ever going to get. However, it got me thinking about all the other, lesser animated films that I loved growing up.
Beyond the classics of Don Bluth (the good era), Disney and early Dreamworks, there were a lot of animated films that were very good but didn’t get much love because they weren’t Disney or were dismissed because they were too much like Disney, but without the budget. I’m not saying all these movies are good, but I think that these next 5 animated films have some good qualities that warrant being revisited.
Before you say anything, no Anastasia is not on here, because I feel when you get turned into a Broadway musical, that means you’ve made it.
(1) Cats Don’t Dance:
Before Zootopia became the go-to movie about racial metaphors using animals, Warner Bros. 1997 animated movie Cats Don’t Dance tackled that subject in a matter. It is an animated period piece about a cat named Danny who movies from Indiana to Hollywood in order to make in movies only to find out that animals do not become movie stars. Instead, they are relegated small roles in which they play up whatever “stereotype” of their species. It’s a fun movie, with great music and homages to classic films of the Golden Era of Hollywood, with a good message that doesn’t feel preachy. Plus, Darla Dimple is one of the greatest female villains of all time
(2) Quest for Camelot:
Oh man, this movie is almost amazing. The soundtrack is beautiful, almost too beautiful for this film, and has all the trappings of Disney movie from the “dark era” of Disney: fun characters, but real tone issues. Quest for Camelot is about a young woman named Kayley wants to be a knight like her father. Her father is killed defending King Arthur and years later, the name who killed him, an evil redheaded knight named Ruber, played by Gary Oldman, kidnaps her mother and tries to steal Excalibur. Kayley escapes and goes on a quest to try and save Camelot (duh), her family and to become the knight she always wanted.
I feel like the movie suffers from too many side characters and attempts at comedic relief. Between the Hunchback of Notre Dame Gargoyle-level 4th wall breakers that are the dragons, to Urkel-chicken, the movie tries to stuff too much into it. Stripped away from those elements you have a fun coming of age story about a young woman on a journey to become a knight.
Jodi Benson’s singing voice can save a film. Thumbelina, also based on a Hans Christian Andersen story (sorry only Disney can make a profit off of those) is pretty much a straight retelling of the fairy tale, but with amazing songs. Seriously. Between Jodi Benson, Charo and Gilbert Gottfried, there is much to love. What I’ve also always enjoyed about the film, is just how simple it is. The animation is beautiful and features Don Bluth’s favorite bad male haircuts, but the story is just a simple fairy tale that you can put on, dance to and enjoy for 80 minutes. Apparently, Roger Ebert said, “It is difficult to imagine anyone over the age of 12 finding much to enjoy in Thumbelina” and I can say, I’m okay with being 12 indefinitely.
Also to the Razzie’s that gave “Marry The Mole” Worst Original Song a pox upon your houses. That sound is the truth.
(4) FernGully: The Last Rainforest
I dare you not to enjoy the “Batty Rap.” After Cats Don’t Dance, the 1992 movie Ferngully is probably the most critically lauded movie on this list. It is at its very core an environmental movie that succeeds at being entertaining, then an entertaining movie about the environment. The movie takes place in FernGully, a pristine rainforest free from human intervention (Wakanda), were a group of magical fairies live. One of them, Crysta, is obsessed with the human world and ends up shrinking a young lumberjack named Zak, when she tries to save him from being crushed by the tree. The company that Zak works for ends up cutting up a tree that house the dark spirit Hexxus, voiced by Tim Curry, who feeds on pollution. You can see where this is going.
Still, the movie is very good, with a solid story and some really dark moments. Despite having a message, part of the reason it did better than every other non-Disney animated film at the time, was because it was really trying to be something on its own. Besides the generic hetero-romance, it is still a unique film with some legit scary moments. It was also Robin Williams’s first animated film.
(5) The Swan Princess
This movie is 75% great. There are a lot of films that I know are bad and I would not take the time to defend. If you hate Quest for Camelot, fine, whatever, but The Swan Princess is a gem. Odette has the best hair and outfit of any non-Disney princess, the side characters are legitimately funny and have good bander, with a villain who is actually intimidating and powerful. Also, Odette is just an awesome character. Despite being kidnapped and put under a spell, she constantly tries to escape, stands up for herself and protects the people around her. Rewatching the film again recently, I really enjoyed how they made her a powerful damsel. She wasn’t swinging a sword or anything like that, but she always stood up for herself. Both to the villain and to…ugh…Derek.
Prince Derek is a turd and the great tragedy of these films is that he is the one Odette ends up. You deserve better, Odette! Don’t look at any of the sequels though…actually, Swan Princess 2 & 3 are fun, but once it goes into CGI land, run away. Far, far away.
What are some of your beloved animated films that don’t get enough love? Are you ever ashamed to have the movie tastes of a 12-year-old?
(image: Warner Bros.)
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