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RE: The Empire Animation Countdown

 
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RE: The Empire Animation Countdown - 27/2/2013 11:46:39 PM   
rawlinson

 

Posts: 45002
Joined: 13/6/2008
From: Timbuktu. Chinese or Fictional.
34. The Man Who Planted Trees



1987
Director: Frederic Back

A masterpiece of animation which won the Oscar for best Animated short in 1987. Beautiful, breathtaking, uplifting, joyous, pick an adjective really. It tells the story of the generosity of spirit that people can be capable of. Based on a short story (allegedly a true story) the film tells of how the unnamed narrator, meets Elzeard Bouffier, a shepherd living in the French Alps, who rejuvenates a desolate area by planting a forest over the course of over 30 years. The film follows the meetings between the narrator and Bouffier, beginning in 1910, and lasting until Bouffier's peaceful death after the Second World War.

The artistry of this short film is nothing short of staggering. There are a few films in this world where it feels as if you're looking at a painting on your television screen, this is one of them. The scenes of the forest are heart-breakingly beautiful. Rendered with a light and loving touch. The animation turns darker when depicting the despair of the people who lived in the barren valley and during the narrator's service in the First World War.

There's no dialogue between the characters in the film. Rather fitting as Bouffier is depicted as a man who seldom speaks. The only speech comes through the narration, Phillippe Noiret in the original French language version, Christopher Plummer in the dubbed. Both men do the kind of superb work you'd expect, their voices blending perfectly with the animation.

A superb, inspiring, possibly life-changing bit of animation. Some people claim that Bouffier existed, others say that the short story was fictional. I don't want to know the truth. I think the belief that someone like Bouffier can exist is far more important than the reality.

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Post #: 211
RE: The Empire Animation Countdown - 27/2/2013 11:47:49 PM   
rawlinson

 

Posts: 45002
Joined: 13/6/2008
From: Timbuktu. Chinese or Fictional.
33. Ponyo



2008
Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Beautiful, child-like animation from Ghibli that tells a Little Mermaid-esque tale of a young fish-girl who loves a human boy. Like Totoro, the film is more aimed at younger viewers, and it's more about the world and the characters Miyazaki creates than the plot. Some viewers will have difficulty with that. But that's their loss. Ponyo contains some of Miyazaki's most gorgeous animation, and it combines with a deceptively simple, sweet-natured story to create one of the most enchanting films of the last few years.

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Post #: 212
RE: The Empire Animation Countdown - 27/2/2013 11:48:10 PM   
rawlinson

 

Posts: 45002
Joined: 13/6/2008
From: Timbuktu. Chinese or Fictional.
32. Princess Mononoke



1997
Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Mononoke is a fine example of why I consider Ghibli to be the greatest animated film studio in the world. It's a film I generally rate lower than the majority of other Ghibli films, second tier at best. Yet a second tier Ghibli is better than most other films in its decade. Another Miyazaki film that emphasises the importance of looking after the world around us, Mononoke focuses on the war between a small industrial town who are trying to tame the wild and the forest Gods who fight back against their destruction. This battle between man and nature isn't as simplistic as it might sound, instead taking the more complex path of making both sides equally sympathetic and infuriating. It also has the expected jaw-droppingly gorgeous Miyazaki animation, an incredibly important film for Ghibli, and probably the one that really brought them to the attention of a Western audience. And it still doesn't crack their top tier.

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Post #: 213
RE: The Empire Animation Countdown - 27/2/2013 11:49:50 PM   
rawlinson

 

Posts: 45002
Joined: 13/6/2008
From: Timbuktu. Chinese or Fictional.
31. Belleville Rendez-vous



2003
Director: Sylvain Chomet

Wonderful Belgian animation about a woman and her overweight dog's attempts to save the bicycle racer grandson from mobsters. Amazing, but not as good as The Illusionist.

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Post #: 214
RE: The Empire Animation Countdown - 27/2/2013 11:51:21 PM   
rawlinson

 

Posts: 45002
Joined: 13/6/2008
From: Timbuktu. Chinese or Fictional.
30. Dumbo



1941
Director: Ben Sharpsteen, Bill Roberts, Jack Kinney, Wilfred Jackson, Iron Balls McGinty, Norman Ferguson, Samuel Armstrong

Elephant has big ears that allow him to fly. Highlight is the Pink Elephants on Parade sequence.

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Post #: 215
RE: The Empire Animation Countdown - 27/2/2013 11:52:56 PM   
rawlinson

 

Posts: 45002
Joined: 13/6/2008
From: Timbuktu. Chinese or Fictional.
29. Ratatouille



2007
Director: Brad Bird

A rat becomes the best cook in Paris. As visually gobsmacking as you'd expect from Pixar, and Patton Oswalt and Peter O'Toole do great voicework.

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Post #: 216
RE: The Empire Animation Countdown - 27/2/2013 11:53:37 PM   
rawlinson

 

Posts: 45002
Joined: 13/6/2008
From: Timbuktu. Chinese or Fictional.
28. Hunting Trilogy



1951 - 1953
Director: Chuck Jones

The hunting trilogy features three of the most beloved offerings from Looney Tunes, Rabbit Fire, Rabbit Seasoning and Duck Rabbit Duck. How could anyone possibly separate these three short films? I've known people who didn't realise they even were three different films. The cartoons differ from a lot of the Looney Tunes output in that they place an emphasis on verbal play over physical comedy, in fact the shorts really are just variations on a word game between Daffy and Bugs.

The plot is simple and it applies to all three films. It's hunting season, usually duck season, and Daffy is trying to save his skin by convincing Elmer that it's actually rabbit season and directing him towards Bugs instead. When placed in danger, Bugs uses verbal trickery to confuse the situation and Daffy gets shot. Repeatedly.
These three shorts go a long way towards defining the characters of Bugs, Daffy and Elmer. Elmer is the idiot, he doesn't recognise Bugs is even a rabbit until Daffy points it out, and (like always) he doesn't realise the woman who starts flirting with him is actually Bugs in disguise. Elmer is being led by both Bugs and Daffy. Daffy and Bugs are antagonistic to each other, usually sparked by Daffy's inferiority complex and jealousy of Bugs. Daffy thinks he's as smart as Bugs, and he's probably a little bit smarter than Elmer. It's his own jealous nature that puts himself in harms way over and over again. He could easily find a way to avoid Elmer, but the temptation to try and use Elmer to get rid of his rival is far too strong. Bugs is the smartest of the lot, usually content to spend his days in the pursuit of pleasure, he only goes to war when someone attacks him. Bugs can become an arch-manipulator when he needs to survive and here he makes his trickery seem incredibly simple.

But beyond what they do with the characters, the cartoons are funny. Sometimes that's all you need.

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Post #: 217
RE: The Empire Animation Countdown - 27/2/2013 11:54:51 PM   
rawlinson

 

Posts: 45002
Joined: 13/6/2008
From: Timbuktu. Chinese or Fictional.
27. What's Opera, Doc?



1957
Director: Chuck Jones

Am I the only one who regards Bugs, Daffy, Elmer et al as actors rather than characters? As weird as it may sound, they feel like a comedy troupe like the Marx Bros, taking on genre after genre and just destroying them all. Here Bugs and Elmer team up with frequent collaborator Chuck Jones to take Wagner's Ring cycle, condense it, improve it and use it to help push the boundaries of animation. Elmer plays Siegfried, a warrior who warns the audience to "Be vewy qwiet, I'm hunting wabbits." Upon finding Bugs' home he jabs his spear down the entrance while singing "Kill the wabbit" to the tune of Ride of the Valkyries (Forget Apocalypse Now, this is the definitive cinematic use of the piece). After chasing Bugs away from his home, Bugs reappears dressed as Brunnhilde, riding a horse designed to look like an operatic diva. After exchanging declarations of love, Siegfried discovers he's been duped and calls on all the powers of his "Spear and magic helmet" to get revenge on Bugs. How does it end? "Well, what do you expect in an opera, a happy ending?"

Jones estimated that What's Opera, Doc? took six times as much work as any of his other shorts, and it shows in the sheer ambition of the piece, the rabid fire editing of the short, the impressive background animation and the wonderful rewritten music. The lyrics are clever, witty and in the case of Return My Love, believable. As well as passing satirical comment on opera, the short also takes the established relationship between Elmer and Bugs and provides an interesting commentary on it. As brilliant as the shorts are, there's often a typical plot: Elmer chases Bugs. Bugs drags up. Elmer falls in lust with him. Elmer realises he's a wabbit and tries to kill him. Bugs wins the day. This short takes that routine and rises it to the level of mythology and archetypal characters, it also subverts it by allowing Elmer to win the day for once. But as soon as he gets what he wants, he regrets it.

It's a remarkably complex film both as a work of animation and as a commentary on long established characters

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Post #: 218
RE: The Empire Animation Countdown - 27/2/2013 11:56:35 PM   
rawlinson

 

Posts: 45002
Joined: 13/6/2008
From: Timbuktu. Chinese or Fictional.
26. The Lion King



1994
Director: Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff

People say it's one of the greatest animated films of the 90s. People say a lot of stuff.

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Post #: 219
RE: The Empire Animation Countdown - 27/2/2013 11:57:44 PM   
rawlinson

 

Posts: 45002
Joined: 13/6/2008
From: Timbuktu. Chinese or Fictional.
25. How To Train Your Dragon



2010
Director: Dean DeBlois, Chris Sanders

The dragon is amazing. The humans are as good as they are in any other Dreamworks film.

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Post #: 220
RE: The Empire Animation Countdown - 27/2/2013 11:58:49 PM   
rawlinson

 

Posts: 45002
Joined: 13/6/2008
From: Timbuktu. Chinese or Fictional.
24. Hedgehog in the Fog



1975
Director: Yuri Norstein

The Hedgehog is going to see his friend The Bear. Every night they meet, drink tea together, talk and count the stars. This night he also takes some raspberry jam. Along the way he sees a white horse standing in the fog. He begins to wonder if the horse will die if it lies down in the fog, and he decides to take a detour into the fog himself. He finds the fog a frightening place, filled with bats, owls and other terrors. But it's also a place of beauty, with butterflies, leaves that float on the wind and a giant tree that stands watch over the forest like an ancient guardian. In his awe over the tree he misplaces his bundle of jam. When he realises, his panic leads to him getting lost even further in the forest. He improvises a torch from a stick and a firefly. When the firefly flies away he finds himself pursued by predators and rescued by a friendly dog. The dog helps the hedgehog find his jam but when the hedgehog hears the bear calling to him his excitement leads him to fall into the river. Thinking he's about to drown, the hedgehog accepts his fate and floats calmly along with the water. He is rescued by an unseen someone in the water and finds his way to his friend the bear, with his life forever changed for his experiences.

On the face of it, it's a very simple story, but it's filled with deeper meanings and a beautiful, philosophical outlook on life. The hedgehog undergoes a range of emotions from fear to hope to the joy of friendship, all the way to acceptance of death. The fog is a metaphor for life, for unknown paths. The hedgehog is almost like a child, growing and developing during his time in the mist. They give the hedgehog the innocence of a small child and we get that childlike, inquisitive view of an unfamiliar world. The hedgehog is melancholy, shy and excitable. His awe at the mist, the tree, the white horse and all the other creatures of the fog is both wonderful and infectious. He's a wondrous, charming creation that deserves to stand among the greatest characters.

There's a dreamlike, magical quality to the short, it has the timeless feel that is so difficult to capture in art. The film may be based on an old Russian folk tale, but it could take place anywhere in the world at any time in history. This quality is thanks in no small part to the exquisite animation, all soft pastels except when the hedgehog is panicked when it becomes a rush of images. The talent involved in The Hedgehog in the Fog, the simple beauty that Norshteyn is able to capture, is humbling and inspiring. It's one of those rare creations that manages to evoke childhood perfectly, even though the events wouldn't be part of anyone's childhood, the feelings are. It's a perfect short film.

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Post #: 221
RE: The Empire Animation Countdown - 27/2/2013 11:59:12 PM   
rawlinson

 

Posts: 45002
Joined: 13/6/2008
From: Timbuktu. Chinese or Fictional.
23. Whisper of the Heart



1995
Director: Yoshifumi Kondo

This charming animation from the great Ghibli Studio focuses on Shizuku, a bookish 14 year old girl experiencing her first love. She notices all her library books have been previously checked out by the same person, a boy named Seiki. A creative girl, Shizuku is writing a song for the school graduation. At the school library she forgets her lyric book one day and returns to find it only to discover it being read by a boy who annoys her in every way possible, including teasing her about her song. Next day she sees a large cat who seems to ride public transportation on his own, intrigued, she follows it to an antique shop where she sees a statue of a cat who the shopowner informs her is called The Baron. She also discovers the annoying boy from school lives there. It turns out he's the mysterious Seiki and they gradually begin a friendship that turns into a love affair. When he tells her he's leaving to study in Italy, she becomes inspired to write a story for him, based on the legend of The Baron.

And it's that simple really. A schooltime love story. So what makes it such a strong film? The authenticity. I know that may seem a strange word to use in relation to an animated movie, but this feels more real than the majority of live action teen movies. It's a sweet joyous tale that has a universal appeal because it all feels so true. Even though it's not going to be your life it's still true as someone's life and that's what makes this authentic, the feeling that you could be watching the feelings and emotions of genuine teenagers. The characters ring true all the way through, which raises the question of why are live action teen movies often so underwhelming and unrealistic? Also, can you think of many modern teen films that treat female characters with as much respect as this one?

One of the key themes of Whisper... is the importance of creativity. Shizuku is a budding songwriter, Seiki a musician. The shopowner is a storyteller and a musician and his tales are a huge influence on Shizuku's own story. The film finds great joy in allowing its characters a chance to express themselves in scenes like the group sing along in the workshop and Shizuku finds release in their free-spirited nature. True, the basic message of the importance of following your dreams is a little simplistic, but the heart of the story is with the characters rather than the plot. While Whisper Of The Heart is a wonderful film, it also leaves me feeling disappointed, not through any flaws of the film, but because the untimely death of the director robbed us of more like this. But if his cinematic legacy was to be this one film, then it's a legacy to be treasured.

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Post #: 222
RE: The Empire Animation Countdown - 28/2/2013 12:00:18 AM   
rawlinson

 

Posts: 45002
Joined: 13/6/2008
From: Timbuktu. Chinese or Fictional.
22. The Snowman



1982
Director: Dianne Jackson

I think The Snowman is a victim of its own success. It's difficult to find anyone in the UK who is unfamiliar with the film, even if they haven't seen it all the way through. It's a part of Christmas here, shown every year on C4 on Christmas Day. Everyone knows the famous theme song and it's entered the public consciousness to the extent that it can get spoofed, out of context, in a horrible television commercial and most people will get the joke. The sheer ubiquity of the film seems to have had the odd effect of making it slightly underrated. Most people I know seem to dismiss it with 'oh, I loved that when I was little' but they haven't bothered to revisit it as an adult.

Let's get the plot out of the way, a young boy makes a snowman on Christmas Eve. The snowman comes to life, the boy shows him his house. In the second half the snowman and the boy fly far North until they reach a snoman's party and the boy gets to meet Father Christmas. The film could have fallen into the same traps as the similar themed Polar Express and have become sickly sentimental at times.

What works strongly in The Snowman's favour is the fact there is no dialogue. The wonder and awe is evoked through the breathtaking animation, faithfully adapted from Raymond Brigg's picture book. The scenes where the snowman and the boy take a motorbike ride and when they take flight over the countryside, towns and ocean contain some of the most beautiful animation ever set to film. Even 'Walking In The Air' works in the context of the film, all memories of Aled Jones fade away and the song becomes a haunting piece of music.

While the film is incredibly heart-warming, it also contains a rare depth and poignancy. The end of the film also provides an interesting look at loss and the importance of memory, all evoked by a simple image. One of the most beautiful and magical short films ever made.

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Post #: 223
RE: The Empire Animation Countdown - 28/2/2013 12:01:53 AM   
rawlinson

 

Posts: 45002
Joined: 13/6/2008
From: Timbuktu. Chinese or Fictional.
21. Duck Dodgers in the 24th and a Half Century



1953
Director: Chuck Jones

Bugs might be cooler, might always win at the end of his cartoons and might be the face of Warner Brothers, but the pay off to this is that Daffy Duck, the perennial loser, gets all the best cartoons. As a kid, certainly, I was more drawn to the lisping, down-on-his-luck duck than I was on the supersmart wabbit. And top of the pile was always Duck Dodgers, a masterpiece even among Chuck Jones considerable back catalogue of masterpieces. Duck Dodgers throws Daffy into a science fiction setting – hence the Buck Rodgers parodying title – in which he has to go to the mysterious Planet X to get some of the super rare Shaving Foam Atom. Unfortunatly, Mars is also running low at the same time and sends Marvin the Martian to do the same job, resulting in some classic Looney Tunes one-upmanship. This isn’t Marvin’s first appearance in a Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies film, he had previously starred alongside Bugs, but he is more suited to the hyper-one-upmanship of Daffy than he is with Bugs, and he is utilized absolutely brilliantly here. Unlike the usual LT bad guy, Marvin is quite quiet, not stupid, and genuinely a bit psychotic. He doesn’t just want to outsmart the wabbit, he wants to blow up the entire planet. Also here is Porky Pig, as Daffy’s sidekick. I’m not a great fan of Porky in general, but when he is paired with Daffy, he can be an brilliant creation. Certainly that is true here, where he is the smarter sidekick to Daffy’s brilliantly idiotic captain. I’m pretty sure that the writers of Futurama were big fans of this cartoon – there are shades of Kif’s relationship with Zapp all the way through the cartoon. I won’t say too much about the actual jokes, so as to spoil them, but I will say that I laugh out loud every single time I sit and watch this cartoon, something that has bought me great joy for such a long time in my life, and it is a mere seven minutes in length.

- Rhubarb

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Post #: 224
RE: The Empire Animation Countdown - 28/2/2013 12:05:02 AM   
rawlinson

 

Posts: 45002
Joined: 13/6/2008
From: Timbuktu. Chinese or Fictional.
20. Persepolis



2007
Director: Marjane Satrapi, Vincent Paronnaud

The last ten years have been a delight for fans of indie animation, thanks in no small part to films like this. Persepolis was adapted from Satrapi's autobiographical graphic novel and tells the story of her coming-of-age against the backdrop of the Iranian revolution.

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Post #: 225
RE: The Empire Animation Countdown - 28/2/2013 12:07:43 AM   
rawlinson

 

Posts: 45002
Joined: 13/6/2008
From: Timbuktu. Chinese or Fictional.
19. Who Framed Roger Rabbit



1988
Director: Robert Zemeckis

Innovative mix of live-action and animation as human detective Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) find himself investigating the murder of Marvin Acme, the owner of Toontown. Watch this for a reminder of when Zemeckis made soulful, funny pictures and not just cheap and hollow films.

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Post #: 226
RE: The Empire Animation Countdown - 28/2/2013 12:10:56 AM   
rawlinson

 

Posts: 45002
Joined: 13/6/2008
From: Timbuktu. Chinese or Fictional.
18. Toy Story 2



1999
Director: John Lasseter, Ash Brannon

The announcement of a sequel to Toy Story made people fear that Pixar were already starting to cash-in on old glories, but while the film might not have the most innovative plot, it was still as fresh and funny as the original when it came to the acting and dialogue. It also features the most moving section of the trilogy.

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Post #: 227
RE: The Empire Animation Countdown - 28/2/2013 12:11:23 AM   
rawlinson

 

Posts: 45002
Joined: 13/6/2008
From: Timbuktu. Chinese or Fictional.
17. Grave of the Fireflies



1988
Director: Isao Takahata

Set during the tail end of World War 2, a Japanese brother and sister try to survive the air raids and life on the streets after their mother dies during a bomb attack. The two children, 14 year Seita and 4 year old Setsuko, first go to live with a spiteful aunt, but they find themselves unable to live with her resentful nature and move themselves into a cave near a lake, but slowly starvation begins to set in. There are times when a plot description can't begin to do justice to the power, beauty and tragedy of a film. Grave of the Fireflies is deceptively simple on the surface. What makes the film so powerful are the little scenes and moments, such as capturing fireflies that die all too soon, and the container of sweets that will come to contain ashes. Seita and Setsuko are outsiders, the villagers reject them out of self-preservation and they reject the villagers as they retreat into their make-believe world.

There's no false hope in this film, we're shown from the opening scene how things are going to turn out and we know it's going to be a hellish experience at times. As Seita dies in the opening, we see that he's not alone. The train station where he passes away is filled with others just like him, and the train passengers treat them all with the same mixture of ignorance and revulsion, determined to not acknowledge them and their own responsibility. The fact that the film is based on the novel by Akiyuki Nosaka, who lost his own sister in similar circumstances, just adds to the oppressive weight that hangs over this film.

Grave of the Fireflies is one of the saddest films ever made, a profoundly devastating account of the toll war takes on the innocents, and a slap in the face to any idiot who claims these kinds of casualties are acceptable. It's often been questioned why this was an animation rather than live-action, I don't even see why that's an issue except for people who think animation can't hold any power. I think this is one of those films that everyone needs to see at least once, just to experience its heartbreaking power and its condemnation of human selfishness and stupidity.

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Post #: 228
RE: The Empire Animation Countdown - 28/2/2013 12:13:58 AM   
rawlinson

 

Posts: 45002
Joined: 13/6/2008
From: Timbuktu. Chinese or Fictional.
16. A Matter of Loaf and Death



2008
Director: Nick Park

The final (so far) short film starring our intrepid heroes has them running their own bakery and getting involved in a murder mystery after twelve bakers are murdered in strange circumstances. While out on a delivery for their new business, Wallace and Gromit save the life of Piella Bakewell and her dog, Fluffles. Wallace remembers Piella from her younger days when she was a model for Bake-O-Lite bread and he is immediately smitten with her. Gromit is suspicious of her intentions and eventually discovers that she is the murderer and is looking to kill Wallace in order to complete her baker's dozen of deaths. The rest of the short seems Gromit battle to save the life of the oblivious and lovestruck Wallace from the insane Piella. As funny and inventive as ever, with some entertaining new characters, including the adorable Fluffles, Wallace and Gromit remain not only Aardman's greatest creations, but two of the greatest British comedy characters of all time.

One of the most interesting things about A Matter of Loaf and Death is how it's not afraid to address more adult concerns. You can argue that the storylines have been getter darker in content (From an innocent trip to the moon to an evil penguin to sheep rustling to a horror character to finally a serial murderer) but one of the sub-plots of A Matter of Loaf and Death shows a difficult subject handled with great sensitivity. The relationship between Piella and Fluffles is obviously abusive, far more so than you might expect in a cartoon aimed at family viewing, and Fluffles is obviously traumatised. You wouldn't expect Wallace & Gromit to deal with domestic violence but the fact that they do, and they manage to make it understandable to children while still making it a disturbing undercurrent is a great testament to the talents of the fine people at Aardman.

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Post #: 229
RE: The Empire Animation Countdown - 28/2/2013 12:15:24 AM   
rawlinson

 

Posts: 45002
Joined: 13/6/2008
From: Timbuktu. Chinese or Fictional.
15. When the Wind Blows



1986
Director: Jimmy T. Murakami

Raymond Briggs is one of the finest graphic novelists in the world. You may not hear his name mentioned alongside Alan Moore or Chris Ware, but he's created some beautiful and devastating work that should secure his place among the greats. With When the Wind Blows he took on the threat of nuclear holocaust, but he brought it down to one of the most human levels imaginable by showing us the effects of the bomb on an elderly British couple.

Jim and Hilda Bloggs are a typical retired British couple. They potter around their house, drink a gallon and a half of tea every hour, and believe everything their government tells them. They know that another World War is inevitable, but they don't grasp the importance of it being nuclear. They think back to their memories of air raids during World War 2 and expect the nuclear strike to be similar, something that can be got through with community spirit and a stiff upper-lip. So they read the government booklets on how to survive a nuclear blast, build a fallout shelter from doors in they're living room and go on with their life with complete faith in the government. When the bomb drops they survive the blast, but they're unaware that the radiation is killing them.

Jim and Hilda are funny and believable. Mills and Ashcroft give tremendous vocal performances and they help us to like Jim and Hilda so much. We really like them, even if they're naive. That naivety that in some way makes them more endearing to us is used to help contrast the grim reality of the bomb with the fantasy the government were trying to promote. Director Murakami captures the tone perfectly, mixing the heartfelt story of a dying couple with a blackly satirical attack on the Protect and Survive thinking of the government. He also displays a skill at blending various animation techniques that makes you wonder why he wasn't more prolific in the field. Murakami and Briggs make their points without expanding the scale, we're taught the horror of war and the danger of the bomb through the last days of this couple in their small cottage. This kitchen sink holocaust is one of the most thought-provoking and poignant of all war movies and it should be required viewing in schools everywhere.

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Post #: 230
RE: The Empire Animation Countdown - 28/2/2013 12:16:59 AM   
rawlinson

 

Posts: 45002
Joined: 13/6/2008
From: Timbuktu. Chinese or Fictional.
14. Beauty and The Beast



1991
Director: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise

This soulful, poetic fantasy is one of the greatest films of all time. Director Jean Cocteau shows a wonderful eye for fairy-t... oh wait, it's the Disney.

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Post #: 231
RE: The Empire Animation Countdown - 28/2/2013 12:17:20 AM   
rawlinson

 

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13. My Neighbour Totoro



1988
Director: Hayao Miyazaki

After their mother is taken ill, two young girls, Satsuki and Mei, and their father move to the Japanese countryside to be nearer to her hospital. While playing outside, Mei sees two little ears in the grass, she follows them and discovers a group of magical creatures, including the gigantic Totoro, the keeper of the forest. The film then follows a largely plotless path, tracing their adventures with the spirits while waiting for their mother to recover.

The plot description in no way does justice to the film, it's simply a masterpiece beyond all superlatives and the greatest animated film ever created. It's also one of the most enchanting, delightful, fantastical and magical films ever made. It's to Miyazaki's eternal credit that he made something so memorable out of a film that can seem so slight. The wonder here comes from the characters and from the world that Miyazaki creates. The forest creatures are adorable, especially Totoro who's able to become one of the most magical creatures in animation without ever saying a word, and who can deny the incredible imagination and invention behind the Cat-bus? This is a child's view of the world and it captures it as meaningfully as any live-action film ever has.

The film's slight plot adds depth to the film and the characters and never feels tacked on to satisfy some demand for a conventional narrative. Even the fantastical adventures don't give way to wild abandon, they're more interested in inspiring a sense of curiosity about the world around them. There's no villain here, no great battle for the children to overcome, it's just children dealing with worry over their mother's health and indulging their imagination. It's a beautiful film and it's difficult to think of many times that sheer joy has been captured as convincingly, in live-action or animation, than the scene where Totoro jumps up and down to make more raindrops fall.

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Post #: 232
RE: The Empire Animation Countdown - 28/2/2013 12:18:15 AM   
rawlinson

 

Posts: 45002
Joined: 13/6/2008
From: Timbuktu. Chinese or Fictional.
12. The Nightmare Before Christmas



1993
Director: Henry Selick

In retrospect, Nightmare feels like it shouldn't work. Selick's work since has been pretty but empty, and Burton would start a career downturn that saw him move from interesting and genuinely eccentric films like Pee Wee's Big Adventure to the wannabe quirky crap he's churned out over the last fifteen years or so. On paper, Nightmare sounds like the kind of nonsense you expect from Burton - The King of Halloween land wants to take over Christmas, so he kidnaps Santa. Yet both Burton and Selick bring something to this film that's been absent in the majority of their films since: charm, and characters you actually care about.

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Post #: 233
RE: The Empire Animation Countdown - 28/2/2013 12:22:26 AM   
rawlinson

 

Posts: 45002
Joined: 13/6/2008
From: Timbuktu. Chinese or Fictional.
11. Monsters, Inc



2001
Director: Pete Docter

I've said it before and I'll say it again; this is as close to perfection as I think a film can get. That isn't to say that is has the best script, direction, score, etc etc, as it doesn't, but rather that there is not one single thing I could think of to change. Everything fits together wonderfully; I can't imagine anything ever being different. Mike Wazowski and Sulley are a comic paring made in heaven. Randy Newman rightfully won his first Oscar for his amazing work here, the animation is gorgeous, the script funny (visually, it's also Pixar's most humorous film) and the closing scene is, without a doubt, one of the most heart-warming and emotional moments in film. The finest animated film I've ever seen.

- Gimli the Dwarf.

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Post #: 234
RE: The Empire Animation Countdown - 28/2/2013 12:22:53 AM   
rawlinson

 

Posts: 45002
Joined: 13/6/2008
From: Timbuktu. Chinese or Fictional.
10. Duck Amuck



1953
Director: Chuck Jones

In one of the most insane films ever created, a baffled and enraged Daffy Duck is tormented to the point of exhaustion by his own animator. Daffy first appears dressed as a musketeer and expecting to be making an adventure film, only to soon find himself in front of a white backdrop. Daffy turns to the camera and requests some scenery and we see a paintbrush paint a farmyard scene. Daffy rushes off to come back dressed as a farmer only to now find himself in a wintry backdrop. The animator continues to change scenery without warning, he manipulates the camera, changes what Daffy wears, even what Daffy looks like, the soundtrack rebels, the picture breaks down, and every possible animated technique is played with to drive Daffy to the verge of a breakdown.

If you want to you can read all sorts of things in this film. You can see it as a criticism of Daffy's vanity (and through him our own vanity) his endless fears (fear of deformity, of loss of control) or of the malignant presence of a manipulative unseen God figure who torments us for his own abuse. You could even put Daffy in our position as the viewer, constantly manipulated by the artist to see things their way. However you want to interpret it, it's an expertly crafted short and one of the funniest films ever made. The usual world of Daffy is torn apart and he loses all sense of reality and despite the humour, there is something oddly unsettling about it. The Looney Tunes shorts constantly break the rules, but never to this extent and there's more breaking of the fourth wall in this cartoon than in possibly any other piece of animation. There's little doubt it's a groundbreaking and inventive work, but it's also uproarious and hilarious.

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Post #: 235
RE: The Empire Animation Countdown - 28/2/2013 12:23:16 AM   
rawlinson

 

Posts: 45002
Joined: 13/6/2008
From: Timbuktu. Chinese or Fictional.
9. The Curse of the Were-Rabbit



2005
Director: Nick Park

In the first feature-length Wallace & Gromit film, Tottington Hall are holding their annual giant vegetable competition with the winner getting the Golden Carrot award. The fear of losing the veg' to some pesky rabbits is high and Wallace & Gromit have started Anti-Pesto, a humane pest-control company. The captured rabbits take over the house so Wallace comes up with a plan to brainwash them to stop stealing from people's gardens using his Mind Manipulation-O-Matic machine. Something goes wrong during the procedure and one of the rabbits seems to have taken on some of Wallace's personality, and slowly starts to act more and more like him. Soon the town has an even bigger problem in the form of the Were-Rabbit, a monster who eats any vegetables it can. Wallace & Gromit soon go on the hunt for the rabbit, only to find out that he's closer to home than they expected. In the meantime, rich snob Victor, Wallace's love rival also sets out to find the were-rabbit, leading to a thrilling biplane battle and a host of horror movie homages from Curse of the Werewolf to King Kong.

As befits the nature of a feature-length production, Curse had the largest scope of any of the Wallace & Gromit productions. It featured a large scale voice cast and you saw far more of the village than in any of the other works. Luckily Aardman didn't sacrifice a good script to ambition and it didn't lose any of the charm or wit associated with the characters.

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Post #: 236
RE: The Empire Animation Countdown - 28/2/2013 12:23:42 AM   
rawlinson

 

Posts: 45002
Joined: 13/6/2008
From: Timbuktu. Chinese or Fictional.
8. Howl's Moving Castle



2004
Director: Hayao Miyazaki

After an encounter with a mysterious young man, Sophie falls foul of the Witch of Waste and is put under an aging spell. Stumbling out of town she finds her way to the titular moving castle, home of the Wizard Howl, his young apprentice Markl and the 'tamed' fire demon Calcifer.

So far so faithful to the original novel by British fantasy author Diana Wynne Jones. The characterisations of the leads stay very true (including the dark desire of the witch to actually consume the hearts of others), and many might be surprised to know that much of Calcifer's sulky teenager dialogue and behaviour actually comes from the book too – but that wonderfully anthropomorphic drop of fire on screen, bullyed and all but enslaved, is all Miyazaki. And Howl is as far from a traditional romantic hero as you can get – self-obsessed, vain (utterly bereft when his hair changes colour). But it is Sophie's character which soars on screen – quite unexpectedly the spell has freed from her plain humdrum life and she almost revels in what she can get away with as 'granny' Sophie and it is this coming to life that starts the cracks in the shell the enchantement has created.

As well as forgetting Wales entirely, Miyazaki transfers the story to a kind of half-way house world of steampunk – you still get the Victoriana and the machines, but they don't feel as forced and clever-clever as this repetitive idea is increasingly becoming. He slots it in organically, into the kind of town Kiki would fly into it, and adds a world at war and the redemption of the spellbound.

While I understand that Spirited Away is many's favourite Ghibli, I prefer Howl's. I think you can feel the texture of the source and that many of the themes in it's predecessor, and characters, were really just try-outs for this film. The all-out inventiveness of the world across the river in Spirited is concentrated into the ins and outs of a walking castle in a world of gorgeously deep pastel colours as Miyazki takes the viewer on a journey of far more mature emotional depth than you might expect.

I should make clear that this is a review of the original Japanese with subtitles. I am content these are true to the script as they are also true to the book. As opposed to the loathsome English dub – it might be star-studded but the script seems to have been written by 'scripts for dummies' alumni and much of the emotional nuance and depth is removed and blunt Mills and Boon crap added instead. Criminal.

Elab49.

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Post #: 237
RE: The Empire Animation Countdown - 28/2/2013 12:24:08 AM   
rawlinson

 

Posts: 45002
Joined: 13/6/2008
From: Timbuktu. Chinese or Fictional.
7. A Close Shave



1995
Director: Nick Park

In the third outing for the dynamic duo, Wallace and Gromit have started a window cleaning business. One of their clients is a wool shop owned by Wendolene Ramsbottom. Wallace finds himself attracted to Wendolene but he's unaware that her wool comes from a sheep-rustling ring that's led by her malevolent dog, Preston. The short opens with one of the kidnapped sheep escaping from Preston's lorry into Wallace & Gromit's house. The sheep causes havoc in the house but is adopted and named Shaun. Wallace and Wendolene get closer and he finds out that her father was also an inventor. Preston, who is actually a robot invented by Wendolene's father frames Gromit for the sheep thefts, but with the aid of Wallace and the sheep, Gromit makes a jailbreak and sets out to stop Preston before he turns the stolen sheep into dog food.

With A Close Shave, Aardman expanded the world of Wallace & Gromit even further. They feel more integrated into their environment than in previous shorts, they introduced a more deadly villain and Wendolene became only the second speaking character in the series, with vocal duty going to Anne Reid. Of course the greatest addition to the W & G universe was little Shaun, he stole the show here and he would go on to his own hilarious television series. What's so wonderful about Nick Park's creations is that every second of the films feel like they're made with absolute love and respect both of the characters and of the audience.

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Post #: 238
RE: The Empire Animation Countdown - 28/2/2013 12:46:52 AM   
rawlinson

 

Posts: 45002
Joined: 13/6/2008
From: Timbuktu. Chinese or Fictional.
6. Toy Story



1995
Director: John Lasseter

This debut feature from Pixar is one of the most important animated films ever made, not just because of how it changed the industry, but because it wasn't afraid to take an intelligent script that could be enjoyed by audiences of any age and present it to the public without dumbing it down. The plot revolves around the top dog toy in Andy's bedroom, cowboy Woody (Tom Hanks) being sent into a jealous rage when he loses his position as Andy's favourite to Spaceman Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) The odd couple relationship between the two, along with the fine supporting cast, make this into an enduring classic.

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Post #: 239
RE: The Empire Animation Countdown - 28/2/2013 12:47:13 AM   
rawlinson

 

Posts: 45002
Joined: 13/6/2008
From: Timbuktu. Chinese or Fictional.
5. Toy Story 3



2010
Director: Lee Unkrich

The perfect end to the trilogy, a film capable of reducing grown men to tears and at least one grown woman to fits of rage.

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Post #: 240
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