I recently contributed to Time Out’s poll alongside filmmakers, critics, and the likes of Disney’s Jennifer Lee, animation historian Jerry Beck, and many independent animators producing award winning short films including Koji Yamamura, Jeff Scher, Martha Colburn, Robert Morgan and Lilli Carré.
Interestingly the only restriction given to selectors was that the films had to be over 60 minutes in length. This meant that sadly so many iconic animators were excluded from the poll – Norman McLaren, Len Lye, Caroline Leaf, Oskar Fischinger, Joanna Quinn, William Kentridge… (and indeed many of the nominators).
Delightfully Phil Mulloy’s Goodbye Mr Christie ranked 90th and Don Hertzfeldt’s It’s Such a Beautiful Day came in at 16th position – two great examples of contemporary avant-garde (self-funded) animations getting an acknowledgment from the experts. Here’s hoping over the next few years more independent animators have the opportunity (and the funds) to make feature length work.
1. Alice, Jan Švankmajer (1988) – 12th in the poll
This work first revealed the creative potential of animation to reinvent the everyday when I first saw it as a child, and its uniqueness has stayed with me since. The dark imaginings that legendary Czech artist Švankmajer shares in this his first feature are truly outstanding.
2. It’s Such a Beautiful Day, Don Hertzfeldt (2013) – 16th in the poll
Hertzfeldt’s trilogy about Everyman, Bill is heart breaking in its frank depiction of the bleakness of Bill’s daily struggles and his battle with mental illness. Hertzfeldt uses simple hand drawn animation (which in the third chapter is combined with experimental optical effects) and an indifferent voiceover to produce a deeply moving film. Hertzfeldt is truly one of the best animators producing independent creative work today.
3. The Triplets of Belleville, Sylvain Chomet (2003) – 22nd in the poll
An exquisite film filled with the slapstick humour of Jacques Tati and tributes to the history of cinema. Unusual in both its lack of dialogue and that three elderly singing triplets and a loving grandmother are the protagonists of the piece.
4. The Adventures of Prince Achmed, Lotte Reiniger (1926) – 34th in the poll
As Jean Renoir said, ‘she was born with magic hands.’ An outstanding film painstakingly made by Reiniger in the distinctive silhouette animation technique that she developed in 1919. As well as being the oldest surviving animated feature, it’s one of the most enchanting.
5. Spirited Away, Hayao Miyazaki (2001) – 2nd in the poll
An amazing excursion into a spirit world populated with some amazing yokai characters, with a charming young heroine. This film deservedly earned prolific Japanese animation studio, Studio Ghibli an Academy Award.
6. The Fantastic Planet, René Laloux (1973) – 21st in the poll
A wonderfully surreal animation where humans are kept as domesticated creatures on an alien planet. The delicate visuals are arresting and bring to mind the worlds of Dali and Bosch in the otherworldly landscape Laloux creates.
7. Waking Life, Richard Linklater (2001) – 39th in the poll
A precursor to Linklater’s better-known film A Scanner Darkly, Waking Life was his first rotoscoped feature. Several animators worked on the piece, each bringing a different painterly style to the work, which perfectly enhances the ever-changing, dreamlike feel of this philosophical film.
8. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud (2007) – 25th in the poll
This monochrome movie beautifully recreates Satrapi’s graphic novel of the same name. It’s a coming of age tale where Satrapi reflects on her life and the trials she has faced as a free spirited young Iranian woman, and is an inspiring piece of cinema.
9. Animal Farm, John Halas and Joy Batchelor (1954) – 59th in the poll
Although the film features a cast of animals, it’s no cartoon for children. Based on George Orwell’s novel of the same name it portrays Orwell’s political allegory with exquisite imagery. A classic animation, even if the CIA funded it.
10. Fantasia, Disney animators (1940) – 13th in the poll
An early experiment by Disney fusing music, dance and animation to produce a landmark animated film. The sequences were each directed by a different animator giving them an individual and fantastical style.