Thursday, 20 June 2013

Scene 62: My Four Favourite Animated Films - that aren't Disney, Dreamworks or Pixar

Another list this week, and I've decided to look at feature length animated films. However I've also set myself a bit of challenge - I have to choose five films, that I really like, that haven't been produced by Pixar, Dreamworks or Disney! 

I decided to do this, firstly because I thought it would be nice to mention some alternatives to the big three animation companies, which let's be honest, do sort of corner the market on feature film animations, whether 2D or CGI.  

Secondly, over the last few months I've watched alot of reviews on Disney and Dreamworks films and its reminded me that though the films have managed to appeal to a wide audience they are still essentially family films.  

This means they can't deal with or depict certain things and certain issues, whilst films aimed at adults can - for example, Waltz with Bashir (2008) is about war and A Scanner Darkly (2006) is a sci-f thriller about drugs. 

1] Sita Sings the Blues (2008)

Animated films normally need vast amounts of people to make them, but not Sita Sings the Blues, which was animated by only one woman, Nina Paley.

Th film tells two stories. The first is from the great religious epic The Ramayana, and is about Sita, the incarnation of the Hindu goddess Lashkmi and her exile with her husband Rama and her abduction. The second story is an autobiographical one, about how the animator's marriage fell apart after he got a job in India. 

Sita's story is told in three different styles and through several different narrators. One of these versions is a series of colourful Flash animated musical numbers, using the songs of 1920's jazz singer Annette Hanshaw, and each song relates to a part in Sita's story and her feelings at the time. 

The film is very creative, and for a Western audience is a very entertaining and interesting introduction to the Ramayana. 

2] Persepolis (2007) 

The first time I watched this was late at night. It was in French and subtitled and I had to sit close to the television to make sure I caught all the words. I don't think I was quite older to fully understand it - the politics, the Marxism mentioned in it - but I loved it.

Persepolis is an autobiographical tale. Original a comic book, it is the story of one Iranian woman's life growing up - how the war and revolution in her country affects her, directly and indirectly, and how she grows and defines her own identity. 

The main character is fun, intelligent, strong and relatable, and the aanimation is lovely. It looks bold and simple, and yet there is a lot of detail in there. It is only black and white, but many tones are conveyed. It's really beautiful. 

3] Yellow Submarine (1968)

Yellow Submarine is an old favourite of mine. My father is a Beatles fan and I grew up watching this film in the same way I grew up with Disney films. 

Admittedly the story is nowhere near as epic or thought provoking as the previous two films I've looked at.  Its a simple tale of a bad guy taking over, and how one lone survivor finds a band of heroes (no pun intended), who must go on a journey full of wondrous adventures and eventually defeat the bad guy. 

However, what makes this special, other than nostalgia, is the creativity and the style of the film. The film is like one long series of set pieces or music videos for the Beatles music, using a variety of colourful, imaginative animation and mixed in from time to time with some photography and film. Look at the dull toned city during the song Elenor Rigby and then at the colourful, bold Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.  

Though the plot may be quite simple, there's a host of great characters and good dialogue the whole film is just an artistic 60's splash - an enjoyably musical and visual feature. 

4] Waking Life (2001)

This film is very strange. I watched this when after learning about rotoscoping, and wanted to see an example.

Waking Life, seems pretty much plot less, it is basically just a young man, walking around unsure whether he is awake or dreaming, and having a string of philosophical conversations with the people he meets. There is no resolution to the film, it is left very open-ended. The conversations and dialouge is thought provoking though, and it'll certainly leave you feeling intrigued. 

The  film's visuals are worth watching, and the film goes through a variety of rotoscoped styles - from more stylised and cartoony, to almost photographic. A mind-bending piece of cinema, visually and mentally. 

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