October 19th, 2010 in Best of, Entertainment, Fun Stuff
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By Kate Willson
It should come as no surprise that Disney pretty much has the market cornered on animated classics. Even those films produced in-house at Pixar, though far superior to concurrent Disney product, were released by Disney in a distribution deal, and now that the two companies have joined, the home of Mickey Mouse is stronger than ever. But Disney's not the only animated game in town, and there have been some fantastic kids' movies produced at other studios. The movies below represent the best of the best. If you're looking to expand your collection or just prepare for starting a family, these are the children's movies you should own.
- The Iron Giant: Directed by Brad Bird, who would go on to create films for Pixar, this 1999 traditionally animated film is one of the most moving ever made. The story revolves around a young boy in 1957 who befriends a giant robot that comes under government scrutiny as a result of Cold War tensions. Despite its politically charged subtext, it's a thrilling and effective movie for kids as it tells a tale of good and evil, and of love and sacrifice. Unfairly overlooked when it came out, it's gained a cult following in the past decade.
- Sleeping Beauty: One of Disney's most beloved fairy tale adaptations, this 1959 film was the last fairy tale the studio made before Walt Disney's death. (They didn't return to the format until 1989.) The ornate and gorgeously styled backgrounds made it one of the more artistically stunning kids' movies ever made, and the story couldn't be more classic. Plus Maleficent remains one the creepiest villains they've ever had.
- The Lion King: This was the bookend to Disney's latter-day renaissance that began with The Little Mermaid. The music, story (a reworking of Hamlet), and the characters are flat-out fantastic, and they all helped the film become the highest-grossing traditionally animated (two-dimensional) film of all time. It's pure, powerful entertainment from start to finish, thanks in large part to numbers like "Circle of Life" and "Hakuna Matata."
- Toy Story: It's tough to pick just one entry in the franchise, so we'll go with the one that started it all. In addition to being the first feature film done entirely in CGI, the movie was also the calling card for Pixar. It set the tone for the movies to come: funny, smart, honest, and unwilling to pander for cheap or blue laughs. Toy Story is a kids' film that can be enjoyed by adults not because of its vaguely suggestive content, but because it's just that entertaining.
- Kung Fu Panda: This DreamWorks Animation offering is surprisingly good, considering that DWA's other features include the desperate and unfunny Shrek films. Jack Black is wonderful as the voice of Po, a portly panda who dreams of being a kung fu warrior and works to overcome struggle and save his village. Cute without being dumb, and funny without being cruel, it's an encouraging film for kids that packs a positive message of determination and empowerment.
- Finding Nemo: Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneres are perfectly cast in this Pixar film that's all about love and family. The titular Nemo, a clownfish with a busted fin, spends most of the film away from his dad (Brooks) after being captured by a scuba diver. Dad sets out to find the son, and although the journey of self-discovery and the process of letting go are a bit predictable, the story is told with such charm and talent that it's impossible not to love it.
- The Little Mermaid: The film that breathed new life into Disney (as seen in the documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty), The Little Mermaid is one of the best animated entertainments of the past 50 years. Unforgettable songs, a killer villain, and animation techniques that would never be used again all make this one of the most watchable and pleasing animated children's films ever made.
- Beauty and the Beast: Until 2009's Up, when the field was widened, Beauty and the Beast was the only animated feature ever nominated for an Oscar for best picture. The songs came from Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, who also did the music for The Little Mermaid, so it's not surprising that the film is packed with show-stoppers and catchy melodies that complement its enjoyable characters. Always worth watching.
- Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit: Wallace and his dog, Gromit, finally got their own feature in 2005, and this comedic ode to classic monster movies is a must for children. Quickly paced and with an emphasis on silliness instead of scares, it's a fantastic and well-made film. Easily one of the best stop-motion movies ever made.
- The Incredibles: One of the most energetic animated films of all time — the action scenes stay breathless even on repeat viewings — The Incredibles is a glorious mix of modern-day family dynamics and old-school design and flair. A humorous and heartfelt story about the bonds of family, plus some of the most enjoyable characters Pixar's dreamed up. What's not to like?