"Drive" novelist James Sallis - Off-Ramp 7-2-11

Charles Solomon on 25 animated films that didn't get enough respect

Mercer 19115

Courtesy Walt Disney Pictures

Scene from 101 Dalmations

Times' film critic Richard Corliss recently posted his list of the "All-Time 25 Best Animated Films." Off-Ramp animation expert Charles Solomon says it's pretty awful.

Lists of the "Top 10 This" or the "Fifty Greatest That" usually tell you more about the quirks of the author's taste than they do about the subject. But Richard Corliss' "All-Time 25 Best Animated Films" is such a wrong-headed muddle, Wylie Coyote could drop an anvil on it and not get hurt.

Speaking of which, "The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie" might be nod to the great Warner's cartoons, but cutting shorts together doesn't make a coherent feature, any more than stacking wrist watches makes Big Ben. And does Corliss really believe "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut" is the sixth-greatest animated feature ever made?

It's not surprising that Disney dominates the list with seven entries and that Pixar gets another four, but while "Lady and the Tramp" is a good film, Corliss says it's better than "101 Dalmations" and "Bambi," which has made millions of kids and adults weep, and was reportedly Walt's favorite Disney feature.

And what about "Fantasia," Disney's greatest experiment with animation that couldn't be matched today, even if you spent a hundred times its two-and-a-quarter-million dollar budget? Corliss doesn't even put it on the list.

Among recent Disney features, "Tangled" wasn't a bad film, but it hardly ranks above "Aladdin," "Lilo" and "Stitch," or "Beauty and the Beast," which was the first animated feature ever nominated for the Best Picture Oscar.

Despite the harsh reviews of "Cars 2," Pixar hasn't made a bad film, but how could Corliss leave out the poignant "Toy Story 2," the first CG film to make audiences cry? Or "The Incredibles," which revolutionized the animation of human characters in CG ... not to mention the charms of "Monsters, Inc.", and "Ratatouille."

DreamWorks' "Kung Fu Panda" was good, but "How to Train Your Dragon" was better, with more subtly animated characters, a stronger story, and sweeping cinematography that used the potential of 3-D. And why include "Happy Feet" with its dreary characters, rambling story and inept motion capture that failed to preserve the magic of Savion Glover's tap dancing?

Corliss includes only two stop motion films: the very funny "Wallis and Gromit" in the "Curse of the Were-Rabbit," and the arch, fey "Fantastic Mr. Fox," which may have pleased fans of "auteur" Wes Anderson, but contributed little to the art of animation. The puppets were less expressive and the animation less vivid than "Corpse Bride" or "The Nightmare Before Christmas," not to mention Jiri Tranka's balletic "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

The three Japanese features on Corliss' list, "Spirited Away," "Paprika," and "Akira" are solid, obvious choices, but how can he ignore the charm of "My Neighbor Totoro" and "Kiki's Delivery Service," the power of "Princess Mononoke;" the heartbreaking intensity of "Grave of the Fireflies," the haunting beauty of "Millenium Actress," and the influential cyberpunk imagery of "Ghost in the Shell?"

I know I said I don't believe in lists like these, but I have come up with a list of animated features Corliss left out. Here it is (in no order other than alphabetical):

101 Dalmatians

Aladdin

Allegro Non Troppo

Bambi

Beauty and the Beast

Corpse Bride

Fantasia

Ghost in the Shell

Grave of the Fireflies

How to Train Your Dragon

Ice Age

Kiki’s Delivery Service

Lilo and Stitch

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Millenium Actress

Monsters, Inc.

My Neighbor Totoro

Nightmare Before Christmas

Princess Mononoke

Ratatouille

Summer Wars

The Incredibles

The Iron Giant

The White Mare’s Son

Toy Story 2


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