Animated films have been around almost as long as movies have been made, and in the last days of the 20th century we made the transition to computer animation. Hits like Toy Story, Shrek and A Bug’s Life set the stage for the movies to come, and while franchises like Toy Story have continued to be enormously successful years after the first film debuted, others have fallen through the cracks (and by “falling through the cracks” we mean “didn’t make a billion dollars”. Seriously.) Here at Turning Down The Suck we would like to honour some of our favourite computer-animated films you might not have seen because you were too busy lining up for the new Tron movie. Not that we blame you, because that's going to kick ass.
"Antz" was the second-ever computer animated feature film to be released in the United States, but somehow didn't gain even a fraction of the popularity of Toy Story. This may have something to do with the fact that Pixar released "A Bug's Life" a month after "Antz"; "A Bug's Life" did markedly better at the box office. Unlike the Pixar film, "Antz" was far more mature in tone and may have suffered financially for it. Woody Allen is the star and plays a neurotic and physically-inept 'ant' version of himself (seemingly ad-libbing most of his lines to hilarious effect); fans of Allen would agree his humor doesn't translate well to children. Woody is backed by an ensemble cast including Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Sylvester Stallone, Jennifer Lopez, Christopher Walken and many more. Add in homages to other grown-up films like "Pulp Fiction" and "Rambo" and you've got a recipe for a great film - for grown-ups. Overall, "Antz" is a great flick with lots of laughs and lots of big star voices. And for the record, "Antz" has a higher rating on Rotten Tomatoes than "A Bug's Life". Take that, Pixar.
DESPICABLE ME (2010)
I can't say tthis film didn't do well at the box office or didn't do well critically, because it certainly did. But considering it's most likely still new to people, I figured it's worth throwing on the list for those few people who didn't see it. "Despicable Me" is being hailed as one of the year's most likable family films, as it appeals to both audiences: nutty slapstick for the kids, and an intelligent examination of the post-modern family for the adults. It's quick, funny and original enough to keep both adults and children entertained. The ensemble cast of Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Russell Brand, Julie Andrews, Will Arnett and many more are the voices of the film, many trying different accents and voices you wouldn't usually hear from them. Toy Story 3's dominance at the box office may have caused this original story of orphans, world domination and evildoings to slip under your radar a bit, but I highly recommend you watch this one. It's the perfect balance of intelligence, heart, humor and RIDICULOUS IN YO FACE 3D.
MONSTER HOUSE (2006)
This one has to be credited for its imagination and straight-up balls. Before "Monster House" I don't think a family-oriented animated flick existed that set out to not only make the audience laugh and impress them with visuals, but also scare the hell out of kids. Beyond the impressive suspense scenes and creepy design, the film is hailed as a breakthrough in motion-capture techniques, as it's beautifully detailed and smooth, making for an immersive, engaging concoction of film entertainment. If a good laugh and technologically impressive animation aren't enough for you, it also features a rich and layered script that pleases both children and adults.
FLUSHED AWAY (2006)
This witty, clever and original film with the Aardman trademark design (Chicken Run, Wallace and Gromitt) had a bit more in it for adults but still gave plenty to the children. For the adults, it's all about dry British edge and intelligent dialogue, but the visual gags (particularly the singing slugs the main character encounters at various points on his adventure) were all for the kids. While most animated movies boast big-name, recognizable Hollywood (read: American) stars to get asses in seats, "Flushed Away" opts to cast less-famous character actors to bring their creations to life - including Bill Nighy, Ian McKellan (okay, he's kind of famous), Andy Serkis and Jean Reno (as a frog, of course). Hugh Jackman and Kate Winslet round out the cast as the lead characters, so I suppose there's still a bit of star power there - though I have no idea what Kate Winslet has been doing since she got naked in "Titanic". Then again, does it matter? I'm gonna go watch "Titanic".
KNICK KNACK (1989)
Though not a feature film, Knick Knack deserves mention due to being the first computer animated film that gave genuine life to characters, on top of a smooth and crisp animation that had never before been seen. This short was the last animation Pixar created before hitting the big time with the original "Toy Story". John Lasseter's work way back in 1989 was also named in Terry Gilliam's top 10 animated film's of all time. If Terry Gilliam approves, need I say more? I submit that I do not, so I won't.
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