Saturday, April 25, 2009

Top Ten Computer Animated Movies by Herb

*Posted July 3, 2008*

In honor of the latest Pixar movie WALL-E, I felt compelled to write the Top Ten Computer Animated Movies of all time. The pool is not as deep as you might think, with stinkers like Shark Tale, Meet the Robinsons, Monster House, and Chicken Little (I could go on and on) out there. And the future looks even worse with Space Chimps and the Space Insect movies coming out. It's no surprise that Pixar dominates this list with 7 of the 10 entries. Also included are some of my favorite Pixar short films. Hurry and watch them before Disney's lawyers remove them from YouTube.

10. VALIANT (2005, Vanguard Animation)

The story is decent enough (a carrier pigeon that wants to help the British war effort, but watch out for those evil German falcons), but the real appeal is that it's the first British CG Film. And because the Brits made it, it's full of quirky English humor and great voice acting. The best part is Ricky Gervais as the fat pigeon.

9. RATATOUILLE (2007, Pixar)

The second CG effort from director Brad Bird, this movie is still good, but fails to reach that high level of Pixar quality. I'm not sure why that is. The rat and human main characters work well enough, the story is just whimsical enough to entertain you, and the visuals are stunning. But every time I watch it, I just feel like it falls short. What's the message? Anyone can do anything so follow your dreams? Pretty vague. Still a wonderful movie, maybe it's just because I hate the French.

8. TOY STORY 2 (1999, Pixar)

How rare it is that we find a sequel that doesn't suck. Thankfully, they didn't do a rehash of the first plot and have some other toy introduced to Andy who steals the affection away from Buzz and Woody. This time we get an evil toy collector, the lure of being a valuable, immortal collector's item, and a hell of an opening sequence with the Buzz Lightyear TV show. Toy Story 3 is now in development, but orginal 1 and 2 director John Lasseter will not be on board.

7. ANTZ (1998, Dreamworks SKG)

Dreamworks first stab at the CG animation genre is a very good one. Antz stars the voice of Woody Allen as a neurotic ant that doesn't feel like going along with the rest of the colony, so he kinda kidnaps the princess (Sharon Stone) and goes off on a little adventure. But watch out, because General Gene Hackman has plans to do away with the rest of the colony unless Allen, Stone, Sly Stallone, and J-Lo stop him. Bonus points for insectopia (a overflowing trash can) and scene stealer Christopher Walken.

Chills in your belly moment: Zee jumping from one shoe to the other

6. MONSTERS, INC (2001, Pixar)

This is probably the first Pixar movie that successfully pulls on the heartstrings of the audience. Toy Story 1 and 2 came close, but the relationship between Boo and Sully is heartwarming while they are together, then heart breaking when they say goodbye, BUT THEN HEARTWARMING AGAIN WHEN THEY PUT THE DOOR BACK TOGETHER AND HE GOES THROUGH AND SHE SAYS "KITTY!" Aside from that, an awesome premise and plot, Billy Crystal is hilarious, and the visuals improved dramatically from the past (come on, guys, they solved FUR).

Chills in your belly moment: Boo and Sully saying goodbye

5. SHREK (2001, Dreamworks SKG)

Yes, the soundtrack now makes Shrek a little bit dated, but this was by far the best (and really the only good) entry in the Shrek series. Shrek himself is probably the worst part of the movie (don't you hate the point in all his movies when he screams his angry, hurt speech against whoever hurts his feelings (Fiona, Artie, etc.)). In this movie, the send up of Robin Hood, Pinocchio, and a lot of other fairy tale characters is fresh and funny, and the twist of Fiona turning into an ogre is a courageous one. And it's impressive that for 2001, Shrek probably has the most realistic looking humans to date. Pixar stays away from that territory on purpose because they enjoy the caricatured look of the Incredibles, Ratatouille, and WALL-E, but the whole environment (people, grass, trees, fire, lava) looks picture perfect. The best character is John Lithgow's Lord Farquad, especially when he rips off the Gingerbread Man's legs during interrogation. Overall, a fun-filled fairy tale adventure.

Chills in your belly moment: Uh, nope...

4. WALL-E (2008, Pixar)

The review above tells the story. It's better than Shrek because it shows us how less talking can actually be more entertaining for the movie. The WALL-E/EVE relationship is more moving than Shrek/Fiona (Seriously, who could love an ogre?!?). But it still doesn't have whatever that one thing is to put it up on the CG Mount Rushmore with the following three greats.

Chills in your belly moment: WALL-E and EVE touching hands finally.

3. TOY STORY (1995, Pixar)

The granddaddy of them all, Toy Story is the first full length computer animated film, and they made sure they hit the story out of the ballpark. A basic yet perfect premise (toys are alive!) that hits on themes of loneliness, rejection, friendship, and all that emotional stuff, Tom Hanks and Tim Allen (especially Tim Allen) are perfectly cast. "You got a friend in me" is a little corny, but it works with the movie. That one thing that it has: originality. For the past couple decades, Disney cartoons thought that they had to be sweeping period pieces (Mulan, Aladdin, Pocahontas) or animals talking (Ducktales: the Movie, a Goofy Movie, the Lion King, etc.). Toy Story turned all that around with a modern tale set in a modern setting that still holds on to that playfulness and imagination.

Chills in your belly moment: The end when they detach from the rocket and soar towards the car.

2. THE INCREDIBLES (2004, Pixar)

Probably the best looking CG film ever. There are a couple of really good environment shots (him flying towards the Island, all of them flying towards the city) and the caricature look is a lot of fun (plus they solved CLOTHES). The premise sounds like something that would lure a kid into a theater. "A superhero has a midlife crisis! How funny!" But the themes are actually a lot more adult than that. The critics love talking about the sobering speech Mama Incredible gives to the kids about the bad guys wanting to kill them, but they also handle infidelity, unhappiness, and envy. The Incredibles is the perfect example of an animated movie that doesn't feel like it's animated. The 'it' thing that this movie has: I dunno, something about it's 'wow' factor.

Chills in your belly moment: Mama Incredible in the plane with the rockets homing in on them.

1. FINDING NEMO (2003, Pixar)

Emotion. That sums it up. Think about it, though. Albert Brooks as Marlin is not very likeable. Gay Ellen DeGeneres is sometimes pretty grating and irritating as Dory. Yet, I don't know how to explain it, you still get caught up in their adventure and their relentless pursuit of loser Nemo. The underwater is perfectly designed for an incredible fantasy setting (they solved WATER). The music is a big reason why the scenes often convey the emotion that they are aiming for. Of course it has its little gags like the Shark Support Group the Aquarium initiation scene, but the main beef of the story is that Marlin and Dory are constantly getting closer and closer to their goal, and the payoff at the end is worth it. The fish fighting against the net is a little unbelievable (and probably offensive to Deadliest Catch watchers), but that's a minor complaint in an overall wonderful story.

Chills in your belly moment: What do you think, retard? It's Nemo and Marlin's reunion.

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