30-Day Film Challenge: Your Favorite Animated or Children's Film

Day 24
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The Incredibles (2004) by Shawn Bourdo

The suggestion of the title for today's pic assumes that my animated film might be analagous to a children's film. And yet, it's hard to imagine picking an animated film that one would strictly classify as a children's film to be my favorite. Is someone going to pick A Extremely Goofy Movie over Bambi? One is aimed strictly at the younger audience and the other Disney film contains a storyline that would easily fit under best drama if the characters weren't furry woodland creatures.

My love of animated features comes from all the different directions that directors have taken them over the years. If you say you're a fan of animated films - I'll say, "who isn't?" They come in all flavors - comedies, dramas, sci-fi, and even horror. So, going through my mental Rolodex of films it was easy to stop on some Japanese classics like anything from Miyazaki like My Neighbor Totoro or Sprited Away. Or other Anime classics like Akira or Ghost In The Shell. But while those are fashionable pics - my love is much closer to home. If I was going to pick any non-Pixar title, it would be the most Pixar-ish non-Pixar title ever, The Iron Giant. But instead I'm limiting myself to the Pixar output - they've had the best animated track record over the past decade plus. I've watched Toy Story the most, I've been moved to tears the most at Toy Story 3 or Up and maybe laughed the most at Monsters, Inc. or Wall-E. But the favorite one that I can watch over and over is easily The Incredibles.

This 2004 film took on multiple genres - spoofing Bond films, the Fantastic Four, the Watchmen, and even the style of 1960s films - all the while telling a great story. The Pixar films succeed because they have good stories as their base. The story revolves around the family. The marriage of Bob and Helen is one of the more believable ones on film in the last decade. Craig T. Nelson and Holly Hunter have a great chemistry. Throw in a story that immediately has history. Pixar has a house style that quickly creates a world that you feel like you've known for years. The same happens in Up and Cars and even Wall-E; there's a feeling that you are up to speed with a long history of the family in just a short period of time. This universe is populated with some really memorable supporting characters like Buddy, Frozone, and Edna. There's never a need to talk the story down to anyone - twists aren't explained fully in case a little one doesn't get it. Bob's struggle to raise his family and still recapture the spirit of his youth isn't a story that appeals to a seven-year-old - it's a story that this 43-year-old can get into. And that's why I can keep coming back to this animated film for years. When danger calls, help is on the way.

Pinocchio (1940) by Dusty Somers

For me, Pinocchio is the crown jewel of Disney animation, featuring what might be the greatest hand-drawn animation sequence in any feature film. I enjoyed the film as a child, but it never was one of my favorites. I preferred Alice in Wonderland or Beauty and the Beast. Looking at it now, I'm not sure if it's even fair to call it a children's film, as it's almost guaranteed to result in night terrors for the average kid.

But it's the film's handling of mature subject matter and the very real threats that face Pinocchio after he comes to life and makes a litany of bad decisions that partly make Pinocchio such a compelling film. The admittedly terrifying Pleasure Island sequence carries with it intense moral weight, making Pinocchio's salvation and eventual reunion with Geppetto all the more meaningful.

And then there's the stunning belly-of-the-whale sequence, which would be enough on its own to qualify the film for instant classic status. Disney made a host of gorgeously animated films during its first few decades of feature filmmaking, but Pinocchio gets my vote for the greatest.

Beauty and the Beast (1991) by Amanda Salazar

There are so many brilliant animated and children's films to choose from, so I decided to think back to the film that I truly loved to watch over and over, and that film was Disney's Beauty and the Beast. Belle is a young French girl whose father is imprisoned by the Beast in his castle. She offers herself to him for his life and ends up learning to love the Beast, who actually is a prince who has been trapped in his state until he finds true love.

Very simply, the story reminds us not to judge by appearances and to love all creatures. In true Disney fashion, the minor characters steal the show in some of the best musical numbers, like "Be Our Guest" and "Beauty and The Beast."  From the music to the animation, this film has some of the most breathtaking scenes, proving that even a children's film can be considered art. At times, "Beauty and the Beast" is the scariest and also sweetest film, with dark scenes of the castle and in the rain and also fun, upbeat sequences in the kitchen.

This was a film that I could watch endlessly, always wanting to be Belle, in her beautiful yellow gown and still to this day I get the same giddy glow as the first time.

Fantasia (1940) by El Bicho

This was an easy one for me. Although a fan of a great many animated films, nothing has fascinated me as much as Walt Disney's Fantasia. Originally it was intended to be an on-going project where segments would be replaced by new material upon each release; however, its box-office failure put the kibosh on that. Thanks for nothing, moviegoers of 1940!

One definition of the word "fantasia" is "a free musical composition structured according to the composer's fancy" and that is apropos for Fantasia which showcases unfettered imaginations rarely seen in animated feature films.  Performed by conductor Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra, there are three types of music pieces included: the kind that tells a definite story, the kind that has no specific plot but does paint pictures, and music for its own sake. The works of composers such as Tchaikovsky, Igor Stravinsky, and Beethoven are paired with drawings of dancing woodland creatures, the Earth's beginning, and Greek mythology.  There's also a certain familar mouse dreaming about being a great sorcerer, whose segment was intended to be a Silly Symphony until its enormous production costs led to an entire feature needing to be developed in order make a profit.

For me, it doesn't get better than Fantasia. I've seen it numerous times over the years and never tire of it. Can't imagine I ever will.

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