It’s that time of year, readers. Christmas is just around the corner and, whether or not you’ve spent a ton of money Christmas shopping, I’m thoroughly confident the same question still sits in everyone’s minds: what’s the perfect gift for someone like me? Specifically, what is the perfect gift for someone who is a huge fan of animation? What gift should you give to the person who spends the better part of their time off watching Disney, Pixar, and/or DreamWorks films on repeat or who can be seen walking out of a Barnes and Noble with a stack of art books? What is the perfect gift for an artist who wants to break into the industry?
Thankfully for you and/or that special someone in your life, there exists a community of fellow animation fans who might help you out with exactly that. For the first time ever, I and a few Rotowriters emerge from behind the curtain to give you recommendations for last-minute Christmas gifts that are sure to bring joy to any animation super fan.
Brandon Smith recommends:
The Collected Works of Hayao Miyazaki (Amazon)
There are few animation greats who have commanded a wide influence on the worldwide animation community like Hayao Miyazaki. This Amazon-exclusive Blu-ray set contains all of Hayao’s animation work throughout his entire career, from his earliest work (sans Future Boy Conan) to his final film The Wind Rises. The set also includes The Great Dichotomy: Looking at the Works of Hayao Miyazaki, a book featuring selected notes and proposals for each of Hayao’s films.
The price is rather steep ($184.99), but for those who can afford it this is the perfect way to gain access to the library of one of animation’s living legends.
The Secret of NIMH on Blu-ray (Amazon)
Speaking of animation legends, Don Bluth and Gary Goldman have added their voices to the impassioned movement to revive hand-drawn animation with their crowdfunded campaign for Dragon’s Lair: The Movie. While I could suggest any number of films made by Don, I will simply recommend that one of my favorite Don Bluth films: The Secret of NIMH.
Perhaps more so than any other film on his resume, The Secret of NIMH cemented Don’s status as the true successor to the Nine Old Men-style of hand-drawn animation and visual storytelling. Simply put, there isn’t a thing about The Secret of NIMH that doesn’t command multiple rewatching. From its dark storyline to its engaging characters to Don’s use of color and impressionistic backgrounds, The Secret of NIMH marked an evolution of the hand-drawn medium in a fashion that has rarely (if ever) been done since.
For those reasons, the film stands as not only the perfect gift for the hardcore Don Bluth/animation fan, but also for newcomers looking for the perfect entry point ($7-$8 on Amazon).
You can’t quite think about the holidays without thinking about Peanuts. While I could very well fill this entire section with nothing but Peanuts, this would only be tedious as I’ve already done that. So I’m going to recommend instead two of the many, many Peanuts DVD collections.
Peanuts Deluxe Collection is essentially a best-of compilation of Peanuts specials, ranging from classics like It’s the Great Pumpkin and A Charlie Brown Christmas to lesser-known greats like You’re Not Elected and Be My Valentine. It’s not cheap ($52.99), but if you’re introducing somebody to Peanuts for the first time you can’t go wrong.
Snoopy’s Holiday Collection features three other Peanuts Christmas specials that you probably haven’t heard of before (I Want a Dog For Christmas, Charlie Brown, Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tales and Happiness is…Peanuts: Snow Days). If you couldn’t get enough of the 1965 Mendelson/Melendez special, then this may whet your appetite ($9.96).
Three Film LAIKA Collection on DVD/Blu-Ray (Amazon)
LAIKA Entertainment is celebrating its tenth anniversary as the stop-motion animation company that can. Fans of their work can also celebrate it by picking this three-disc collectors set containing the first three films (Coraline, ParaNorman, and The Boxtrolls). Each film comes with their respective set of features and extras, including digital copy codes, commentaries, animatics, deleted scenes and more. At $29.89, this makes for a perfect gift for fans and newcomers to LAIKA, as well as any stop-motion fan looking for their Christmas gift.
The Nine Old Men: Lessons, Techniques, and Inspiration from Disney’s Great Animators (Amazon)
This one for the all of the animation students out there. From Focal Press, Andreas Deja lays down a comprehensive guide to never-before-seen techniques, tricks, drawings, and trade secrets utilized by the legendary Nine Old Men of Disney’s golden era of animation. It works both as a reference guide and handy inspiration for anyone learning the trade ($36.86 on Amazon).
If you like a good read this holiday, why not take a dive into the book series that spawned one of today’s most popular animated franchises. From 2003 to 2015, Cressida Cowell told the story of Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III and his garden dragon Toothless over the span of 12 books and 12 years. While notably a different story from its animated counterpart, the novels tell a tale that is no less engrossing and worth following from beginning to end. On Amazon, you can start from book 1 or get the paperback gift set featuring books 1-11.
Windsor McCay: The Complete Little Nemo (Amazon)
Windsor McCay is considered by many to be one of the earliest pioneers in animation and cartooning, and nowhere is this more evident than with his signature creation Little Nemo in Slumberland. Known for its Art Nouveau style and mind-blowing experimentation with art, color, panel size and layout, Windsor utilized these unique storytelling tools and his thorough understanding of dream psychology of craft a unforgettable narrative that’s inspired generations of writers, artists, and even filmmakers.
The only downside is that much of McCay’s illustrated work – despite being in public domain – is fairly difficult to get a hold of. Thus, the best option for those who want to experience his work is Windsor McCay: The Complete Little Nemo. Collecting all 549 strips (or ‘episodes’, as they’re called), the two-volume set collects the entirety of the comic strip’s original run in one single tome and a novel that examines Windsor’s contribution to the US entertainment industry in the other. A must-own if you can afford it ($131.83).
The Art of Rise of the Guardians (Amazon)
Art books for animated movies have existed for as long as their have been animated movies. While I could very easily fill this section with nothing but art books, I will instead recommend one of my favorites.
Rise of the Guardians is one of my favorite DreamWorks Animation movies. Asides from having a solid plot and a unique spin on worldly holiday myths, it was simply beautiful to look at. That alone makes the art book stand out. Sure, it solidly fills in the requisite demands of any ‘art of’ book (early development sketches, evolution of the story and visuals, commentary from producers and directors, etc), but the real treat of this art book is getting to look at all of the amazing concept art and visual pieces crafted for this film. The film – if anything – benefited from having its artists craft a visual style that added to the etheral fantasy and mythology of the overall story ($29.69 on Amazon).
Funko POP! Vinyl Figures (Barnes & Noble)
Funko POP! figures are currently one of the hottest items in geek culture, with broad appeal for all ages. Luckily for animation fans, they haven’t limited themselves to just geek properties. They also have multiple collections based on your favorite animated films and franchises. Ranging from their giant POP! Disney line to smaller collections based on films like Despicable Me and How to Train Your Dragon 2 and TV shows like Adventure Time and Regular Show. There’s something for everyone and they are also relatively inexpensive, so you can buy a few to give to your friends.
Clothing from WeLoveFine.com
WeLoveFine is an online retailer created by fans and for fans. If you have a particular fandom that you are a part of, WeLoveFine is the perfect place to get fan-made items tailored for the specific fandom. In the case of animation, the store has a lot of cool pieces based on your favorite animation properties, including fantastic clothing lines based on How to Train Your Dragon and Adventure Time.
Admittedly, this is a bit on the adult side, but this is still worth a recommendation. On the Welovefine website right now are three How to Train Your Dragon-themed pint glasses, all boasting cool designs and names like the Stoick Slammer and the Night Fury Plasma Balst. A great gift for the Dragons fan of appropriate drinking age.
Jonathan J. North recommends:
Over the Garden Wall on DVD (Amazon)
If you’re looking for a great gift for the TV animation fan in your life, look no further than Cartoon Network’s groundbreaking miniseries, Over The Garden Wall on DVD. This series follows the adventures of two half-brothers lost in the forest. You’d think that this sounds like territory covered in plenty of other media, but the forest in Over The Garden Wall is unlike any forest you’ve ever seen. It’s full of creatures and characters reminiscent of early American folklore, music from a variety of genres popular in the late 1800’s early 1900’s, and a story that will keep you on the edge of your seat the entire time. If you’ve never seen Over The Garden Wall, then get this as a gift for yourself, and if you have seen it, get it for someone you love. Get two copies! One for you, and one for them! You will not regret it.
Morgan Stradling recommends:
Pinocchio: The Making of the Disney Epic (Amazon | Book Depository)
Every time prolific film history J.B. Kaufman releases a book, I’m always the first in line to get it because his books are always stellar. His newest release, Pinocchio: The Making of the Disney Epic, covers the making of one of Walt Disney’s greatest animation masterpieces Pinocchio and it does not disappoint. The book includes extensive research, interviews, concept art, and production art from the film’s conception to its theatrical release. If you’ve ever been interested in the making of this iconic film, then this is the only resource you’ll ever need. It’s a must own for any animation or Disney fan.
Liana Hee Art Prints (Etsy)
There are a lot of artists who I admire and have heart eyes for their work, but one lady whose work particularly catches my eye is Liana Hee. Liana works for Nickelodeon Animation Studio and, much like another favorite artist of mine, Brittney Lee, has a fascination with mermaids. She has quite a few lovely prints to chose from, but her mermaid ones are what most catch my eye right now. Perfect to add a pop of color in a bathroom, nursery, or office!
Max den Hartog recommends:
The Art of The Peanuts Movie (Amazon | Book Depository)
Books are always great now that it’s (in most places) colder outside and what is a better fit with the holiday season than Peanuts right? It doesn’t really matter if you loved or hated Blue Sky’s take on Schulz’s iconic Peanuts characters, the art book for the film is awesome and definitely a must-have for this holiday season! It’s one of the better art books released this year and it gives you a very insightful look into the making of this film and how Blue Sky Studios transformed these classic 2D characters into a CG world, from the design to the animation to the story.
(NOTE: This article will be updated with new gift recommendations in the coming hours, so stay tuned for more cool items to pop up)
On behalf of everyone here at Rotoscopers, I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas!
What do you think? If you have any ideas for last-minute gifts, put them in the comment section below and they might be included in the article!
(Featured image by Ryan Campbell)