Once again, we are on the cusp of a momentous holiday celebration! A chance to be with our family members and loved ones and, most importantly, express to them how much they mean to us in our lives. For some of us, that also means a chance to give the animation fan in our lives only the very best gifts made for them.
Which is where we step in. If you have yet to decide what gift to give that person and you want some quick-to-order suggestion on Christmas Eve, allow me and a selection of fellow RotoReaders (and a couple of our RotoWriters) to draft up a comprehensive list the best gifts to buy for the animation addict in any category.
NOTE: Once more, we are using Amazon as our go-to website for these gift suggestions. Do be warned though that many of these gifts are expected to arrive after Christmas Day (provided you don’t have their Prime service), so don’t be afraid to look elsewhere if you want those gifts sent to you before then.
Brandon Smith recommends:
Kubo and the Two Strings on Blu-Ray and DVD
I can’t remember his exact words, but Mason Smith referred to this movie in its Animation Addicts episode as something like ‘an animation lover’s movie’, and that’s true. With Kubo and the Two Strings, fans of the medium are given the stop-motion equivalent of a fulfilling (and properly filling) Thanksgiving/Christmas dinner. Great vocal performances, strong direction, and well-executed dramatic beats are topped off with awe-inspiring visuals and some of the best (animated) action sequences I’ve seen this year. In short, it’s LAIKA’s most accomplished film yet, and one of the most perfect movie gifts for animation lovers, LAIKA fans, and stop-motion aficionados alike.
On it’s own, you can get this for a sensible $19.96, or you can buy it as part of the newly-released Ultimate Laika Collection ($44.75).
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You: Complete Series on DVD
Okay, it’s a bit of a random choice, but hear me out. One of the bigger news stories on our website was the reveal that Scooby-Doo would make his feature animation debut in 2018 with S.C.O.O.B., a movie that’s also set to kick off a shred universe of animated films based on Hanna-Barbera properties. So, I figured that it wouldn’t hurt for some of us to revisit the 1969 TV series in the best way possible.
This DVD set, cleverly shaped like the gang’s ‘Mystery Machine’ car, collects all 41 episodes of the original series. That’s 15+ hours of what some may consider to be cherished memories of watching the Scooby Gang investigate and solve all sorts of spooky mysteries, with a stacked sandwich or two on the side. You also get with it a treasure trove of special features including featurettes, interviews and perspectives from the original voice cast, a look into how the series was created, and more.
Be warned, though. It’s been some time since the collection was released (2012 was the original street date), so the asking prices aren’t cheap. The lowest you can get if you buy it new is $73.99, and used copies begin with prices near $110 and they sky-rocket from there.
Kung Fu Panda: 3-Movie Collection on DVD
The Kung Fu Panda franchise might have been planned as six films (and who knows what will happen under Comcast), but there’s no arguing that the first three make for a pretty complete and wholly compelling saga on their own.
Now that Kung Fu Panda 3 has capped off the trilogy in pitch-perfect fashion, now is the best time to experience all three films together as a complete whole with this DVD collection. Relive what may be considered one of the great animated film trilogies of all time as it tells the story of Po, a fanboy panda who discovers his calling to become the hero he was meant to be.
Almost a steal at $37.20, you can also get this with the Kung Fu Panda Holiday DVD for a total price of $40.94 if you like your Kung Fu Panda with some timely holiday cheer.
DuckTales Volume 1 2 & 3: The Complete Collection on DVD
Before you ask: no, this isn’t a complete series collection because one does not exist (yet). These three volumes together only collect the pilot episode and 70 out of the 100 episodes of the original series. Still, much like the Scooby-Doo DVD, that should still be plenty of great memories for those who grew up watching the adventures of Scrooge McDuck and his crew. At a pricey yet decent $48.95, it’s highly recommended for those looking to get familiar with these characters before the 2017 Disney XD reboot.
The Art of Kubo and the Two Strings (Amazon)
This was probably a predictable choice, given what came first in the previous category, but if you loved the movie, I can’t stress this enough: you need to get the art book. Like other art books, it takes you through the process of making the film and the world and the characters who inhabit it. There’s more of a focus on the art than the process, really, but you probably won’t mind as the art is gorgeous. Aficionados of Japanese culture will especially love the parts detailing the art team’s research into ancient Japanese art styles, with Kiyoshi Saito’s woodblock prints used as examples.
For $30.71, You will get the most for your money if you loved the movie, and it’ll definitely be a must-have for the LAIKA fan in your life.
The Art of Inside Out (Amazon)
There are a lot of art books out there, and it would be easy to just do a list of nothing but art books. But here, I really wanted to highlight art books that highlight the production process in really unique ways. The Art of Inside Out is one of those books.
You can decide how you feel about the fact that the book contains very little actual text asides from the forward and introduction, or the fact there’s no chapters or date markings to help guide you through the making a film like most art books. The decision to let the art speak for itself has been met with mixed reception, but I personally find it a brave decision on the part of the film’s creative team. The fact that they were proud enough of their artists’ work to just let the artbook be one big showcase is an exemplary level of boldness, matched only be the film’s subject matter.
If you’re truly ready from something out-of-the-box for an animation art book, $29.04 is not a bad deal.
The Art of How To Train Your Dragon 2 (Amazon)
Veering from the other direction of The Art of Inside Out, The Art of How to Train Your Dragon 2 is one of the best ‘nitty-gritty minutia’ art books out there. It’s not surprising that one of the most beautifully animated films of 2014 got an art book that dedicates as much page time to the details of the world and it’s various environs as it does to the characters and plot elements that are all covered in a strictly chronological order.
It’s easy to recommend this book for Dragons fans (because why not), but at $29.99, it’s also essential reading for animation lovers.
How to Write for Animation by Jeffery Scott (Amazon)
Speaking of essential reading, here’s a book that’s super-essential for anyone who wants to break into the industry as a screenwriter. Jeffery Scott’s book How to Write for Animation was published way back in 2003, but the tips, tricks, and lessons offered up in the book are just as valuable today. Forwarded by Hanna-Barbera co-founder Joe Barbera – who passed away three years after the book’s publication – Jeffery Scott gives readers a detailed step-by-step of how a screenplay for animation is constructed, from outline to treatment to final draft. Available at prices ranging from $8 to $21, this is a must-have if you are hungry for a rare look inside an underrated piece of the animation process.
Future Quest from DC Comics
You’ve seen me rave about this series before, so I’ll do it again. Future Quest is not only one of the best ‘licensed’ comic books ever published, but it’s also some of the best comics being published right now.
Essentially, the premise is: what if all of Hanna-Barbera’s action characters teamed up to battle an intergalactic threat. It may sound like the pipe dream of a kid from the 60’s who watched Jonny Quest and Space Ghost all afternoon, but it’s due to the skill and confidence of writer Jeff Parker and artist Evan Shaner (along with a number of contributors) that this premise is instead spun into a rollicking, galexy-spanning adventure book that feels both retro and modern at the same time. Basically, if JJ Abrams wrote and directed an animated movie featuring these characters, this is what it would look and feel like.
The first collected volume (issues #1-6) of this series doesn’t arrive until February 21, 2017. The single issues of this series (#1-7) are available at you local comic store and on digital platforms for $3.99 each ($27.93 total).
Space Ghost mini-series from DC Comics (Amazon)
If you’re like me and you grew up only knowing Space Ghost as a disgruntled late-night show host, then definitely buy this book. In 2005, writer Joe Kelly (one half of Man of Action) and renowed comic artist Ariel Olivetti took a stab at the titular character as a straight-up cosmic superhero (you might say he’s Green Lantern with a cape) in a six-issue miniseries. The result is a fun and beautifully-illustrated origin tale that basically amounts to a Batman: Year One-style take on the character. It’s darker than the cartoons that inspired it, but no less engrossing if you’re are willing to give it a go. If you have a Hanna-Barbera fan in your life or you are slightly intrigued by the prospect of a ‘dark’ Space Ghost story, $12.99 is yet another great steal.
Mickey Mouse: Timeless Tales – Vol.1 from IDW Publishing (Amazon)
Last year, Disney and IDW Publishing teamed up to translate and publish Italian comics featuring classic Disney characters in a run of ongoing titles. Many of these stories – published in a digest magazine titled Topolino (Italian name for Mickey Mouse) – cast these characters in storylines and genres that you wouldn’t normally associate with Mickey Mouse. Because Topolino has such a vast catalog, and IDW’s current output only scratches the surface of it, I’m going to focus on one such collection of these stories.
Published in a luxurious hardcover edition, Volume 1 contains the first six issues of IDW’s Mickey Mouse series, along with special extras that further unveil the vast history of Disney Comics, this is a great introduction to a hidden piece of Disney history and a must-have for those who want more material featuring these characters.
Genuis, Collected: Alex Toth Slipcase Set from IDW Publishing (Amazon)
When it came to the hierarchy of Hanna-Barbera creators, Alex Toth has a place near the very top. Who is he? Well, he’s created some of the most beloved characters from the Hanna-Barbera ‘action’ library (Space Ghost, Birdman, Herculoids, The Galaxy Trio, and Dino Boy to name a few). But he’s also an accomplished cartoonist in his own right, with a lengthy history in both comics and animation.
This three-volume biography series by Dean Mullaney and Bruce Canwell, collected here in a hardcover slipcase set, is a definitive deep-dive into his illustrious career in multiple fields. Written and compiled with the full cooperation of Toth’s children, each volume covers a different segment of his life and is lavishly illustrated all throughout as Mullaney and Canwell walk us through his early work in the 60’s to his rise in comics all the way to his star status in animation.
This probably goes without saying, but if you can afford the heavy price range of $149.99, this is a great treat for animation history buffs.