During this time of year we often reflect on the many things we have to be grateful for. As animation addicts, this should include the many wonderful animated films we get to enjoy each year. However, it is also wise to remember the pioneering moments in the medium of animation without which we might not have these great films to enjoy.
So for this month’s top ten list it seemed only right to celebrate these landmark achievements in animation. There are no doubt hundreds of moments we could talk about, but these are the 10 that most changed the game of animation in one way or another. Please share the moments you are grateful for and that you think changed animation the most.
10. “The Three Caballeros”
Described by the New York Times in 1945 as “a literal spin wheel of image, color and music which tumbles at you with explosive surprise. The way “The Three Caballeros” combined live-action and fast-paced animation was something that had never been seen before and would influence filmmaking for years to come.
9. “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire”
Nobody could have imagined with this premiere episode to an animated prime time show in 1989 that it would still be running in 2015. “The Simpsons” broke grounds in animation that would then be followed by “Beavis and Butt-head,” “South Park,” and many other shows. It has nurtured scores of animation and comedic talent over the years and skewered everything from politicians to current events to trends. This first episode also shows the heart the series has, in addition to the jokes.
8. “Beauty and the Beast”
A pioneering film for many reasons, including the Ashman/Menken music, but probably most noteworthy for its use of the CAPS software to integrate computer animation into the ballroom scene and for being the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars.
7. “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind”
This was animation master Hayao Miyazaki’s second film (but first working with the team and in the style that would become synonymous with Studio Ghibli). We got the first collaboration with Joe Hisaishi for the music and Isao Takahata as a producer. It features Miyazaki’s love for strong leading young women in magical worlds, in this case an apocalyptic world called The Valley of the Wind.
6. “King Kong” (1933)
It’s hard to imagine cinema without the story of the giant gorilla who is taken to New York City and climbs with Ann to the top of the Empire State Building. The stop motion animation by pioneer Willis O’Brien influenced animators like Tim Burton and Henry Sellick in years to come.
5. “Wild Hare”
This is the first Tex Avery animated short to be aired with our friend Bugs Bunny. “Looney Tunes” influenced not only animation, but also comedy in film and television today. On the same show they managed to use satire, slapstick, physical comedy, parody, and everything else you could imagine to make the audience laugh. The voice performances were top-notch and the amount of content packed into a four or five minute short is truly remarkable. There are so many great shorts to pick from, but the introduction of Bugs seemed like the right choice.
4. “Toy Story”
It’s undeniable when you look at both the legacy of Pixar and the current animation landscape the pioneering influence of 1994’s “Toy Story.” Not only was it the first CG animated film, it was also a good movie with characters we wanted to spend time with and a script that created lines we quote over 20 years later. In Tom Hanks and Tim Allen we also have two of the greatest vocal performances in animation history, so “Toy Story” is a pioneer any way you look at it.
3. “The Adventures of Prince Achmed”
Its standing as the first animated film still in existence is enough to make it a pioneering moment of animation, but the amazing creation of Lotte Reiniger is noteworthy on its own merits. The use of shadow silhouettes with vibrant colors and music is visually striking even today. The story is remarkably complex and intricate and it is all done with little to no dialogue. Reiniger’s ambitious spirit of trying new things and boldly creating art influences many modern, bold artists.
2. “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”
Many are probably surprised this is not my number one choice. How many films if they were to have flopped would have changed he entire landscape of movies? Not many. But “Snow White” is one of those films. Had Disney not swung for the fences and hit a home run with audiences then (and now) who knows where animation would be today. And not only was it one of the first, it still holds up today with a great villain in the Evil Queen, some beautiful songs like “High-Ho,” great laughs, and big scares.
1. “Steamboat Willie”
If the appearance of Bugs Bunny is fifth on the list, then the first main appearance of Mickey Mouse is even more so. How can you even imagine modern animation without Mickey Mouse? He started fandoms and got Walt Disney going towards his eventual feature films. The short was also the first use of synchronized sound with animation.
I hope you enjoyed this top 10 list and if you have any suggestions for future lists please let me know.
What animated moments are you most grateful for?
Edited by: Hannah Wilkes