My top animation movies

After spending Christmas with a slight Disney saturation caused by watching, discussing and listening to “Frozen” one too many times, I was wondering how could it be that I am not able to enjoy the movie that much. Th is is a movie that has reigned the planet for a year yet, and I (a fan of animated movies) cannot get into it or see what the fuss is about.

After long consideration, I have realised that it simply isn’t my kind of movie.

Two pretty, thin “Caucasian” girls, an un-charming (and evil) prince, a snowman who wants to do what snowmen do in the summer, a roughed guy who has been brought up by trolls and who has a reindeer as his only friend… So not my cup of tea.

And what are my kind of animated movies ? You may ask… Let me share a few animated movies that come to mind in order to explain myself:

1. Spirited away:

To me, this is Miyazaki’s masterpiece. A great story and a collection of wonderful places and characters. In this movie, he has managed to portrait a very Japanese story from the perspective of a child and in doing so, he has made it accessible to all cultures.

Architecturally and anthropologically it’s is wonderful reflection of the Japan he chose to use as backdrop… Izumo ( the Gods resting place) with its train running parallel to its lake or Matsuyama’s onsen (the bath) are just two of the settings he chose to build his context.

I also love the fact that, whilst the Disney franchise rarely makes and effort to give something back to the places it uses for inspiration and chooses to focus on profiting directly through the merchandise, Miyazaki creates magic in places that exist and can be visited. This draws crowds in and gives back to local communities.

2. Heidi:

 

The first Miyazaki anime I ever saw and the series that became part of my childhood. Mine and possibly millions of other children in Spain (and the rest of the world) as it continues to be passed from one generation to the next.

The innocence and simplicity of life in the green landscapes of the Alps was captured masterfully in the hands of its characters . Children that ooze authenticity and wonderful role models that guide them as well as guiding the young audiences through the challenges of life are the key to the story.

I will always remember the round shape of the chewy loaf of bread that Heidi’s grandad had in his house, and so will I remember the wooden container in which he collected the goats milk, the bowl in which she drank it, her bed made out of straw and the many animals featured … And funny as it may sound, so does my Japanese husband, my brother, my brother in law and many more.

3. Persepolis:

As a child of the eighties, this is a story I remember. There were many Christmas when I wished for the Iran Iraq conflict to come to an end . This , jointly with the great west African famine , were the most significant concerns I had growing up.

Coming from a very political part of the country, I understood only too well the social implications of politics and the thought of children, like me , being caught up in an adult conflict was something I never felt comfortable with.

This is a very dark and powerful movie. A story told in first person by the main character, a girl, who is born to a loving family in the context of an intellectual open Persian society and who one day wakes up to a changed context she does not understand.

The black and white graphics are extremely powerful ,reminiscent of shadow puppets at times, they play with perspective and repetition to strengthen feelings of loss and fear. I liked it in a manner that I could not have predicted.

4. My neighbours the Yamada:

This is an unusual movie. Why do I like it? Well, it is very personal. The Yamadas could have well being the Lanz family. Each one of the imperfect characters seems to be a reflection of the members of my family and many of the scenes , or a close variation of those, have taken place at some point during my childhood.

When I first watched it, I could not believe what I was seeing. I thought it was hilarious and what made it more so were the haikus that have been dropped between sketches to pacify the chaos. So odd, yet so wonderful.

I warn you that you will probably disagree with me.

5. Despicable me 

It is easy to forget how rapidly the world is changing . Technologically, philosophically and anthropologically. Our cultures are blending and the institution of family is changing. As a result, the picture of families as diverse as the world we live in and this movie begins to look into this in a very original way.

Despite hidden intentions, Gru his Minions and the little girls he adopts are a family that is different from the rest. I love scenes like the ballet class where Gru finds only mothers sitting around and waiting for their daughters to rehearse . I have quite a few friends who have encounter a similar situation when supporting their kids.

I also love that despite evil activities being clearly identified, there is an attempt of redemption … I remember listening to Pedro Almodovar discuss the unlikely complicity that the viewer experiences with some of the characters in movies, where by one is aware that they are not totally guilt free yet one feels drawn into an uncontrollable sympathy. He spoke about redemption; not in death but life and in his conscious attempt to show that nobody is either good or bad but more an imperfect human that makes decisions which are either or both. This is what I like about Despicable me too. ( Well, that and the brilliantly stupid discovery and attempt to hide the stolen pyramid among others)

There are many others worthy a mention:

My neighbour Totoro (capturing the imagination and innocence in childhood)

Kiki’s delivery service (a story about finding one’s place in the world set in the gorgeous Dubrovnik)

The illusionist (if, like I, you love Scotland and Tati, This is your movie!)

Metropolis (finding friendship in unexpected places);

The Curse of the were-rabbit (funny plasticine magic and mistery) ;

 

Shrek (the original one, only, because it considered the parents as much as the children and because ogres can be charming too) ;

All have some sort of edge but Frozen , to me at least, it is mainly fluff with great outfits . Opportunities to explore the emancipation of the Queen Elsa, the sacrifice of parting from the relationship between the sisters or the adoption of the roughed guy, for example, are not explored. Instead, they are wasted whilst the superficial make-over behind “let it go” leaves you full of a sense of disappointment .

If you think that is harsh, look at it again.

Text by Cristina Lanz-Azcarate

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