I’ve commented previously on just how resistant many adults are to animation. They wouldn’t be caught dead in a movie theater showing such fare without one or more eight-year-olds, or younger, in tow. Japanese anime is perhaps the sole exception to this, but it’s rarely shown in US movie theaters. As for having guests over to enjoy a movie in your home theater, if you give them a choice of titles they’ll rarely choose animation. I have friends who don’t even like science fiction or live action action/fantasy, which eliminates more than half the choices in my disc collection!
Getting over this animation-resistant attitude isn’t easy. You have to circumvent years or even decades of “animation is for kids” preconceptions. Certainly there are titles that truly are just for kids, though we can argue that even those have their moments. Much like trying to get an avowed meta-head or rap fan to like classical music, the adaption must be done carefully and won’t always take.
Here are a few titles that might do the trick, though there are no guarantees. Some have songs, others aren’t musicals. All of the titles are available on disc, some in 4K HDR, but others only in 2K. I’ve also avoided anime here. I’m not a big fan of that genre, though I recognize that some anime titles are considered classics.
The Lion King….The original hand-drawn version. Possibly the best animated feature to come from the mouse-house since Pinocchio, and one of the few recent Disney productions that might have thrilled the late Walt himself. It also inspired a long-running Broadway show, as well as a not-so-successful “live-action” version (CGI characters against live backgrounds). Most viewers will be intrigued, entertained, and ultimately moved by this classic in its original animated form. Great songs, a brilliant underscore and sound, and excellent video from either the standard Blu-ray or the 4K HDR Ultra HD Blu-ray version. Favorite line: “What do you want me to do, dress up in a skirt and do the hula?” …”It is time!”
Despicable Me…. The first and easily the best of the films about “super-villain” Gru and his Minions as they plot the theft of the century stealing the moon. All of the Gru/Minions film have their moments. I particularly like the scene in the Minion’s stand-alone movie as they accidentally break into an ongoing stage show and do the craziest riff on Gilbert and Sullivan you’re ever likely to see. But it’s the first Despicable Me film that’s a must-see. The audio is good here but there’s little special on that front. Favorite lines: “I said cookie robots, not boogie robots!” and “I said dart gun, not ….”
Monster’s Inc.….Anyone notice that the Pixar films were consistently at their best before Disney bought that then-independent animation studio outright? This is one of those early Pixar releases, and still one of the best and most creative as the “monsters” jump from their reality to ours. The screams of the children in our universe power the Monster’s universe. Great voice work here by Billy Cristal as the one-eyed Mike and John Goodman as Sully, the giant, fuzzy softie. Excellent sound, particularly in a climactic scene as the heroes are chased past thousands of doors. Favorite line: “Kitty!”
Shrek and Shrek 2…. The big, green, cranky but soft-hearted meanie has spawned two good films. I have a weakness for the second in which Shrek and his persistent pest…er…pal Donkey continue their adventures. While not true musicals, there are background songs in the soundtracks. A particular favorite of mine is the stunning use of the song Holding Out for a Hero in the climactic scenes to the second film. Clever, funny, well animated, and ultimately warm-hearted, these are two of the most original animated features of recent years. Only the 20th Anniversary release of the first film offers a 4K transfer. Favorite line: “He croaked!”
Chicken Run…. Differs from the other titles here in that it’s a British production using stop motion animation. My copy was in 2K with in German dialogue as the default, but English is selectable on the menus and the disc was playable on my Oppo Blu-ray player. The film is a delight from beginning to end, set in a chicken farm with all the trappings of a POW camp! Lay eggs or else! Favorite (very British) lines: ” Is Edwina going on holiday?” (as she’s hauled off to the “chop) …”You can do it, you old sausage.”… and “I’ve met some hard boiled eggs in my day but you’re about 20 minutes!”
Hercules…. From the 1990s, this is one of the most creatively stylized, hand drawn, Disney animated features in that studio’s long history. It’s also one of the best in combining brilliant humor, kid-friendly scares, excellent songs, and action. Hercules may be the title character here, but the film is stolen by James Woods as the god Hades. Wood’s quips are so endless, balancing irony and menace, that he may well have made some of them up on the spot in the pre-animation dubbing sessions. The film even has a “Greek” chorus. This title is apparently scheduled to be the next classic Disney animated film to be re-done as a live-action remake, but’s it’s hard to imagine it beating or even equal
ing this version. Great lines (and there are dozens of them!): “Is this an audience or a mosaic?”… “This is the Big Olive … “We dance, we kiss, we smooch, we carry on, we go home happy!”
How to Train Your Dragon….This title has spawned several sequels, all of them good, but this origin-story is still the best. It’s the classic “boy and his dog” tale, but this time the “dog” is a dragon at , first threatening, then shyly reluctant, then a loyal friend. With a brilliant music score (no songs), eyed-popping action, stunning animation, and possibly the most powerful bass of all the titles listed here, it’s an irresistible adventure. It’s also the title most likely to appeal to the animation-phobic. Best lines, “Trolls exist ; the steal your socks, but only the left ones.”… “We need her to like us; thank you for nothing you useless reptile.”
Tangled….If I had to choose just one animated title from my library for a desert island disc, this would be it, though How to Train Your Dragon (above) is also in strong contention. Tangled is a creative musical variation on the classic Repunzel story, where a girl with yards of magic hair is locked away in a tall tower by the wicked Mother Gothel posing as her real mother. Repunzel is accidentally discovered by a charming crook, Flynn Rider, and with his reluctant help she escapes and starts off on a long journey. The two are pursued by Gothel and two other crooks, the later seeking their own revenge on Rider. Tangled is Disney’s best in-house film since The Lion King. Best lines, “Here comes the smolder.” … “I’ve got to get me one of these!” and “Her hair glows! Why does her hair grow? I didn’t see that coming. Why is he smiling at me?!”