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10 Weird Animated Films

Features
by The Playlist Staff
March 4, 2011 6:10 AM
12 Comments
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Rango
Almost every week it seems like there's a new animated film being released to the multiplexes (many of them in the costly and annoying 3D format), so it takes a special kind of film to break out of the (mostly) computer animated pack. Which is why it's so nice to report that "Rango," Gore Verbinski's surrealist spaghetti western (which stars Johnny Depp as a chameleon searching for his identity), is profoundly weird. It's this trait, along with its jaw-dropping gorgeous animation, that makes it stand out, loud and proud, and should ensure a long and fruitful life (if not immediate commercial success and/or acceptance).

We've decided to take a look back at the oddball animation gems that have peppered the cartoon landscape over the years, mostly before the Disney animated musicals, Pixar wonderments on the good side, and pop culturally savvy DreamWorks fare on the bad, dominated the multiplexes. Hopefully "Rango" will allow for more variety in the marketplace (its PG-rating already pushes some boundaries). It's a very good thing that it so proudly lets its freak flag fly. Here are some of our favorites from years gone by.

“Yellow Submarine” (1968)
For all of its hallucinogenic trippiness, which makes it a favorite for late night tokers, "Yellow Submarine" endures thanks to its inherent sweetness, like an early-animated "Sesame Street" segment gone off the rails. Instead of trying to judge the movie based on any sort of narrative coherence or storytelling skill (basically concerning itself with the Blue Meanies, a band of monstrous cretins, and their attack on free will, imagination, and general grooviness – all the things the animated Beatles stand for), the movie works best as a kind of jukebox musical, packed with references to the band and their songwriting (even if the musicians themselves were involved only minimally). The animation, for all its primal crudity, has an easily enjoyed charm, with a flower-power liquescence to the movement of characters (and the titular underwater vehicle). Decades before Julie Taymor's disastrous "Across the Universe," "Yellow Submarine" was a more eloquent love letter to Beatles lore and miscellanea, and a hell of a lot more fun to watch.

“The Plague Dogs” (1982)
Dog lovers, abandon all hope, ye who enter here. Based on the novel by Richard Adams, who previously wrote “Watership Down,” and directed by Martin Rosen, who was also behind the animated version of Adams' earlier rabbit-driven bloodfest, “The Plague Dogs” concerns a canine duo who escape from an animal testing facility. While we suspect they don’t have much time to live (one of them sports a partially-exposed skull), they are hunted by law enforcement officials who believe the dogs carry a disease. Despite gorgeous storybook animation and strong voice work by John Hurt and Christopher Benjamin, “The Plague Dogs” seems mainly interested in the possibly futile attempts by the dogs to survive another day despite an unfamiliar territory and uncertainty about food, with the undying promise of a safe haven just over the horizon. Look out for one of the most soul-crushing endings you’re likely to see in any animated film ever.

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12 Comments

  • BEn | January 7, 2012 6:53 AMReply

    Add 'Cat Soup' if you like the other stuff mentioned here...

  • BEn | January 7, 2012 6:47 AMReply

    Wow, a list that doesn't totally suck.
    Of course, the list could go on for days and days listing every single awesomely weird and thought provoking, but mainly mind fucking, animation flick.

  • Paul D | March 7, 2011 4:37 AMReply

    No "Triplets of Belleville"?

  • Tim Boxell | March 6, 2011 3:57 AMReply

    Track down Aachi and Ssipak a Korean feature from 2006. When Peter Chung (Aeon Flux creator) showed me the script, I really didn't believe it could be made as a feature because the premise was so off the wall. The film existed as one of the best trailers ever and then not only was made--I saw it on the big screen at the Hole in the Head film festival--but it was gloriously insane, violent and funny. It's everything animation should be in the sense of its liberating power of imagination.

  • Stephen M | March 5, 2011 3:59 AMReply

    Spirited Away, as everyone knows by now, is a masterpiece. But not everyone knows that The Adventures of Mark Twain is also amazing, so thank you for helping to spread the word. Just the facial detail in the claymation is incredible, and the way it turns Mark Twain's life and words into a treatise on life, the world, and philosophy is brilliant. It's on YouTube, look it up.

    I would also like to second the other nominations from commetners: Allegro Non Troppo is one of the great animated films, and Jan Svankmajer is one of the great animators. Of course, much of the best work in world animation is in shorts, not features, so if you're interested in real animated art, check out Yuri Norstein, Frederick Back, Alexandre Petrov, Jiri Trnka, and Norman McLaren.
    This page has a good introduction to the great works: http://www.imdb.com/list/cS6nsI9PksQ/

  • ken | March 5, 2011 3:15 AMReply

    Inception ripped off Paprika and everybody knows it!

  • N | March 4, 2011 11:15 AMReply

    Also, let's not forget everything by Jan Švankmajer.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5wHMgTPF-s

  • WG | March 4, 2011 6:49 AMReply

    A Town Called Panic, definitely.

  • Christopher Bell | March 4, 2011 6:44 AMReply

    @Paul

    I thought about Eva but didn't want to write up something that wasn't stand-alone. Also haven't seen it in years and wanted to watch the entire series again, plus the reboot (if only because of the whole theory on whether the reboot is actually that or a sequel to "End")

  • Paul | March 4, 2011 6:32 AMReply

    End of Evangelion. Hands down. Only movie I can think of where the end of the universe is everyone orgasming into pools of liquid & having our souls sucked into giant vagina stigmatas on the hands of a large naked female Angel.

  • Marko | March 4, 2011 6:32 AMReply

    I think a few other films that would be good for this feature would be Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure, Allegro Non Troppo and Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters.

  • cirkusfolk | March 4, 2011 6:23 AMReply

    The Goon would be a perfect fit if it would ever freakin come out!

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