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10 Weird Animated Films

by The Playlist Staff
March 4, 2011 6:10 AM
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“The Haunted World of El Superbeasto” (2009)
If you've ever had the inclination to crack open Rob Zombie's skull and peer inside (and lord knows plenty of us did after "Halloween"), save yourself the trouble and just watch "The Haunted World of El Superbeasto" instead. Calamitous to the point of near-incomprehensibility, the film takes place in an alternate reality where every horror ghoul, ghost, and goblin resides – John Hurt from "Alien" sits at a bar next to Jack Nicholson from "The Shining," that sort of thing. Our hero, El Superbeasto (Tom Papa, who also co-wrote the film), is a director and former wrestler. He works alongside his sister, Suzi-X (Sheri Moon-Zombie), an ass-kicking vixen, as they work to bring down the villainous Dr. Satan (Paul Giamatti). "Superbeasto" acts as a one-film compendium to the Rob Zombie oeuvre – characters from "The Devil's Rejects," his "Halloween" remake, even the faux Nazi exploitation trailer he cooked up for "Grindhouse," all crop up. It's a mini-masterpiece and the only contemporary film to truly evoke the arcane spirit of Ralph Bakshi.

“A Scanner Darkly” (2006)
Richard Linklater's second (and, let's be honest here, probably last) animated feature largely sidestepped the intellectual booby-traps that kept "Waking Life" from being, you know, entertaining. Instead of aimless stoner philosophizing, Linklater chose a Philip K. Dick novel about a drug enforcement agent (Keanu Reeves) who becomes a hostage of his own addiction. As heartbreaking as it is exhilarating, the breezy, impressionistic rotoscoped animation is the perfect fit for the material: when the characters are feeling anxious or high, the animation warbles accordingly. But the greatest feat is the "scramble suit," a disguise that the agents use to hide their identities. A constantly shifting mass (a "vague blur," as a character in the movie says), it, like the movie, is impossible to pin down… or take your eyes off of.

Honorable Mentions: There's a few obvious exceptions here that we've missed out, and some more obscure pictures. "Pink Floyd's The Wall" is pretty far-out but, it's not entirely animated and, if, like this writer, you can't really stand either the band or (with some exceptions) Alan Parker, it's not the easiest watch. "Watership Down," like its less-well known successor above, is the stuff of nightmares; not weird so much as disturbing, but still powerful stuff.

"Fritz The Cat" is the best known of Ralph Bakshi's works -- it's (very slightly) less provocative than "Coonskin" and still holds up well. And trust us, you haven't seen it until you've seen it while under the influence, being projected side-by-side with "The Wizard of Oz" in a warehouse in Scotland. Of all the work of the late Satoshi Kon, "Paprika" might be the oddest, a visually-stunning dreamscape that Manga nerds will delight in telling you Christopher Nolan ripped off for "Inception" (even though, beyond the basic premise and a couple of similar images, the two films have little in common).

On the more obscure side of the spectrum, it isn't entirely surprising that the musical "Shinbone Alley" failed to catch on, being, as it is, about a poet reincarnated as a cockroach after he commits suicide, but it's still an entertaining watch. "Light Years," from French animator Rene Laloux, is about as strange as you'd expect a science-fiction picture starring Glenn Close as the wing-headed leader of a utopian society, while Cuban flick "Vampires in Havana" is basically the Hanna-Barbera version of "True Blood." There's plenty more of Bill Plympton's work to check out too; both "I Married A Strange Person!" and "Mutant Aliens" are definitely worth watching if you enjoy "The Tune." - Drew Taylor, Gabe Toro, Christopher Bell, Oli Lyttelton

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  • 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:

  • 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.

  • WG | March 4, 2011 6:49 AMReply

    A Town Called Panic, definitely.

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


    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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