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10 Weird Animated Films

The Playlist By The Playlist Staff | The Playlist March 4, 2011 at 6:10AM

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).
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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

This article is related to: Films, Feature, Animated Films, Rango