Animated films haven’t been around long but they have made humongous strides towards relevance over the last fifty years. Animation degree students know these films back and forth. They serve as inspiration and as pure entertainment on top of that. For those students still yearning for that animation degree, there are a number of animated films that should be considered required viewing.
Following is a list of five animated films that have impacted the animation industry and animation degree students in major ways.
The Lion King – Disney
The Lion King stands as one of Disney’s best releases of all time. The Lion King follows the story of young lion cub Simba and his journey towards being worthy of the royal family he is born into. The Lion King would not only be one of Disney’s best crafted stories, but it would also serve as Disney’s first wholly original animated film.
On the animation end, animators studied real-life animals and visited a variety of parks to nail down the feel of the African savannah. On top of that, Disney animators put to use a number of computer animation techniques. The wildebeest stampede scene was almost entirely CGI and took animators almost two and a half years. These techniques changed the way students learned for an animation degree.
Toy Story – Pixar
Pixar’s inaugural tale, Toy Story, not only started the company down a path of success but also paved the way for a new style of animation. The film focuses in on the relationship between Woody, a cowboy and Andy’s favorite toy, and Buzz Lightyear, the new toy with tons of features.
Toy Story’s true importance though comes from its animation style. Toy Story is the first full-length feature film made completely with computer graphics. Computer animation had been experimented with but never fully utilized. Toy Story was proof that full-length features were possible.
Spirited Away – Studio Ghibli
Japanese animated films in America have been anchored by one man and one man alone. Hayao Miyazaki. His company, Studio Ghibli, has seen incredible success since they began bringing their titles to America and their 2001 release (2002 for the US) Spirited Away stands as a beacon of that success. Spirited Away tells the story of Chihiro Ogino, a young ten year old girl who ends up stuck in a world of spirits and monsters.
Miyazaki’s traditional animation style is breathtaking but Ghibli did implement computer technology to enhance the art. Mostly hand-drawn, Spirited Away was highly lauded for its imaginative dream-like world and the gorgeous artwork.
How to Train Your Dragon – DreamWorks Animation
DreamWorks Animation had fallen behind the pack and found themselves struggling to keep up with Disney and Pixar. Critics had been harsh on many of their releases and their films weren’t making as much money as the heavy hitters. Enter How to Train Your Dragon. Adapted from a series of books, How to Train Your Dragon tells the story of Hiccup, a Viking who prefers brain to brawn, and his relationship with a dragon.
How to Train Your Dragon represented a return to form for DreamWorks. It was highly lauded by critics for its beautiful CGI animation and its Pixar-like writing. It would go on to win the Annie Award for Best Animated Feature and herald the coming of quality DreamWorks titles.
Ghost in the Shell – Production IG
Anime has a hold on the American public but it took a while for that relationship to form. In 1998, an anime film called Ghost in the Shell came to America and introduced a new form of animation to a new audience. The movie is based in sci-fi and follows a female cyborg in charge of taking down a hacker.
Ghost in the Shell is heralded as one of the best anime films of all time. When it came to the US, it introduced American audiences to the more bombastic and epic nature of the anime genre. With more adult themes and more complex narrative techniques, Ghost in the Shell showcased the fact that animation was far from being just family films.
These five films stand as the best of the best from nearly all forms of media. They represent a unique variety of animation techniques from a unique group of animators. Students thinking about an animation degree and those currently working at that degree know the importance of these films and they should help students moving forward.
For the other five movies considered to be the best of the best, head here!
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