Most animation lovers of today consume the commercial, pop culture-laced, colorful artistry of Dreamworks, or the visual and aural poetry of Pixar. Everyone loves Toy Story, Wall.E, Shrek, the Ice Age films, the Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda movies. Lots of folks have seen the excellent Studio Ghibli films and stop motion flicks like Coraline. The recently released Tintin set a new benchmark for visual sophistication rendered by motion capture. Adult-oriented movies like Persepolis, Waltz with Bashir and The Secret of Kells found their audiences thanks to overwhelming critical acclaim and/or Oscar buzz.
But two things are certain - no one likes the princesses of Disney anymore, and not many have seen these brilliant films listed below:
Chasseurs de Dragons (Dragon Hunters)
Dragon Hunters is a beautiful French computer animated adventure that is as fun and hilarious as it is gorgeous. Set in an otherworldly locale terrorized by dragons, the film revolves around the story of Gwizdo and Lian-Chu, two unlikely friends who hunt dragons and con people for a living. Dragon Hunters works so well because it has very original characters and none of the saccharine of Disney. The imagery is stunning, but some sequences are truly jaw dropping - take a look!
This one was a box office disaster, thanks mainly to poor marketing, and Pixar's Toy Story 2 completely obliterating the competition that year. But that doesn't mean it was a bad film - it is extremely entertaining. Combining computer graphics and traditional hand drawn animation, Titan AE is a zippy, quirky, exciting Sci Fi adventure. It's not exactly a kids' film, considering the post apocalyptic themes and settings, and that's probably another reason why the film didn't make money.
The Triplets of Belleville
Before director Sylvain Chomet shot to fame with The Illusionist, he made a little film called The triplets of Belleville. Chomet's animation and characters are extraordinarily fresh and unique. The story itself is very interesting - an old woman teams up with a trio of aging Jazz musicians to rescue her grandson from the clutches of the mafia. Chomet abandons straightforward for the trippy, and it makes for an imaginative, witty and delightful adventure. Just watch this scene.
The world lost a genius when director Satoshi Kon passed away last year. His eerie, surreal anime films transcend greatness. Unbelievable as it may sound, Darren Aronofsky's films Requiem for a dream and Black Swan are ripoffs of Satoshi's Perfect Blue. Just like in Black Swan, the central character of this film pursues a career and is increasingly haunted by the distortion of fantasy and reality. To get a better idea of how much Aronofsky lifted the scenes, check here and here. Perfect Blue isn't as famous as Miyazaki's Spirited Away, but it totally deserves to be. I also urge you to watch the director's Paprika and Millenium Actress.
This is the most underrated animation movie of all time. Bad marketing made sure no one heard about the film. That changed when someone decided to upload it on torrents, and it immediately became a cult favourite. Renaissance is a black and white sci fi noir action thriller that grabs you by the balls in the opening scene, and proceeds to pound all your senses with sheer novelty, craft and artistic ingenuity. The visuals are arresting to the point of being utterly intoxicating.
This French motion capture movie effortlessly mixes balls-to-the-wall action and thrills with intrigue, mystery and science fiction. It offers imagery of a futuristic France, glowing black and white as if under the influence of LSD, complete with saucy gizmos, high tech weaponry, invisible assassins, digital rain - the works. But don't let the visual wizardry fool you - the story is pretty exciting. A cop (Daniel Craig) is assigned the duty to locate a young woman, a key scientist of a huge cosmetics firm, who is kidnapped the day she arranges to meet with a man about some secret documents. Still not convinced? Watch this clip.
Note: I personally feel Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within never got it's due - it was a technological marvel far ahead of it's time. Also, Shane Acker's 9 was another masterpiece that was curiously rejected by most audiences. If you didn't like 9, perhaps you'll dig this short film that it was based on.
More reccos: The Plague Dogs and Princess - both of which are recco'd by Anurag Kashyap.