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Oddly Specific Recommendations: Animated Movie Edition

Written by: Elyse Wong | Edited by: Julianna Galiano

Oddly Specific Recommendations is a new series where CEYC blog contributors share niche recommendations.

Yes, I know Wallace and Gromit or Shaun the Sheep may have been terrifying to you as a child, but it’s time to move past that and realize that animation is a stunning medium with so much creative flexibility. So, without further ado, here are my top picks for getting back into animated movies. I honestly cannot express how jealous I am that some of you get to experience these for the first time.

1. A movie for people who were traumatized by claymation and have avoided animation ever since:

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

Revisit a timeless childhood classic with this stunning movie directed by Wes Anderson. Adapted from the Roald Dahl novel of the same name, the story follows the charming and cunning Mr. Fox, a retired chicken burglar turned burnt-out office worker who hatches a plan with his friends for one last great heist—to rob the notoriously horrid farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean. The classic storyline of “protagonist is bored with mundane existence and tries to break out” is masterfully executed by this impactful piece of art that was created for all ages. The movie also shows Mr. Fox's misfit son Ash, and nephew Kristofferson as they each struggle to accept their respective identities.

Anderson’s characteristic almost surreal, quirky style really shines through the animation in this film with symmetrical, doll-house like shots that aren’t possible to create in real life. Anderson and his crew leave a wonderfully human mark in their films with the subtle imperfections that allow you to know that this is in fact a movie you are watching—including the use of real animal fur to create a ripply, wind-swept effect, where you can literally see the mark left by the animators after adjusting for each frame. There really is nothing in this film that you couldn’t describe as fantastic.

2. A warm and fuzzy movie for the gifted kid burnout:

Whispers of the Heart (1995)

Yes, I know to some of you this may just be the origin of lo-fi girl, but it is also without a doubt the most criminally underrated Studio Ghibli film of all time. Whispers of the Heart is a charming coming of age movie that follows Shizuku Tsukishima, a voracious reader as she navigates junior high. It follows a simple girl meets boy plot line where Shizuku meets Seiji, a boy who has a dream of becoming a luthier (someone who makes stringed instruments). Inspired by Seji’s passion and perseverance, Shizuku embarks on a journey of her own as she begins to write a novel.

The film masterfully depicts Shizuku’s struggle to discover her identity through her obsessive writing and awakening as an artist, taking the first steps towards her dreams. It’s raw, emotional and honest showing both what Shizuku experiences and how she experiences it. The stunning animation takes the time to convey every emotion that Shizuku experiences while also including fantastical scenes that offer an insight into Shizuku’s writing, world and imagination. Overall, Whispers of the Heart is pure, beautiful, nostalgic and so incredibly endearing—a stunning, sincere depiction of the often over-romanticized coming of age experience.

3. A movie that I would sell my soul to watch again for the first time:

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

With Into the Spider-Verse 2 coming out later this year, it is time for my daily rewatch of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. This movie has incredible and innovative animation—imagine you got together the most creative art-school kids you could possibly find in one room and allowed them to all do whatever they wanted. The plot follows Miles Morales and his journey after being bitten by a radioactive spider, which give him incredible powers and make him the one and only Spider-Man. Only he isn’t. Miles soon discovers that there are many other “Spider-People” in town. This movie is animated both “on-twos” meaning that some frames were kept on screen for two frames rather than one, giving it a gritty, crunchy feel that parallels Miles Morales’ discomfort with his identity, and “on-ones” in which each frame is kept on screen for one frame making the animation smoother to parallel when Miles seems more comfortable, fast and skilled. This movie also features 2D overlays, which give it a hand-drawn comic feel, halftone shading, hatching, “Kirby-Krackle” (abstract dot shading) and so much more! Each Spider-Variant also has a unique style including a manga-like style for Peni Parker and a suave grayscale style reminiscent of classic comic books for Spider-Man Noir. I won’t spoil too much but this movie is truly something one of a kind that you just have to experience!

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