“Ah, I love that Disney movie…wait, what do you mean, ‘it’s not Disney’?”
How many times we’ve made the same mistake! Well, no: not all of our favorite cartoons, those that have accompanied us through childhood and continue to do so, the ones that we promise ourselves we will show to the future generations, are Disney. And although some may surpass the work of the Studio giant or may have some traits in common and apparently entangled stories (for example, have you ever heard about the theory that says that “The Corpse Bride” was actually a prequel for “Nightmare Before Christmas,” both directed by the inimitable Tim Burton?), our video library is more varied than what might appear at first.
Some are new and some they’re not, while others seem to never age both graphically and story-wise, but they’re all a must-see. So, what are the best non-Disney cartoons that we love and that made us cry or laugh, the ones that we have seen a thousand times and that we’re never tired of re-watching?
Here are our favorite titles – the ones that, especially in winter, keep us company together with a blanket, a cup of tea, and lots of memories.
These are the films that stay close to our hearts.
The movies that we saw when we were young, maybe with our parents, grandparents, or siblings and that will always occupy a special place in our memories. No matter how much time passes or how adult we become if they tell us “Anastasia,” we can only ever think of the Grand Duchess Anja!
The Prince of Egypt
One of the classics in the real sense of the word: the year was 1998 and it stroke us with an exceptional cast (remember Ralph Fiennes landing his voice to Ramses II, Michelle Pfeiffer as Tzipporah and Sandra Bullock in the role of Miriam) and a soundtrack that can not be defined in any other way if not positively epic. Regardless of the historical and religious matter of the plot, “The Prince of Egypt” stands out as one of the most beautiful and well-designed animation films of all time, not just for children.
“There was a time, not very long ago when we lived in an enchanted world of elegant palaces and grand parties. The year was 1916 and my son, Nicholas, was the Czar of Imperial Russia.”
Here goes the unforgettable introduction of one of the most beautiful tales ever (although you should know that the real story from which it is taken does not share the happy outcome of the fictional one) and we are thrown into the beautiful royalty of pre-Revolution Russia. With a movie famous for the beautiful soundtrack and the quest for discovering the lost princess, whether in Paris or St. Petersburg, you can not help but think of her…the lost Romanoff Archduchess.
Quest for Camelot
This 1998 animated film takes from the novel The King’s Damosel, and in it, we breathe the atmosphere of the most classic Arthurian cycles: including knights, wizards, dragons, of course, King Arthur and a girl who finds in her heart the courage to change her destiny and the one of Camelot.
How could we forget, now, Devon and Cornwall, the two most entertaining dragons of the ‘90s and their love/hate relationship?
The Swan Princess
With a well-deserved Golden Globe nomination, “Far Longer Than Forever” is one of the soundtracks that we will not forget. Born as an adaptation of Tchaikovsky’s classic ballet “The Swan Lake,” although in a less dramatic key, love it or hate it but “The Swan Princess” is one of those films that have entered head-down in the history of animation, and that we can not fail to re-watch as adults.
These Will Make You Cry
There is no handkerchief or age that can help our tears: in front of these films, you can’t but cry a river. To face them you need to arm yourself the three Cs, a.k.a Chill, Cuddles, and Chocolate… but we never tire of seeing these movies again and again, if only to prove that they stopped breaking us (spoiler: we always end up defeated).
The Iron Giant
With the voices of Vin Diesel and Jennifer Aniston, this animated film dates back to the late ’90s and has the power to steal a sob from both children and adults. A compelling story that, while touching the most tender strings of your soul, can’t but fascinate you thanks to the masterful animation, which has earned “The Iron Giant” a LAFCA as Best Animated Film in 1999 and a Bafta Award in 2000.
The Secret of NIMH
Adaptation of the children’s book Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, “The secret of NIMH” talks about the love of a mother who will do everything to save her son Timothy from an unknown disease, but it also talks about genetic experiments carried out on animals. Although in a way that makes the story understandable for a young audience, “The Secret of NIMH” has dark tones and closely touches controversial themes.
All Dogs Go to Heaven
If you want a carefree and light animated film, this is definitely not what you are looking for.
“All Dogs Go To Heaven” is a film destined to resonate for a long time in your heads and hearts: it’s a tale of friendship, dedication, and purity, in a way that animals can show. A story to be fully appreciated and a must-see, but that will not make you cry nevertheless!
Grave of the Fireflies
We can’t lie: to see this classic of Japanese animation you will need many tissues, strong willpower, and a jar of your comfort food of choice to face the ending. The film tells the story of two brothers in Japan during the Second World War. Without being melodramatic, it is nothing less than heartbreaking, thanks to the sincerity of the neo-realist narrative and the difficult theme faced with the naïve eyes of a child.
Ogres, Corpses, and…Vampires?
Female dragons who marry donkeys and vampires who dedicate themselves to the management of a hotel for supernatural creatures only? Yes, but also brides out for eternal love (in the real sense of the word) and nightmarish families. Not all of these movies helped us sleep peacefully at night, while others never fail to make us laugh: what do they have in common? Why, magical creatures, of course!
If you say “ogre,” we can not help thinking of the green monster that lives in the most famous swamp of the new Millennia. “Shrek” has a plot sparkling with pop references, but also full of magic, of Prince Charmings, cursed princesses, evil kings, and godmothers with a thing for beauty salons. There is nothing left to say: the Shrek/Donkey duo quickly become iconic. After all, we’re all a bit Shrek and a bit Donkey.
The Corpse Bride
“I found myself married…against my will!”
When they told us that Tim Burton would direct a new Stop Motion film with his signature narrative and unmistakable dark shades, we expected a masterpiece. Indeed, “The Corpse Bride” did not disappoint the audience: on the contrary, with a captivating soundtrack and a narrative that intertwines feelings, death, and betrayal, Burton created a gothic tale to enjoy “’ till death do us part.”
Perhaps it is one of the most entertaining animated films of all time: quite recent, released in theaters in 2012 and with two equally successful sequels, “Hotel Transylvania” is the 3-D animated answer to all the discourses about vampires that have been carried on in early 2000. The story revolves around the young Mavis, who has to live with being a supernatural teenager in the hotel run by no one else but her father, Dracula. Although this is not a Disney production, there is a TV series that is produced by the partnership Sony/Disney Studios, which airs on Disney Channel.
Based on the short story by Neil Gaiman and adapted by Henry Selick in 2009, this stop-motion movie is a hugely successful hybrid (one that will make you gasp) between horror fairytale and animated film. Remarkably disturbing but at the same time intriguing, and with a protagonist that differs from the other characters for her sensitive and curious soul, “Coraline” is the kind of film that never ages. It never ever loses that veil of mystery that will always make you shiver (with characters that are…cute as buttons!).
When we say “Anime style animation” our mind immediately goes to the masterpieces created by Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki, but it’s a landscape that is far wider than that. While we should mention masterpieces such as “Wolf Children” and “Ghost in The Shell,” what are the Anime movies that most impressed us, the classics we keep on seeing without fail?
Howl’s Moving Castle
When Sophie is hit by a curse that turns her into an old woman, she makes sure she’s hired as a cleaning lady on the mysterious moving castle of the wizard Howl – a character with a capricious and cryptic character, that gets progressively unveiled through the film. Miyazaki masterfully adapts the Diana Wynne Jones series, which earned him an Osella Award for the best technical contribution at the 61st International Venice Film Festival and the Nebula Award for Best Screenplay.
“Kimi No Na Wa”, known in the Western theatres as “Your Name,” is always a go-to if you are looking for impeccable animation, rich and deep characters, an intriguing timeline, and a compelling story that will break your heart while keeping you glued to the screen, from the first to the very last scene. Stirring an enthusiastic reception from the Critics and the public, in the year of its release “Your Name” almost equaled the Disney phenomenon “Frozen.”
The young Chihiro finds herself trapped inside a demonic bathhouse, with her parents turned into pigs and facing a race with time to escape: this is how her adventure begins, enriched by classical and cryptic references to Japanese tradition. The audience can only hold its breath and let itself be transported to a world painted with Oriental folklore, myth, and demonology. Inspired by the story of Sachiko Kashiwaba, “Spirited Away” is the only anime to have ever won an Academy Award and, to date, it is the feature film with the highest gaining in the history of Japanese cinema.
My Neighbor Totoro
Being perhaps one of the most classic and well-known titles within the Ghibli studio, “My Neighbor Totoro” is a film that made the history of animation and, according to the magazine Empire, it occupies the 275th place in the list of the 500 best films in history. The plot is based on the inner growth of the characters and on the respect of a nature that, once understood and embraced, stops being fearful and becomes a friend – all this represented by Totoro, an “animal” that feeds on acorns and represents the spirit of the forest. The story of the two little sisters is partially autobiographical and, thanks to the great commercial and artistic success, Totoro has become the official Studio Ghibli mark.
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
Mamoru Hosoda (co-founder of the Ghibli Studio and creator “Wolf Children” and “The Boy and the Beast,” other highly successful films) gave life to this adaptation with a clean drawing style and a narrative that carries away thanks to the articulated and non-linear rhythm. The particularly compelling story follows the adventures of a girl that can mysteriously jump between past and future. Winner of the Japan Academy Awards, “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time” is one of those films to watch all in one go, letting yourself be carried away by the protagonist’s altruism and the delicacy of the narrative.
Tales of Friendship
One of the most beautiful aspects when talking about animated films is the importance that is given to the bonds of friendship: most of the stories, precisely because they tend to speak to a younger audience, give particular resonance to the theme of equal relationships, of trust, of facing difficulties together. Regardless of age, species or how we communicate and show our love, it is undoubted that the most beautiful relationships are born where we least expect it.
The Book of Life
If you have loved “Coco,” “The Book of Life” can’t but enchant you with a colorful design and a story full of pathos.
The plot combines friendship, love and Mexican culture, in a journey through the Mexican tradition and the Dia De Muertos: a festivity that takes the viewer on a journey through a graphically breathtaking universe.
How to Train Your Dragon
The “How to Train Your Dragon” franchise (which started eight years ago by the first film and still spreading) certainly doesn’t need an introduction. When the young Hiccup makes friends with Toothless, a fearsome-at-first but sweet black dragon with big green eyes, he succeeds in a mission that was considered impossible: tame a dragon.
A story of friendship, not only between Hiccup and Toothless but also for the many background characters, that marks this story of courage and self-discovery as a must-see.
Kung Fu Panda
“Kung-Fu fighting” has become a hit and the panda Po, a messy and impulsive disciple of Kung-Fu, is now a model to keep in mind when difficulties seem to break us. However, “Kung Fu Panda” is also the story of a team: when taken alone none of the protagonists is invincible, no one is perfect, but together they are a real force of nature. The film, eventually expanded into a franchise, earned DreamWorks Studios an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe nomination, both in 2009.
Spirit: Stallion of The Cimarron
The songs of this animated feature film have become a legend, composed by Hans Zimmer with the voice of Brian Adams, but the film itself is a must when it comes to inspirational messages about friendship and freedom. The story of the stallion and his deep friendship with a young Native American, in contrast with the thirst for power and the cruelty of the white conquerors, was presented at the 55th Cannes Film Festival and for eighteen years it thought us about the bond that can bloom between two free and proud individuals, when respect and balance is involved.
The Road to El Dorado
Miguel and Tulio are an inseparable duo that gave us tons of laughter in the classic quest “The Road to El Dorado:” an animated film released in 2000 that has remained in our hearts ever since. Why? Well, thanks to the many jokes (which all became iconic), the masterfully designed scenes and colors (remember the protagonists’ first impression of El Dorado, the city made of gold) and the two goofy protagonists, united by a bond of friendship that goes beyond their apparent thirst for treasures.