A Film that Makes you Happy Day 2: 30 Days of Animated Films

(disclaimer: all opinions presented are my own, and nobody else’s)

Animated films are really difficult to make. I have a feeling this is going to be a running theme this month, and tomorrow’s post will focus on this idea almost entirely.

Given how expensive and time-consuming these kinds of films are to make, it’s really no wonder that the primary goal of animated movies is entertainment — gotta get those butts into those seats. You’re unlikely to find any psychological thrillers or art-house examinations in the animated-movie oeuvre.

And, of course, animated films tend to be skewed to younger audiences, where depth is a less-important factor in a film’s reception. That doesn’t mean that films can’t have depth, as Pixar has proven many times over, but it seems like the heart-wrenching or thought-provoking moments have to be compensated with zany antics.

But which films’ zany antics make you smile the most? Here’s the question for today:

Which animated films simply make you happy?

Second Runner Up: Megamind


Ugh. Whenever I first saw the trailer for this film, I thought Dreamworks had finally jumped the shark. Remember, Megamind came out the same year as How to Train your Dragon AND Shrek Forever After. It’s difficult to fathom Dreamworks being able to produce three films for release in one year, but they managed to pull off the hat-trick. Not only that, but earlier in 2010, Illumination had released Despicable Me, a well-received film with ostensibly the same basic concept – a sympathetic super-villain.

Yeah... that face.

Yeah… that face. Copyright Dreamworks SKG

The trailers weren’t very funny, and the ubiquitous “Dreamworks Face” (you know the one I’m talking about) gave me a pretty visceral gut-reaction against the film. The market was saturated, and I saw echoes of the lackluster Monsters vs. Aliens in the character designs.

I didn’t see it until a year after its release, and well, I was wrong. This is a remarkably fun movie. While it drags a bit in the second act, the payoff is pretty satisfying. Megamind is very self-aware about how silly its concept is, and a surprisingly straightforward performance from Will Ferrell makes the slightly-masochistic eponymous villain a pretty likable guy.

Megamind arrives on the scene in a giant fireworks display of his own face. Awesome.

Megamind arrives on the scene in a giant fireworks display of his own face. Awesome.

The supporting cast is really where the film falls short for me – it definitely won’t make my list for very favorite animated films, but I find myself cracking up every time I watch it. If you’re willing to go along for the ride, it’s immensely fun.

First Runner Up: The Incredibles


This is The Incredibles‘ first appearance on this month’s blogathon, but it definitely won’t be the last. I adore this movie – it’s a simultaneous love-letter to superhero and spy movies, with a beating heart and an impressive array of action set-pieces. From beginning to end, it’s got both that strong emotional core and the perfect counterpoint of pure entertainment.

Copyright Disney / PIXAR

Copyright Disney / PIXAR

Most of the Pixar films have this mix of elements, but I’m including Incredibles for two particular elements. First, the action in this film is superb – more-so than any CG film prior, Incredibles proved that CG camerawork could rival the absolute best of live-action, and then surpass it handily. The film’s action is simply a joy to watch, and no sequence proves this more than the “100 Mile Dash”, quite possibly my favorite chase scene from any film, animated or otherwise.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5v2qBBD-gE&rel=0]

I still have to resist the urge to cheer every time Dash realizes he can run on water.

The other reason is pretty simple.

Edna.

Edna Mode was the sort of character who could have derailed the second act of the film — she’s written with a LOT of personality, and with the wrong performance her portions of the film had the potential to either be too dull or too wacky to maintain the seriousness and energy of the main plot occurring elsewhere.

Instead, Brad Bird brought the absolute perfect performance to the role — She is energetic and just a bit malicious, and she can’t be bothered to care what you think about her eccentricities. She doesn’t steal the show so much as own it, and graciously share it with the rest of us.

The action, the humor, and the characterizations make a perfect mix in this film, and I find myself grinning from ear to ear every time I watch it.

And the winner is…


I have a hard time imagining ANY other film in the top spot for this category. It is a film without an ounce of cynicism, whose only goal is to entertain you and brighten your day. Sure, it’s still got a strong emotional core, but the touchy-feely stuff is handled by burying it in as much self-aware fun and joyful exuberance as possible. I give you Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Copyright Sony Pictures Imageworks

Copyright Sony Pictures Imageworks

Everything in this movie is delightful — from the inexplicable casting of Neil Patrick Harris as the monkey named Steve, to Bruce Campbell as the ever-expanding mayor, to Swallow Falls’ incredibly colorful and imaginative environments, this film delivers non-stop imaginative fun. It’s contagiously fun. I challenge you to watch this movie and not have fun.

I find it interesting that this movie is an adaptation — I vaguely remember reading the book it’s somewhat-based on, and I vaguely remember disliking it. I guess that just goes to show you what a clever title, a basic premise, and a whole lot of imagination can do for you.

That subsurface.

That subsurface.

The character designs and animation also feel very classic — with a lot more of the squash and stretch and silhouettes of traditional cel animation at its best. You can really tell that everyone involved on the project was passionate about making the film look and feel the way it does, and that effort really pays off.

Cloudy never reaches the emotional highs and lows of Pixar at its best, but it does have this scene:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AO11WHkTfg8&rel=0&w=520]

And honestly, you can’t get much better than that.

What do you think?


I want to know what you think! Comment here, or swing by Facebook or Twitter to have your say! Which animated films make you grin more than any other?

Tomorrow: what animated film makes you sad?

Trackbacks

  1. […] already started to discuss The Incredibles a bit, and Brad Bird’s dual role as both director and voice performer as Edna Mode. I’m sure […]

  2. […] filmmaking, then it’s doubly true of animated films. I’ve touched on this on Day 1 and Day 2. Because of the expense and the exacting nature of the work, traditional wisdom says that you […]

Speak Your Mind

*