There is an odd perception among the general populace that animated movies are made for children. While there’s an obvious connection between children and brightly colored cartoons, adults by nature want to make things for themselves. The people that get into making animation are obviously driven by the desire to draw. But many times these people are driven by curious forces.
The animation medium provides a level of creativity and freedom not seen in many other film genres. It’s only natural that a group of people would take that freedom and run with it. Like running off a cliff at high speeds, falling down into a vat of acid that eats your flesh and melts your brain. This list is collection of those decisions.
It’s a list of animated films that are strange, eclectic, disturbing, or just plain bizarre. Most of the choices here are geared towards an adult audience. All of the choices here have been picked to watch while under the influence of strong self-assessment.
1. Fantastic Planet (1973, Rene Laloux)
A simple way to confuse your brain right off the bat is to subvert the role of humans. Fantastic Planet is a story about the human race co-existing with giant blue humanoid creatures on another planet; although, co-existing implies a sort of symbiotic relationship. The giant blue creatures on this planet (named Draags) keep the human beings (known as Oms) as pets.
This all takes in what looks like a Salvador Dali painting. The freedom that animation allows, gave the animators and directors working on this film the ability to create a hyper-stylized place full of brilliant blues, reds, and yellows.
2. Son of the White Mare (1981, Marcell Jankovics)
An absolutely unbelievable, grandiose idea that offers no explanation or justification. It’s a folk tale. That is the justification. This is a beautiful picture from Marcell Jankovics and Pannónia Filmmstúdió in Hungary. Son of the White Mare (that’s what the name translates to literally) goes on a quest seeking to rip trees out of the ground and free three princesses who have been kept in the underworld. Sort of a standard monomyth.
What is far from standard is the animation and sound design in this picture. It is a breathtaking, psychedelic masterpiece. Nearly seizure inducing levels of movement and warping; everything so fluidly moving from one scene to the next. Lots and lots of sexual undertone, displays of masculinity and femininity, beard growing and shaving. The terrain changes, mountains get chop-punched in half; iron is made soft like clay.
3. The Cosmic Eye (1986, Faith Hubley)
The Hubley duo, consisting of John and Faith were an animating powerhouse in the 1960s and 70s. When John passed, Faith continued on her own, working with Storyboard Studios, the company they founded together.
The Cosmic Eye is a film that came after John’s death and an extremely personal one at that. Preaching a message of peace using colorful and mind expanding animation techniques. The Cosmic Eye is a more a message than it is a film. A melancholy love letter to the human race.
4. Wizards (1977, Ralph Bakshi)
This is like a late 70s arcade game in movie form. This is Ralph Bakshi’s first fantasy, dabbling before in animated films like Fritz the Cat and Heavy Traffic. It’s set in a futuristic, medieval Earth that has spawned all kinds of new and weird species. Propaganda fuels a new wave of war and hate in a place that is reminiscent of Hitler’s Germany. This is not the only film in this list that uses nuclear holocaust as a main player.
Wizards is the classic battle between good and evil. Just like at the arcade, the audience is given a very clear target. It’s about two brothers, Avatar and Blackwolf. They fight on the scorched Earth, one on a mission for power the other a mission for peace. There’s even a robot named Peace. It’s a bit heavy handed with all the nuclear rhetoric. It’s a far out and dark vision, one that was probably more relatable after the atomic scare in the 60s.
5. Angel’s Egg (1985, Mamoru Oshii)
The first Japanese film on this list but certainly not the last. Japan is well known for their weird and wonderful cartoons known as anime. Angel’s Egg is one film in a whole genre featuring dark, almost completely black landscapes. Blending science fiction with fantasy is a thing that the Japanese have been doing for a long time. Angel’s Egg is a very heady and progressive feature from 1985.
There’s hardly any dialogue in Angel’s Egg. It shows instead of tells, a technique that will definitely turn some people off. It’s a film that works for your attention, and if you’re not willing to give it 100%, you are going to miss a lot.
6. Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem (2003, Kazuhisa Takenôchi)
Time to party Daft Punk fans. It only makes perfect sense to combine the biggest name in French electronic music with a pop-y, fun, animated style. It all comes together to form the visual accompaniment for one of Daft Punk’s most acclaimed albums, Discovery.
Due to its nature, the film itself doesn’t have much of a narrative. But what it lacks in story it makes up for in style. It crafts a unique look that matches the soundtrack so well, it seems the pair were made together. In some very jazzy space station in another galaxy; a galaxy where dance parties are mandatory and electronic music reigns supreme.
7. Consuming Spirits (2012, Chris Sullivan)
This is a fairly young movie that unfortunately hasn’t been given the audience it deserves. It’s a movie that demands to be seen on a cool, foggy night in a cemetery, projected on the side of a mausoleum. Adjectives to describe this movie include, creaky, creepy, cold, damp, musty, smelly, and stale. It’s a tale of bus drivers and heavy drinkers, wandering deer and floating crows. Set in a backwoods town where dark secrets are swept under the rug.
What set Consuming Spirits apart are its techniques. It uses stop motion cutout, stop motion modeling, and simple pencil and paper animation. It was over fifteen years in the making. All working together to craft this story that you can practically smell coming off the screen. The textures give this movie a pulse, albeit one that’s faintly beating. Closer to death than comfortable.
8. Waking Life (2001, Richard Linklater)
This is brain-changing fuel in its purest form. Just a good, hearty, philosophical discussion to wake you up and question your entire existence. Another film on the list that uses a unique animation technique; here we see rotoscoping, also used in Linklater’s adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s A Scanner Darkly. It’s basically an animated mat laid over the top of real people acting on screen. It gives a trippy, out of body effect to the film.
Linklater has always been known for addressing big issues. Waking Life gets down right away to some serious questions about our consciousness, our dreams, and our lives.