Animated films are often thought to be aimed at a younger audience and in particular children are seen as the main consumers of the genre. Whilst a massive part of the market and genre does create and produce films that are family friendly, there are also many animated films which cater to a much older audience. Not only that, but the preconception of an animated film being bright, colourful and light-hearted are turned completely on their head in these films which are often much darker – not only in tone but also visually.
The animation genre is comprised of many incredible films. Some of these films will be very well known by audiences, however there are a number of other animations which whilst less familiar, are still just as worthy of attention from audiences.
1. Waking Life (2001)
Waking Life follows a young man who is in a persistent dream like state as he observes and participates in a number of philosophical discussions with different individuals. These discussions address a myriad of interesting and intriguing issues, including free will, our relationships with others and the meaning of life.
Waking Life is an experimental film which was written and directed by Richard Linklater. The film was shot with live actors and then entirely rotoscoped using a team of artists who used computers to draw stylised lines and colours over each frame of the film. Linklater would later use rotoscoping again for his 2006 film A Scanner Darkly.
Imagine that you are at a party full of people from all different walks of life. At this party, people approach you one by one and pull you aside where they then share with you philosophical thoughts and ideas about everything from what it means to dream to what it means to be human. As these people talk to you, the room is forever changing, pulsating and shifting. Your eye is not only drawn to the person to whom you are talking to but also to the environment around you. All these things add up to what it is like to view Waking Life, a film that the audience experiences as well as watches.
2. Song of the Sea (2014)
Song of the Sea follows brother and sister Ben and Saoirse when they are sent to live with their grandma in the city after their mother’s disappearance. When they resolve to return to their old home by the sea, Ben soon begins to realise that the folktales that his mother used to tell them are not just stories and that his sister Saoirse is even more immersed into this mystical world than he could have ever imagined.
Song of the Sea was directed by Tomm Moore and written by Will Collins. The film used hand drawn animation and took around five years to complete. Song of the Sea had a limited release but received critical acclaim and was nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 87th Academy Awards.
One of the best elements of Song of the Sea is that throughout the film, the audience feels as though they are swept along in the adventure and mystery with Ben and Saoirse. This feeling of being immersed in the events is also exacerbated by the beautiful and breath-taking animation. Song of the Sea crafts a story that resonates with the audience because we all know what it is like to have family and even more than that, what it is like to sometimes have mixed feelings towards that family. The family dynamic is something that feels very relatable and the added intrigue of the folktale elements make the film even more appealing.
3. Tekkonkinkreet (2006)
Orphaned street kids Black and White are inherently different. Whilst Black is more streetwise and tough, White is much more childish and innocent. They both live in Treasure Town and consider the city as their own. When entrepreneurs arrive in the city with the intention of tearing down the city to replace it with an amusement park, Black and White decide to try and stop them, whilst also dealing with the yakuza who are attempting to take over Treasure Town.
Tekkonkinkreet was adapted from the manga series of the same name and all three manga issues were adapted into this feature length version. The film was directed by Michael Arias and was praised as a must-see film for fans of anime.
Tekkonkinkreet does feel that it might be quite a divisive film, but that is only because the animation is very unique and original – traditionalists may just find it too distinctive. That being said, for fans of anime in all its forms, this film is definitely one to add to the watchlist. Tekkonkinkreet world builds in a fascinating way and the use of inventive camera angles and awesome swooping shots makes it even more eye catching for the audience.
4. Mind Game (2004)
Mind Game follows twenty-year-old Nishi who dreams of becoming a comic book artist. Nishi has a crush on his childhood girlfriend and fantasises about declaring his love for her. But when an encounter between Nishi and the yakuza goes horribly wrong, Nishi finds himself in a strange sort of limbo.
Mind Game was adapted from the manga of the same name and directed by Masaaki Yuasa in his directorial debut. Upon its release, Mind Game won several accolades and is now considered a cult favourite.
If you want to watch a film that truly explores and pushes the boundaries of animation, then Mind Game is an absolute must see. Mind Game is a film that is highly experimental in nature and again feels like a film that audiences not only watch but experience. Mind Game is a strange and surreal film and it is hard to put into words the abstract and insane content, just go and watch this film.
5. It’s Such A Beautiful Day (2012)
It’s Such A Beautiful Day is divided into three chapters and follows a stick man named Bill who is struggling with the symptoms of an unknown neurological illness. The film follows him as he struggles with his failing memory and attempts to put his shattered psyche back together.
It’s Such A Beautiful Day was written, produced and directed by Don Hertzfeldt, who also stars in it. The three chapters of the film were originally released separately as shorts before being compiled into a feature. The film had a limited theatrical release before being released on to streaming services. It’s Such A Beautiful Day received wide critical acclaim and is considered by some to be the best animated film of all time.
It is hard to imagine anyone coming away from this film and it not having a profound effect on them. It’s Such A Beautiful Day depicts mental illness in such a resonate way, that even if you have no experience or familiarity with such an illness, somehow you find yourself empathising and relating. All the quirks of what it means to be human, all the awkward interactions and thoughts that we may have – they are all here in this film and Hertzfeldt’s unique and simple animation brings it all to life wonderfully.