The idea of watching cartoons/animated films these days no longer excites me. Which is kinda sad.
Why, you ask? It’s not coz I’m all ‘grown up’, it’s simply coz the storytelling is so weak these days. Bland, boring, blah. Sequels abound. Take Frozen, for example (I’m gonna get a lot of flak for this). I found the story okay – not bad, but not very good either – but I have friends who praised it like it was God’s animation gift to man, who watched it 5x at theaters and bawled their eyes out at all the ‘touching’ scenes.
Idk. All I have to say is, they dont make them like they used to.
Nw I sound like an old-timer!
Maybe it’s nostalgia talking, but I miss those animations and cartoons they used to make in the early 90s and 2000s.Not just the mainstream ones, but the underrated ones that for some reason (either bad timing during the release or people just didn’t appreciate them) didn’t do well at the box office. I bet they hold a special place in many a heart of people my age.
So here’s a trip down memory lane:
10) Chicken Run (2000)
Painstakingly done in stop motion, this English classic has the Mr.Bean-esque, self-absorbed (yet very relatable) British humour down pat. The story chronicles a bunch of chickens on Mrs Tweedy’s farm, who plan to escape before their owner turns them into meat pies. Led by the smarter-than-your-average-chick Ginger, the bumbling crew (they are chickens, after all) try to escape with the help of an American circus stunt rooster, Rocky, whom the group believes can fly.
The story is hilarious, especially when it comes to the very ‘creative’ ways the chickens try to escape: attempting to pass off as Mrs Tweedy, catapults, etc., and when Rocky ‘teaches’ them how to fly. The characters are fun and engaging, like Babs, who loves knitting, Colonel Fowler a former cock in the air force, and Mac, who has a Scottish accent.
Watching this as an adult also got me thinking about poultry slaughtering practices. I wonder if that was what the animators intended for kids to watch and remember into adulthood. 😡
9) Dinosaur (2000)
This movie is a feast for the eyes, thanks to its beautiful animation. It was one of Disney’s first live action – CGI incorporated animations, which saw the crew travelling around the world to record nature backgrounds and blending them with CGI dinos. Even today, the graphics still stand well against newer animated films.
Storywise, the plot has been described as ‘dull’ by some critics, but I loved it. It’s one of those feel good films with the right amount of action and fun. And you just can’t help rooting for the socially awkward hero.
Aladar is an iguanadon that got separated from his herd as an egg, and was raised by lemurs. Raised on an island with no other dinos, his world is thrown into turmoil when an asteroid hits the planet and his lemur family drift to the mainland, where they meet other dinos. They cross the wasteland in order to look for a fresh source of food and water, while running from a pair of carnivorous Carnatauros.
8) Help! I’m A Fish ! (2000)
My brother and I loved this show so much, we watched it almost every other week on tape (you know, that big black square thing? Ring a bell?). I’m not surprised people haven’t heard of it coz it’s actually a Danish-German-Irish film, and they dubbed it in English to make it more accessible to a wider audience.
Three kids visit a (somewhat mad) scientist studying ocean life, and in the process, the little girl Sasha accidentally drinks a potion which turns her into a starfish. She is sucked into the sea and in order to save her, big brother Fly and his cousin Chuck drink the potion themselves to bring her back before it’s too late. What follows is an epic adventure under the sea, and trying to outwit a mean fish who has gotten its hands on the ‘human’ potion and wants to become a man.
For such a good film (the animation style is really pretty and fluid, especially the underwater scenes – able to rival Disney films any day) it’s sad that it only brought in 5.6mil in the domestic market.
7) FernGully (1992)
Before Avatar made blue aliens sexy and before John Smith fell in love with Pocahontas, there was FernGully. Similar in theme, the story talks about how a white (ha) man comes in contact with the natives, falls in love with their way of life/culture and attempts to protect the community from greedy, evil forces.
Zack works for a logging company, but is shrunk down and meets tiny fairies, protectors of the rainforest. He learns to love nature and its powers, as well as the fairy way of life, which he now must help to protect against Hexxus – a manifestation of human greed and evil in the form of polluted sludge that poisons everything it comes into contact with. Lots of humour (from the batty character, Batty. Lol), fairy mischief, fun adventures, a bit of romance (Zack and the heroine fairy, Crysta) and you have a great recipe for a story. Animation is pretty, and Hexxus legit scared the sht out of me as a child.
This was another film I had on VHS (parents used to buy lots of these for me to watch. Thank you parents, I had a magical childhood filled with imagination).
6) The Prince of Egypt (1998)
I watched this on a bootleg CD, coz Malaysia banned the film (boo, Malaysian censorship board) for its depiction of Moses. The film tells the story of Moses’ life – how he was adopted into the Egyptian royal family, how he eventually found God, and led the Israelites to the promised land. Even without religious connotations, the story of Moses is a good one in itself, and the people behind the film (DreamWorks) did an amazing job of bringing it to life. I feel like it would be great educational material for religious classes. And who wouldn’t be moved when Moses cries “Let my people go” ? The animation is sombre but beautiful.
Also, amazing musical score. That opening song where Moses’ mom floats him onto the river still moves me as an adult. Now that’s a timeless classic right there.
5) The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)
Another Disney film that somehow flopped at the box office for reasons unknown. I thought it was a very clever story with witty narrative and good lessons on friendship, appreciation and humility.
Kuzco, the spoiled emperor of an ancient South American civilisation, is turned into a llama by his evil advisor, Yzma. He seeks help from Pacha, a peasant whom Kuzco has just rudely turned down and evicted so that he could build his summer mansion. The pair travel to the palace to look for a cure, whilst avoiding traps laid out by Yzma and her bumbling assistant, Kronk. The material is hilarious, with lots of slapstick humour done just right, snarky dialogue, and loads of fun.
Kuzco in human form is really cute, by the way.
4) Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
I think one of the reasons why Atlantis didn’t do as well as its counterparts is due to its radical departure from the ‘classic’ Disney storyline. It is Disney’s first science fiction animation. While funny at times, it’s humour is more subdued, more adult-like. For the most part, it was an epic adventure story, with darker themes such as death, betrayal and greed.
The story starts off with the fall of Atlantis, an advanced civilisation for its time, and its sinking into the depths of the ocean. Thousands of years later, Milo Thatch – nerdy linguist-turned explorer – is funded by an eccentric millionaire on a bet made with his grandfather, who discovered the ‘Sheperds Journal’, said to lead to Atlantis’ whereabouts. Leading a team of experts, Milo heads underground and finds that the inhabitants of Atlantis are not so dead after all; and have continued living under the earth’s surface. However, the power that holds them up is dying, the city decaying and its people wasting away. Meanwile, Milo discovers that the team expedition that came along has a personal agenda of their own.
The art style is amazing. Beautiful, rich with culture and historical research, and with an equally awesome music score to boot. And those underwater chase scenes.. it’s made for 3D. I think it’s one of the most underrated Disney films of all time. Wish people could appreciate great films like these instead of Frozen and that infernal Do You Want to Build A Snowman song.
3) Land Before Time (1988)
I cried like a baby when Littlefoot’s mum died. Nuff’ said.
That friggin score still tugs at my heart strings *wipes eye with sleeves*
2) Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (2003)
My top two favourites are both from Dreamworks! It’s really sad because after this film (in which they suffered a loss), they abandoned traditional cartoons and started doing CGI stuff instead. 😡 A pity, coz this was brilliant. From the art style to the storytelling and the characters, everything was amazing.
Sinbad, pirate/sailor used to be best buds with Proteus, a prince. When Sinbad tries to steal the Book of Peace which Proteus is protecting on its way back to his kingdom, they are attacked by a sea monster, summoned by the goddess of discord, Eris. As a result, Sinbad is dragged down to Eris’ lair, and tempted to steal the Book of Peace in exchange for riches. When Sinbad ultimately refuses, Eris impersonates him and steals the book on her own, causing Sinbad to be sentenced to death. Proteus takes his place, sending Sinbad to retrieve the book from Eris at the edge of the world. Along tags the feisty Marina, Proteus’ fiance. Hilarity, adventure and romance ensue. Danger at every corner! Running from giant creatures! Tidal waves! Everything an evil goddess can throw at them !
**If you’re wondering… yes, I loved this cartoon and the Eris character so much that I adopted that name.
and last but not least….
1) The Road to El Dorado (2000)
My favourite cartoon of all time. It’s everything that a good cartoon, heck, a good film – should be. Feel good and funny, the movie doesn’t take itself too seriously but still manages to pull off a meaningful story.
In 16th century Spain, con artists Miguel and Tulio are caught out while playing a game of dice, and escape by stowing away on a ship to the New World. Once there, they run away and stumble across a rich ancient civilisation, only to be mistaken for Gods. With the help of native bombshell Chel (Chel Dorado hahahaha god I saw that joke somewhere), the pair plan their escape back to Spain with all the gold they can carry. But there are obstacles – an overzealous shaman Tzekel-Kan insists they prove their powers and constantly pushes for human sacrifice; as well as the ruthless Spanish ship captain, Cortes, who is inching closer to discovering the city.
Tulio and Miguel are the best of buds, and their exchanges are both hilarious and dynamic. They also live life on the edge, trusting most things to luck and getting away with it (it’s a cartoon, duh). The jokes are punny, and Tulio’s pessimistic, snarky demeanour contrasts well with Miguel’s more upbeat, kinder nature.
But again, this was a box office bomb, losing money for Dreamworks. It also got negative reviews for a ‘thin’ plot and ‘flat characters’. But fk it, I love it so 15/10.
Now excuse me, I want to go re-watch El Dorado. :–D
What are some of your favourite childhood cartoons/animations? Share in the comment box below!