The problem with AFI’s lists isn’t the final lists. It’s with the ballots they send out. Their recent top 10 genre lists had ballots of 50 films each from which to select their top 10. And for some reason, those ballots included mediocre recent Disney films like Pocahontas and Mulan rather than Lilo and Stitch, the best Disney film since Aladdin. They also, for some reason, even though it was eligible, didn’t include Ratatouille. Or Watership Down, a film I have always loved.
Alas, Watership Down still doesn’t make my top 10, mainly because I’m not the AFI and it’s not my goal to limit myself to American films (even though AFI includes a lot of British films). For a long time all the best animated films were from Disney, because they were the only company making them on a regular basis. And many of the best on this list are classic Disney films. But a lot has changed in the last twenty years. We have great stop-motion films (Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride, surprisingly both on AFI’s ballot), motion-capture films (Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow), combination live action and animated (Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which I considered putting on the list and it would have come in fourth) and the three masters outside the US: Aardman, which has given us Wallace and Gromit as well as Chicken Run, Satoshi Kon, the visionary Japanese director who made Tokyo Godfathers and Millenium Actress, and, of course, Hayao Miyazaki, the greatest animation director ever, hands down.
Disney should actually consider itself lucky, for while they continue to churn out animated films, the only great animated film they’ve made in the last fifteen years was Lilo and Stitch; on the other hand they distribute the Pixar films (two of which make this list and three more would if it were a top 20) and they do the American releases for Miyazaki. AFI seems to realize this, at least, because of the 14 films from this decade on the ballot, none were traditional Disney animated films. But, without further digression, here is my actual list.
The 10 Greatest Animated Films of Alltime
1 – Fantasia (Disney) – 1940
The dancing hippos and alligators would do it alone, even if the rest of the film didn’t exist.
2 – Spirited Away (Miyazaki) – 2002
Such a beautiful story. My wife loves Kiki, but to me, this is the ultimate Miyazaki film.
3 – Bambi (Disney) – 1942
Do people who watch The Lion King realize that the plot was stolen from Bambi?
4 – Beauty and the Beast (Disney) – 1991
I took four different females to see this in the theater. A great date film.
5 – Pinocchio (Disney) – 1940
Such a wonderful classic, even after all these years.
6 – The Little Mermaid (Disney) – 1989
I didn’t see this in the theater because Disney had been on a downward swing and because I was in high school, but after my sister rented it, I watched it. I then watched it three more times that weekend.
7 – My Neighbor Totoro (Miyazaki) – 1989
On Ebert’s list of great films. Nuff said.
8 – The Incredibles (Pixar) – 2004
The best of the Pixar films. It’s weird how as a parent, I react so intensely to the scene with the rockets hitting the plane.
9 – Ratatouille (Pixar) – 2007
Sweet, sentimental, and fantastic.
10 – Persepolis (Marjane Satrapi) – 2007
I feel the need to add that watching Persepolis last night is made me do this list at this time. It’s a great film, the only one on the list that in no way qualifies as a children’s film, and even though the animation is not state of the art like Miyazaki or Pixar, the two dimensional drawings that almost straight from the graphic novel perfectly suit the film.
6a – Grave of the Fireflies (Isao Takahata) – 1988
The reason for this addition is that when I made the original list, I had never seen Grave of the Fireflies. In the time since, while making my way through the few films on Ebert’s Great Movies list that I haven’t seen, I finally watched this. It deserves to be on the list. It will likely make you cry.