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With this post, I will complete the series I began way back in January of this year that examined and remarked on The American Film Institute and its recent propensity to create Top 10 lists. Specifically, the organization’s need to gather publicity by documenting their celebration of cinema’s centennial via a series of TV specials. Each time, the AFI went about giving importance to a set of motion pictures based on criteria and judgments their groups of ‘experts’ determined. It has generated opinions among fans and film aficionados ever since in varying degrees of disagreement. If you’re unaware, the AFI is a non-profit organization created by the National Endowment for the Arts back in the 60s. One of its main charters is the preservation of American film legacy. As they put it,
“Each special honors a different aspect of excellence in American film.”
Unquestionably, their prime purpose was to get people talking about film. So be it. This series on AFI’s Top 10s (out of their 100s lists) for 2012 is my motivated response to compare their picks with a moviegoer (me) per each of their indexes. Naturally, I’m fully aware that readers’ mileage may vary (indeed, we know they will) when it comes to these selections. Fair enough. Either way, it’s going to be painful as picking one above the other always is in such endeavors. You’re invited to add your own and/or disagree all you want in the comments or your blog site (all I ask is that you leave a link so we, the readers, can peruse). Shall we finish this?
AFI defines “animated” as a genre in which the film’s images are primarily created by computer or hand and the characters are voiced by actors.
- Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
- The Lion King
- Toy Story
- Beauty and The Beast
- Finding Nemo
- WALL•E – I’m so glad to end the series with a pick the AFI didn’t even have in their Top 10! Simply, this one is the epitome of what’s great about a film of animation. Images of characters that not only tell a story, but breathe life into those drawn figures and make you feel something you didn’t walk in the movie theater with. Andrew Stanton’s film managed to amaze this fifty-something year old ‘kid’ with its tale of how a pair of artificial beings, WALL•E and EVE, learned the true meaning of endearment. It still does.
- Pinocchio [AFI #2] – I’m more than happy to match up with the institute one last time. This remains my favorite Disney film. I find it astonishing that a boatload of directors (led by Norman Ferguson, supervised by Ben Sharpsteen and Hamilton Luske) coalesced Carlo Collodi’s story into something singularly magical and meaningful. Disney’s second animated film exceeded their first.
- The Iron Giant – Warner Bros. Animation didn’t know what they had when they released this film in 1999. And like the AFI, they still don’t (where’s the feature-packed WB Blu-ray this deserves?). The Brad Bird-directed adaptation of the Ted Hughes book, The Iron Man, like my top selection, its real meaning was that it illustrated (beautifully I might add) how one learns to love.
- Toy Story [AFI #6] – while I firmly believe the sequels in the trilogy surpassed it, there’s no question in my mind John Lasseter’s film ushered in the new era of animation (via computer), and put the Pixar studio on the map, with its introduction in 1995. Still, it’s not my two slot-better pick because it was simply first. Its Lasseter, Peter Docter, Stanton, and Joe Ranft inspired story made it so.
- The Incredibles – it’s quite the feat to create an animated film that a) would be in my top ten superhero movie list, b) plays like the best of James Bond films from the 60s (with a musical score to match), and c) never, ever loses sight of its fantastic characters and story. Brad Bird’s 2004 effort, his first with Pixar, accomplished all of that.
- Fantastic Mr. Fox – I’ll add Wes Anderson’s brilliant adaptation of Roald Dahl’s novel into this top-tier category of film (and let me say I consider its stop-motion animation more than qualified, even by AFI’s definition). It enthralled my children and I from the start when we caught it in the movie theater, and has steadily risen in our hearts and minds ever since.
- Finding Nemo [AFI #10] – Andrew Stanton’s and Lee Unkrich’s unexpected adventure film that utilized sea creatures and the ocean environment harkened back to WB’s The Incredible Mr. Limpet, but made it so much more. Like all Pixar films, its story and presentation respected, and never talked down to, the children and parents in the audience.
- The Nightmare Before Christmas – the film’s tagline said it best: “A ghoulish tale with wicked humour & stunning animation“. Henry Selick’s production of a Tim Burton story accomplished the rare thing. Create, again through stop-motion animation, a tale that can enthrall and equally work for the Halloween and Christmas holidays. And, have it all set to music.
- Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs [AFI #1] – there’s nothing wrong with Disney’s first full-length animated feature. I do admire it, even if later productions by the studio have gone on to dwarf it, in my opinion. All of the elements, including its multitude of directors, that went into making animation so magical were set right here. It still deserves to be in the Top 10.
- Fantasia [AFI #5] – Disney’s experimental “collection of animated interpretations of great works of Western classical music” remains a stunner, even decades later. Though first considered a disappointment, it remains a one-of-kind film, directed by a handful of artists. It deserves to remain on this list. Quite something for a film that used classical music for story and as pure dialogue.
Note: let’s get the box score out of the way:
|Pixar||Disney||Warner Bros.||20th Century||Touchstone|
First, and clearly, I have a bias when it comes to animation (via a pair of two studios dominating my Top 10). Mainly, because I’m an almost sixty year old kid at heart (plus, the sheer number of animated films I’ve seen in that time). Admittedly, Pixar and Touchstone are now fully under Disney. However, I choose to keep them separate as the films (when created) on my list were distinct manifestations of their studios and the type of films they were known to produce, IMO.
Second, and by my dropping of Shrek, I don’t think much of Dreamworks Animation, as yet. They’ve gotten better through the years, but they remain second tier in my estimation (and Shrek, instantly became dated due of the studio’s mistaken penchant for employing contemporary pop culture references). Why did I drop Bambi and The Lion King altogether from my list, you ask? I didn’t wish to reward Disney’s persistent predilection of killing off parents (first the mothers, as my wife convinced long ago, then later dads) as a story selling point. It just continued their inclination to produce Kindertrauma with some of the movies.
That said, I love Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella by the studio. But, something of Disney’s had to go to the near tier down to make room for others I thought equally or more deserving. Lastly, I purposely kept my Top 10 strictly an American (as in Film Institute) endeavor (love that word now that the Space Shuttle finally made its way home to Los Angeles yesterday). Otherwise, a number of Japanese animated features (Ghost in the Shell, Akira, Metropolis and others) would have made putting this together that much harder. It was difficult enough, thank you very much.
What would be yours?
Lastly, I’d like to thank all of the people who stopped by and read this AFI-related series. Whether or not they offered comments, new visitors and old-hands all made this one of the most popular features I’ve done on this blog (at least through site statistics). When I started this, it was honestly a bit of a lark, a spur of the moment decision. It was more challenging than I initially gave it credit. Yet, it was easily more rewarding as it forced me to scrutinize a number of films and honestly test what I thought of them. That it caused me to link to other series and helped create additional written work than I had a right to expect proved to be icing on the cake. It really is funny (strange) how things work out sometimes.
The Complete Versus AFI: 10 Top 10 Series: