Animated films have and will continue to be associated with children. However, in recent years, there's been a shift towards animation that isn't necessarily what you'd call kids-friendly.
This doesn't mean that what's come before is only for children, but that there's an acceptance of animation as an important medium. Here's ten of the best animated films that you definitely need to see...
10. SOUTH PARK: BIGGER, LONGER AND UNCUT (1999)
Despite the fact the show is still running with little to no sign of it being cancelled, the South Park Movie continues to be referenced more and is the most popular “episode” of the long-running series. The suitably daft plot – the US invades Canada in order to bring about the apocalypse – is matched only by the musical numbers. In fact, the score was written by Marc Shaiman, a famous Broadway writer who adapted Hairspray and has worked on a number of hugely successful musicals. The song “Blame Canada” was even nominated for an Oscar.
9. PERFECT BLUE (1997)
Anime often addresses issues that are Japan-centric, but the emotional factors of them often are global. Although the setup for Perfect Blue seems somewhat contrite – a J-pop singer, eager to forge a career as an actress, is stalked by a deranged fan – it goes far beyond that. It deals with existentialism, perceptions of reality, feminism, sexuality, personal regrets and artistic credibility. Not only that, it also addresses the nascent issue of privacy and the Internet – the film itself is seventeen years old. It's dark, adult and visually powerful.
8. WATERSHIP DOWN (1978)
Watership Down is often remembered and reduced to its final act – the bloody battle between warrens that's as graphic as anything in animation – but there's more to it than just that. It was one of the first major animated films to choose character actors over established voice actors. John Hurt, Nigel Hawthorne, Joss Ackland and Denholm Elliot all lent their voices to this adventure film. Based on the popular novel, it tells the story of Hazel and Fiver, two rabbits who attempt to flee their warren before a building development destroys them all.
7. WALTZ WITH BASHIR (2008)
It's unusual to think that animation and documentary could work hand-in-hand together, yet with Waltz With Bashir, it not only works, it enhances and informs the story. A young Israeli soldier is recalling a particularly brutal part of his life and, in doing so, attempts to confront it. The use of animation acts as a way of separating himself from the horrors he's witnessed and allows him distance to tell the story. Waltz With Bashir was nominated for an Oscar and topped a number of critics' end-of-year lists.
6. THE DOT AND THE LINE: A ROMANCE IN LOWER MATHEMATICS (1965)
Chuck Jones is considered the father of American animation. The brains behind Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd and the entire Looney Tunes cast, he is one of the most respected animators of our time. This short, which was theatrically-released, is one of his most well-known. Mixing romance, mathematics, art and animation, it's a beautiful little short about a straight line who falls in love with a carefree dot. Yes, really. Released in 1966, it was then entered into Cannes Film Festival and won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short.
5. FRITZ THE CAT (1972)
Few animated films have been more controversial, or courted controversy, like Fritz The Cat. Created by maverick animator Ralph Bakshi, it's the easily one of the most adult, sexually explicit, politically-charged animated films ever made and is ever likely to be made. The plot – for lack of a better word – focuses on a talking cat on the run from a police force made up of pigs. He enjoys cannabis, hallucinogens and “free love” and isn't afraid to show himself enjoying these. Some may dismiss Fritz The Cat as baiting controversy with its hedonistic exploits, it addressed issues that the world wasn't prepared to look at. At least not in the context of an animated film. An early precursor to adult-themed animation such as Family Guy, Bob's Burgers and South Park, it was also the first animated film to be given a X-rating by US censors.
4. AKIRA (1988)
Although anime films have been more than just sci-fi or fantasy based, some of the most successful and critically-acclaimed films have been of that ilk. Akira focuses on a group of teenagers in Neo-Tokyo who are being hunted by the oppressive military-dominated government as one of their own discovers he has psychic powers. Akira helped to popularise anime and was a crossover hit when it was initially released. Not only that, countless mainstream sci-fi films have borrowed liberally from it including found-footage superhero film Chronicle.
3. PERSEPOLIS (2007)
While Persepolis' plot may deal with one topic – namely a young woman coming of age during the Iranian revolution – its themes deal with issues beyond that. What do you when the country you've loved and identified with has changed completely? Do you change with it or stay true to yourself? Marjane is a young, precocious girl who idolises Bruce Lee, loves Iron Maiden and become a prophetess. As you do. However, when the oppressive regime of the Shah is overthrown by even-more oppressive Islamic fundamelists, Marjane's life becomes increasingly more difficult and fraught with tragedy. Sean Penn, Iggy Pop and Catherine Deneuve lent their voices for the English version.
2. THE IRON GIANT (1999)
Based on Ted Hughes' children's novel, The Iron Giant is one of animation's most heartfelt and genuinely affecting stories. A young child discovers a massive talking robot that's fallen to Earth and befriends it. The robot's memory has been wiped and is unsure of himself or why he's even on the planet. Soon enough, the government finds out and tries to destroy it. The film has obvious parallels with ET, but more than that, the film works on using both the time period it's set in – the 1950's – to great advantage. It's beautifully animated and director Brad Bird's talent for making emotionally affecting stories is unmatched.
1. TOY STORY (1995)
Toy Story truly began the revolution in animation from conventional, hand-drawn animation to computer-drive, 3D animation that we're all familiar with today. And while the technical prowess of PIXAR can't be denied, what's made them the reigning titans of animation is that their stories are human and relatable - even when they're about talking toys, monosyllabic robots in a post-apocalypse world or even a family of superheroes. Toy Story was the blueprint that PIXAR worked out from. Make a funny story, make it believable. It's hard to guess what the world would be like without Toy Story.