As a lover of animated films I find myself digging around in the trenches searching for positively anything I can find. I have a special interest in those that come from smaller studios or are created outside of the United States. Or just present stories that have not yet been depicted through animation.
This list contains five I think may be of particular interest, in no particular order.
1. Mary and Max (2009) – Austrailian – Directed by Adam Elliot
This stop-motion animated film is truly bizarre and fairly depressing. It illustrates the story of an 8-year-old Australian girl, Mary Daisy Dinkle, who is a weird little outcast. One day she pulls from a phonebook the address of a random man in New York City and begins sending him letters. This is Max, an obese Jewish man with Aspergers. The story follows the two outcasts through their not-so happy lives. The film covers such subjects as depression, isolation, panic and anxiety attacks as well as attempted suicide and so much more. All of which is told through these vaguely repulsive little clay stop-motion characters.
2. Wolf Children (2012) – Japanese – Directed by Mamoru Hosada
At first glance I thought this film was just going to be a basic anime but it turned out to be so much more. After we have gotten past the plot of the woman and the wolf man falling in love we have this extremely in-depth story of a single mom raising two children on her own. This is something I’ve not seen tackled in any animated film ever and it was nice to see. It doesn’t glaze over the pains of pregnancy or loss of a loved one but goes into them head-on. Beyond that the animation is simply beautiful, with backgrounds so detailed you could cry and a soundtrack score (composed by Masakatsu Takagi) that could take your breath away.
3. A Town Called Panic (2009) – French – Directed by Stéphane Aubier & Vincent Patar
Quite possibly the most bizarre film on this list is this stop-motion animated film based upon the French TV series of the same name. What makes this one so bizarre? Well, the main characters are Cowboy, Indian and Horse. They are three plastic figurines that live in a world filled with other plastic figurines just like themselves. However unlike Toy Story they are not logically on the floor of a 6-year-old boys bedroom. They live in a world that just is that way. A world where animals go to school, horses drive cars and everyone has a plastic board stuck to their feet. This one makes the list simply because it is so absurd it will have you saying “what?!?” every couple of minutes. I’m also fairly certain The Lego Movie jacked the concept of this film and applied LEGO bricks to it.
4. Colorful (2010) – Japanese – Directed by Keiichi Hara
So you recently died and now have the chance to return to Earth…the catch is you’re going to be put into the body of a 14-year-old boy who recently committed suicide overdosing on pills. Now you’ve got to find out what you did wrong on Earth when you were alive along with trying to figure out what lead this kid to try and kill himself. A strange concept that adds in so many side plots like a cheating mother, being in love with a girl prostitute and having another girl from your school stock you, repeating that you’re so different now. Also, lets not forget the weird angel kid who seems to have a stop-watch waiting until your 6 months of discovery are up. (I’d be lying if I said I didn’t check this film out simply because it’s poster was lovely).
5. Ernest & Celestine (2012) – French – Directed by Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar and Benjamin Renner
It only occurred to me just now that this particular film has two directors in common with A Town Called Panic (mentioned above). Ernest & Celestine might not be so obscure at this point as it had garnered an Academy Award nomination in 2013. The film follows a young mouse-girl below and a bear-man above who team up in an attempt to make both of their lives easier. They end up causing a huge problem as they are chased by both the mice and bear police and are taken to trial in each others worlds court houses to atone for the crimes they have committed, such as being friends. Told through beautiful water-color like animation with a charming soundtrack to boot this is one film that will really warm your heart (as cheesy as that sounds).
Now don’t watch them all at once, you might spoil your appetite!
Until next time!