Comfort in Animation
I Like Animated Children’s Movies
Once upon a time, in true Disney-Pixar fashion, I lost my mom in the now defunct “Wannado City”, an indoor role-playing amusement center. For 2 hours, I wandered aimlessly through artificial streets, passed paper-flame fires, and conversed with complete strangers. I never thought about a bad outcome, because all the stories I knew ended in reunion. When I eventually found my mom enjoying a Bloody Mary in the adult’s lounge, we hugged. This is what was supposed to happen, and it did.
As a symptom of growing up, we become increasingly accustomed to uncertainty – especially now. There are no guaranteed feel-good endings, so I return to predictable friends and search for new ones. I’m happy to share my little comforts here with you.
How to Train Your Dragon
Starting with what will surely be a classic in 10 years, “How to Train Your Dragon” takes us into Berk, a village attacked by dragons. We meet an unlikely hero and, arguably, the cutest animated dragon ever. Now, “How to Train Your Dragon” isn’t going to rock your world, but it’s solid. Sometimes that’s all you need.
2. Mune: Guardian of the Moon
“Mune”, a little-known French film, will rock your world. Creating an origin story for the Sun and the Moon, we watch as new Guardians are being chosen for the celestial orbs. An unexpected choice is made for the Moon’s guardian, and thus our journey begins. The story is refreshing with breathtaking animation and the twistiest of turns, making my heart melt without fail.
I’ll be honest. I have cried at some point during all of these movies, but “Smallfoot” takes it to another level. The parallels to U.S. immigration’s hateful policies are clear, teaching children that baseless hostility is unjust (and enraging those of us who know ~some people~ could use this lesson now). I’m a sucker for movies that end in acceptance and, if you’re like me, grab the tissues.
4. Your Name
This anime film from 2016 would be hard to describe without giving away the whole story, so let’s just say a boy and girl randomly switch bodies, forced to navigate each other’s lives. It’s brilliant, moving, and has a stunning score by the RADWIMPS that featured songs on my Spotify Wrapped playlist. “Your Name” is unpredictable and possibly too complicated for children, but I couldn’t leave it out.
5. Fantasia and Fantasia
Ah! Some more films that no animated movie list is complete without. Both Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 were my childhood favorites, though I now prefer the second. Disney challenged its creators to craft wordless animated vignettes that embody classical and jazz pieces. It may sound boring now, but wait till you see the flying whales and dancing hippos. The Fantasias are absolute masterpieces, and I cannot emphasize that enough.
6. Happy Feet Two
I know what you’re thinking. You’re going to end this with the sequel to an overplayed classroom movie? Please, let me explain. On a 12-hour flight, the only movie available was Happy Feet Two and I promise I resisted for as long as I could. Eventually, I caved and was stunned. The story arc is effective, the music is danceable, but here’s the true gold: Brad Pitt and Matt Damon play krill named Will and Bill, and a small, fluffy penguin delivers a life-changing operatic moment. This is chicken noodle soup for the weathered spirit – you don’t have to tell anyone you caved, but do cave.
There are many more I could add, but these are at the must-haves. Not all are great, but they’re good. Enjoy revisiting old lessons, and bask in their careful delivery – upbeat or not. I’m thankful to the creators of little worlds where we are encouraged to hope - and my hope is that this list does just that for you.
With honorable mentions:
Over the Hedge
The Jungle Book
Winnie the Pooh (2011)
Rise of the Guardians
The Land Before Time
The Tigger Movie