NetCliques: Embrace your inner child in the world of animated movies

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When asked why he always aimed to make his films “family oriented” rather than “child oriented,” an amused Walt Disney replied, “You’re dead if you aim only for kids. Adults are only kids grown up, anyway.”

So NetCliques readers, that is your cue. This month is the perfect time for you to embrace your inner youngster, relive your childhood, and reenter the fantastical world of animated movies. But wait! Before you even think about reaching for that pile of Pixar/Disney DVDs, we’re going to have to ask you to move far far away and consider journeying with us to a land of underrated and often forgotten cinema favorites, with stories that might not be your average fairy tale but have just the right amount of magic to put a smile on your face.

Because we just so happened to mention the granddaddy of animated filmmakers, why not start off today’s suggested queue with some movies from his company’s vault of Animated Classic movies? And no, they are not going to be princess flicks or motion pictures featuring talking animals, whether they be talking lions, tigers, or bears.

This feature takes place in a completely different universe from those so-stereotypical-they-work movies (and we don’t just mean that figuratively; it really takes place in another universe!). Treasure Planet (available on Amazon, iTunes and by other means) was first pitched alongside The Little Mermaid as “Treasure Island… but in space!” Naturally, everyone at the time preferred to see a red headed mermaid over an adolescent in space, so the story was initially scrapped. However, the sci-fi screenplay eventually resurfaced, and the modernized adaptation of the Robert Louis Stevenson novel finally got the Disney stamp of approval. One of the many things that makes this movie so engaging is the wonderful voice acting of David Hyde Pierce, Emma Thompson, and the then little-known star Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Another is the use of hand-drawn 2D pictures layered atop 3D computer graphics, with the ending result consisting of breathtaking scenery and otherworldly elements – such as aliens, cyborgs, and actual space ships –  that make the masterpiece that much more captivating and engaging.

With a plot that feels familiar yet new and exciting, Treasure Planet shines as one of the forgotten favorites of the Magic Kingdom.

Another lost treasure is a flick that does in fact star a royalty figure and  talking animal of sorts, but most definitely does not take place in a happy forest or typical castle. The Emperor’s New Groove (available on Amazon, iTunes, etc.), which got its title but not its story from “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” takes place in the Inca Empire, a place that doesn’t seem entirely fit for Mickey Mouse, but turns out to be the perfect foundation for a different kind of tale. When a plot to kill him accidentally ends up turning him into a llama, the immature emperor Kuzco must fight for his throne and recognize that the world doesn’t revolve around him.

Packed with intelligent references to Incan culture, the hilarious hit has the feel and comedic presence of a cartoon show, but the morals and delicate graphics of a true Disney movie.

Now that we’ve dusted off some of our personal Magic Kingdom favorites for you, it’s time we expand our horizons and stretch to other branches of animated goodies.

For example, if you’re ever in need of a good laugh, the United Kingdom has created a gem of a show, Wallace and Gromit (available on Amazon, iTunes, and Netflix).  The adventure follows Wallace, a forgetful inventor and cheese enthusiast, and his companion Gromit, a dog who only communicates through sign.  However, the really notable aspect is the fantastic stop-motion clay animation technique where all the characters are plasticine models that are shifted and shot frame by frame and then compressed into the film.  Boasting both groundbreaking cinematography and fun storylines, Wallace and Gromit is definitely a show to enjoy.

E.B. White’s classic tale Charlotte’s Web (available on Amazon, iTunes, etc), depicting an adorable friendship between a piglet and a spider, first appeared as an animation in 1973.  Scored by Robert and Richard Sherman (of Mary Poppins and Jungle Book fame), the story follows a runt named Wilbur who, having been saved from certain death by a young girl named Fern, needs to prove to the humans that he’s a prize pig worth keeping alive.  A spider named Charlotte befriends him, and they work together with the rest of the farm animals to make Wilbur “some pig.”  Heartwarming and inspirational, this cartoon is sure to please audiences of all ages.

It’s unrealistic to wish upon a star that we can be made young again, but it’s always fine to reset your mind for an afternoon or two to relish the favorites of your own day.

So, for this month, go out there and embrace those films you long ago abandoned, guided perhaps by our personal selections; after all, you are only as young as you feel. And, if we forgot any of your go-to kiddie movies, please comment on the online edition of this column at thhsclassic.com.

Happy streaming!

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