After ripping ‘Igor‘ a new one when I reviewed it, I was asked in the comments what some of my all-time favorite animated films were (thanks Steph).
So why not make a series of posts about them?
In the ‘Igor‘ review, I pointed out many of the things they did wrong. With these posts, I’ll point out what they did right. You’ve probably seen most of them, so no boring summary.
I’m just going to dig right in.
These are some of my all time favorite animated films. I’m not saying they are the all time greatest films ever made. They are MY choices and I have my reasons. That’s it. They are:
- The Lion King (Disney, 1994)
- The Iron Giant (Warner Bros., 1999)
- Toy Story (Pixar, 1995)
- Finding Nemo (Pixar, 2003)
- South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut (Paramount, 1999) (yeah, yeah, I know…)
I loved ‘Wall-E‘ but don’t want to put it on the list yet because it’s so new and I don’t have a DVD to watch and capture images yet. When I can, you’ll be getting my rave review of that movie.
And yes, as an ‘animation professional’ I know I’m supposed to say ‘Snow White‘, ‘Pinocchio‘, ‘Fantasia‘ and all those classics. But I’m going by what I’ve loved and watched the most.
So in that case, The Lion King kicks Snow White‘s ass.
I will start with The Lion King.
I’ve written about my love for this movie before. It’s a personal thing. I love this movie because I *love* lions (with a tattoo to prove it), there are no humans in it, was the reason I became an animator, was the first VHS tape I ever purchased and it started off as an ‘underdog’ film and ended up a blockbuster.
Here’s what it did right…besides the solid story and strong characters.
The opening. All quiet and dark, then into that great African music with the sunrise and all the animals gathering. Remember how I said ‘Igor‘ started by telling me a bunch of stuff and it needed to ease me into the story? That is how you ease people into a story. Yummy.
Voice casting. Yes, there are celebrities. But they were cast for their voice and not just their name. I mean, James Earl Jones! And Jeremy Irons is so great as Scar.
Pacing. There wasn’t too much story to tell. No jamming a bunch of stuff into it in the name of our assumed short attention spans. It took us on a journey and we stayed with it and we were never lost or confused by the story.
Use of visual repetition. It’s a good storytelling technique that works well with kid’s stories because it makes things easier to remember. They’re little ‘sign posts’. ‘Igor‘ lacked this.
For example: The image of Simba that Rafiki paints on his tree. He finishes it and adds the goo to the forehead as he did to baby Simba at the start of the film (which is another visual repetition).
When he thinks Simba is dead, he smears this drawing in despair.
And when he realizes Simba is still alive, he adds the mane to the drawing.
No words are needed here. The pictures tell the story.
Another example is when Nala jumps and pins Simba when they are cubs.
It’s just a fun piece of business that shows off some character traits. But then it serves as a great trigger for Simba (and the audience) to realize it was Nala chasing Pumba when they are adults. We remember it and we see it.
‘Igor‘ constantly used dialogue for these kinds of things. The equivalent would have been the young Simba to tell Nala “And don’t jump on me and pin me down today. You know that bugs me.” without showing it. Then we would have had to remember that piece of dialogue to ‘get it’ in the adult scene. Not nearly as effective, is it?
Fantastic use of 3D. This is how is should be. Use 3D when it makes sense and when it is most effective. When trying to draw it by hand would be impossible. To add in some dynamic camera movement. Crowd scenes.
A heard of stampeding wildebeasts. Still an amazing sequence.
The ‘Holy Sh*t’ reaction face. There’s a few of them in the film but this one says it all. No words needed.
Saddest death since Bambi’s mom. I still tear up. But I’m an over-sensitive suck.
Nice use of transitions. Using dissolves between these scenes in the ‘Hakuna Matata’ sequence show us, without a doubt, that the grown-up lion is in fact Simba. It’s simple, fun, visual and effective.
If it was presented in a different way, we may have paused for a second wondering, “Is that him or another lion?”. Don’t let your audience second guess important information (unless that’s part of the story, of course).
And this sequence of Simba returning home. Just music and two scenes super-imposed. I love it. There are lots of great transitions and camera work in this film.
The funny lines are backed up with visuals. One of the best lines “What do you want me to do? Dress in drag and do the hula?” was ad-libbed, very funny and essentially for the grown-ups.
Did it stop there? No! It went right into an equally funny sequence of Timon doing the hula dance. Fun for the kids (and for us) and the line wasn’t wasted. Everyone wins. Are you listening ‘Igor‘?
My favorite shot. This shot was when young Simba was about to be scolded by his father Mufasa. He’s walking towards him, looks down and sees this.
It said so much and is so simple.
Was it written in the script?
A story artist did it.
It’s these kinds of moments you should be striving for when you storyboard. They don’t have to be written for you. You can show the audience so much in a well chosen shot.
The shots tell the story.
There’s so much more I could say about ‘The Lion King‘.
And I hear you.
“But they break into song!”
Meh…the songs work. Yes, ‘I Just Can’t Wait to Be King’ is a little cheesy, but it’s fun for the kids and is still catchy. I love the African musical score the best.
The only little thing that nags at me is this question:
Who is Nala’s father?
Think about it.
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