(1995) D: Chris Noonan. Starring James Cromwell.
A very cute and clever film for anyone who loves animals. “That’ll do, pig.”
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: James Cromwell, a longtime vegetarian, decided to become a vegan after starring in the movie.
a bug’s life
(1998) D: John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton. Starring the voices of Dave Foley, Kevin Spacey and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
Totally under-appreciated animated gem.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: The two mosquitoes trapped in the light of the bugzapper (“Frank, don’t go towards the light!” “I can’t help it – it’s so beautiful!”) are the voices of the co-directors, John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton.
(2000) D: Peter Lord & Nick Park. Starring the voices of Mel Gibson, Imelda Staunton, Miranda Richardson.
Clay-mation made its comeback with this sweet and charming film from the creators of Wallace & Gromit.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: There was a major push to get Chicken Run nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. The failure to get the nomination, and the popularity of the film among Academy members led to the inclusion of Best Animated Feature for the next Academy Awards (2002), which was won by fellow Dreamworks film Shrek (2001) and provided a spark for the re-emergence of animated films in Hollywood.
(2003) D: Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich. Starring the voices of Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Alexander Gould.
Thoroughly charming and endearing. Ellen DeGeneres totally steals the movie with her hilarious performance as Dory, a memory-impaired fish.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: As of January 2005, it is the bestselling DVD of all time in the world with 22 million copies sold.
(2004) D: Brad Bird. Starring the voices of Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Jason Lee, Samuel L. Jackson.
Although not as charming as its predecessors, Pixar’s fifth big screen movie is technically brilliant and proves that you can keep pushing the envelope to bigger and better things.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Jason Lee (Buddy/Syndrome) recorded his vocals in four days, while Craig T. Nelson (Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible) recorded his vocals over the span of two years.
(2001) D: Peter Docter, David Silverman. Featuring the voices of John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Steve Buscemi.
What the Wachowski Brothers did for special effects (see The Matrix), Pixar did for the animation industry. And this film is the jewel in the Pixar crown. My favorite.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: This is the fourth movie to feature both John Goodman and Steve Buscemi and is the first of the four not to be directed and produced by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen. Bonus trivia: It normally took 11 to 12 hours to render a single frame of Sulley because of his 2.3 million individually animated hair strands.
THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS
(1993) D: Henry Selick. Starring the voices of Chris Sarandon, Danny Elfman, Catherine O’Hara.
In case anyone didn’t notice that producer/writer Tim Burton was a genius before….
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Many people, including me, mistakenly assume that Tim Burton directed this animated classic, when in actuality, he only produced and wrote it. He was directing Batman Returns while he was producing this film, so he left the directing duties to his former fellow Disney animator Henry Selick.
ONE HUNDRED AND ONE DALMATIANS
(1961) D: Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske & Wolfgang Reitherman
Not to be confused with the 1996 live-action re-make, the original was and still is the best.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Cruella De Vil was designed as a manic take-off on the flamboyant actress Tallulah Bankhead, as well as some of her personality quirks.
(1977) D: John Lounsbery, Wolfgang Reitherman & Art Stevens. Starring the voices of Bob Newhart, Eva Gabor, Geraldine Page.
I don’t know what it was about those little mice that just captured my heart as a kid, but this film stands out as my favorite of all the Disney animated classics.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Veteran animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston consider it their best picture without Walt Disney.
(1995) D: John Lasseter. Starring the voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles, John Ratzenberger.
The first computer-animated full-length feature from Pixar…..a thrilling and groundbreaking sign of things to come.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: First fully computer-generated full-length feature film.
TOY STORY 2
(1999) D: John Lasseter, Ash Brannon, Lee Unkrich. Starring the voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Kelsey Grammar.
Another rare example of a sequel being even better than the stellar original.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Originally intended as a direct-to-video release, but the early test scenes played so well that Pixar started over and redeveloped it into a theatrical release movie.
(2008) D: Andrew Stanton. Featuring voices of: Benn Burtt, Elissa Knight, Jeff Garlin, Fred Willard.
A poem for our times. Simply a masterpiece. Oh, and it’s charming, funny, cute and poignant. The best film of 2008, if not the decade.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Andrew Stanton and Pete Docter outlined the film before Toy Story (1995) was completed, but production would not resume until after Stanton completed Finding Nemo (2003).