Then vs. Now Pt 1: Animation

Nostalgia? Or were the old days really that much better for animated movies?
December 01, 2007
*****Spoilers are scattered around here. I hope you guys know your Disney movies.*****

DISCLAIMER: I will not discuss Anime movies on the count of I don't know enough about them to do them justice. I know about Porco Rosso, Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, and the like, but not enough to write about them. Shame on me =(

In the comments section, if you'd like to discuss the anime movies that came out in the 90s and 00s, be my guest. =)

Does anyone remember the late 80s/early-mid 90s animated movies? Of course you do, or else you wouldn't be at a site called Retrojunk, now, would you? People remember fondly the days of yore when Disney explored the mysticism of our vast childish imaginations and gave us motion pictures of a lion finding his rightful place in the circle of life or an evil man who wishes to harness the limitless powers of a comical genie. People especially remember vividly growing up with animated movies when 2D movies were still in the mainstream.

In other words, before 3D hit the big time:

Actually, if we're talking about the 90s and animated movies, the Toy Story 2 pic is great to look at because it bookended the 90s on a high note with these other two animated films:

Animation was catapulted in the last 80s in what is known as the Animation Renaissance -- it was kick-started by Who Framed Roger Rabbit and The Little Mermaid and progressed well into the 90s. The Disney animated movies that started off and jolted that decade were usually period pieces, expect for Lion King. They reminded us a lot of the Disney movies from the days of yore, with Disney princesses the center of many of the stories. There was a magical feel to them, mostly because the majority of them had a very obvious magical element to them, like the wizardry of the Genie from Aladdin or the talking furniture in Beauty and the Beast.

The one thing I loved about these movies is how the story would actually be a mature story if it was written in a live-action, darker setting. Take the Lion King, for example:

In the Lion King (spoilers ahoy for the two of you that have yet to see it), a jealous and suspiciously evil looking lion kills his brother, brainwashes his nephew into thinking he was responsible for his death, and then orders his henchmen hyenas to kill him as well. This is all so he can secure his place as the new king of Pride Rock. Now, would this be a Rated G flick in a darker setting? I don't think so. That's actually one of the funniest quips about older Disney movies, from the 40s all the way to the 90s -- for all the "kid's movie" labeling crap you can throw at them, their stories aren't that childish. *****End Spoilers*****

A lot of people here at RetroJunk miss the "good ol' days" of animation -- the days when 2D was still in the mainstream and could co-exist with 3D animation. But, the question I will pose is this -- have we really lost the good ol' days of animation? Was the 90s better?[/b]

The 2000s (up until 2007): The Contenders

These are some of the highest rated animated movies of the decade, and it's quite a crop. The one thing you probably notice, as you've most likely already noticed, is that the 2D movie has had its prevalence diminished quite a bit. Disney has plans to bring it back in full swing in a couple of years -- you can thank John Lasseter for that one. But what of the 3D age -- have we lost the spark of the 90s?

I think animated movies are a great example of how time has done well to them. I've heard a few friends say that they believe the Animation Renaissance ended somewhere around Hercules or Tarzan. I honestly don't know how prevalent that viewpoint is, but what I believe is that the Renaissance is still kicking it to high gear.

Pixar is one of the best examples of quality story-telling. They place quite a heavy emphasis on their characters and storytelling and take their scripts very seriously. Many of their movies, such as The Incredibles and Finding Nemo, were nominated for Best Original Screenplay, and quite deservedly, too.

The one thing I did notice, however, was that the magical feeling of the old Disney movies disappeared. Personally, I prefer the new crop of movies over the old, albeit still great, animated movies, but the one thing that was special about many of the older films was the usual magical and epic feel to their stories and how big the stories really were. Most of the stories from this decade's crop of animated movies don't have the same epic tales that something like The Lion King or Little Mermaid had, where contained within them would be supernatural beings and dynasties and whatnot. They were very different for the most part.

I think, though, out of all the animated films to be released, one I think brought back a lot of the magic I remember from old Disney films (but in a different way) was Ratatouille.

A good example of that would be the following scene (*****spoilers*****):

After Linguini confesses to his workers that he has no talent at all and that the rat, Remy, has been controlling him the entire time, they abandon him, including his lover, Colette, who was convinced that he was different. As this is occurring, a soft, melodic, beautiful piano is playing in the backgruond. Remy and Linguini look saddened as the door closes in front of them. Linguini, depressed, slowly turns around and looks outside into the dining hall. You can see many customers chatting away, and in the middle of all this, you see the evil, smug face of the harsh food critic, Anton Ego:

Linguini puts Remy down and depressingly retreats to his office. At this point, Remy's father comes to Remy's aid and promises that his family would help him cook and secure all the orders for the night. And just like that, the rats clean themselves, and in one of the best musical pieces in the entire movie, they race to their designated positions and take over the kitchen, fixing up the mountains of food they need to prepare as Linguini waits all the tables. Once Colette returns and she and Remy make ratatouille, they come out and serve Anton Ego his meal. He takes a bite, and his eyes widen, to which we are then shown a quick flashback of Anton Ego in his childhood, happily feasting on his mother's delicious ratatouille. We've witnessed a drastic change of his character, one that tugs on you like the growing of the Grinch's heart (as a movie critic put very well), and Anton Ego happily gulps down the meal.

*****end spoilers*****

Now, this isn't the same kind of "epic" tale as in many classic Disney movies (though no tale needs to be "epic" to be great), but the reason I mention this scene is because of how whimsical and beautiful it all meshed together, from the vibrant visuals to the sublime musical score. And as long as we still have directors like Brad Bird, Miyazaki, John Lasseter, Pete Docter, Andrew Stanton, and everyone else that can develop a scene (and, subsequently, a movie) with this kind of impact, then we are still in great shape.

So I write this article not only to allow us to revisit some of the animated movies from our childhood, but also so we can remember that the good days of great animated films aren't gone -- they happened, but they are still going strong. This is a great time for animated films, so let's appreciate the present just like we still appreciate the past. =)
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