As more and more wonderful (Kubo and the Two Strings) and awful (The Emoji Movie) pieces of animated cinema get released every year others fall through the cracks and never get the reputation and success they deserve. This has been happening since Walt Disney first put ink to paper and will continue as Pixar and they’re brilliant artists continue to formulate pixel that make us cry. With that, we’re giving you ten more underrated animated films of all time. If you wanna check out part of you can do so HERE. Check it out if YOUR favorite didn’t make the cut this time. Use the comments section below to tell us just how amazing this list is because we know we got it absolutely right this time!
Same rules as last time. I took 60+ lists from fans pundits, and cinephiles around the web and gave each persons top pick ten points and the tenth pick one point and so on and so forth. Having said all that I took into account films that are predominantly animated so flicks like Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Cool World are disqualified. Let’s get started!
10. Coraline (2009): Based on the book by Neil Gaiman this tells the story of Coraline Jones (Dakota Fanning). A girl who’s moved away from the only life she’s ever known. Now as her parents are on the precipice of completing a project they’ve worked on for years. When she uncovers a secret door in her home that leads to a place where whatever she wants comes true. The leader of this place is a woman who looks exactly like her mother, but with buttons for eyes. When all turns out to not be what it seems Coraline will have to not only make a life altering decision but fight against things that caused the issue in the first place.
What Went Wrong: It leads off the list because nothing necessarily went wrong. it made 124.6 million on a 64 million dollar budget. So from a monetary standpoint, LAIKA can be happy but I don’t think the film gets nearly the credit it deserves. Not only is this film stellar in its 3D presentation but it’s a film that introduced LAIKA’s signature of being scary but not too scary. A theme that they’d continue with their second feature Paranorman. Another film that certainly could’ve made this list. Excellent voice acting and pitch perfect stop-motion brings these wonderful and wondrous characters to life.
9. 9 (2009): Based on an Oscar-nominated short directed by Shane Acker this feature film saw Acker take his baby to over 60 mins. Its premise is a simple. Near the end of the world, a scientist injects 9 of his rag dollesque creations with his personality traits. As the creations now scattered navigate a post-apocalyptic world inhabited by grotesque mechanical creatures hell bent on snuffing them out. Produced by Tim Burton and action director Timur Bekmembatov. It brings a more adult sensibility to the animated world something grossly lacking especially at the time.
What Went Wrong: It made 48.4 million on its 30 million budget which means the studio took a marginal loss for its studio Focus Features. Who also happened to partner with LAIKA. The Sackboy aesthetic coupled with its frightening themes probably kept some audiences away. This trailer though is amazing and “Welcome Home” by Coheed and Cambria is the perfect backdrop for the mechanized war for the planet occurring on screen. It’s by no means a great film but it is certainly one that’s not earned the respect it should have.
8. The Cat Returns (2005) US Release: Haru is a girl who can talk to cats though this ability has been suppressed to an extent. When she saves a cat from being run over in the street she’s rewarded as only cats know how…with catnip and mice. One thing she didn’t expect is that the cat she rescued was actually their prince. Now after saving him, his father has asked for Haru’s hand for his son. When she gives a wishy washy answer they take that as a yes and so begins the courting process of the prince with Haru. Studio Ghibli brings us this one which takes its unconventional story and runs with it in a serious manner.
What Went Wrong: Well to start it’s a Japanese film. Anime films don’t often perform well here in the United States. At least not in the landscape of 2005, when the film was released in 2005. In fact, the highest grossing anime film not based on a previous anime project is Ghibli’s The Secret World of Arrietty and that only made 19.2 million at the domestic box office. So in summation foreign animation rarely succeeds in the U.S. box office. This film deserves more, especially as one of Ghibli’s more unique entries…and that’s saying something. Nonetheless, it’s oddball story and the fact that it was hand drawn when most everything else available. Ghibli’s also split the American audiences by releasing Howl’s Moving Castle in 2005 as well.
7. The Secret of Kells (2009): A continental affair that was produced by French, Belgian and Irish studios. Based around Celtic mythology and also the four Gospels of the New Testament. Basically, this has some subtle hints to pre-Christianity in Ireland and the Celtic area. In this Brendan is a young man living with his Uncle. An uncle obsessed with protecting their village called the Abbey of Kells from Viking attacks by building a wall around it. While apprenticing at a monastery Brendan runs into Crom Cruach the deity of death and destruction. Perhaps the Vikings aren’t the worst thing that can happen in the Kells.
What Went Wrong: Well besides the earlier point of it being a foreign produced film. It made of 739,000 dollars of its 8 million dollar budget back and that was worldwide. For a film as beautiful as this it certainly deserves more eyes on it. Similar in style to the equally as beautiful Song of the Sea. Despite this failure at the box office, it was nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 82nd Academy Awards. It lost, much like the earlier mentioned Coraline to the brilliant Pixar film Up which was also up for Best Picture. So it never had a chance to start. Even that and it is available on Netflix forever it still could not gather an audience.
6. Rock and Rule (1983): So it’s an adult animated musical with music written and sung by Lou Reed (The Velvet Underground), Iggy Pop (Iggy and the Stooges) and Debbie Harry (Blondie). That coupled with revolutionary animation made for a really cool experience. The story goes World War 3 began in 1983 with a nuclear holocaust thanks to the Cold War going nuclear. The United States and the Soviet Union have destroyed each other and everyone else. This has allowed humanoid mutant street animals to take over. Mok a now legendary singer is searching for the voice that can unleash hell. When he finds Angel singing with her band and has decided she’s the voice he’s been looking for.
What Went Wrong: This was an adult animated musical film just two years after Heavy Metal created that genre. While the latter had a full soundtrack and backing of at least a dozen artist it also LOOKED like a piece of adult entertainment. This right down to the animation comes off as something for kids but it clearly isn’t. That’s why it only made 30,000 of its 8 million dollars back. A lot of it was the themes of drug use, demonic worship, and sexuality. These were not things the film’s audiences were expecting. Couple that with a studio in Nelvana that had never done a film in English and almost broke themselves on that 8 million dollar budget you end up with a lack of marketing that made audience either forget about the film or not cares in the first place.
5. Monster House (2006): When a young boy’s parents leave for the weekend his irresponsible punk rocker older sister is out in charge. More concerned with hanging out with her boyfriend than whatever her little brother is doing he begins to spy on his 72-year-old neighbor Mr. Nebbercracker especially after one of our main characters friends Chowder loses a ball in Mr. Nebbercracker’s yard. The yard to a house in which legend has it he ate his wife. As we can see above that is not EXACTLY the case. Maybe don’t watch the video above if you’ve never seen the film. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
What Went Wrong: Its summer release slate came right after the 2nd film in the Pirates series Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest was three weeks in and it handled this film. It was nominated for Best Animated Feature and it only had two films competing against it. Sadly director George Miller and his damn dancing penguins in Happy Feet took home to top prize a first for its studio Warner Bros. Making only 73 million domestic on its 75 million dollar budget it never stood a chance in its summer date. Films of questionable quality like Over the Hedge and Open Season which are like the same movie made over double Monster House’s total.
4. The Suicide Shop/Le Magasin des Suicides (2012): In a town where the suicide rate is an unrealistically high rate of suicide. This depression is caused by a change in climate thanks to you know, climate change. Which “isn’t a real thing” by the way. This causes the population to suffer greatly. Using their ingenuity the Tuvache family has opened up The Suicide Shop a store that specializes in personalizing those rather important final moments. When the Tuvache’s give birth to a child who’s afflicted with persistent non-depression this poses a serious problem to the family business model.
What Went Wrong: Well it’s a French production originally made in French that debuted a Cannes which is in the South of France so I mean que pouves-vous faire? Yet even in its native language, it failed to connect to audience finishing with 2.1 million in the French cinema and 2.5 overall. All of that on a 9.9 million euro budget. I’m sure the subject matter had a lot to do with this, however, have you guys seen French cinema? It’s pretty depressing, par for the course I suppose. It’s odd animation style and material probably turned off parents which lost the children’s ticker as well. C’est ce que je suppose.
3. Cats Don’t Dance (1997): Alright so in 1997 in the midst of owning popular culture with his WCW Ted Turner and his Turner Feature Animation decided having cats voiced by Scott Bakula and Natalie Cole dancing and singing in a fashion akin to Fred (Astaire) and Ginger (Rogers) was a pretty swell idea. They enlisted the help of Randy Newman who 2 years earlier helped crush future hand drawn animations when he signed up to do all the music for Toy Story. So it’s about dancing cats and a bratty little girl who needs to be possibly put down.
What Went Wrong: It opened against the Jim Carrey film Liar Liar and the biopic Selena. Even still managing only 3 million on a budget of 32 million. You know you’re in trouble when a re-release of The Little Mermaid makes eight times as much as you do. 1997 was an odd year. But it saw the release of my favorite Disney film in the summer of that year Hercules (it’s awesome I’ll fight you!) Turner never had another big venture into animation outside of movies made for his Cartoon Network. Apparently, cats, as we find out, do dance but that does not lead to box office success.
2. The Last Unicorn (1982): When Lady Amalthea learns she is the last of her kind. The majestic horse-like creature is known as the unicorn. She is determined to find where an evil entity known as The Red Bull has herded her kind, and to bring them back! Along the way, Lady Amalthea will face many perils along the way including an evil witch named Mommy Fortuna who sees it fit to keep this last remaining unicorn as a part of her traveling carnival. Will she escape? Will she help others escape? Can she find wherever her species are? Check out this 1982 animated cult classic to find out.
What Went Wrong: Much like our previous entry, this film got beat-up for the animated dollar in 1982 by two re-releases of Disney films. This is pre-Disney renaissance mind you. Rankin-Bass who you may remember from everything during your childhood at Christmas was never an excellent choice when it came to making money on their features. Their brilliant rendition of Tolkien’s The Hobbit could’ve easily made this list. Making only 6 million in its initial run the films picked up steam within the last decade or so thanks to our societies fascination with the horned equine. Its animation was stilted despite excellent voice over work from the cast this one never had a chance.
1. Perfect Blue (1997): In Satoshi Kon’s premier master stroke we follow Mima Kirigoe a singer in successful J-Pop girl group Cham. She is leaving the group in order to pursue an acting career. Now with the internet dawning, Mima begins to receive odd and somewhat threatening mystery messages. Unable to figure out whats going on she is gripped in a paranoia, a psychosis. As it grips the lines between reality and fantasy begin to blur until she is unsure of who is a friend, whos is a foe, and whose intention is real and what they could possibly be. A film Darren Aronofsky says inspired his films like Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan the similarities are prevalent.
What Went Wrong: Well as we’ve discussed it’s a foreign film and anime had not gripped the states as it would in the future. Things like the highly popular Sailor Moon or Pokemon anime weren’t huge in the states yet leading to only 112,000 dollars in tickets on its 25,000 budget that would seem a success right? Well, when you’re named one of Entertainment Weekly’s best movies never seen from 1991–2011 it means you’re a bit underappreciated. I’d recommend you all check out the wonderful video on YouTube which talks about the comparison of this film to Aronofsky’s Requiem and to Black Swan. They are thoroughly entertaining. I cannot recommend this film highly enough.
There’s the list! Did your favorite make the cut? Was it in the first one? Let us know in our comments section! Do you wanna see a part three and make it an epic trilogy? Leave those thoughts as well. SHARE this all over the interwebs so we can get all of the eyes on it!