Today for Wyrd & Wonder I thought that I would look at my (again this is just personal opinion) top 10 animated fantasy movies. This list is just for western animation, excluding Disney (although if I had to choose one, I would probably go for ‘Beauty and the Beast’).
1) Anastasia (1997)
When the Romanovs were killed, Anastasia barely made it alive. Now, with vague memories of her past, she travels to Paris with two cons who want to portray her as the real princess and get rewarded.
I was torn between this and The Last Unicorn for number one, and won out in the end more for nostalgia and the running joke between me and my best friend (together in Paris, having become ‘together at comic con’ for us). Still, Anastasia stands out because of its animation, music and story, but what really makes it special was the MC who was not the typical damsel in distress and stood out to me as a child.
2) The Last Unicorn (1982)
In this animated musical, the villainous King Haggard (Christopher Lee) plots to destroy all the world’s unicorns. When a young unicorn (Mia Farrow) learns that she’s in danger and that she may soon be the last of her kind, she leaves the safety of her protected forest and enlists the help of Schmendrick (Alan Arkin), a gentle, albeit clumsy, sorcerer. Together, they embark on a long and dangerous journey with one goal: to defeat Haggard and save the unicorns from extinction.
This is a rare case where I liked the film more than the book, although that might be because I saw the film a long time ago (and many times since) and I only read the graphic novel a couple of years ago, and the book this year. It goes as a very close number 2, because I enjoy it as much now as an adult as I did as a child, and I find myself getting more out of it when I watch it now. And despite it’s age, I love the animation within it.
3) Rise of the Guardians (2012)
When Pitch, an evil spirit, returns to planet Earth to assault children and take over the world, a group of immortal guardians with extraordinary abilities join forces to protect the children.
I fell in love with this film at first sight, and I actually saw it several times at the cinema and seemed to find new parts to love each time. The animation is stunningly beautiful, the voice acting is great and I just adored the concept of these different characters coming together.
4) How to Train Your Dragon (Trilogy – 2010, 2014 and 2019)
1) Hiccup, a Viking, must kill a dragon to mark his passage into manhood and be initiated into his tribe. However, he ends up doing the exact opposite by befriending a deadly Night Fury.
2) Hiccup and Toothless are faced with the threat of Drago, a dragon trapper, bent on capturing and dominating over all dragons. However, they are determined to defeat him and restore peace on Berk.
3) All seems well on the island of Berk as Vikings and dragons live together in peace and harmony. Now a Viking leader, Hiccup finds himself increasingly attracted to Astrid, while his beloved dragon Toothless meets an enchanting creature who captures his eye. When the evil Grimmel launches a devious plan to wipe out all the dragons, Hiccup must unite both clans to find Caldera, a hidden land that holds the key to saving Toothless and his flying friends.
Dragons? Do I really need to say more? HHTYD felt like a breath of fresh wind, and I loved the variety of dragons – and don’t get me started on the cat-like Toothless (I love him so much). What stands out for me, is that I love the entire trilogy and I think they’re all as strong as one another, not necessarily in the same way, although if forced to choose I think the first one would be my favourite. I still need to read the books.
5) Flight of Dragons (1982)
A young Boston writer goes back in time into an era where wizards and dragon reign and science is just barely known.
Dragons again, although this one was a staple of my childhood. I rewatched it recently, and realised just how much it had shaped me – it was probably the first fantasy film I ever watched, and the question of logic and magic living alongside one another has certainly influenced me. I also enjoyed the explanations in the film, explaining how Dragons could fly and breathe fire, making the fantasy all the more real.
6) The Book of Life (2014)
In a bid to save the love of his life, Manolo sacrifices himself and is transported to the Land of the Remembered, where he reunites with his dead ancestors and strives to get his life back.
This one I fell in love with as soon as I saw the trailer, and was gutted when our local cinema didn’t show it, but the wait was worth it and I have seen it countless times since. The animation and music is fantastic, and there are a couple of songs that just stay with you, and it was fascinating to see a film based on Mexican folklore.
7) The Secret of Nimh (1982)
Mrs. Brisby (Elizabeth Hartman), a widowed mouse, must move her children out of their home in a field before the local farmer starts plowing. Unable to leave because her son is ill, Mrs. Brisby seeks the help of nearby rats, who have heightened intelligence after being the subjects of scientific experiments. She receives an unexpected gift from the elder rat, Nicodemus (Derek Jacobi). Soon Mrs. Brisby is caught in a conflict among the rats, jeopardizing her mission to save her family.
I remember being fascinated and disturbed by this film when I was younger, and I have found myself able to appreciate it a lot more than I am older. However, I feel like I must credit this film with my love for darker fantasy as it sowed the seed.
8) The Princess and the Goblins (1991)
Princess Irene calls on her fairy grandmother for help when goblins try to force her to marry repulsive top goblin, Prince Froglip.
This is a fairytale with something more. It’s an older film, and its animation doesn’t quite hold up against today, but watching it again recently, I still thoroughly enjoyed it – maybe through nostalgic eyes. But, I love the ideas of courage/honour that thread through the story, and the main song ‘A Spark Inside of Us’ just sticks in your head.
9) Corpse Bride (2005)
When Victor is practising his wedding vows in the woods, he accidentally gets married to a skeleton-like creature called Emily who whisks him off to the land of the dead.
This is macabre and whimsical, and I honestly love every moment of it – and the twists and turns in the story are something I continue to appreciate. It is poignant and dark, and the songs are great, and the stop-motion animation made for something different.
10) The Swan Princess (1994)
A wicked sorcerer turns a beautiful princess into a swan, in the hopes of gaining control of her father’s kingdom, and the only thing that can save her is the promise of true love.
Fun, vibrant animation and a very fluid, enjoyable take on the story of the Swan Princess, this is one I still enjoy as much as before.
Honourable Mentions: Ferngully: The Last Rainforest, All Dogs go to Heaven and Shrek 2 (I enjoy the first one, but I think the second was the best)
What are your favourite animated fantasy movies? Let me know, I am always on the look out for more to watch.
3 thoughts on “Top 10: Animated Fantasy Movies”
Nice choices! I’ve seen about half of these and have to admit I was addicted to The Last Unicorn as a kid and probably watched The Secret of NIMH more times than is healthy for a child.
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