The animation industry has grown and evolved immensely from its humble origins in the early 20th century. Classic works like Steamboat Willy have given way to a range of styles, including anime and complex 3D animations.
Whether you have or want to have a job in animation or like the beauty of animated films, you should be familiar with some of the most significant examples of the art form. Here are five of the most influential animated movies of all time.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, released in 1937, was a breakthrough in the 2D animation process. It was the world’s first full-length cel-animated movie. The film adapted a classic Brothers Grimm fairy tale and depicted a wicked queen attempting unsuccessfully to take the life of Snow White with a poisonous apple. This way, the queen could become the “fairest in the land.” When Disney released the film, it showed that feature-length animated movies exist. Moreover, it proved they could be fantastic and profitable works of art. Unsurprisingly, the film helped cement Disney as one of the biggest studios in Hollywood.
Akira is a 1988 Japanese animated post-apocalyptic cyberpunk action film. Its themes and visuals have widely influenced present-day cinema, and the movie served as an introduction to anime for many people in the West. The film takes place in a dystopian version of 2019. It follows the narrative of Shōtarō Kaneda, a biker gang leader. But when his boyhood companion and fellow gang member, Tetsuo Shima, develops telekinetic skills following a motorbike accident, increasing destruction ensues. The neon lights, apocalyptic images, futuristic landscapes, and societal critique flowing throughout the film have an almost spiritual feel.
Toy Story was not only the highest-grossing film of 1995, but it was also the first feature-length film that a studio made entirely in CGI. Consequently, it announced Pixar as one of the, if not the most, outstanding animation studios in the modern era. The story follows toys that come to life whenever humans aren’t looking at them. It represents a monumental shift towards 3D animated films that continues to this day.
Beauty and the Beast
Beauty and the Beast debuted in 1991 and helped kick off the Disney Renaissance. This film is another adaptation of a classic tale. What set it apart was the fact that it was the first animated movie ever to be nominated for Best Picture. The nomination helped to show that people should take animated films as seriously as their live-action counterparts.
Spirited Away, released in 2001, was the first Japanese hand-drawn film to win an Academy Award in the United States. It made Hayao Miyazaki a household name throughout the world. Spirited Away depicts the journey of Chihiro Ogino, a girl who finds herself in a world of magical creatures while moving to a new home with her parents. Many people consider the movie to be one of the greatest animated movies of all time.
These five most influential animated movies of all time changed the landscape of the film industry in their own ways. You should consider each of them as required viewing if you consider yourself a film buff or want to break into the animated industry.