Despite often being dismissed as childish diversions, animated movies require immense levels of passion and hard work and often rival the greatest live-action releases when it comes to powerful storytelling. There are too many animated masterpieces to count. Original classics like "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves" are always marvelous to revisit. More recently, in the ’90s, the Disney Renaissance gave us such movies as "The Little Mermaid," "The Lion King," "Beauty and the Beast," and "Tarzan," which captured the imaginations of an entire generation of little kids. Stop-motion movies like "The Nightmare Before Christmas" are still mind-blowing to watch. Then there are the brilliant computer-animated films of the last few decades, like Pixar’s "Toy Story" series, "Finding Nemo," "The Incredibles," and "Wall-E," as well as equally worthy releases from different studios, like DreamWorks’ "Shrek" series. Meanwhile, Studio Ghibli movies like "Grave of the Fireflies" proved animated movies could tackle mature, even heartbreaking themes, just as well as any live-action film.
With so many beloved masterpieces to choose from and revisit for family movie night, there are more than a few excellent gems that have fallen through the cracks. So which animated features deserve a little more love? We’ve taken the liberty of assembling a list of forgotten or underappreciated movies that are every bit as good as the ones that first come to mind when you’re in the mood to revisit your childhood.
We’re starting the list by slightly cheating. After all, 1994’s "Pagemaster" isn’t entirely animated. Much of it is live action. But when young Richard Tyler (Macaulay Culkin), a neurotic kid who bases his worldview and decisions on statistics and cold facts, discovers books, he gets swept away to a wonderful animated parallel reality. In this world, Tyler is guided by living books that represent the fictional stories he reads. Patrick Stewart voices Adventure, a swashbuckler sporting an eyepatch and a pegleg. Whoopi Goldberg is Fantasy, an overeager book that looks like a fairy, and Frank Weller is Horror, a zombie-green book that resembles Igor from the Frankenstein stories. Tyler spends a little bit of time in each world, encountering classic literary characters like Dr. Jekyll and Captain Ahab. In the end, by the time his parents finally find him, Tyler’s learned a thing or two about the importance of imagination and adventure.
Sadly, the movie didn’t get much love from critics at the time of its release. Many felt that it was a bit too dreary and intense for the younger audience it was trying to reach. But upon rewatching, we think there’s more than enough imagination here to make it worth your time.
A Goofy Movie
There are two "Goofy Movies," and both did something nobody asked anyone to do: humanize Goofy, the clumsy buffoon of a dog from Disney’s main cast. "An Extremely Goofy Movie" (2000) sees Goofy getting fired from his factory job (for good cause, since he always destroys the building). He then attends the same college as his son Max to make something of himself. That one is an often rewatched classic for those who grew up watching it.
But 1995’s original "A Goofy Movie" is rarely discussed with much nostalgic reverence. That’s a shame, because it deals with the same themes just as effectively. In this movie, 14-year-old Max Goof’s greatest fear is turning into his father (can you blame the kid?). As a result, he acts out repeatedly and succeeds in becoming a minor school celebrity, even attracting the attention of his crush, Roxanne. However, he also gets in trouble, which concerns Goofy. Wanting to bond with and help his son, Goofy takes Max on an out-of-state fishing trip, much to the kid’s irritation.
Much of the movie is admittedly pretty silly, living up to its name. Still, the father-son heart-to-hearts, and scenes in which Max lashes out and deeply hurts his dad, who just wants to be part of his son’s life before he grows up, are powerful.