Book Review: 100 Animated Feature Films

Ask most film fans what their favourite animated movie is and you’ll receive a variety of answers, from Disney’s Lion King or Jungle Book to Pixar’s Up or Toy Story.

All good responses and perfectly reasonable when you consider that most opinions are dictated by what’s on at the multiplex or readily available on DVD.

Thankfully, writer and animation fan Andrew Osmand has steered away from the multiplex for the majority of his new book, 100 Animated Feature Films (BFI/Palgrave Macmillan, £20). He takes as his starting point the first animated feature in 1926 (The Adventures of Prince Achmed) and doesn’t pause for breath until reaching 2010’s The Illusionist.

Moving from Russia to Hong Kong, with the occasional stop-off in Japan and Edinburgh, Osmand introduces us to films as diverse as 1958’s The Fabulous World of Jules Verne, which incorporated a mixture of live action, stop-motion and other techniques to tell its ambitious story, and the Canadian post-apocalyptic oddity, Rock & Rule.

With an introduction and brief overview for each, there’s also space for some analysis of the titles, with background to the creation and reception of the pictures. There’s a welcome reappraisal of Raymond Briggs’ When the Wind Blows, its lead characters dismissed by one critic as “stupid”, something we’re asked to rethink.

Blockbusters certainly aren’t ignored here, but neither is Osmand overly reverential to them, a recognition that not everything which emerged from the House of Mouse deserves Oscars or immortality. Thankfully he doesn’t let Jungle Book get completely trashed, even if  critics have been happy to do so since its release.

There’s also a welcome championing of animator Richard Williams’ The Thief and the Cobbler, a gloriously mismanaged production which took over three decades to make but which still isn’t completed, at least not in the way Williams would like. It’s an epic story worthy of any fairytale, but sadly this one doesn’t have the happy ending that Walt Disney would almost certainly have insisted upon.
At 246 pages this is a weighty-yet-compact hardback, which also includes a useful bibliography to aid further reading. Readers will inevitably come away from the book with a new appreciation for the world of animation, no doubt keen to track down many of the films mentioned, so be warned that a quick pre-Christmas skim is recommended to aid a dash to the local DVD shop.


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