There’s no denying that while Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin—out this week—carries a vast appeal to the typical young audience that animated movies tend to reel in (and aim toward). But their parents might be just as intrigued, given the fact that the popular story dates back to the 1930s and the decades that followed; it summons the kid in everyone. A lot of animated movies do that, attract not just the tyke set but also the grownup demographic—be it for deeper-than-meets-the-eye subject matter or groundbreaking animation/effects. In honor of the generation-transcending cartoons, here's a few of the movie history's best:
South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut
South Park the TV series isn’t necessarily intended for mature audiences, but it most certainly is in the ratings sense. Ditto for Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s too-crude-for-TV, often hilarious, slyly satirical feature-length replication of their Comedy Central show. Kid viewers can certainly appreciate the characters’ voices and perhaps some sound effects – but, well, they probably shouldn’t be allowed to.
Kids aren’t really into talky, trippy, animated, experimental meditations on the Meaning of Life, but then, director Richard Linklater didn’t make Waking Life for them; this wasn’t his Bad News Bears phase. Linklater made the film for his Slackers/Dazed and Confused followers – if not solely for himself – and those viewers, along with critics, enjoyed Waking Life quite a bit. See also: Linklater’s similarly “animated,” similarly out-there A Scanner Darkly.
Before Tim Burton made live-action gothic movies for young audiences, he made animated gothic movies for grownups – or at least one such movie: Corpse Bride. The painstaking stop-motion animation in this Burton-co-directed Oscar nominee was beyond amazing, but the story wasn’t far behind – and it was one that kids could at least follow but one that adults (even film-geek adults) could fully sink their teeth into. The simple fact that a movie called Corpse Bride nowadays can even secure a PG rating is fascinating.
Waltz with Bashir
Not suitable for children; not at all. For grownups, though, this Israeli film about the Lebanon War was as good as it gets, and also quite a sight to behold. Director Ari Folman’s decision to animate – and his marvelous execution thereof – what is essentially a war docudrama produced a refreshing take on the potential brutality of man and his war, and the result was appropriately surreal.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
Incredibly innovative in its day, technologically speaking, Robert Zemeckis’ live-action/animation hybrid (which unsurprisingly swept the technical categories at the Oscars) had plenty for young’ns to fawn over (even a catchphrase from its protagonist: “P-p-p-p-p-lease, Eddie!”), but it’s also an adult-skewing, noirish detective story – albeit a PG-rated version. Although let’s be honest, Jessica Rabbit, who spawned more porn send-ups than Sarah Palin, was a few inches of flesh away from rendering Roger PG-13, at the very least.
The minimalistic animation of this Oscar-nominated masterpiece from Marjane Satrapi (who adapted her own graphic novel of the same name) isn’t meant to impress or constantly spellbind viewers – which all but eliminates younger movies – but those with patience are greatly rewarded. And educated.
Fritz the Cat
Just saying “based on the comic strip by Robert Crumb” would be enough for parents to prevent their kids from seeing Fritz the Cat, even if Crumb, in some alternate universe, had somehow produced a tame comic strip. But Fritz is about, quite literally, almost everything untame. It also happens to make for quite an interesting, if not always noble or enlightening, viewing. Oh – and it also happens to be the first X-rated animated film.
Most Pixar Movies
It’s not so much that most Pixar movies contain deep or subliminal undercurrents of profundity only decipherable by grownups; it’s that they generally appeal to all ages, because of both their technological wizardry and the depth of the stories. Kids and parents can see the films together – namely the Toy Story series, The Incredibles and Up, whose “Lifespan” sequence can reduce anyone of any age to tears – and interpret them completely differently. Pixar makes films that are, in every way, the very antithesis of exclusive.
At the ripe young age of 8 Marjane Satrapi (voice of Gabrielle Lopes) is celebrating the end of the dictatorial Shah’s reign in late-‘70s Tehran Iran. Along with her parents Tadji (voice of Catherine Deneuve) and Ebi (voice of Simon Abkarian) and her grandmother (voice of Danielle Darrieux) with whom she is closest young Marjane looks toward a bright future one sans the oppression her independent-minded family has endured for some years. But life only winds up changing for the worse in the years that follow. Oppression and repression rage on amidst a new yet obsolete form of government. Women for example are literally not to be seen: Headscarves must cover their faces or else. This doesn’t sit well with Marjane who sneaks in taboo imports like Bee Gees and ABBA records and a “Punk Is Not Dead”-emblazoned jacket. Her parents fearing Marjane is one minor misstep away from jail or worse send her off to school in Vienna at age 14 (now voiced by Chiara Mastroianni) for her own safety. It starts a period of self-discovery self-loathing extreme growth spurts and great wandering both physically and mentally. And it ends with the beginning--of the rest of her life. The only name moviegoers are likely to recognize in the cast of vocals is that of legendary French actress Deneuve whose voice lends a genuinely maternal aura--in addition of course to her distinctive smoky delivery. All the voice-overs are superb though and the family feel is tangible throughout as a result. It pays off--not just budget-wise--to have a cast without A-listers separating Persepolis from the pack that has become star-studded animated movies of today. All dialogue is in French which obviously eliminates 99 percent of Hollywood but the relative few not scared off by lack of star power are in for a more authentic film. Most notable is Mastroianni (real-life daughter of Deneuve and her late husband famed actor Marcello Mastroianni) who voices both the teenaged Marjane and her older self narrating the story via flashbacks. Mastroianni as clearly the central figure of the story is able to capture every emotion on the roller coaster that was Satrapi’s coming-of-age-hood. Sometimes adaptations get lost in translation from source material to movie but Marjane Satrapi the author of the graphic novel of the same name on which Persepolis is based was fortunately integral to the whole production every step of the way. She co-directed and co-wrote the movie along with Vincent Paronnaud and clearly infused her woe-is-NOT-me attitude. Persepolis is sad in spots but it’s always circumstantial never subjective. At no time does Satrapi assert any sense of pathos into her real-life story or plead for viewers’ pity making it a refreshing often humorous and ultimately uplifting retrospective on oppression--not depression. Animation-wise everything is done in minimalist black and white the perfect touch that takes no getting used to; nor does it take away from the story’s soul like CGI sometimes does and the visuals still manage to be just as intoxicating as those in say Pixar movies. And being that Persepolis is adapted from a graphic novel and told in a similarly noir tone live action just wouldn’t have been the same.