Of course, I’m late again.  But the list hasn’t changed over the holiday weekend, so we will carry on as planned.

On to Week 4!

23. Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

Yahoo’s #23: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Director: Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise

Studio: Disney

I suppose I’m picking the hard sells for this list, as this is the fourth film that appears on my list but not on Yahoo’s.  But why wouldn’t this movie be one of the best animated films?  It’s absolutely gorgeous, and while it’s (at least) the second Disney animated film to take place in France, it is the first to take us to medieval Parisand show us the sweeping landscape.  Not only is the setting detailed, but the characters are deep and even Freudian (remember Frollo’s song next to the fireplace?).  Though many people criticize the movie for its lack of faithfulness to its intellectual owner Victor Hugo, I’m not exactly sure what they expected.  Has Disney ever been faithful to the source material?  I don’t remember Disney’s Little Mermaid paying a three hundred year penance to gain a soul, or Stevenson’s Treasure Island including robots and intergalactic space travel.  In all honesty, the two are completely different creatures and shouldn’t be compared as anything but a classic adult novel and its children’s movie adaptation.

Regarding it as such makes the movie a lot easier to digest as a gorgeous and deep chapter in Disney film history.  The characters touch on many subjects that we all come across in our lives, such as learning to know the outwardly repulsive, the impossibility of always having a happy ending, the lesson that love can blind us to the most crippling faults but can also help us overcome our own, and that friends are worth everything.  What more can we ask for in a movie? And for all its avoidance of the drama and adult material of its source material, it still manages to flirt with lust, betrayal, murder, evil, and abuse of power.  Add in a soundtrack by Alan Menken and the directors Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, all famous for their work on Beauty and the Beast, and it really is a hard film to ignore.

22. Charlotte’s Web (1973)

Yahoo’s #22: Howl’s Moving Castle

Director: Charles A. Nichols and Iwao Takamoto

Studio: Hanna-Barbera Productions

If it’s not obvious by now, it will be by the time I finish this list: I have a soft spot for films that dare to touch subjects that are anything but entertaining at their base.  If you’ve ever been a child or have your own, you know the kinds of cartoons that kids watch for entertainment.  They are slapstick, ridiculous, and (try to be) barrels of laughs a minute.  Yet when a film or series dares to go deeper, it leaves a lasting impression that means more than a Saturday morning diversion.  Wile E. Coyote never died, but Optimus Prime did.  Darkwing Duck, whenever he was either almost or completely unveiled, never created a true sense of suspense that his life would come to a screeching halt.  Batman did, as well as Superman and Spiderman.  When real-life consequences intersect with our entertainment, it becomes just as much a reflection of our lives as it does time away from our busy days.

In this intersection lies Charlotte’s Web.  It’s a hard film to digest as a small child.  The entire 94 minutes is a subtle suspenseful ride.  Is Wilbur going to the slaughter?  Will the farmer do what farmer’s do and kill the weakest of the litter, the least likely to survive?  When Charlotte, the least likely of all animals, comes to Wilbur’s rescue, it is at once a blessing and a curse.  Wilbur’s life is ultimately saved, but Charlotte’s life, in a trade worthy of a Greek tragedy, is lost.

Admittedly, this film gives me more than just the warm feeling that many of the films on this list.  The animation isn’t pretty – in fact, it’s down right rugged.  Some of the humor, which depends on knowing the voice behind the character (Paul Lynde, for instance), is outdated or lost on a new generation.  Yet the themes of hope, love, and sacrifice are relatable, no matter the age of the audience.

See you next week for #21 and #20!

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