Let's get this out of the way from the get go. This list will not include Fantasia, either the original or the Fantasia reboot about a decade ago. I did not care for either one. Sue me.
Criteria for inclusion. I actually had to have seen the cartoons in question, they must be in the time period 2000-2014, and obviously must be animated. And of course, I had to like the movie.
In this list I am going to go out on a limb and list the films in order of preference. If you disagree, tell me about it. You can even call me names.
1) Finding Nemo - Here's the truth. Nemo is not just my favorite animated film, it is my favorite film in any category. I have seen it perhaps six or seven times. Each of the characters - Bloat the blowfish, Nigel the pelican, Marlin, Dory, Mr. Ray, Bruce the shark, Crusher the sea turtle and squirt his son, are all masterfully painted and given wonderful lines to speak. But besides that, the story warms my heart and still to this day brings a smile to my face. favorite line: "Do you have your exit Buddy?"
2) Shreck - While I do admire the later iterations of the Shreck saga, nothing compares to the original. I love the music (this movie introduced me to Cohen's Hallelujah); I love the ingenious use of fairytale characters [Do you know the muffin man? You mean the one who lives on Drury Lane?]. The moral of the piece is sweet and of course there is Donkey. Favorite line: "Nobody doesn't like parfait."
3) Chicken Run - Made by the same brilliant folks who created Wallace and Gromit, Chicken Run is basically a cartoon remake of the war masterpiece The Great Escape. The evil Mrs Tweedy has decided to no longer make chump change raising chickens for eggs (A commercial sets her malicious brain to thinking, "Are you tired of minuscule profits?") on the high profit world of making chicken pot pies. Naturally, the chickens don't think much of this plan - "I don't want to be a pie. I don't like gravy." The look of this clay-mation film is marvelous and the writing is superb. Favorite Line see above.
4) Toy Story 3 - I loved the first two installments of this Pixar series but for me the best of the lot was #3. Touching, funny, hair-raising, wise, this one has it all. Obviously, if you haven't seen the first two, do so, but for goodness sake, don't stop there. This one will make you happy sad. And that's a good thing.
5) Rango - A remake of Chinatown with a town drying up and an old turtle stealing the lifeblood of the town - its water. Rango is a lizard (Johnny Depp), who fancies himself an actor. After a bump sends his terrarium onto the desert highway, he fakes being a gunslinger. The residents of the town named 'Dirt' all look to him to save the day. He does.
6) Despicable Me 2 - You'll notice I didn't put the first installment of this series into the list. I liked it but not like I liked this one. This one was all about the minions. They are captivating, ridiculous, easily distracted, ready for almost anything, and very weird looking. They speak a language all their own and yet it is understandable. And when they are changed into purple monster versions of themselves they are still amazing.
7) Monsters Inc. - Another Pixar film, this one features two of the best characters in all of cartoondom. Voiced by Billy Chrystal and John Goodman, Mike Wisowski and Sully are sublimely wise while being insanely goofy monsters. In their world (which is powered by the screams of frightened children) the merest touch of a child is fatal. Sully is a Scarer who becomes emotionally attached to a small child named Boo. What makes this film besides terrific writing is the myriad mosters, all shapes and sizes and how they are basically just like us. Good fun. Favorite line: "We'll dig a tunnel using only spoons."
8) How to Train Your Dragon - Set in a time a Vikings, this is a tale of prejudice and redemption. Super fun with the relationship between a young Viking and a theoretically dangerous dragon. I love the color palette of the show. It just filled my senses. Loved also the characters of townspeople, particularly the younger ones. the dragons are pretty cool too.
9) Up - Once again from Pixar (Let's be real, these guys know animation), This is a love story, a buddy film, and also an adventure. After losing his wife and faced with the prospect of losing his house, a retired balloon salesman ties a flotilla of balloons to his house, rigs a way to steer it, and flies off to Paradise Falls in South America. Unfortunately, (or perhaps fortunately) he has a stowaway. Once the two adventurers reach their destination they face dangers from a forgotten daredevil and his pack of talking dogs. One of the best things about this film is one of these dogs, Doug.
10) Monster House - Spielberg had a hand in the making of this one. Considering he made one of my favorite cartoons of all time, Animaniacs (if you haven't seen any of these, why not?), he was well set up to make an epic animated film. This bugger is scary. Across the street from our pre-teen hero exists the scariest house in the neighborhood. And the truth of it is, the house is alive and is diabolical. Eventually, our hero, his older sister, and his best friend must confront the house and save the neighborhood...and maybe the world.
11) Coraline - We're talking Tim Burton and Neil Gaiman. We're talking wonderful horror, wise children (or at least eventually), and terrific writing. The gist - if you succumb to the lure of the world inside the closet, you become a zombie with buttons sewn over your eyes.
12) The Incredibles - Superheroes are banned by law but one superhero (Mr Incredible) not only misses the good old days, is ill-suited to fit into this brave new non-super world, but also has a family of supers: Wife Elasti-Girl, Son Dash (superfast), Daughter Violet (force fields and invisibility) and baby Jack Jack (lots of weird stuff). When the opportunity presents itself to renew his adventures he jumps at the chance, not realizing his nemesis is behind the offer. Favorite line: "Honey, where is my super suit?"
13) Ratatouille - Pixar again, what can I say? Tale of a rat that can cook, maybe better than anyone else in Paris. Obviously, this weird juxtaposition of worlds creates problems. I love the evil chef, the food critic, and the love affair between the puppet human who must pretend he is creating Remy's (the rat) dishes and the only female chef in the kitchen. I also adore Remy's - I just want to be a rat - brother. A feast for the eyes.
14) Megamind - A cartoon where the bad guy wins and somehow becomes the good guy. Megamind, like Superman, came to Earth as a baby in a rocketship. Unfortunately, another super character also came at the same time (also a baby, hang with me here). While Metro Man had it easy and became a superhero, blue-skinned Megamind was teased and picked on and became a super smart ultra villain. When he defeats Metro Man, he suddenly is in charge of everything. He ends up having to defend the city against a villain even nastier than himself.
15) Tangled - A retelling of Repunzel with music, a super-smart horse, hilarious tough guys, a really evil witch, a thief with a heart of gold (who is Rapunzel's love interest), and a few twists along the way. Delightful.
16) Rio - Story of a rare bird (blue parrot) who just so happens to be the last male member of his species. His female counterpart is sassy, independent and doesn't want to repopulate the species. Oh yeah, he can't fly. Add in the fact they are being hunted by an evil Macaw. Also add in Salsa music and the voice of Cheech Marin as a parrot who manages a singing group of parrots and you have a great film.
17) The Corpse Bride - Another Tim Burton film along the lines of Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride follows the fortunes of a young man who weds an undead young woman. She is pretty darn sweet considering she's a corpse and the young man in question doesn't love her as she loves him. In the end all things work out as they always do.
18) Brave - Even another Pixar film. Stunningly beautiful, this one follows the exploits of a young Celtic lass who flat out doesn't want to get married. She also has the complication that her mother has turned into a bear and her father has a tendency to kill bears. I absolutely love the sorceress who casts the spell in question.
19) Paranorman - Norman can see dead people. No one believes him and the Apocalypse is coming.
20) Wreck it Ralph - In the world of video games a bad guy wants to become good. While he's really good at smashing things he's got some problems with saving the world. But of course he does.
Well, that's my list. If you're a fan of animation, give some of these a look see and as always please send me your ideas of good animation. Next up will be animation from before 2000.
Don't eat yellow snow.