If your rugrats are anything like mine, you’re probably sick to death of Frozen by now. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a wonderful movie filled with likeable characters, a positive take-home message and effortlessly catchy songs. But the magic starts to wear a bit thin after the two-hundredth viewing. With Term 3 school holidays about to kick off, things are about to get even worse. Luckily, Lifehacker’s resident cartoon geek is here to help…
Below you’ll find 10 animated movies that your child probably hasn’t seen before. We’ve attempted to include options for a variety of ages, from tots to tweens. You still have a week or two to track down these movies before the school holidays start. Make it your top priority — otherwise, you’ll be forced to watch that bastard snowman sing about the beach on a perpetual loop.
The Snow Queen
If your kids absolutely refuse to shut up about Frozen, introduce them to this 1958 Soviet production instead. Both are based on the Hans Christian Andersen story and share many similarities including a friendly reindeer and a climactic resurrection brought about by a warm embrace. There are several English dubs available, including a digitally restored 1990s version featuring the voices of Kathleen Turner and Kirsten Dunst.
FernGully: The Last Rainforest
This Australian-American co-production didn’t exactly set the world on fire when it was released back in 1992. Nevertheless, it remains one of the better animated movies of the pre-Pixar era; especially if you don’t mind a bit of environmental preaching. The film stars a fairy named Crysta who finds her tranquil homeland threatened by the pollution and destruction of encroaching humans. If your kids enjoyed Disney’s recent output, they’ll probably like this too: it’s got a heroine to root for, a comical animal sidekick, a bunch of songs to groove to and a suitably cheerful ending.
Kiki’s Delivery Service
We’re going to go ahead and assume that you’ve already introduced your kids to My Neighbour Totoro — if you haven’t, you’re doing parenting wrong. Here’s another Studio Ghibli classic that’s essential family viewing. Originally released in 1989, it follows the adventures of a tween witch-cum-courier called Kiki as she attempts to set up a delivery service using her flying broomstick. Much like My Neighbour Totoro, Kiki‘s strength lies in its relaxed, unstructured plot: instead of following a traditional arc, the film introduces you to the world and its characters before taking a back seat.
Suur Tõll (AKA Toll the Great) is a heroic giant from Estonian folklore. In 1980, a Soviet film studio made an animated short detailing his exploits during a war on Saaremaa. There is something truly spellbinding about this slice of Estonian animation — from the moment the orchestra of ominous chanting begins, it’s impossible to look away. Admittedly, some of the battle scenes may be a bit too grim for younger viewers to handle, but they need to learn about the realities of war sometime.
Dot and the Kangaroo
The “Dot” movies are a series of Australian-made productions that combined animation with live-action footage (usually for the backgrounds). In all, eight Dot movies were released, but the best of the bunch is probably the 1977 original; Dot and the Kangaroo. The lighthearted plot follows a five-year-old girl (the titular Dot) as she attempts to find her way out of the Australian bush with the help of a red kangaroo who has lost her joey. Like most cartoons aimed at very young audiences, Dot and the Kangaroo isn’t particularly engaging for adults but your tots will be sure to love it.
Anime can be pretty tough for western families to get into. There’s too much to choose from, and the bulk of it is either incomprehensible rubbish or inappropriate for younger viewers. For most parents, it’s easier (and safer) to simply ignore the entire genre. Wolf Children is worth making an exception for. It tells the tale of two werewolf children and the human mother struggling to tame them. The film is narrated by Yuki, the female of the litter who wants to be more human by attending school. Meanwhile, her younger brother begins to embrace his animal side leading to frequent family conflicts. The film feels like a mature, modern fairy tale while still remaining appropriate for younger viewers.
Watership Down is a 1978 British production based on the acclaimed Richard Adams novel of the same name. It follows the anthropomorphised exploits of a group of wild rabbits who are forced to flee their warren due to human land excavation. Unlike most animal adventure films, their journey is filled with all the lethal dangers that a real bunny would encounter on a daily basis, including badgers, dogs, hawks, cats, foxes, human hunters and even other rabbits. We therefore wouldn’t recommend this one for very small tykes. Indeed, by the closing credits the film has wiped out more rabbits than myxomatosis; often in luridly gory detail. With that said, it remains an exhilarating and emotionally rewarding adventure for kids who can hack it.
“Golden age” Disney
When introducing kids to Disney, most parents tend to focus on films from the “Disney Renaissance” (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, etc.) Often, the older stuff tends to get overlooked. This is a shame, as Disney’s “Golden Age” contains some of the best animated movies ever produced. These holidays, tee up a few afternoons to show your kids the classics — start with Fantasia, Pinocchio, Dumbo and Alice in Wonderland.
Fire & Ice
Fire & Ice is an animated “swords and sorcery” adventure directed by Ralph Bakshi in 1982. The film was inspired by the heroic fantasy artwork of Frank Frazetta, who was heavily involved in the production. The plot centres around Lam and Teegra; two displaced humans struggling to fight back against a magical threat from the evil warlord Nekron. Like Watership Down, this film isn’t recommended for small or oversensitive children — there are various scenes involving scary monsters, people getting choppy with swords and ill-fitting micro bikinis. On the other hand, there’s nothing here that they won’t find in the Lord Of The Rings movies. (Well, apart from the micro bikinis.)
The Iron Giant
Okay, so the Iron Giant isn’t especially obscure or under-appreciated but it’s not nearly as popular as it should be and was actually a box-office bomb at the time of release, which justifies its inclusion here. Based on the 1968 novel by Ted Hughes, The Iron Giant imagines what would happen if a boy discovered a friendly giant robot that fell from space during the height of the Cold War. Needless to say, the US military gets involved and everything quickly turns south. We really can’t stress enough how great this movie is. It also features Vin Diesel’s monosyllabic mumbling as the titular Iron Giant, clearly paving the way for his similar turn as Groot in Guardians Of The Galaxy.