Many of the most successful cartoons and animated films manage to principally target a younger audience whilst maintaining an appeal for the grown ups. There are, however, the animated features that are produced specifically for a mature market, with such films often exploring contentious grown up issues.
May 9 sees the DVD/ Blu-ray release of Chico & Rita, a film that brings together Oscar winning director Fernando Trueba with Spain’s best known designer, Javier Mariscal. The film follows soulful singer Rita and jazz musician Chico as their love affair and pursuit of success takes them from 1940s Havana to New York. To celebrate the release of Chico & Rita, we take a look at some of the best animated films to watch without the kids.
Waltz With Bashir (Main photo)
Ari Folman’s Oscar nominated animated documentary about his experiences in the Lebanon War truly pushed forward what the medium was capable of. The innovative techniques allows for Folman to unleash some hauntingly surreal visuals whilst never losing the connection to the real soldiers whose story is being told.
Based on Marjane Satrapi’s superb autobiographical graphic novel, this tale of the Iranian Revolution could have been a dry, heavy history. Yet the anarchic teenage Satrapi, more interested in bootleg Michael Jackson tapes than the volatile political situation around her, makes such an engaging protagonist, and the film is all the more powerful because of it.
A Scanner Darkly
Rotoscoping, or tracing over live action to produce fluid life-like animation, has been around since the 1920s, but Richard Linklater’s startling digital updating of the technique thrust Keanu Reeves and Robert Downey Jr. into a animated world like no other. Based on the paranoid sci-fi classic by idiosyncratic author Philip K Dick, the story is as mind-melting as the visuals.
The Plague Dogs
Watership Down is often cited a dark work, but the follow up from the same team of animators, also based on a novel by Richard Adams, is one of the bleakest pieces of animation ever produced. Two dogs escape from a vivisection lab and struggle to survive in the wilderness. Originally marketed as a family film, it sunk without a trace due to its content and is only now being rediscovered.
When The Wind Blows
Nuclear war has been dealt with in all manner of ways in cinema, but animated tale is arguably the saddest. Based on Raymond Briggs’ graphic novel, it centres on a naïve elderly couple who, when the bomb drops, follow the government’s survival advice to a tee. Of course, ‘duck and cover’ and make-shift shelters are no help in a nuclear winter and their unfaltering faith in The Powers That Be is absolutely heart-breaking.
The film that blasted Japanese animation to prominence in the West. While it’s impact may have been lessened by the sheer volume of lesser anime released to cash in on its success, the original tale is still a stunning treat for the eyes. The narrative still holds up equally well, starting out a blistering cyberpunk adventure and ending of polemic on humanity’s need to keep evolving and moving forward.
If Akira set up the West’s expectations of Japanese animation, Perfect Blue blew them away. Directed by the Satoshi Kon, who sadly passed away this year, it is a taut realistic thriller in which a Japanese pop idol is stalked by an obsessive fan. As her life falls apart the lines between fantasy and reality blur and the film reached Hitchcockian levels of tension.
Sylvain Chomet followed his Oscar-nominated short The Old Lady and the Pigeons with this beautiful, almost wordless tale of an elderly woman and her faithful dog who goes on a quest to rescue her champion cyclist grandson from the French mafia in time for the Tour de France. It is uniquely French, full of 1920s Gallic style, and has a fantastic jazz soundtrack.
Christian Volckman’s stunning black and white futuristic noir truly has to be seen to be believed. With a purely monochrome colour palate, he creates a stunning dystopian cityscape unlike anything else seen on-screen before. The Blade Runner style detective story maybe a tad derivative, but it rattles along such a pace you can just drink in the visuals.
Chico & Rita
Oscar winning director Fernando Trueba and Spain’s premier designer Javier Mariscal has teamed up to produce this beautiful Jazz tinged animation. A period love story set in the golden age of jazz, chronicling the romance between Chico, a pianist with big ambitions and Rita, a beautiful singer with a stunning voice. Sweet, funny, affecting and with a killer soundtrack featuring such jazz legends as Thelonious Monk, Cole Porter, Dizzy Gillespie and Freddy Cole.
Chico & Rita is out on DVD/ Blu-ray on 9 May.