The wealth of animated movies today inspired me to to a comparison to my own childhood. I decided to go back through my childhood and list the best movies of each year from 1974 (when I was born) forward. A picture of the 80's from one child's eyes. It ended up being a shorter list than I thought, because...
1970's: There's not shit here. I knew there weren't as many animated movies being made when I was a kid, but I didn't realize it was this bad. No wonder Charlotte's Web, which was released the year before I was born, is such a beloved classic. The other movies from the late 70's include the Hobbit/Lord of the Rings animated movies which I always thought were vastly overrated, and Hanna Barbara crap. I hated Hanna Barbara. I feel obliged to mention that Disney's The Rescuers which was released in 1977... but that one sorta slipped by me. I've still never seen it. This is depressing, let's move onto the 80's.
1980: Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (and Don't Come Back!)
This is actually the second Charlie Brown movie released since I was born... the first being Race for Your Life Charlie Brown in 1977. Bon Voyage was a culture shock story, with Charlie Brown (with Snoopy and Woodstock in tow), Linus, Peppermint Patty, and Marcie becoming exchange students to France. Again, since I hated Hanna Barbara, the Charlie Brown movies (including 1972's Snoopy Come Home) were pretty much it when I was young. They would air frequently on local channels, and Bon Voyage would run heavily on "The Movie Channel".
1981: Disney's The Fox and the Hound
An orphaned fox is abandoned by a kind lady, and becomes best friends with the puppy next door. But said puppy is being bred to be a hunting dog, and the two promise to be friends in spite of everyone telling them they're meant to be enemies. As a whole I'm not a big fan of this movie today, yet the scene where Todd barely alive, drags himself out of the lake, hears a click, and stares up into the barrel of a shotgun still sends chills down my spine to this day.
1982: The Secret of Nimh/The Last Unicorn
Because it felt wrong to just pick one.
The Secret of NIMH is a Don Bluth film. I generally don't like Don Bluth animation... at least not when humans are involved, because of how Bluth would overexaggerate movement and facial expressions. He did much better with animals. NIMH is about a mother rat whose son has become very ill and will die if moved. Problem is, their home is in the middle of a field ready to be plowed. So she calls on the mysterious Rats of NIMH, who have learned to use human technology. There's a lot to like here, yet for some reason this movie has never been able to grab me.
In The Last Unicorn, the title character discovers that she is the last of her kind, and tries to discover what happened to all the others. On the flipside of NIMH... there's a lot to make fun of here, but the unicorn's story grabs me, and it has an ending that I want to see again and again. It's kind of a cult classic, fondly remembered because if you were a fan of high fantasy, there wasn't much like it at the time.
1983: Daffy Duck's Fantastic Island
Okay, there wasn't crap in 1983, and the only reason I'm mentioning this is because, even though I haven't mentioned them before, the Looney Tunes movies were a significant part of my childhood. Fantastic Island is actually the fourth such movie in this series that started with the Bugs Bunny/Road Runner movie in 1979. See, Warner Brothers realized they could make a decent bit of money packaging several old Bugs Bunny cartoons in the form of a movie bumpered by a few minutes of new animation to tie it together. And it was because I loved Bugs Bunny that these movies were disappointing, because I know these old cartoons by heart and was annoyed to see them cut up. But VCRs were only beginning to take hold at this point, so what else were you going to watch if one of these movies were shown on tv on a Sunday afternoon?
It also bears mentioning that Smurfs and the Magic Flute was released in the US this year, even though the movie was made in 1977 and the Smurfs cartoon had been on since 1981; the movie looked kind of primitive compared to what the cartoon was giving us. I may have seen it but I don't remember it.
1984: Nothing, nada, zilch
I'm not joking. Look for yourself if you don't believe me. And again, the best thing in 1983 was another in a series of Bugs Bunny compilations. So that's TWO YEARS of nothing, as far as I'm concerned.
1985: Disney's The Black Cauldron
Stuff your Care Bears movie. :) This movie is based on the first two books of the young adult fantasy series, The Chronicles of Pydrain by Lloyd Alexander. These books were written in the sixties, and of course got attention as a result of the film release. I devoured them.
But here's the thing... I never saw the movie as a kid. The movie was a major flop in the box office, and represented a low point for the Disney animation studios internally. So they buried this movie until 1998. Since few people actually saw this, it's more of a historic footnote for the year than a piece of movie culture.
The rest of my teen years coming tomorrow, probably.