10 best animated kids’ movies ever
Best animated kids’ movies ever?, I hear you cry with disbelief and horror. Yes, it’s a big call and yes, I’m shaking in my boots compiling this list. I know I’ve missed your all-time favourite. I know you’ll be leaving me a comment saying “what about Mulan? Spirited Away? Dear god woman, where is The Little Mermaid?!”, but I’ve just got to go with my own gut. Maybe I should call this list the “top 10 best animated kids’ films ever (according to Maxabella’s personal preferences and even then she might change her mind tomorrow)”.
It was really hard to choose. There have been roughly 110,897 animated films made for kids since Steamboat Willie hit the scene. (I totally made up that 110,897 number and Steamboat Willie wasn’t even the first kids’ animation, just so you know). Let me know if you disagree with my list and feel free to leave your own favourite or even Top 10 list in the comments below.
And here is a list of films that I really, really wanted to include, but ran out of spots in the top ten.
And here’s my Top 10…
# 1 Toy Story
Top spot goes to Toy Story and all the other toy stories after that (because there are currently three, but we all know there will be more). Woody the talking cowboy is Andy’s favourite toy until Buzz the spaceman comes on the scene. Woody is resentful and dispirited, but when they are accidentally left behind together, they discover that there is always room on the shelf for everyone.
What makes it a winner?: This film is so full of heart and warmth you quickly forget its status as the first full-length animation entirely created on computer – go Pixar! Aside from the marvellous plot that keeps kids (and their parents!) wide-eyed the entire movie, the premise alone – what toys get up to when we’re not looking – earns it the number one position in my book. Let’s just say that this film sends kids’ imaginations to infinity and beyond…
Ages:If your child can handle ‘separation’ (toys get separated from other toys, toys get separated from their owner), they can handle Toy Story. Sid the next door neighbour is also a bit agressive and mean, but manageable. Preschool and up.
# 2 Antz
Antz gives us an amazing eye on what an ant’s life could actually be like and it’s fascinating. This is an action movie that will keep kids buzzing along (sorry, wrong insect), but there are powerful themes about class, popular culture, politics and individualism for adults to mull over. Not bad for a kids’ flick, but main character ‘Z’ is a philosophical thinker for our time – plus a really sweet guy as far as the littlies are concerned.
What makes it a winner?:
Antz is high on my list because it is truly a film made for both little kids, bigger kids, teenage kids and adults. You’ll all enjoy this one.
Ages: Older kids. Younger kids will think the movie is fun until the insect battles begin and the violence turns a bit dark. There is also some mild language (why!?) and innuendo (which young kids probably won’t get, but still…)
# 3 Peter Pan (classic)
With the ‘Diamond Edition’ recently released on Blu-Ray, Peter Pan has stood the test of time as one of Disney’s most splendid animated features. The battles between Wendy’s ficticious Peter – the boy who doesn’t want to grow up – and Captain Hook are brought to life by an intense musical score by Oliver Wallace. Every crash, boom and blam is highlighted by his wonderful music. Peter is a complex, interesting hero surrounded by other wonderful characters that will stay with children for years. Like Peter Pan, this movie never grows old.
What makes it a winner?: Some of the sequences in the movie show its age (the old stereotyping in the Native Indian scene springs to mind!) but the power of happy thoughts triumphs against all. This film is utterly charming.
Ages: Hook and his hungry crocodile nemesis are a bit scary and many younger kids might find some of the themes troublesome – the orphaned lost boys, kids on the loose without grown ups – but it’s all still quite twee by today’s standards. The mild racism and sexism (the film was made in 1953 after all) might provide fodder for some interesting conversation with observant older kids.
# 4 The Lion King
Watch this film and be prepared to have the Elton John “Ciiiiircle of life” song in your head for weeks. Maybe even years. It’s all worth it, of course. Simba the lion cub (voiced first by Jonathan Taylor Thomas, then by Matthew Broderick) must grow up and accept that royalty is his destiny, but first he must defeat his evil uncle Scar (Jeremy Irons). Keep more sensitive children covered during the evil Scar’s big moments – very scary, even for me. Luckily the overarching themes of hope and family love quickly chase away any frights.
What makes it a winner?: Simba’s journey to self-acceptance and his rightful destiny is so emotionally stirring and uplifting that you’ll happily be belting out “ciiiiiiircle of life” forevermore.
Ages: Despite its friendly rating, the film is often very scary and sad, so I recommend it for robust six year olds and up.
# 5 Finding Nemo
This movie is funny, heartwarming and very, very clever. Kids are treated to an underwater dreamland, where turtles frolic and sharks try to be nice. Marlin (voiced by Rupert Brooks) is a single dad – beware a very early scene depicting the loss of Mrs Marlin – who is nervously trying to raise his son Nemo (Alexander Gould) who has a small disability (stunted fin). Marlin’s worst fears come true when Nemo spreads his fins a little too far and is captured by a deep-sea diver and sent to the aquarium (located, of all places, in a dentist’s surgery). Marlin sets out to find Nemo, taking Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) along for the ride. Meanwhile Nemo plots his escape with his new aquarium friends (including Willem Dafoe), proving to his Dad once and for all that he is old enough to make decisions on his own.
What makes it a winner?: You’d be hard-pressed to find a more charming film than Finding Nemo (unless it’s Up, see below…). This film has imagination and action by the bucketload and its depiction of parent-child love is heartwarming for all.
Rated: G Ages: My daughters were both more terrified of the scuba diver than the sharks… go figure. Even so, though they mean well, the sharks are definitely scary for young children, as is the theme of loss running throughout the movie. 4+ but make sure you stay present for smaller kids.
Loosely based on The Little Mermaid story, Brunhilde (voiced by Noah Lindsey Cyrus) is a goldfish princess who wants to explore beyond the sea. When five-year-old Sosuke (Frankie Jonas) rescues her from the shore and renames her Ponyo, Brunhilde becomes determined to turn into a human. By unleashing her powers, Ponyo does transform into a girl, but she also disrupts the balance of nature and causes a tsunami that nearly destroys Sosuke and his mother’s tiny village. Strong female characters – Sosuke’s mother (voiced by Tina Fey) and Ponyo are something else, but don’t even come close to the might of the Ocean Queen (Cate Blanchett)) – bring emphasis to the film’s treatment of what it means to compromise in order to achieve your dreams.
What makes it a winner?: If I thought that most kids would agree, I would put Ponyo at the top of my list as I am a huge fan of anime master Hayao Miyazaki and this is a beautiful children’s fairy tale. My own children adore this movie and it’s a beautiful, dazzling film that deals with some pretty significant themes with a sensitive, fresh perspective.
Ages: All children will enjoy this movie, with some of the more significant themes of sacrifice and self-fulfillment going peacefully over the little ones’ heads. You might be worried about kids roaming about without adult supervision, but I chose to see that as a pure fantasy element and my kids didn’t even notice the missing grown ups…
#7 The Incredibles
Latter day super heroes have been told they need to assimilate with the rest of us and try very hard to go about their daily life being ‘ordinary’. Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) hangs up her stretchy-leotard to play wife to Bob (aka Mr Incredible, voiced by Craig T Nelson) and mother to her super-speedy son Dash, daughter Violet who can create invisible forcefields and baby Jack-Jack. Life is super-ordinary until Bob gets called out on a suspicious top secret assignment that the whole family, plus ‘cool’ friend Frozone (Samuel L Jackson), are suddenly in the thick of. With wise, witty dialogue and loads of action, the movie pops along at fantastical speeds.
What makes it a winner?: Any movie that contains the line “Every Super has a secret identity; I don’t know a single one who doesn’t. I mean, who wants the pressure of being super all the time?” makes the list in my book. Plus there is the amazing exchange that basically ends with the conclusion that “if everyone is special, that’s like saying no one is”. Perfection.
Ages: Sophisticated themes that will raise many questions coupled with believable, graphic action means you should take note of the PG rating and save this one for older kids.
#8 Fantasia (classic)
Walt Disney’s ground breaking 1940 film featured spectacular animation set to classical music. “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” – the classic Mickey Mouse vehicle – is set within the piece, indeed it was the whole reason why this lavish production was ever made. This stunning film took animation to a new level of detail and opened the door for the many full-length animated feature films that came after it.
What makes it a winner?: Parts of Fantasia haven’t aged well – indeed they are cheesy and rather boring – but over all it’s still a beautiful feast for the senses with plenty happening to amuse the kids.
Ages: Some of the sequences are very dark and creepy, made more so by the ominous music. If you watch this one with kids under 6, be prepared to hit the fast forward from time to time.
After his wife Ellie dies, septuagenarian Carl decides to make his beloved late wife’s dream come true and travel to Paradise Falls in South America – the place explorer Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer) claimed was the most beautiful in the world. Realising that he can’t leave behind memories of his beloved Ellie, Carl invests in hundreds of helium balloons to fly his house to Paradise Falls. Little does he know, pesky young Wildlife Explorer scout Russell (Justin Nagai) is along for the ride. Some hilarious sequences involving Carl trying to get rid of Russell eventually result in acceptance of his odd little travelling companion. When the odd pair finally arrive in Paradise Falls, they discover that Muntz is more interested in killing an elusive rare bird than saving the beautiful landscape and it’s up to them to save paradise.
What makes it a winner?: If I’ve ever seen a more heart-warming tale than this one, I can’t remember it. Beautiful characterisation, delightful whimsy and lots of humour make this one a must-see for all the family. Make sure you bring Grandma and Grandad along for the ride.
Ages: Some terrifying talking dogs and emotional, potentially upsetting scenes give the film its PG rating, so it’s only one for kids at least six and up. That said, careful fast-forwarding for younger children would make it acceptable for all.
In this super-cool flick, a gutsy, fiesty redhead (surprise!) princess takes on the might of… her parents. Princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald) is a skilled archer and the fiercely independent daughter of King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson). When she refuses to get married and tries to use magic to change her mother, her actions bring chaos to the kingdom of DunBroch. She must find a way to undo a beastly curse before it is too late. Can Merida prevail, when the going gets tough? Can she what!
What makes it a winner?: Despite the sometimes-untranslatable Scottish burrs, this film has spunk and a big, big heart. It’s fairly formulaic (especially in Pixar terms), but does rise to the challenge of being a princess movie that actually centres the action on the princess herself, not her love interest.
Ages: Without spoiling the plot, lets just say that some rather scary witches, wil o’ the wisps and wild animals make the film best suited to kids seven plus.
Phew! I’m done! Such a hard cull to make. What did I miss off the top ten that you truly love?
This article was written by Maxabella and originally appeared in our sister site kidspot.com.au