Category Archives: Animation

These superheroes give children with disabilities the representation they deserve

A new team of superheroes shows children with disabilities how unstoppable they really are.

Team Supreme, an animated cartoon concept by Atlanta native Josh Leonard, features a cast of superheroes with disabilities who band together to take on various bad guys. Each member of Team Supreme has an individual superpower that makes them a key part of the group — and those powers are tied to their disabilities.

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“I chose to focus on [kids with disabilities] because it hasn’t been done yet,” Leonard says. “It was simple for me, really. My cartoon is needed.”

Leonard was inspired to create Team Supreme after noticing that the children with disabilities in his life didn’t have superheroes that reflected their lives and resilience. He wanted these children, many of whom are the kids of his friends, to be able to see themselves and their experiences with disability reflected unapologetically in a cartoon.


“I wanted to create characters with an amazing, compelling story that was also cool enough to where the kids could not only relate to these characters but also like and appreciate them,” Leonard writes on his website.

“It was simple for me, really. My cartoon is needed.”

The main character of Team Supreme is an autistic boy named Zeek, who has the power to slow time down to a snail’s pace. His superpower is inspired by “splinter skills,” which allow some autistic people to retain large amounts of information in no time at all.

Leonard says this skill has always struck him as a real-life superpower.

Other members of Team Supreme include Thumper, who was born prematurely and has hearing loss; Shock, who was hit by a car and lost his arm; Li, who was born blind; Red, who lives with albinism; and Mech, who became paralyzed after surviving polio.


Each member of the team has a particular skill that hinges on their experience with their respective disability identity. Li, for example, has the power of supersonic hearing, though no eyesight. And Shock has a prosthetic arm that transforms into different tools to help him take on even the toughest of villains.

Though Leonard doesn’t have a disability himself, he says he’s tapped into the community to ensure he’s accurately representing children with a wide range of disability identities. He drew inspiration for Team Supreme from those same children of his friends — kids who live with conditions like autism and albinism, who aren’t usually represented in cartoons or TV.

Leonard says he spent time with these children, as well as adults with disabilities, in order to observe and note unique aspects of their lives and mannerisms that related to their disabilities. These meticulous notes, individual to each disability identity, have made their way into Leonard’s early-stage animations and character concepts.

“When I would take notes of different people, [people with the same disability] would all have at least one of the same traits,” he says. “Those are the characteristics I would choose to focus on to make my characters as true as possible.”

Leonard is still in concept stages of the show, creating initial animations to imagine each character’s movements. He’s done all this work between his full-time job and going to school for animation.

But he hopes to shop the concept around in the near future, and hopefully get some big names interested in the value of inclusion.

Leonard plans to launch a Kickstarter at the end of May, with a goal of raising $25,000 to create an episode of Team Supreme, and pitch it to Netflix.

Top 10 Most Standard 3D Animation Tools for 2017

The world is going digital and graphical and 3D animation has a huge role to play in this digital generation. Whether you are preparing a simple tutorial for YouTube or you are into complex game development, a touch of animation can surely work wonders. You will find number of software to aid you in this task. To make it easier for you, we have sorted out a handful of sleek tools that can help you to set the right tone for your creations.

We have listed ten user-friendly yet technologically advanced, standard software that serve you with useful features for your animation character development.

1. Aurora 3D Animation Maker


This is one of the most comprehensible animating tools which enable users to create stunning animations. You can transform plain texts or pictures into astonishing creations. It has an easy to use interface which allows you to control several aspects of your animation like length, speed of playback, etc.

It provides you with more than 60 professional project templates and over 80 object style, and these are few of the features to talk about which are available in this animation character maker. Its trial version can be downloaded for free which means that as an animator you can check it out thoroughly.

2. Wideo


For all those marketers and entrepreneurs who are looking for expansion through some purposeful marketing, Wideo serves as a suitable answer. This platform is fit for creating basic, useful animations. It comes with built-in templates which can be customized to make short, meaningful videos. Starting from kinetic text to animated objects, Wideo offers numerable features to create unique animated videos.

3. Blender


Here comes a free and open source 3D creation suite that offers extensible features to its users. With a robust support for the entirety of 3D pipeline, it presents numerous opportunities to animators both amateurs and experts alike. Whether it is modeling, rigging, rendering, composting or game creation, Blender extends seamless help to its users at every phase of 3D animation through its built-in engines like Cycles and through its community as well. Blender has open projects, trainings and tutorials which can be used by amateurs to become a pro of this software.

4. Go! Animate


This is another online platform which stands to serve customized video animations for businesses, schools, and individuals. It contains tools which can be used to make presentations, storyboards and scripts more interactive. It has a huge music track library, over 50 template cartoon characters, and more than 200 props to choose from. You can even customize the voice of your characters with your own recording and automatic lip-sync.

5. Autodesk Maya


If you are an animator who is eager to hit it big in the animation industry, then Autodesk Maya is your pathfinder. With support for multiple platforms including macOS, this state-of-the-art tool can be used for creation of interactive 3D applications. This creative toolset is filled with powerful features for modelers, animators and VFX artists. However, one requires patience and practice to master this software.

6. Autodesk 3ds Max


Based upon polygon modeling, 3ds Max is one of the best animation software out there. You can create images like cubes, cones, teapots, pyramids, etc. that serve as bases for models. It enables animators to do easy yet powerful modeling and high-end rendering.

Suitable for big projects, it also works well when you strive to create sleek video games or movies. You can enhance its capabilities by downloading plugins as it has flexible plugin architecture.

7. Houdini


Developed by Side Effects Software, Houdini is exclusively meant for digital artists who strive to achieve realistic results with tighter deadlines. Built with procedural and node-based interface, Houdini comes as a savior to the animators who need to handle workload and at the same time maintain the creative process.

It is packed with features for modeling, texturing, rigging and animation of 3D models. It is used for high-quality graphics pipeline. This software has been used in popular animation productions which include Disney’s feature films Zootopia and Frozen.

8. Autodesk Mudbox


Mudbox is a software that stands out for any 3D animation studio or animator because of its exclusive use in digital painting and sculpting. Although Mudbox can be used as a design tool, its primary uses consist of normal and displacement map creation, texturing and high-resolution digital sculpting. It provides users with 3D environment and enables them to create movable cameras.

9. Anime Studio


Anime Studio is counted among the ultra-modern animation tools because of its rich features. One of the best things about this software is that artwork created in Anime Studio is independent of resolution. It also comes with a Physics engine for simulating reality. Apart from these features, it comes with lots of pre-animated content so that users can create and publish their animated movies with ease.

10. Cinema 4D Studio


This animation software has gained popularity because of its interactive interface and spontaneity. Especially designed for motion graphics, it comes with some classic features like dynamics, MoGraph (meant for procedural modeling), PyroCluster (for smoke and fire effects), Thinking Particles (based on nodes) and many more that makes it fun and interesting to work with.

Starting from marketing to entertainment, the purposes fulfilled by animation are endless. While the tools listed above can be really helpful for experts, people looking for advanced animation can tie up with a renowned animation company which can help them to achieve realistic, fruitful results.

Pixar’s Short Film ‘Lou’ Is An Impressive & Touching Achievement in Animation

During our visit to Pixar Animation’s campus in Emeryville, California to check out a bunch of footage from Cars 3 (read our reaction over here), the animation studio also took the time to show us their new short film that will be attached to the sequel when it hits theaters this summer.

In case you missed the first look Lou we featured previously, the story focuses on a monster who lives in a lost and found box at an elementary school. What’s cool about Lou, is that he’s actually made up of all the things found in that lost and found box. There’s a red hoodie, baseballs, buttons, a slinky, a handheld video game, a shoe and plenty of other misplaced items from the kids at the school.

After all the kids are done having recess on the school playground, Lou takes it upon himself to scour the playground for all the items that get left behind, and he secretly gives them back to the kids to enjoy over and over again. But one day, he notices a bully who has been stealing stuff from his classmates, and what happens next is hilarious and moving.
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Find out more about the Pixar short film Lou below.

We won’t give everything away that happens in Lou, but the lost and found monster decides to teach this bully a lesson in compassion. Before that happens, a chase ensues between Lou and the bully that is wholly entertaining and funny, and it all leads to a moving conclusion that will really touch your heart.

What makes Lou so mesmerizing is the titular monster himself. While most of the time, Lou’s face and eyes are primarily made up of a red hoodie, a couple of baseballs and two buttons (making him look like a goofy, red Cookie Monster), during the chase on the plaground with the bully, the items that he’s composed of constantly scatter and shift, giving him wildly different forms that make for some truly hilarious moments in animation.

In addition to the wacky, impressive design for Lou, it’s the potent emotional ending that makes this Pixar short a memorable directorial debut for Dave Mullins, and there’s no doubt in my mind that he will one day be at the helm of an incredible feature film for Pixar Animation.


The Inspiration for Lou

Following the screening, Pixar brought Dave Mullins out to talk a bit about the creation of Lou. The filmmaker explained that he’s always been inspired by a set of guidelines that John Lasseter once explained were the ingredients that a Pixar movie should have. They include heart, meaning there should be a main character who is flawed and experiences personal growth; entertainment, meaning a story that is unpredictable and funny; a unique setting that transports viewers to a place that is exciting and new; and the film must call for being animated and use the full potential of the medium.

Dave Mullins has been working as an animator at Pixar since Monsters Inc. in 2001. He started pitching ideas for short films here and there in 2005 that include one about his relatives as told through a family of beavers, some Cars Toons ideas, and a few self-acknowledged bad ideas that didn’t go anywhere. But Mullins found inspiration for the movie he would eventually make when he really dug into his childhood.

Mullins was a kid who moved around a lot, almost every year he was the new kid at school. It made him feel invisible, and it gave him this idea for some kind of character who felt invisible and desired to be accepted by other kids. That’s when he came up with the concept of a character who looked like a pile of stolen toys, but was actually a little kid underneath. That idea didn’t entirely pan out the same way for the film, but it was the right inspiration he needed to being the journey towards creating the Lou you’ll see in theaters.


An Impressive Achievement in Animation

One thing that is always impressive about Pixar’s movies is how much they change throughout production. Even as animators are already working on scenes for the film, those scenes could end up being cut or changed drastically. Story is king at Pixar, and that means making sure the story can always be improved, no matter what stage of production the movie is in. Lou is an excellent example of how skilled Pixar is at perfecting their stories.

Furthermore, seeing how the design of Lou himself progressed is another impressive element of Pixar’s work in animation. When the pitch was made to Pixar, complete with a real-life maquette of Lou in the room, John Lasseter said, “This character looks like a pain in the ass to do. Let’s make it!”

Indeed, the animation tests and footage we saw revealed that this monster was a complicated piece of animation. Pixar had to figure out how to make a pile of individual items move as a single entity, and give those elements a place in the creature’s body that still made him look like the same monster we met in the beginning of the movie.The result is a wacky, delightful character who can only exist in animation, one who brings heart to the story, making it a perfect Pixar short film.

Nintendo brings a wild IRL twist to the ‘Splatoon 2’ story

Whatever happens in Splatoon 2’s story, it’ll be a product of the game’s community.

Nintendo recently added a new section to the upcoming sequel’s website, called “Squid Sisters Stories.” That’s a reference to Marie and Callie, the pop idol duo at the center of Splatoon’s in-game “Splatfest” events.

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Before we get to the site update and how the original game will influence the sequel, it’s important to understand what Splatfests are.

Splatoon is a competitive multiplayer game, and Splatfests were limited time events in which players chose between two sides. It was always something simple: Cats vs. Dogs, Art vs. Science, Messy vs. Tidy.

The labels ultimately didn’t matter inside the game, beyond giving the community competing banners to unite under. At the end of each Splatfest, each team earned a score based on a combination of overall popularity (i.e. how many players flocked to each banner) and win percentage, with the higher score nabbing a win.

In every Splatfest, Marie and Callie split up to represent each team. But for the final Splatfest, the Squid Sisters were the banners players flocked to: it was Marie vs. Callie. The event ended on July 22, 2016 and Marie was crowned the winner.

That was the end. Or so it seemed.

Now, the newly updated Splatoon 2 website features an all-text “Prologue” that directly references the result of that final Marie vs. Callie Splatfest. Here’s the relevant bit:

The showdown of Callie versus Marie ended in victory for Marie, but there was no ill will between the two. The girls left the studio arm in arm, smiling and laughing as they always had. The bond between them would continue, unbroken, for years to come.

There’s one more line after that: “Or so it seemed at the time….”

This prologue is obviously setting up the story in Splatoon 2. What’s surprising is the way the final Splatfest, a real-life event, is woven into the fictional story. I can’t think of any other case where a game featuring live elements used the results of an in-game event to influence the continuing story.

To see this coming from Nintendo, a company that has traditionally been slower to embrace industry trends — in this case, live games — is even more surprising. There’s plenty more to be revealed about Splatoon 2, but this very cool twist should go a long way toward keeping fans of the first game invested in the sequel.

A rabbit terrorizes caveman Eddie Redmayne in first ‘Early Man’ Teaser Trailer

Eddie Redmayne is out to find some not-so-fantastic beasts in the first teaser trailer for Early Man, the new claymation feature from Wallace and Gromit studio Aardman Animations.

The Oscar winner voices Dug, a courageous caveman who must unite his tribe to fight the mighty Lord Nooth (Tom Hiddleston).

He seems to have his work cut out for him, though, considering they’re barely able to stand up to a rabbit in the first promo. Cue the sad trombone.

Early Man arrives Jan. 26, 2018 in the UK, but sadly does not have a U.S. release date yet.

The 25 Best Animated Films of All Time

Why yes, it is a tale as old as time: another Disney animation getting the live-action treatment. We’ve already seen live-action Cinderella, Maleficent, and The Jungle Book, to name a few, and Mulan, The Little Mermaid, and more are on the way. The latest addition to the growing list is the new adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. But as much as we enjoy the new versions, there’s an irreplaceable magic to the original animated films.

Perhaps you’ll go see Beauty and the Beast, fueled by nostalgic excitement or curiosity, or perhaps you’ll choose to preserve your childhood by treating yourself to a rewatch of the original instead. Whatever you choose to do, we can all agree that the animated Beauty and the Beast is a classic. Here, we’ve put together a collection of the 25 best animated films of all time—they’re definitely not just for kids.

Fantasia (1940)


It’s incredible to think that Disney’s psychedelic explosion of vignettes was released in 1940—think about all the labor that went into translating this kind of magic to the big screen. Fantasia really is pure magic, with spectacular dancing hippos, centaurs, and a score featuring Bach and Tchaikovsky. Then, of course, there’s Mickey Mouse and the brooms that almost drown him—a nightmarish yet somehow still delightful segment that remains the film’s most iconic. Fantasia, the precursor to future psychedelic animations, lingers in the mind like an acid trip.

Belladonna of Sadness (1973)

Belladonna of Sadness (1973)

Fantasia is just child’s play compared to this long-lost psychosexual fever dream from Japanese director Eiichi Yamamoto, which was inspired by French writer Jules Michelet’s feminist witchcraft book, La Sorciere. Too X-rated for its own good, Belladonna failed to find popular footing upon its release, even shuttering its parent studio. But with a 2016 U.S. release—more than four decades later—this curious work found a new cult following, and a new audience to scandalize (it is rather shocking, even by modern standards). Though drawn in the most delicate manner, with soft pastels and watercolors, Belladonna almost immediately traumatizes the viewer—as well as its heroine, who is viciously assaulted. Consider yourself warned.

Fantastic Planet (1973)


Were all animators just tripping their faces off in 1973? Like a Salvador Dali-fied Dr. Seuss book, this Franco-Czech animation from René Laloux is a strange sci-fi oddity about blue-skinned creatures called Draags who have enslaved humans (“Oms”) on a faraway planet. Though the extremely two-dimensional drawing style recalls children’s books, Fantastic Planet’s chilling Cold War-inspired, genocidal tale tips it more towards the “adult” side of the scale. It’s never not a trip, and a present-day viewing will probably have chilling familiarity in our troubled political climate.

Robin Hood (1973)

Robin Hood (1973)

Though this is considered “budget Disney” (Robin Hood was the first film from the studio after Walt Disney’s death, and it was called an “embarrassment”), it’s still one of the best. Robin Hood is, of course, the famed little people’s hero, who steals from the rich and gives to the poor. There have been several adaptations of the dude but none as charming as Disney’s fox, who was weirdly kind of hot? Robin Hood plays out like a fairy tale, with a whistling rooster narrator, a fair maiden (Maid Marian, Robin’s foxy love interest), and a squad of furry friends that helps Robin recover what the Trump-ish Prince John has taken.

Watership Down (1978)

Watership Down (1978)

The filmmakers should really apologize to anyone who watched this thinking it’d be some innocuous Peter the Rabbit or Thumper-from-Bambi type movie. Do not be fooled by the “It’s a beautiful day” narration in the trailer, which is quickly followed with “Or is it?” Indeed. This animated adventure, adapted from Richard Adams’ novel, is brutal in how it puts adorable cartoon bunnies in constant danger—think blood-soaked fields and disturbing deaths—as they try to find a new home. This harrowing tale’s political allegory and poetic tone will leave the viewer shook.

Akira (1988)

Akira (1988)

Kanye West raved about it being one of his favorite movies, and we gotta give it to him—the man has good taste. This apocalyptic flick, set after a nuclear explosion in Tokyo, shares in the sci-fi genre of Blade Runner (also set in the year 2019) and The Matrix, with a futuristic urban setting drawn in incredible detail. Set in Neo-Tokyo, Akira follows a teen biker protagonist named Tetsuo on an action-packed mission to free the imprisoned psychic, Akira. Like Ghost in the Shell (which is getting a Scarlett Johansson-starring live adaptation this month), this manga-turned-movie is considered one of Japan’s finest works of animation and has a huge cult following.

My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

Not just one of the best from the celebrated Studio Ghibli filmmaker, Hayao Miyazaki, My Neighbor Totoro is simply one of the best animated films, ever, period. It never fails to lift up spirits, with two adorable children who find magic outside their humble Japanese home, including the cutest, gentlest giant (Totoro) and a wondrous cat bus. No matter what age you are, Totoro will make you feel like a child again: gleefully uninhibited, open to supernatural delights, or simply open to life’s most basic pleasures—even when darker contexts loom (here, a post-WWII Japan).

The Little Mermaid (1989)

The Little Mermaid (1989)

If you, too, grew up wanting to be a mermaid, then this Disney movie provided a little perspective through our main gal Ariel, who had serious leg-and-land envy. The Little Mermaid kicked off Disney’s renaissance (see also: the next few movies on this list), and it’s obvious why. This Faustian tale of a mermaid giving up her beautiful voice to pursue life as a human (and fall in love with the dreamy Prince Eric) gave us one of the most memorable Disney soundtracks, along with a strong-willed, adventurous go-getter of a heroine who is relatable even at her most stubborn and frustrating. Sure, there are some suss things about this movie, like the prince falling for a girl who couldn’t talk back, but The Little Mermaid’s enduring legacy is as a Disney all-time favorite.

Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Beauty and the Beast (1991)

There’s a good reason why this was the first animated film to receive a Best Picture nomination. Beauty and the Beast is Disney at its very best—beautifully animated, with a thrilling, heartfelt story—and that’s why there are such high expectations riding on the live remake. Every girl I knew wanted to grow up to be Belle, the beautiful weirdo who was more concerned with borrowing books from the library than accepting Gaston’s gross and shallow advances. Of course there’s that, um, bestiality element, but look, the point is that only a pure soul like Belle could see the prince inside the buffalo and free him from the curse that turned him into a monster and everyone else at the castle into kitchenware.

Aladdin (1992)

Aladdin (1992)

Damn, Disney was on a roll, following The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast with another instant classic, Aladdin: the rags-to-riches tale of romance adapted from One Thousand and One Nights with a Shakespearean touch (ahem, Othello). A bread-stealing, open-vested homeless boy falls for an out-of-his-league royal princess with a pet tiger, and successfully woos her, despite the evil Jafar’s attempt to steal her hand, thanks to a Robin Williams-voiced genie and one magic carpet. “A Whole New World,” by the way? An absolute banger.

Porco Rosso (1992)

Porco Rosso (1992)

What an odd little film! But a great one, too. Hayao Miyazaki’s protagonist here is an ex-WWI Italian fighter pilot who also happens to be…a pig. Why, yes, it is a curse our dear Porco Rosso (translation: Red Pig) must live with. But that doesn’t stop him from canoodling with gorgeous women or flying planes—the latter thanks to the help of a mechanic protegée named Fio. As weird as it is, Porco Rosso is brilliant and funny, and takes a fascinating spin on history. There’s a little bit of Casablanca, Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, and even a hint of Inglourious Basterds, and the childlike exhilaration that occupies all of Miyazaki’s best films.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)<

Remember when Tim Burton was churning out spooky hits, instead of strange Alice in Wonderland movies with Johnny Depp? The Nightmare Before Christmas is one of Burton’s most important works (it was even honored in a Blink-182 lyric), and immensely influential for the stop-motion movies that followed. This Halloween-slash-Christmastime movie, which Burton conceived and Henry Selick (later of Coraline fame) directed, follows the skeletal hero Jack Skellington, who tries to bring Christmas cheer to his Halloween Town. Listen out for the incredible Danny Elfman score.

The Lion King (1994)

The Lion King (1994)

Another Shakespearean Disney endeavor: Here, Hamlet is adapted into a tale about lions and their jungle friends. The Lion King is still selling tickets on Broadway, all thanks to this immensely popular animation. The movie boasted a robust cast and serious pop cred, with Elton John in charge of the soundtrack. It’s impossible not to feel the love (tonight) watching Simba and Nala tussle in the grass, but it’s also completely devastating when Scar betrays his brother Mufasa and leaves the orphaned Simba to think he was responsible for his father’s death. Simba gets back up on his paws, though, thanks to a little “Hakuna Matata” from his new buds Pumbaa and Timon, and we get to see the cub turn into the noble king of the jungle he was always meant to be.

Toy Story (1995)

Toy Story (1995)

The surprisingly impressive third installment, Toy Story 3, may be the one that got the Best Picture Oscar nom in 2010, but the computer-animated first Toy Story is the OG masterpiece that made Pixar the leaders in animation excellence. Two rivals, cowboy Woody and astronaut Buzz Lightyear, slowly overcome their differences in a heartfelt story of friendship and growing up, and set off on an adventure worthy of their Western/outer space backstories. Plus, Randy Newman’s “You’ve Got a Friend in Me”? Classic.

Hercules (1997)


Greek mythology has never been more fun. Compared to its Disney Renaissance stablemates, Hercules doesn’t get talked about enough, but this tale of a demigod separated as an infant from his almighty parents Zeus and Hera is an epic story that keeps testing its freakishly strong hero. The best part of the movie, however, is not the title protagonist, but his love interest, Megara—who has some serious column-esque hair, by the way—a take-no-shit-from-anyone girl who’s tormented by her ex-boyfriend and Hades (we’ve all been there, right?) and plays rightfully hard to get with Herc. Let’s also not forget the iconic Muses, who sing like Phil Spector-era girl group members; in one of the most memorable scenes, they provide Meg with backup vocals in her lovelorn “I Won’t Say I’m in Love” number.

Perfect Blue (1997)

Perfect Blue (1997)

This proto-Black Swan animation from Satoshi Kon is no light viewing, and it’s certainly not kid-friendly. It starts innocuously enough, with Mima, a Japanese pop star who decides to make a foray into acting. This angers her fans, especially one creepy stalker, who starts invading her life in terrifying ways. Mima also starts becoming tormented by an alter-ego who claims to be the real her, as she falls deeper into a seedy industry that puts her in more and more compromising positions. The double identity element is reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock’s work (and that of his descendant, Brian De Palma), and there’s a touch of Olivier Assayas as well (Personal Shopper, Demonlover). Graphic, sexually explicit, and haunting, Perfect Blue is a daring look at celebrity, media’s violent gaze, and Japan’s history with sexualization and exploitation.

Mulan (1998)

Mulan (1998)

Where were we when Mulan fully showed up at gender’s funeral like, “Hello, I am here to fight some Huns”? Not only did Mulan give us some much needed Asian representation on screen, but she became a brave role model who refused to be confined by dated sexist norms. Our Chinese heroine becomes one of the boys and joins the army to relieve her elderly father of the duty. Along the way, she and Captain Li Shang share some sparks and kick some Hun ass together. Like in most great Disney films, there’s a wacky sidekick: the Eddie Murphy-voiced mini dragon, Mu-Shu. Plus, Christina Aguilera recorded the pop version of Mulan’s identity crisis anthem, “Reflection”—what’s not to love?

Shrek (2001)

Shrek (2001)

The wild success of Shrek can be credited to how perfectly it catered to children and adult audiences alike. For kids, it was a fantastical fairy tale, complete with castle, dragon, damsel in distress, and a curse in need of breaking. But this DreamWorks animation—which had Mike Myers voice the titular ogre, Eddie Murphy his loyal donkey steed, and Cameron Diaz as Princess Fiona—also packed Shrek with a load of pop culture references, from Robin Hood to The Matrix, and a soundtrack that pandered to the parental crowd. I first heard “I’m a Believer” and “Like a Virgin” thanks to Shrek—and let us never, ever forget Smash Mouth, who still refer to their fans as “Shrekers.”

Spirited Away (2001)

Spirited Away (2001)

Up there with My Neighbor Totoro as one of Hayao Miyazaki’s best, Spirited Away remains the sole Japanese film to take home the Best Animated Feature Oscar, and is still Japan’s highest-grossing film. But unlike Totoro, Spirited Away has a darker side, and is often truly terrifying—whether it’s the main plot point of a little girl getting trapped in spirit world, or that scene where protagonist Chihiro’s parents get turned into pigs. The ghostly No-Face is another Miyazaki creation that continues to haunt our dreams, but the idea of being separated from one’s parents and fighting to get back home is enough to keep anyone on the edge of their seats. Of course, Miyazaki finesses this with the most beautiful and imaginative illustrations.

Waking Life (2001)

Waking Life (2001)

Before 2006’s A Scanner Darkly, Richard Linklater experimented with the rotoscoping technique in his 2001 film Waking Life. Though aesthetically a huge departure for the director who had given us Slacker, Dazed and Confused, and Before Sunrise, this movie showcased Linklater’s affinity for waxing poetic: a dead giveaway that it was indeed his creation. If anything, one hint comes when we’re reunited with Before Sunrise leads Celine and Jesse (Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke) for a brief rendezvous in bed, before we ever knew that film would receive a sequel—let alone a trilogy—a few years later.

Finding Nemo (2003)

Finding Nemo (2003)

The Little Mermaid isn’t the only under-the-sea classic on this list. Pixar made quite the splash with Finding Nemo, the story of a brave little clown fish who is separated from his father and must venture through the terrifying deep blue sea to find him. Along the way, Nemo meets the loveable space cadet, Dory (who, of course, would later get her own film, Finding Dory); a surprisingly friendly shark; cute turtles; and a gang of sea creatures trapped in a dentist’s tank. With some expert animation, the ocean itself looks simply breathtaking as well.

Persepolis (2007)

Persepolis (2007)

Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel was turned into a feature film with the help of French animator Vincent Paronnaud, who preserved Satrapi’s black and white drawings but breathed life into them to match the vivacious punk spirit of the Iranian teen girl at the heart of this coming-of-age story. Satrapi, who co-directed, drew (literally and figuratively) from her own life, exploring what it means to be a woman in a country with strict traditional norms, and her move to Europe, which posed new questions for her sense of identity.

Coraline (2009)

Coraline (2009)

Arguably the best film from the stop-motion animation house Laika, Coraline is also straight-up scary, and no wonder: It was adapted from a Neil Gaiman book. Like all kids, Coraline is frustrated by her parents, so she runs off and finds Stepford-like replacements, who are creepily cheery, with black buttons instead of eyes. That alone is horrifying enough, but Coraline also faces off with a horrifying spider lady straight out of a James Wan film.

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

We can’t wait for Wes Anderson’s upcoming star-studded animation, Isle of Dogs, in large part because he did it so well with his Roald Dahl adaptation, Fantastic Mr. Fox. The source material, about a fox who loves to steal from mean farmers, proved to be ripe for Anderson’s auteurist touch—not just visually, but also in the wry sense of humor that can be found in any of his other films, delivered perfectly here by George Clooney.

World of Tomorrow (2015)

World of Tomorrow (2015)

Don Hertzfeldt’s 2012 feature, It’s Such a Beautiful Day, could easily have made the list, but it’s his Oscar-nominated short film, World of Tomorrow, that remains his most affecting. The wry “I no longer fall in love with rocks” line is cute and quotable, but in just 17 minutes, this movie can make you both laugh out loud and sob like a baby. Animated in Hertzfeldt’s trademark line drawing, this futuristic short follows an adorable kid named Emily (voiced by his four-year-old niece), who meets her future, grown-up clone. The clone takes her through a journey of memory, contemplating life with a sentimentality beyond the toddler’s comprehension—but absolutely comprehensible to older viewers. Delightful, and heartbreaking all the same.