The Swanpride Award: Searching for the Best Animated Movie of the 20th Century

I have to apologize. I had a really busy year and as a result, I neglected this blog a little bit. I therefore decided to do something special for this December: Some sort of virtual Advent calendar, in which I will post a substantial article every day up to Christmas Day. And by searching for a good theme for it, something occurred me: That there are a lot of animated movies which never had the chance to win any Academy Award or Annie for best picture. Simply because it took so long to establish any kind of award.

Not that I complain about this. Before the start of what I dubbed the “Multi-Age” in my article about the different eras of movie animation, there simply weren’t enough animated movies to warrant such an award. It would have been boiled down to “this one movie which was actually produced this year gets the prize” more often than not. Still, I think all those movies deserve some consideration. So I will do the following: I will take a look at movies released during a time-span which gives me a reasonable number of movies which are award-worthy in one way or another. For starters a decade but I’ll narrow it down later on, when there are enough high quality movies released in a shorter time span. I will pick three to five movies (depending on how many movies I deal with) and put them on a list of nominees. I will then discuss the merits of the movies in question, and pick one winner. Then I will do the next decade/time period up the last movie which was released in 1999. And finally, I will pit all the winners against each other, and whatever movie wins will be my pick for the best animated movie of the 20th century.

This is naturally mostly based on my opinion (hence the name Swanpride Award). But that doesn’t automatically mean that I will simply pick the movie with which I have the most fun with. I will try to be as objective as possible. And yes, objectivity in movie criticism is a thing.

I recently noted that a lot of people seem to think that judging movies is solely a matter of taste. That is not the case. If that were true, than there wouldn’t be movies which are more popular than others. There are certain rules of storytelling and certain standards of quality a movie has to meet to be successful, rules which experts have figured out by observing the reaction of the audience to certain elements for centuries (yes, I am aware that movies haven’t been around that long, but literature and the theatre have and the basic rules are not that different, no matter what medium is used). They are not arbitrary, as some people like to claim.

The truth is, though, that there is no such thing as a perfect movie. Every movie has flaws. But (and that’s the point at which subjectivity comes into play) how much those flaws are bothering a particular viewer differs. Take a movie like Avatar (I picked it because of his position as highest grossing movie of all time): Is the story generic and full of plot holes? You can bet it is, which is exactly the reason why I personally don’t like this movie. But it is also a visually impressive and full of creative designs. Someone who loves those elements so much that they would be willing to overlook those flaws, and having this opinion is not automatically wrong.

Another aspect which has to be considered judging movies is that sometimes a director deliberately breaks the rules of story-telling. There are instances in which one can easily argue that what is perceived to be a flaw, actually works to the advantage of the movie as a whole in one way or another. You could for example argue that Avatar deliberately tells a generic story because a familiar tale makes it easier to relate to this foreign world.

My point in all this is that I will try my very best to look at the flaws of the movies and their strengths as objectively as possible, maybe even argue against my own opinion. My final decision will most likely be based on my personal taste to a certain degree, but the point of the exercise is to put a lot of movies into the spotlight which you would normally don’t find on any top ten lists. And hopefully I don’t have to do it alone. I want my readers to participate.

The truth is that while I have seen a lot of animated movies, I certainly haven’t seen all of them. Therefore it is entirely possible that I might have missed out on some gems. I therefore ask you all to submit your picks for attention-worthy animated movies for consideration. That is easy. You simply have to drop a comment, telling me which movie (or movies) you think should be on the nomination list. Please submit the name of the movie and the year in which was released. For more obscure ones, the name of the studio would be helpful, too. If you want to heighten the chance that it makes the nomination list, feel free to write a short explanation why this movie deserves to get nominated (I might even incorporate it into the article). Feel also free to nominate movies which are famous and therefore expected nominees. They are most likely already on my list, but a good argument in advance might sway my final judgement in one way or another.

To be eligible for the award, the movie has to be:

  1. Predominantly Animated (Meaning Fantasia counts as an animated movie because it is animated with live-action segments in-between while Mary Poppins doesn’t because it is mostly live-action with one animated segment thrown in)
  2. Theatrical (so no direct-to-video or TV releases)
  3. A movie length feature (I mention that point because there are some shorts which actually got a theatrical release in tandem with a bigger movie)

That is all. It doesn’t matter if it is stop-motion, traditionally animated or CGI, in which country it was first released, or which studio made it, not even if it is geared towards kids, families or adults. It doesn’t even matter if you think that it has a chance to win as long as you think that it is worthy of the attention. But don’t wait too long. After all, I will have to watch and rewatch a lot of movies. If you submit a movie one day before the article is due, I might not have the time take it properly into consideration.

I also would like to include polls, allowing you to vote for your favourite nominee yourself in order to counterbalance my opinion. But I am not sure if I should do so because, well, let’s be honest here the number of subscribers is not high enough that the result would be even remotely representative. Therefore I will start with a little test-poll, just to see how many of you would like to participate this way. What do you think about my plans?

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26 responses to “The Swanpride Award: Searching for the Best Animated Movie of the 20th Century

    • swanpride

      Well, I hope you’ll leave some suggestions, since you are one of the resident experts

      • The Animation Commendation

        Resident expert? I think you’re more of an expert than I am, lol, but I appreciate the comment.

        I guess all the Disney Renaissance movies are good suggestions, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, etc.

        In terms of non-Disney, I know people love the Don Bluth films so you can use those.

        Maybe you can give The Phantom Tollbooth a look-see?

        I understand your point about being objective in regards to criticizing movies. That was the whole reason why I had a rubric for my live-action Disney blog. I wanted to be objective and not put the movies that I like and give them A’s just because I liked them.

      • swanpride

        The Phantom Tollbooth? *looks it up* Oh, 1970, that is great, 1970 was a horrible decade for Animation!

      • The Animation Commendation

        I’m just a big fan of the book and admired the attempt to make it an animated film.

  • smilingldsgirl

    Cool idea. The one area that I do think is very subjective is humor. There are so many movies that I think are hilarious that others don’t laugh at all and vice versa. Also last years Birdman certainly shows that a huge number of people can love a movie I don’t think is very good at all. (American Beauty would be another example). I do think film is a subjective experience but there are definitely certain bedrock foundations that help make a movie work for a lot of people.

    Anyway, I’ve really enjoyed going over the Animated Oscars on my channel so I think you will have a lot of fun with this project as well. Look forward to it.

    • swanpride

      Eh…don’t get me started on Birdman. It’s a terrible movie imho, for multiple reasons.

      • smilingldsgirl

        And yet I know many people who have it on their best of the decade so who knows. It’s a subjective experience film. You and I have certainly disagreed on many films over the last year but that’s part of the fun of this medium for discussing film

      • swanpride

        I think the movie is so popular because a lot of people believe that it affirms their own opinion even though it actually says nothing at all. If you read a couple of reviews, I think it is very noticeable that more or less everyone interprets the movie differently.

      • smilingldsgirl

        I think people like it because it was very well made and the acting is good but also because it was the first arthouse movie to comment on comic book movies. This makes it feel more important than it actually is, so the Marvel movie lover can feel educated because they like Birdman. Plus, Hollywood loves movies about how tortured it is to be a star and be famous, so they sold it as a masterpiece.

      • swanpride

        Oh, what they showed about what goes behind the scenes of theatre productions is actually pretty accurate, including the clashing egos of the stars. That was the only good part of the movie (which was indeed well acted). The interesting thing is that I actually got the impression that the movie was bashing the Hollywood elite who feels like they are above something like comic book movies, despite knowing that said Hollywood elite took it as bashing said comic book movies. So I re-examined it and realised that the way the movie is constructed you can basically reflect your own opinion into it and feel good that a movie finally expresses your believes when in truth it does nothing of this kind, but is pandering to its audience. It is very clever pandering. If I though that it were intentional, I would give the movie a lot of credit for pulling this trick, but I don’t think that it is.

      • smilingldsgirl

        Good point. I hadn’t thought of it in quite that way but I think you are right. Quite the trick in deed.

      • smilingldsgirl

        I’ve been thinking about your insight to Birdman and it really is brilliant. I am so impressed

  • smilingldsgirl

    As far as suggestions my top 50 animated countdown on my blog has my favorites.

  • smilingldsgirl

    early animation era- Fantasia, Tale of Prince Achmed, Snow White and 7 Dwarfs, Bambi, Dumbo
    1950s- Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Alice in Wonderland, Lady and the Tramp
    1960s- 101 Dalmatians, Jungle Book
    1970s- Charlotte’s Web, Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
    1980s- Little Mermaid, Secret of Nimh, My Friend Totorro, American Tail, Nausicaa, Akira
    1990s- Beauty and the Beast, Princess Mononoke, Lion King, Aladdin, Toy Story, Prince of Egypt, Nightmare Before Christmas, Iron Giant
    2000s- Spirited Away, Up, Fantastic Mr Fox, Wallace and Gromit, Wall-e, Ratatouille, Persepolis, Triplets of Belleville
    2010s- Tangled, Inside Out, Frozen (yes I know you don’t like it but you asked for my nominations), Tale of Princess Kaguya, Song of the Sea, Lego Movie
    So I think those would be my nominations from each era.

    • swanpride

      Thank you! (I won’t do the 2000s yet, but perhaps next year…but you now, while I don’t like Frozen, I never had an issue with it winning the academy award. Thus said, I still haven’t seen the Miyazaki movie which was released that year, so there might be a movie which was released in that year which was better than Frozen I just haven’t seen yet). Most of them were already on my list, but I guess I now have to reconsider Dumbo.

      • smilingldsgirl

        You are welcome. I think with Dumbo its simple backgrounds and animation is actually a strength. I love the watercolor look and it helps me focus on the story and not the animation if that makes sense. It’s a film I always discounted because it was sad but have grown to really love over the years.

        It’s tough to compare Wind Rises and Frozen. They are so different but both made my top 50 animated film countdown and are excellent films IMO.

      • smilingldsgirl

        Probably smart to not do the 2000s as it has been done a lot. Look forward to your list. I am glad you reminded me of this blog because I had forgotten it and am now following.

      • swanpride

        Yeah, well, I thought looking for the best movie of a century makes more sense because it is an already concluded period. Plus, you are currently covering the 2000s so well, there is no need for me to do an own take. At least not yet.

      • smilingldsgirl

        Ah thanks. 🙂

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    […] Speaking of blogs, those of you who follow “Music of Lyrics” already know that I have big plans for December, and those didn’t know yet, well, I will be delving into my other passion, animation, big […]

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