Classic Cult: Animated

Most people associate animation with children’s films and Disney. However, this does not do justice to a medium that has the potential to create far more captivating and engaging pieces of cinema than are generally offered by live-action films. It has the ability to explore themes and ideas in an artistic style that isn’t bound by the constraints found in conventional filming.

Cult animation has generally been split into two categories: the bizarre and the adult, which for many will appear too queer to warrant any appreciation. However, there are a number of cult films which should be watched by anyone with an interest in this undervalued art form.

Almost all of the films that The Beatles produced during their career have gone on to achieve some form of cult status, none more so than Yellow Submarine (1968). The fantasy musical features animated versions of the band as they go on a surreal and psychedelic journey to save the people of Pepperland from the music hating blue meanies. With a stellar Beatles soundtrack and wildly, lush images, this is a delight for both young and old. La Planète Sauvage (Fantastic Planet, 1973) by René Laloux is a similarly dreamlike venture into the world of science fiction. In a world where human beings are treated as pests by the giant Draags, one man, Terr, stands up to rebel against humanity’s oppression. Full of vivid imagery, its combination of strong themes of intolerance and unconventional artistry makes it a powerful piece of cinema.

Within the more adult-centred cult animation, one of the stand-out films has to be Heavy Metal (1981). Based on the fantasy and science fiction stories published in Heavy Metal Magazine, it features a universe of graphic violence, passionate fantasies and terrifying evil. Often played at midnight screenings and providing the inspiration for the South Park episode “Major Boobage”, its superb 80s soundtrack helped cement it as a firm cult favourite. Ralph Bakshi’s animated comedy Fritz the Cat (1972) was the first animated film to receive an X rating in the US. Following the hedonistic outings of a free loving cat during the 70s, its satire on the America of the time is hilarious, yet undoubtedly controversial. With the ability to at some point offend just about anyone, when taken with a pinch of salt it serves as great entertainment.

Finally, Bruno Bozzetto’s Allegro non Troppo (1976) is a parody of Disney’s Fantasia. A combination of live-action and different styles of animation, it sets classical music to stories ranging from the comic to the tragic. With an inventive use of animation and actor interaction, it remains an innovative example of the genre and a worthy alternative to the Disney equivalent.

This only scratches the surface of a genre that contains a plethora of fantastic films and covers a vast range of styles and techniques, but for the cult enthusiast, it is at least a decent place to start.

Taken from The Student, published Tue Mar 13th 2012.

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