Best Animated Feature – 1983

My Nominations: Barefoot Gen. Fire & Ice. Rock & Rule.

Another year without a mainstream Disney feature, but given this is the 80s we more than make up that absence with oddities and Japanese classics. Rock & Rule is a Canadian animated musical, mostly notable for the musical acts involved (Blondie, Iggy Pop, Earth Wind & Fire) and for it being the first animated movie to feature some CG. More interestingly is the plot (it’s not for kids) which sees a faded, bitter rock star in a post apocalyptic world who wants to summon a world eating demon through the power of song. Again, it was the 80s. It’s funny for how weird it is, but it’s very dated and mostly worth seeing for cult value.

Ralph Baski tried to cashki in on the swords and sandals boom of the era by creating Fire & Ice, the story of a princess trying to escape the clutches of an evil Queen and her son as they plan to kidnap her while also wiping out humanity. Again – 80s. It’s maybe the most straight-forwards Baski film, unusual to say as his satires typically deal with modern American society. This is mostly a cut and dry fantasy, but it has an interesting look with plenty of washed out wastelands and action.

That leaves my clear winner. Barefoot Gen is yet another Japanese film rooted in World War 2, though this time it isn’t one which deals with a futuristic world born out of nuclear forces, but instead is one which deals with the immediate impact and aftermath of the bomb. It’s horrific stuff. It’s not up there with the beauty and sadness of Grave Of The Fireflies, but it’s not an easy view for something which at first seems so cutesy. It follows the titular Gen, as he and his family try to get out of Hiroshima. The footage of the bomb dropping is breath-taking stuff, gruesome but wonderfully animated, and everything afterwards is gripping and tragic.

My Winner: Barefoot Gen.

Barefoot Gen (1983) - IMDb

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Best Animated Feature: 1982

My Nominations: Flight Of The Dragons. Hey Good Lookin. The Last Unicorn. The Plague Dogs. The Secret Of Nimh.

While I may be biased given the fact that I grew up in the 80s, I’ve been known to say that the decade was a golden age for animated TV shows. On the Feature front, it was less impressive but acted as a gateway towards the modern era. 1982 is an unusually strong year for Animated films, especially if I include TV films. This goes against Academy rules, but screw it. Flight Of The Dragons is a film I remember fondly and was one I enjoyed more than many of the more famous big screen releases, and features a cool title song and a cast including John Ritter and James Earl Jones. One which more people remember, and more fondly, is The Last Unicorn – which too has a strong cast and score, with Mia Farrow, Jeff Bridges, Christopher Lee, Alan Arkin, and Angela Lansbury all contributing.

Hey Good Lookin is for some a retread of ideas already covered by Bakshi in earlier movies – hardly surprising given it is an overhaul of a previous live action/animated mash-up. It’s a lesser Bakshi film – but there wasn’t anyone making movies like this at the time, and hardly anyone since.

The Plague Dogs is the lesser known spiritual follow up to Watership Down, and is an even more uncompromising watch directed more at older viewers than unsuspecting children. My winner though, is a film which was frequently the choice forced upon us in the last days before half term or end of term at school – The Secret Of Nimh – Don Bluth’s first, and arguably best movie since moving on from Disney, and one of the films which arguably forced Disney to up their game. Often frightening and violent, though not on the same levels as The Plague Dogs, it’s a refreshing and exciting story about mice and, well, super-rats. And family.

My Winner: The Secret Of NIMH

12 Facts About 'The Secret of NIMH' | Mental Floss

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Best Animated Feature – 1981

My Nominations: The Fox And The Hound. American Pop. Heavy Metal. Jarinko Chie.

While there was a wealth of Animated Features released in 1981, many of those are not the best quality and many are entries in longstanding series. I’ve gone with four cult films of varying success. The Fox And The Hound was one of the many films released between Golden Periods for Disney, and it’s not one I grew up with. It always sounded like a straight to video affair, but I was surprised when I first saw it. It’s by no means top tier, or A tier Disney, but with an interesting cast and fast moving story, it’s a solid B. American Pop is notable because it’s Ralph Baski being serious and telling a personal story, rather than the sexual antics and satire of earlier movies. It’s also notable for its early rotoscoping technique which certainly dates the movie now, but must have seemed unusual and interesting back then. Good soundtrack too.

While we’re talking about soundtracks, Heavy Metal is known for its music and is possibly one of the most famous cult animations of all time. I always found the title amusing because, while Metal was certainly a thing in 1981, it didn’t really kick off until a year or two later as the genre we recognise it as today. The movie is bonkers, a series of vignettes based on sci fi and fantasy stories, with tonnes of violence, great animation, and bizarre spectacle. Like Fox And The Hound, it has a wildly varied cast. Finally, a little known Isao Takahata film, Jinko Chai is the story of a young girl trying to get her Yakuza father back on the straight and narrow by helping him find a legitimate job and get back together with his wife. It’s heady stuff for kids, but has an overly cutesy appearance which Takahata would continue to move away from.

My Winner: The Fox And The Hound

Best Animated Film – 1980

My Nominations: Doraemon. The King And The Mockingbird. The Missing Link.

The 80s will forever be the decade which saw Television Animation excel, with Saturday morning cartoons inspiring a generation of children and later, a host of ill-advised big budget adaptations or remakes. On the big screen, the Animated Feature had a bit of a lull in the 80s, not least because Disney was still trying to find its mojo. Japan would pick up the ball and usher in a new wave of more adult oriented fare, while still attempting (and often succeeding) to beat Disney at their own game. 1980 saw the first entry in the ultra successful Doraemon series – can’t say I get it myself, but it’s suitably cutesy and influential enough to earn a spot. The King And The Mockingbird famous took almost thirty years to make, mainly due to a dispute over rights. You would expect something like this to go two ways – an incoherent mess due to the time and associated cultural lapses, or a masterpiece. Thankfully it’s closer to the latter, and if anything, it’s a film you can clearly point to as inspiring much of Ghibli’s later output not only in its animation but in its approach to melding and updating classic literature and Cinema. Had this category existed in 1980, this would have been your winner.

The Missing Link is a French animation which takes its inspiration from the bawdy US animation of the 70s. It looks cheap now and in fairness the animation seemed dated even for 1980, but it’s funny in places and there’s a lot of nudity if you’re into that sort of thing. I think we have a clear winner this year.

My Winner: The King And The Mockingbird.

The King and the Mockingbird (1980) | MUBI

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Best Animated Film – 1979

*Apologies for fans of these posts for the lack of consistency recently – work, babies, Christmas – it’s all happening at once these days, but we should be resuming our regular programming shortly.

My Nominations: The Castle Of Cagliostro. Galaxy Express 999.

1979 saw an unusually high number of animated features being released around the world, perhaps the most notable being the first directed by Hayao Miyazaki. The Castle Of Cagliostro is an entertaining, fast moving entry in the long-running series featuring the charming acrobatic thief Lupin. While it doesn’t have many of the trademarks we would come to learn of from Miyazaki, it is still energetic and drawn with detail, with a story easy enough to follow for any age or country of audience. Japan pumped out a number of animated movies this year, the most successful being Galaxy Express 999, an oddly slow sci-fi adaptation where humans have achieved a degree of immortality by transporting their minds into mechs. Although many films were released this year, the best of these were TV movies featuring the likes of The Flintstones and Bugs Bunny and are therefore exempt from my voting – most of the other films don’t meet the standard of quality of the two nominations.

Art of Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro

My Winner: The Castle Of Cagliostro

Best Animated Feature – 1978

My Nominations: The Lord Of The Rings. The Mystery Of Mamo. Watership Down.

As we near the end of the 70s, the world of Animated movies was still in a lull – Disney was struggling to find a new identity (and would continue to do so for another ten years) while the heralded Studio Ghibli was a few years from being created. Japan was still cranking out hits, but the likes of Toei and Nippon Animation were making films more dedicated to their domestic market. Ralph Bakshi was known till this point for his indie, adult oriented animation work but in 1978 he tackled more family friendly work with The Lord Of The Rings, an ambitious attempt to tell Tolkein’s story in a single work – eventually deciding to focus on the first two books instead. As you would expect, it isn’t always successful and can be bewildering for those new to the story, but it is frequently impressive visually.

For fans of the Lupin III series and character, The Mystery Of Mamo is a fun and energetic adventure, but isn’t the easiest entry point to the series despite it being first. Finally, Watership Down is a film which was shown in schools, and frequently around the holiday periods when I was young. While it still features regularly at Christmas, I highly doubt it being presented to School kids now, such is the nature of both its content and our world now. Both mystical, realistic, and apocalyptic, it tells the story of a group of rabbits struggling with survival and heading towards an idyllic land glimpsed in a dream. While not as overtly political as Animal Farm, the story nevertheless appeals to the intellect as much as the imagination and portrays an often harsh and violent world of hope, danger, and war.

My Winner: Watership Down

See the source image

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Best Animated Feature – 1977

My Nominations: The Rescuers. Wizards. Race For Your Life Charlie Brown. The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh.

1977 was something of a turning point for animated features – it was one of the first years where multiple, genuinely worthwhile films were released and stood the test of time, and it’s really the start of that happening more or less consistently. The only issue is that a lot of the notable films were either TV specials or a mixture of animation and live action, so I can’t really include those. The only thing missing is a truly strong Japanese effort. Nevertheless, we have Bakshi still experimenting – leaving behind his controversial real world efforts and conjuring a total fantasy in Wizards – a post apocalyptic tale with some great visuals, even if the story is one we’ve seen before. Race For Your Life Charlie Brown is another memorable effort in the Peanuts canon and as endearing as ever. That leaves a surprising double effort from Disney – The Rescuers is the more action packed of the two and a film which was critically and commercially successful but which has fallen by the wayside over the years. The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh is a more gentle and relaxed affair. Normally I would pick this as winner, but as it’s really a compilation of old pieces, reassembled and merged with newer bits, it probably breaks a bunch of rules.

My Winner: The Rescuers


Let us know in the comments which Animated Feature of 1977 gets your vote!

Best Animated Feature – 1976

My Nominations: The Twelve Tasks Of Asterix. Once Upon A Girl.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve never been a huge fan of Asterix (or Tintin). I don’t think this has anything to do with them being French, they simply never appealed to me. Twelve Tasks is probably the Asterix film I’m most familiar with while Once Upon A Girl is another late 70s animated perv-fest if you’re into that sort of thing (aren’t we all?). Slim pickings this year.

My Winner: The Twelve Tasks Of Asterix


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Best Animated Film – 1975

My Nominations: Coonskin. Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid

Slim picking this year with Japan’s Toei animation crafting a tragic film quite unlike the more famous Disney version. The winner though is the rightly controversial Coonskin by Ralph Baski – a film which never had a shot at widespread critical analysis after it was pulled from release due to multiple protests. It’s a satire not only against White America, but the glorification of violence, criminal lifestyle, gang warfare, and masculinity in the 20th Century.

My Winner: Coonskin

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Best Animated Feature – 1974

My Nominations: The Nine Lives Of Fritz The Cat

While there were a few animated films released this year, most were made for TV or simply not very good – meaning we only have a single nominee who therefore becomes our winner. The Nine Lives Of Fritz The Cat is arguably better than the original, though most critics dismissed it as more of the same, or simply lacking the initial shock value or wit of the first one. Either way, both are an acquired taste.

My Winner: The Nine Lives Of Fritz The Cat