As the bouts of winter storms, torrential downpours, and all around nasty weather starts to slowly come to a close we find ourselves peaking around the corner to spring. Pretend I just sprinkled in something about March showers bringing April flowers or some such overused expression. Cliche or no, our vitamin D deprived systems are in dire need for some color. Wash away the drab grays, dreary browns and black with the effervescent yellow or hot orange infusions of these top five animated films that you should be watching on big (and small) screen this month.
#5 Rock-A-Doodle (Netflix)
What?! You missed the MGM classic cartoon where a small-farm rooster tries to make it big as a rock ‘n roll star? Luckily, Netflix is giving us back our childhood memories through some gems on insta-watch. Up there with “The Rescuers Down Under” and “Fievel Goes West,” “Rock-A-Doodle” is one of those cartoons that drips of 90’s goodness. When rooster Chanticleer (voiced by Glen Campbell), whose singing is thought to literally makes the sun rise each morning, is disgraced when proven otherwise, he leaves his life on the farm to become a rock star. His departure leaves the farm under a state of perpetual darkness, with owls conjuring floods and even an innocent boy, Edmond (voiced by Toby Scott Ganger), being turned into a cat, but leads to him fleeing in search of Chanticleer. If your of the lucky number who have seen this, it’s time to relive the wondrous and hilariously cheesy nature that were 90’s cartoons. If you haven’t, do yourself a big favor and give it a watch because it’s one that will stick with you for a life time. After one watch, the next time you’re at your desk bent over your latest work assignment and you just want to escape, suddenly in the back of your mind you might start chanting “Chanticleer” for some reason.
#4 Ernest and Celestine (In Theaters February 28)
More adorable than a bag of kittens and puppies combined, this film tells the story of the unlikely friendship that blooms between a bear named Ernest (voiced by Forest Whitaker) and a young mouse named Celestine (voiced by Mackenzie Foy). Rather than worry about the potentially problematic friendship between a carnivorous bear and wee mouse, you’ll get completely caught up by this watercolor-hued cartoon as the the two heroes run about on all kinds of adventures while eluding both the bear and mice police (what?!) A whimsical and demure illustration style, paired with a friendly and joyous score will have feeling perkier in mere seconds. This looks to be a definite watch if you’re in need for something to thaw the ice on your winter heart.
#3 The Wind Rises (Now in Theaters)
A man who needs no introduction in the world of animation, Hayao Miyazaki, strikes deep into imaginations in what could be the last film he ever makes. Already receiving a nod from the Academy for Best Animated Feature, fans of Studio Ghibli and novices alike will marvel at the film’s robust coloring and its ability to maintain an innocent charm as the whimsical story flows through time and space. The film begins in the 1920s as Jiro (voiced by Hideaki Anno, co-director of the Evangelion series) is inspired to become an aeronautical engineer designer after meeting Caproni, who introduces him to the beautiful world of flying. From here we follow Jiro’s life through major historical events and even in highly stylized, beautiful dreamscapes. Elegant dialogue seeps it’s way into your pores, feeling the weight and intention of each word without feeling trite. Extra plus is seeing this over at Sunshine Cinema where they offer both dubbed and subtitled screenings. Find your dreams and hold tight because the wind is rising, and we must find a way to live.
#2 Rock & Rule (IFC Center Feb 28th – March 1st)
As a birthday tribute to the late and great Lou Reed, the IFC Center will be showing the Canadian cult classic musical from 1983, Rock & Rule. When an aging rock star, Mok (Don Francks), is on the search for a very special voice that will finally allow him to unleash an all powerful demon from another dimension, he kidnaps a female singer to participate in this summoning and only her band members are capable of helping her escape his grasp. Combining a darkness not seen since Heavy Metal or Fire & Ice, with moments of campy humor only ever palatable in a cartoon, there’s no wonder why this became a cult classic. Twisted in all the right ways similar to Cool World, it even features songs by Lou Reed, Debbie Harry, Cheap Trick, Iggy Pop, and Earth, Wind & Fire. What’s most intriguing about the film is the grittiness of it all, taking the audience back to a dirtier time of the early to mid 80’s when computer graphics weren’t as prevalent and imaginations ran wild. Whether to remember the late, great Lou, or you’re a die-hard animation fan, catch this special viewing this weekend only!
#1 Oscar Animation Shorts (Nitehawk Cinema)
Although sometimes overlooked or even forgotten, the art of the short film has been getting plenty of recognition as of late, and this year Nitehawk Cinema celebrates the Oscar by screening the nominated animated films. Sit back and enjoy these diverse vignettes, like the story about a boy brought up in the wild (Ferel), or one where an eccentric old man gets a new robotic pet (Mr. Hublot), while still another tells the tale a group of witches as they set forth on a wild adventure (Room on the Broom). Charged with the arduous task of fitting as much emotion, humor, or narrative into only a few minutes, these mini films pack a mighty punch. Which one will you pick as your favorite to root for at your friend’s Oscar party!?