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10 Best Animated Movies on Blu-ray

Updated on April 15, 2011

Blu-ray and computer animated films are a match made in heaven. For years, pictures like Monsters Inc. and A Bug’s Life have been used as reference discs in big box stores. The stunning video quality entices people to have a closer look. More than any other genre, animated films show off what Blu-ray is capable of when its potential is maximized.

Classic, hand-drawn animated movies also benefit greatly from new transfers in 1080p resolution. Granted, the results aren’t quite as mind blowing as the Pixar stuff. However, it’s hard to imagine how Disney could have possibly made Pinocchio or Alice in Wonderland look any better considering the age of the source material. Chances are these films came out before your time. After all these years it is finally possible to experience something very close to the original cinematic presentation.

Now, let’s look at 10 “must own” animated movies on Blu-ray. Great picture and sound quality were of course key considerations. At the same time, It is important to not by too charmed by technical excellence. The staying power of the art is what really matters. These are selections you and your family will enjoy time and time again.

1. WALL-E

The theme of isolation is incredibly relevant in today’s technological age. Advances such as Facebook and cell phones were invented to bring people together but all too often make us feel even more distant. As great as convenience is, nothing trumps old fashion human contact.

It may be a little harder for us to empathise with the plight of a lonely robot than say a fellow biological organism, yet Pixar pulls it off. The environmental message also makes WALL-E an important work. If humans are only interested in instant self-gratification, it seems plausible that robot will indeed need to take care of the dirty work.

2. Alice in Wonderland

As cool as wonderfully rendered artwork is, it is the underlying story that pulls most of the weight in any picture. Disney’s Alice in Wonderland is of course based on an incredibly imaginative tale by Lewis Carroll. This is close as you can get to watching something psychedelic and yet totally kid-friendly.

The outrageous characters Alice comes across in her journey are as iconic as Alice herself. Long after viewing the White Rabbit, Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat, and Queen of Hearts are still firmly planted in our consciousness. Repeat viewings never cause Alice in Wonderland to lose its magic, making this a world worth visiting often.

3. Toy Story (Series)

Toy Story is Disney/Pixar’s most powerful franchise and with good reason. Lesser series have been of variable quality. Shrek nose-dived with the release of Shrek the Third and managed to pull the quality back up with the fourth movie. Somehow Toy Story has managed to achieve universal acclaim with all movies in the trilogy. This is an almost unheard of track record as sequels are often synonymous with stinkers and shameless cash-ins.

Historically, the first movie ushered in the era of computer animation. Everything that came after owes it a heavy debt as it raised the bar significantly. Toy Story provides the quintessential CGI movie experience to families with young children. Its longevity lies heavily on lovable main characters Woody and Buzz Lightyear. There is something incredibly compelling about seeing toys spanning generations brought to life (Mr. Potato Head, Barbie, RC, etc.).

4. Shrek (Series)

It is increasingly difficult to get immersed in traditional fairy tales that are so far removed from post-modern culture. Disney classics are based on stories that were written over a hundred years ago. Shrek, on the other hand, blows the dust off the genre and makes it new again. Perhaps its greatest strength is it doesn’t take itself seriously; the writers are well aware that the audience is looking for a fun escape. Shrek manages to garner plenty of laughs because it doesn’t play it as safe as the competition.

Shrek is one of few animated franchises that give Disney/Pixar blockbusters a run for its money. It’s a much welcomed changed on many levels. Firstly, the comedic style has more appeal for adults than the majority of top-tier animated releases. It’s a terrific choice for families with children over ten or households with no kids at all. Secondly, Dreamworks isn’t nearly as greedy as Disney. The entire collection of all four Shrek Blu-rays can be had in a boxed set for under $45. At that price, Shrek: The Whole Story is a must-own set.

5. Pinocchio

Like Alice in Wonderland, Pinocchio is a captivating, bizarre tale. Although ground-breaking, Sleeping Beauty and Beauty and the Beast are the “chick flicks” of Disney classics. Pinocchio on the other hand has more to offer male audiences because the wooden puppet manages to seek out an awful lot of trouble.

Pinocchio has a level of creepiness that sets it apart from everything else Disney was doing at the time. In a way it was a precursor to dark animated movies like The Nightmare Before Christmas. Even today there is nothing else quite like the experience Pinocchio delivers.

6. The Lion King

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Disney came out with some great films during their 90s renaissance. Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin are standouts but arguably the best of the bunch is The Lion King.

Visually, The Lion King has the most impressive hand drawn, 2D artwork Disney has ever done. Perhaps this is because it made during an end of an era. Later computers changed the production process completely, forever altering the artistic direction of animation. Of course much was gained with the use of CGI, but something was lost as well. Notably Simba, Pumbaa and Timon come to life wonderfully in their adventures together.

7. South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut

Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s animated sitcom isn’t for everyone and that is exactly what makes it so great. More than any other genre animated movies usually try to please everyone: parents, kids and probably even grandma. The humour in South Park is a decidedly dark and dripping with satire.

South Park is famous for its cheap, cut-out animation style. Amazingly, it works just fine, proving that great writing trumps eye candy. The TV series excels at running with themes relevant to our times, whether it is World of Warcraft addicts, smug Prius drivers, or Bono’s gargantuan ego. The movie version continues this tradition by intertwining subplots seamlessly. Best of all, Satan gets a nice portion of screen time!

8. Monsters Inc.

On one hand Monsters Inc. is old enough to prove it can stand the test of time, and on the other recent enough to still look very impressive today on a technical level. You can’t help but be wowed by the detailed characters and backgrounds in Monstropolis.

Monsters Inc. benefits from terrific voice acting by Billy Crystal and John Goodman. The two play off each other to create some exceptional moments. The story makes sense of the “monsters” that appear in children’s bedrooms at night. To beings that look much different than us, we are the monsters and chances are they are just as afraid. This shift in perspective sends an important message to kids.

9. Akira

North American’s can’t always get into anime. Those that do get hooked, often start to ignore western releases altogether as there is a huge library of material to discover. Probably the most recommended anime movie to start with is the legendary 80s classic, Akira. It’s a great way for newcomers to test the waters.

The Japanese style isn’t always focused on realism, but in this case you will be hard pressed to find another animated film that is quite as convincing. Fans of the darker side of animated artwork will appreciate the attention to detail. Action fans will love the adrenalin-drenched chase scenes and epic explosions.

10. A Bug’s Life

Although it wasn’t a smash hit at the box-office like Toy Story, A Bug’s Life shot for the stars and just barely missed the target. It takes us into a world that is much like ours, but in a miniaturized scale. The attention to detail that went into each blade of grass, and ripple in the water is still impressive today and absolutely monumental in 1995.

The humour is a touch on the dark side as we come to recognise just how difficult (and different) daily life is for a bug. Merely because of their tiny proportions insects are murdered and tortured by larger animals, like humans. Unlike us, the ant colony is able to work together to overcome the biggest obstacles. There is an important lesson to be pondered here by kids and adults alike.

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    • theprojectb profile image

      theprojectb 6 years ago from Canada

      What about Beauty & The Beast? The Blu-Ray Diamond Edition is amazing, I've watched it 3 times with my girlfriend since we bought it, and I can't wait for the Lion King movie to be re-released in October!!

    • Cogerson profile image

      Cogerson 6 years ago from Virginia

      Nice hub with a great list of movies....having just purchased and watched the new blu-ray...The Incredibles....it has to be a candidate for this list...voted up