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The 5 Most Intensely Emotional Animated Movies
The Power Of A Cartoon
It's always a little surprising when an animated movie touches an emotional nerve. As adults, we live with the expectation that we're past the point of being moved by a cartoon; maybe it's the child within each of us, however, that responds so strongly at times. It could be that some animated films take us back to a younger, more innocent place inside ourselves. We build all kinds of walls around our own sensitivities as we get older, understandably, but drawings tend to remind us of who we used to be.
This is a list of five deeply emotional animated films. The movies here are not meant to be ranked, or in any order, other than grouped due to their ability to touch even the most cynical adult.
Wilbur the pig is born a runt, and without Fern's intervention, he would surely lose his life. Fern loves Wilbur in a way that only a child can love an animal, but she's growing older. As we age, we lose sight a little of some of what we hold on to as children, and Fern is no exception. Luckily, in a crisis situation, Charlotte the spider befriends Wilbur, and begins weaving a series of cryptic webs on his behalf. This leads to one of the most moving climactic moments in any animated film ever.
I can't say enough good things about the 1973 animated version of E.B. White's Charlotte's Web . From the start to the finish, this film offers a tender and tragic look at growing up and love and loss. The songs sprinkled throughout the movie balance a longing for new adventures and an understanding that people are somehow the same everywhere: we all want to love and be loved, to be free and to be safe. This is my wife's favorite animated film, bar none. I know a remake has been made, but I haven't seen it; I fear that the new film will smear something too beautiful to be tainted.
Dot and the Kangaroo
This movie is included on the list with a warning: the film quality has not held up to the ravagings of time. It's grainy, dark, and strange. Then again, this movie always had a strange quality, and at the end of the day, I don't care. Dot and the Kangaroo is a powerfully emotional memory for a generation of adults. We remember watching it at our school's assembly, or at our friend's house down the street. It struck a nerve then, and would likely do the same again, if you let it (anyone remember the Bunyip?).
Dot is an Australian girl who becomes lost in the bush, and like so many other animated films, her hopelessness is noticed by the wild animals of the territory, particularly a kangaroo who has lost her own child. The growing bond between Dot and the kangaroo (whose maternal instincts are overwhelming) follows the two through several threats and adventures. Their journey culminates in a scene that draws tears from some adults just by mentioning it. Dot's longing for her new-found mother is joyously painful and leaves a viewer at a loss for words.
I don't think this Pixar movie as a whole is particularly moving. It's a romp through a foreign land, and an opportunity for plenty of gentle jokes at the elderly protagonist's expense. Up has, however, one of the most powerfully emotional montages I have ever seen in an animated film. Towards the beginning of this movie, we are met with a series of flashbacks recording the marriage of the main character, Carl Frederickson, to his lovely wife. Unfortunately, Carl has lost his wife (whom we get see as a child and then a woman), and now lives a lonely, pointless life in the shadow of their romance. The resulting effect is intense.
Again, I can't claim that the movie Up as a whole is a moving experience. It's not. I debated whether to include it on this list, but decided, simply based on this one succession of images, that it moved me more for a few minutes than most other animated movies.
Perhaps it's been many years since you've watched this Disney classic, centered around a sense of isolation suffered by a little elephant ridiculed for his large ears. That being said, this movie is one of only a few of those old films that deserves to be called a classic. I would defy anyone to watch the movie all the way through without getting choked up. In the scene featuring the song "Baby Mine," this animated film conjures up all the power of a mother's love for her child. The scene shows an imprisoned mother elephant trying to grasp on to her only child in such a way that will tear any parent apart. It's almost too much to bear.
While this movie is the oldest on the list, I believe it may be the most heartfelt Disney movie ever made. You might be surprised by how much you've forgotten about the power and beauty of this 1941 tear-jerker.
This is the movie that quickly reduces me to a ten-year-old. Many peoples' favorite is Charlotte's Web (which is incredible in its own right), but there is something about Watership Down that burrows down to my core. I read the book by Richard Adams, and even with the changes and lack of some details, the film does a wonderful job of capturing the raw emotions of a warren of rabbits, forced to move to a new home because of the "progress" of men.
The travels of this group of rabbits feels allegorical at times, and each animal is clearly symbolic of some part of each of us. There are political struggles, too, but at its heart, Watership Down is a surprisingly gritty dream of a better life. The sequence featuring "Bright Eyes," by Art Garfunkel, is easily my favorite song in an animated film. I cannot recommend this movie enough, but I would warn parents not to show it to very young children, as it does show some of the brutality that we all endure. Watership Down is guaranteed to stay with you for a long time.