All animation is a magic trick
October 5, 2020 2:15 PM   Subscribe

The 100 Sequences That Shaped Animation
Animators continue to fool us into believing still images can move and breathe, and we in turn remain delighted to live between the frames. From Bugs Bunny to Spike Spiegel to Miles Morales, these are the 100 most influential sequences in animation history
Edited by Eric Vilas-Boas and John Maher, Vulture looks at the history of an art form that "continues to draw us in"
posted by jazon (51 comments total) 108 users marked this as a favorite
I love everything about this list. I love the article introducing it talking about how it succeeds and fails and they're aware of that. I love that the list is not a worst to best but is instead chronological and so you can see the art form evolve across time. I love that I know so much of what is on it, but also that so much is entirely new for me so now I have an animation appetizer menu available for me for the foreseeable future. I love that I cannot argue with any of their choices. I love that I don't even know what I would choose to add myself.

Like, this is literally the absolute best listicle post ever made to MetaFilter, and now I'm going to go finish reading it because I don't even think I'm into the 1970s yet.
posted by hippybear at 3:14 PM on October 5, 2020 [20 favorites]

This is juicy, thank you Jazon!

One hundred gives us enough to agree on, discover, and fight about. Perfect! Not a US-ian but nice to see "3 is a magic number" here. And now, this.
posted by elkevelvet at 3:16 PM on October 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

I know thiis isn't a countdown to #1, but they did put Steven Universe fusing with himself at the end, so.
posted by signal at 3:18 PM on October 5, 2020 [5 favorites]

That Final Fantasy film was hot garbage. I saw that in theaters when it came out and wanted my money back.

But just thinking about It's Such A Beautiful Day and the train sequence from Spirited Away is enough to make me weepy.
posted by grumpybear69 at 3:25 PM on October 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

And... they picked Happy Happy Joy Joy. Okay this list is truly indeed golden
posted by hippybear at 3:31 PM on October 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

(Although I'm truly sad after so many other dissections of cartoons and their plot elements both literal and symbolic, at how this write of Stimpy's Invention didn't get into the metaphor it is of a co-dependent relationship and how damaging it is to be tangled in one of those.)
posted by hippybear at 3:33 PM on October 5, 2020

I am reading this in my car and scrolling frantically because I am desperate to see my favorite animation sequence of all time: MOON PRISM POWER

posted by Kitchen Witch at 3:43 PM on October 5, 2020 [4 favorites]

The Final Fantasy film was really bad, but they did push the envelope for photorealistic 3D rendering. The only other movie that year that came close was Shrek. That godawful Beowulf movie that came out 6 years later was a significant step backwards compared to Spirits Within.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 3:46 PM on October 5, 2020 [2 favorites]

The title of the list is "... that Shaped Animation" not "Great Examples of Animation" - from the write up on Final Fantasy, it sounds like they included it because it illustrated the limitations of CGI in portraying humans convincingly.
posted by LionIndex at 3:52 PM on October 5, 2020 [5 favorites]

My only quibble is that they had naught to say about the era of Flash animation on the web, especially with it shutting down later this year. Homestar Runner, Salad Fingers, Newgrounds, the Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny... It wasn't the prettiest medium, but it was a major gateway for amateur animators and had a big influence on post-2000s web culture.
posted by Rhaomi at 3:54 PM on October 5, 2020 [22 favorites]

It's a fun list but I'm surprised not to see more Eastern European animation on it. They were hugely influential on the art. They nod to Karel Zeman and have Jiří Trnka and Jan Švankmajer and Yuri Norstein. But Ladislas Starevich surely deserves a credit, particularly for being so early in the 1910s. I feel like a few more are left out but maybe I was too high watching all those animation film festivals to remember names. (Bonus Švankmayer: Arcimboldo.)

If you're gonna go commercial the California Raisins deserve a mention. Genuinely surprised not to see any Will Vinton here.
posted by Nelson at 3:57 PM on October 5, 2020 [8 favorites]

They explicitly said they weren't including advertising in their list if you read the opening article. But Vinton did much that wasn't advertising, so yes, also surprised at that omission now that you mention it.
posted by hippybear at 4:00 PM on October 5, 2020

This is a lovely article that was really inclusive and so much fun to read. I’m surprised they didn’t include anything about Yellow Submarine, though. There have been at least two villains based on the Chief Blue Meanie.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:02 PM on October 5, 2020 [4 favorites]

I think the author handled Kricfalusi very well, and I am speaking as someone who adored the Ren and Stimpy when it aired, back in those simple times, and very much agree that Kricfalusi's behavior overshadows his creative work.

The best sort of list informs and reminds, and in this case it reminds me to watch some Dexter's Lab with the kids. And now that I am almost finished with Neon Genesis I'm going to watch Cowboy Bebop.
posted by zenon at 4:04 PM on October 5, 2020 [2 favorites]

There obviously needs to be more female animators on the list, and I just found the site Great Women Animators, which I will be using as a jumping-off point for the next few days.

One huge omission is Quasi at the Quackadero, by Sally Cruikshank, which was deemed important enough to be added to the National Film Registry.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 4:12 PM on October 5, 2020 [7 favorites]

Expected a trite listicle, found a super well-written article. Not enough animation exposure to have seen many/most of these or have an opinion, really. Of those I've seen, their inclusion made sense. What a surprise treat. Thanks!
posted by j_curiouser at 4:35 PM on October 5, 2020

I would have liked to seen Heavy Metal as say animation of adult graphic magazine content with rock-n-roll star soundtrack. Also, probably ReBoot! should be on there for CGI everything before it was a terribly wise idea. I'll have to actually read more of the article before grumping any more. Oh, also Red vs Blue as something basically made using a game engine to just goof off.

My partner in crime's girlfriend was a military brat from Okinawa and she had Akira unsubbed on a bootleg tape in the fall of '88. We all watched it while tripping balls on acid while she tried to explain to us what was going on. Dude! that was intense.
posted by zengargoyle at 4:39 PM on October 5, 2020 [6 favorites]

It's a fun list but I'm surprised not to see more Eastern European animation on it.

They address this in the introduction (emphasis added):
Since this list is for an American audience, entries skew toward what influenced American animation; to be eligible, sequences had to have been made available, at some point, to audiences in the U.S., whether in limited screenings, wide release, or bootleg importation. You’ll notice Japan’s output is better represented than that of French or Czech animators, which we felt reflected American audiences’ evolving, decades-long relationship with Japanese animation.
I suppose they should have just titled it "The 100 Sequences That Shaped American Animation" to head off the obvious main objections to the list.
posted by star gentle uterus at 4:47 PM on October 5, 2020 [2 favorites]

I haven't read the whole thing. But part of it should be Astro Boy showing how his feet turn into rockets. This is a memory I have from about five years old.
posted by Splunge at 5:27 PM on October 5, 2020

While I'm 100% here for The Big Snit, the Norman McLaren choice for NFB output was … odd.

Yeah, I admit I laughed a lot at Bambi meets Godzilla though
posted by scruss at 5:32 PM on October 5, 2020

The Wrong Trousers?
posted by Thorzdad at 5:36 PM on October 5, 2020 [6 favorites]

Mentioned under A Nightmare Before Christmas as part of the renaissance of stop-motion, and singled out for its train chase sequence. Not its own entry, but properly venerated.
posted by hippybear at 5:40 PM on October 5, 2020 [2 favorites]

The chase scene in Perfect Blue definitely deserved to be there, as did the Leap Of Faith from Into The Spiderverse, which is absolutely worth walking through end to end one frame at a time. There are sequences in there where a moment of inspired genius might be on screen for a single frame, but you still feel it.
posted by mhoye at 5:58 PM on October 5, 2020

This is a good list.
posted by one for the books at 6:16 PM on October 5, 2020

I was expecting to see this one, if only for the pioneering use of wipe animation*. I don't recall any cartoons earlier than this using it, and it paved the way for UPA less than a decade later.

Plus, it's the first time Chuck Jones was funny, and he simply knocked it out of the park.

* Never mind its high level of "getting crap past the Hayes Code radar". Let's start with the implied ménage à quatre, folks!
posted by droplet at 6:21 PM on October 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

I grinned seeing Fleischer’s Superman on here. I came across them again a few years ago and had a stare into the camera blankly Woosh return to childhood memories long forgotten.
posted by macrael at 6:25 PM on October 5, 2020 [2 favorites]

Cool list. I took a storyboard course in the early 90s with Zak Schwartz, a Disney background painter/art director and co-founder of UPA. He'd seen Steamboat Willie on it's release, when film with sound was a novelty. Before playing it for us in class, said, “try to imagine the title coming up and the people in their seats elbowing each other, saying “Oh, this is a GOOD one!””
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:05 PM on October 5, 2020

That South Park was once funny and novel is a hard statement to make young people believe now, but it's true. The animation was neither here nor there, it was the cynicism that was new—remember that it preceded internet availability of entertainment, so almost everyone was really restricted in their viewing to what broadcasters would accept. Remember, the Simpsons itself was ground-breaking because it advanced characters who weren't obvious 'role models' and broke with the educational mindset, and that was still part of its appeal in the late 1990s. In 1998–1999 or so it was actually *remarkable*, instead of passé, to have a show that was actively hostile to everyone, including and especially its audience. If this sounds like your creaky Gen-X uncle rambling over his bourbon, please, my children, imagine a popular culture before the internet—it's easy if you try.

The reason we roll our eyes at the 'why can't we all just not be triggered and get along' schtick has less to do with South Park or its bad animation or faux-transgressive scripts than with the massive advancement of cynicism and active hatefulness in popular culture—I mean, just how, in 2020, would you transgress against idealism, more than having one's eyes open? The real joke, the ironic joke, is that the last two decades have turned Parker and Stone into the kind of liberal idealists they were trying to lampoon, because their transgressive jokes reified themselves out of animation into a group of hateful cynics, to vote themselves into power...
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 7:11 PM on October 5, 2020 [8 favorites]

It's hard to remember, but South Park's premiere episode involved Mr. Hanky The Christmas Poo which at one point ended up with Kevin being seen to have scrawled with shit on his bathroom mirror by his parents (even if it wasn't true).

That level of cynicism is really hard to duplicate with any of the same level of shock that it did, um... 23 years ago?
posted by hippybear at 7:13 PM on October 5, 2020

FWIW, I'm a bit surprised to see nothing by Terry Gilliam on the list.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 7:17 PM on October 5, 2020 [8 favorites]

I had never heard of the Old Mill until this list, and I was enamoured with it, it's just gorgeous
posted by PinkMoose at 8:17 PM on October 5, 2020 [3 favorites]

This is a really good list. My only quibbles are stuff that are ruled out by the "shaping animation" caveat.

Speaking of quibbles! I'd loved to see some space for ReBoot (Computer animated TV show with huge lasting fanbase), Wizards (Yeah, they got Fritz, but Wizards had scope, yo), Homestar Runner (Online Flash animation), Heavy Metal (Evolution in western animation), Jurassic Park (Computer animated dinosaurs!), and the Star Wars Christmas Special (Boba Fett only has his following because of this).
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:40 PM on October 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

ReBoot is a definite lacking, but I get why it's not on there.

Same for any of the WB second age shows: Animaniacs, Pinky & The Brain, Freakazoid!. They didn't really move the art form forward even while they continued its popularity into a modern age. Maybe that's why they should be mentioned, but I get it.
posted by hippybear at 8:47 PM on October 5, 2020

Did I miss Aardman somewhere? Had to believe Wallace and Gromit wouldn't make this list.
posted by OHenryPacey at 9:17 PM on October 5, 2020

I’ve somehow gotten this far without seeing that Koko the Clown bit. Worth it for that entry alone.
posted by q*ben at 9:42 PM on October 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

This list is amazing- a great trip down memory lane combined with some real gems I had never seen. +1 for Heavy Metal, and I was sort of surprised to not see Bakshi's Tolkien adaptations, although he gets a nod for Fritz the Cat. Also if you're going to acknowledge CGI, where is Tron?
posted by simra at 9:45 PM on October 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

Bambi vs Godzilla scores points, no question. But where in (insert yr favorite god here)'s name is Jonny Quest?

and ummm ...

FWIW, I'm a bit surprised to see nothing by Terry Gilliam on the list.

this is the kind of thing that leads to religious wars.
posted by philip-random at 10:23 PM on October 5, 2020

Terry Gilliam's absence shouldn't surprise given how much his animation owed to Stan VanDerBeek, who maybe should have a mention.
posted by gusottertrout at 2:14 AM on October 6, 2020 [4 favorites]

I thought I was going to have sooo many objections to this list, but actually I have none?? How can this be. Am I... mainstream...
posted by Mizu at 3:59 AM on October 6, 2020

This was an awesome listicle. Did I just miss it, or is there no mention of the Coyote vs. Road Runner shorts? Seems like they ought to be there.

I knew pretty much all of the American ones, but not so much for the non-American ones outside of a few very well-known artists like Miyazaki, and very glad they included so many links to online work. I'll be watching a lot of these.
posted by briank at 5:58 AM on October 6, 2020

Its a great list! As I work my way down it the first 2 to really strike me were the sequences from "The Adventures of Prince Achmed" and "Betty Boop in Snow-White" - jaw-dropping and very experimental stuff that seems to have got buried by the arrival of Disney.
posted by rongorongo at 7:37 AM on October 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

At a local community school 'Fun Fair' in the late '60s, my dad borrowed a 16mm projector and showed Neighbours, among other things as his 'booth'. He was a cool guy.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 8:21 AM on October 6, 2020

Honestly, my biggest problem with the list is that sometimes the videos don't actually illustrate the part the writeup talks about - e.g. the blurb on Akira's opening chase spends half its time on the bike skid (deservedly!) but the clip cuts out well before that point in the scene. The choices themselves are hard to argue with.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:11 AM on October 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

My favorite moment in King Kong wasn't the first reveal of Kong but when one of the explorers gets snapped up into the mouth of a dinosaur. The mix of live action with animation holds up even now and the way that guys legs kicked as the dinosaur chomped down on him - yowsers!!! Pure cinematic gold.
posted by hoodrich at 12:28 PM on October 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

I'm astonished that Adolescence of Utena made the list.

I mean, it absolutely belongs there. (And you can see the influence of Utena in a lot of newer animation - Steven Universe and I think the She-Ra reboot give it sly nods). But that generation of anime seems defined by Cowboy Bebop and Evangelion and Satoshi Kon and Miyazaki - which are all excellent, don't get me wrong, and they all interrogate masculinity more than they valorize it.

Utena, though. I think that nothing else I had seen in any medium up to that point in my life made me feel so deeply that a story could be weird and dark and transgressive and still let women seize some agency, often in ways that are kind of complicated and screwed-up. It is exactly what it felt like to me to be seventeen years old.

I was going to be annoyed at the list for leaving off Masaaki Yuasa, but I keep forgetting he directed Devilman Crybaby. I have huge admiration for The Night is Short, Walk On Girl and Tatami Galaxy, the sight gags and the way that figures melt and liquify and reform, the way his scenes are so deeply infused with subjectivity - whether it's the subjectivity of being in love or the subjectivity of being drunk.
posted by Jeanne at 4:22 PM on October 6, 2020 [5 favorites]

in addition to being surprised at no aardman, also surprised at no Will Vinton. Gotta draw the line somewheres I guess...
posted by hearthpig at 5:34 PM on October 6, 2020

This is so much fun. And I love that it sparks links to other great things, even if they're not super influential.

Anyone remember the Electric Dreams earthquake-brick dream sequence? It obviously wasn't influential, but the wireframe/vector graphics look was pretty sweet then and even now.

Anyone else remember that movie at all?!
posted by Caxton1476 at 7:23 PM on October 6, 2020 [2 favorites]

Aardman is mentioned under A Nightmare Before Christmas as evidence of the renaissance in stop motion animation. The train chase sequence from The Wrong Trousers is specifically mentioned.

Roadrunner/Coyote are mentioned briefly, but not singled out for their style instead are mentioned because they were easier to make than What's Opera Doc? and the studio was padding their timecards with "working on R/C" when they were really working on WOD.
posted by hippybear at 8:11 PM on October 6, 2020

bill plympton, peter chung :P
posted by kliuless at 1:11 AM on October 7, 2020 [2 favorites]

This is a thoroughly excellent list, and I can't wait to take the time to go through it more slowly.

The only thing I would add is Aeon Flux, which thoroughly blew my mind in the early 90s.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 7:38 AM on October 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

OMG yes, I remember Electric Dreams. Second Plympton and Chung. Tron could probably fit in there somewhere and so could Babylon 5.
posted by zengargoyle at 4:02 PM on October 7, 2020

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