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FILM / Captain Canada's Movie Rodeo / August 2019 / Gabriel Ricard

Image © MGM

Image © MGM

Cartoons from the 1970s to early 2000s probably played a significant role in your life. To be sure, we’re the first generation to make it a point to carry these allegedly childish things with us into adulthood. It’s become a business plan, which is simultaneously fun, a little creepy, and perhaps a wee bit depressing. I’m most assuredly not smart enough to delve into the psychological reasons for our desire to engage our favorite cartoons. Because it represents the last time we were happy? God, I hope it’s not that simple.

You’ll probably be astonished to learn that I still watch the cartoons of my childhood, too. In the first five years of my life, I watched a lot of movies. I don’t think I stopped to really think about it. Still, between 1985, when I was born, and the end of 1990, you could say I figured out a lot of things I would go on to like to the present day. Movies, doing creative stuff, eating eleven slices of peanut butter toast at dawn. For this month’s column, it seemed like a fun idea to go back to that period, and pick my 5 favorite animated films. Anything from the 1980s that I also saw in the ‘80s is up for consideration.

The first rule for the movies featured here is that I had to have seen them between my birthdate of May 28, 1985 (probably won’t count those, but we have to start somewhere) and December 31, 1990.

The second rule is that I still have to like them as an aging adult in 2019. Just assume all five movies featured have an “A+” rating. Besides, we’re approaching these more from a personal reflections angle, as opposed to reviewing their merits.

The Transformers: The Movie (1986)

My grandparents rented this for me when I was five. This was back when I still saw my grandfather on a semi-regular basis. Then he remarried and seemingly decided he liked his new grandchildren more. He stopped talking to us when I was about eight, and he died shortly after I finished high school.

I have some really wonderful memories of my grandfather all the same. One of them is watching this movie, which is still one of the most spectacular animated films to come out of the 1980s. Like any kid, I was devasted by the death of Optimus Prime. Unfortunately, there was no way to find out if he had come back later on. My grandfather did his best to console me, but I’m not sure he really understood the whole giant robot thing to begin with. He did his best.

The Secret of NIMH (1982)

If ‘80s animated movies belonged to anyone, at least in my childhood, it was Don Bluth. The Secret of NIMH was one of the most wondrous movies of my childhood. In retrospect, I can’t think of anything that inspired quite as much awe. The backgrounds and animation style, especially in terms of how they moved seamlessly together, were entrancing. There is something oddly hypnotic about this movie; no other Don Bluth film is exactly like it. The Secret of NIMH also has some of the best characters in animation history.

The Secret of NIMH also scared the living shit out of me. I didn’t see it again for a long time. If you’ve seen the movie, you know why. I remember not being able to go to sleep after. It got to where I had to sneak out of my bedroom, and watch whatever was on TV at four in the morning.

1980s animated movies certainly had a knack for inducing trauma.

The Brave Little Toaster (1987)

While I liked this movie a lot when I saw it, no one on earth perhaps enjoyed it more than my sister, Emily. A lot of kids have one or two movies they watch approximately nine million times in the first few years of their life. This was one of hers. However, before that, I loved the movie. Before Toy Story, there was this story of a gang of out-of-date appliances going on a road trip to find their owner. Obviously, when you’re a kid, you don’t think about how strange stuff like this is.

Even outside of its basic premise, The Brave Little Toaster is weird stuff. Again, we’re looking at another movie with at least a couple of scenes that genuinely scared me. Was I really that much of a wuss? Probably. I don’t think I’m alone on this one, though. The nightmare sequence here rivals almost anything I’ve seen in a 2010s horror movie. That’s not a knock on 2010 horror movies either.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)

Oh boy! Another ‘80s animated comedy with a scene that gave me deep, steady nightmares for years to come! Judge Doom, anyone?

I don’t know if it says more about me that moments of intense horror can be found in all of the movies mentioned so far, or if it says something about the movies themselves. The world may never know.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit? was, and still is, an incredible marriage of live-action and animation. I liked that as much as anyone, and at seeing human beings interact with Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, and other legends. The idea appealed to me then as much as it does now. I wouldn’t mind living with cartoons. Couldn’t be worse than the way things are now.

As an adult, I think I appreciate Bob Hoskins performance most of all. He’s one of the biggest reasons why the movie works so well in the first place.

An American Tail (1986)

And that’s 5-for-5 on the animated-movies-emotionally-or-psychologically-torturing-children-but-in-a-whimsical-sort-of-way-I-guess! Well done, guys!

Don Bluth seemingly trusted children to handle darker tones in their animated features. Of course, he was right, as movies like An American Tail still resonate with us. We can show them to our kids, or to adult friends who are too stoned to get off the couch. The themes and characters are easy to like and appreciate. Bluth’s best movies will never become anachronistic, unless you want to be a dick about the animation quality one could aspire to in the mid-1980s.

An American Tale is expansive, hilarious, and deeply moving. It hasn’t lost even a shade of its soul.


Gabriel Ricard writes, edits, and occasionally acts. His books Love and Quarters and Bondage Night are available through Moran Press, in addition to A Ludicrous Split (Alien Buddha Press) and Clouds of Hungry Dogs (Kleft Jaw Press). He is also a writer, performer, and producer with Belligerent Prom Queen Productions. He lives on a horrible place called Long Island.