Animation and comics are kind of like blood-brothers, so it’s no surprise that I am a lover of animated features. It just so happens that there are some really wonderful animated films you can watch on Amazon Prime for free. If you’re a fan of animation like me, you’ll want to fire up your watchlists and add these films. Here they are (in no particular order):
A Cat in Paris
This hand-drawn Oscar nominated film comes from the animation studio Folimage. The first reason you want to watch this film is the unique and lush visuals. It’s like watching a modern museum painting move. Really wonderful character designs, color and movement style.
Dino is a cat that leads a double life. By day he lives with a little girl named Zoe, but at night Dino works with Nico, a cat burglar. Everything is not right with Zoe and her mother – a strong, local police detective, They are both struggling with the death of the father. All these characters, along with the local mob, intersect to provide a very interesting and satisfying story.
One reviewer stated the film is “practically an anti-Disney kids’ movie: it’s stylish and unpredictable.” And this is very true. You’ll revel in the beautiful drawings, and you’ll be riveted by the story. The American distribution has Marcia Gay Harden, Anjelica Huston and Matthew Modine as vocal talent. This film is suitable for all ages.
The Secret of Kells
Another Oscar nominated film, and another film with amazing visuals. This time, the drawing style is a geometric style that leads the animation style to present something really unique and visually delightful. The character designs are amazing, the colors are wonderful, but maybe the coolest thing is the way the backgrounds are as much a character as anything else, and play a part in the animation.
The story revolves around Brendan, who dreams of scribing the greatest book of all time, but he’s stifled by his uncle, Abbot Cellach, who wants Brendan to focus on helping the villagers to build a wall around Kells to help protect them from an impending Viking attack.
But when the famous Brother Aidan turns up from another village that’s been attacked by the Vikings, Brendan is fascinated by his work. Eventually Aidan asks Brendan to help him finish the now legendary Book of Kells, which would be a dream come true (instead of building a wall). Now, Brendan must defy his uncle and venture into the forest outside Kells and confront his fears of the “Dark One” to find inspiration to finish the great Book of Kells.
Poetry, Vikings, mythical creatures, family, wolves, even a little romance – this story has everything that you will love. Also suitable for all ages.
A Letter to Momo
The only anime movie on the list, this movie has a powerful story. While not a Studio Ghibli movie, it certainly will remind you of one with both the quality of the art and the story.
The last time Momo, a young teenage girl, saw her father they had a fight – and now all she has left to remember him by is an incomplete letter, a blank piece of paper penned with the words “Dear Momo” but nothing more. This final event with her father torments Momo as she and her mother move to a new island home.
As Momo tries to make sense of these two words and guess what her father was trying to tell her, some strange incidents occur on the island, which is otherwise tranquil. People’s orchards are ransacked by an unknown person, and some of their prized belongings start to go missing. Momo also starts to hear strange sounds coming from the attic in her house.
Unable to convince her mother of the strange sounds, Momo embarks on an adventure to discover the source of these disturbances, and finds herself involved with some very strange creatures. Momo will discover that all these occurences, even the death of her father, are interconnected.
A really great movie to watch with your whole family, and deals in a wonderful way with the death of a loved one. It even manages to have a real nice feel good ending.
Once again, with Nocturna you’ll be subjected to a creative style and beauty that is lacking in mainstream animated films (especially those of the hand drawn variety, as few as they are.) Nocturna is a Spanish-French animated film produced in 2007 by Filmax Animation.
Tim lives in an aging orphanage, where the nights are something special for him. The light reflected from the stars is the only cure for his fear of the dark. The other kids think he’s a little crazy, and get mad at him after he refuses to retrieve a ball that fell into the basement because of his fear. The kids steal the doorknob to the shutters of the window that Tim used to watch his star, forcing Tim to travel to the rooftop. Once there, he manages to spot it, when suddenly it dissapears. Unfortunately it’s not going to be the last one.
Tim meets the Cat Shepherd, who takes him to see Moka, the guardian of the night within the Night World, and pleads for him to return the stars to the night sky. Moka pays scarce attention to the boy’s pleas, so Tim asks the Cat Shepherd to take him to the Lighthouse of the Stars, where he thinks he may find the answer to the strange phenomena. They race against the clock to stop the threat known as “The Darkness” and save Nocturna.
Another unique story that you will want to revisit more than once. Suitable for all ages.
Ernest & Celestine
A film which has won boatloads of awards (including of course, an Oscar nomination), it’s based on a series of children’s books of the same name published by the Belgian author and illustrator Gabrielle Vincent. But do not be put off because these are based on books for kids. This is a wonderfully heartwarming story that everyone can enjoy.
Once again, we have a foreign-made film that simply looks beautiful. There’s some amazing animation here, with fun chase scenes and perfectly done character movement. There’s a couple scenes where a large number of mice are animated as one entity, and it is just fantastic.
This gorgeously animated film is the story of an unlikely friendship between a bear, Ernest, and a mouse named Celestine. Celestine is collecting bear teeth (the mice use them as replacements) when she gets trapped in a garbage can. Ernest has woken from his winter slumber hungry, and he finds Celestine. She convinces him not to eat her, and instead break into the candy shop where he can eat all the sweets he likes.
When he gets caught the next morning, Celestine offers to free him for one big, huge favor. Their partnership leads to a massive upheaval of both mouse and bear culture. This movie has become one of my all-time favorites, and I admit, I keep watching it over and over.
This one has a special place for me, because I first watched it way back in elementary school – and depending on which version you watch, it has Ringo Starr as the narrator. Think of a feature-length version of a Schoolhouse Rock video, and you’ll get a bit of an idea how this movie feels.
Directed by Academy Award-winner Fred Wolf, “The Point” tells the story of Oblio, a round-headed boy living in the land of “Point,” where everything and everybody has one. But unfortunately, Oblio was born with a round head – he has no point!
When Oblio offends the son of the nasty Count, the King is forced to banish Oblio, along with his trusty dog, Arrow, to the Pointless Forest. Oblio has a wild adventure and comes to find out that even the Pointless Forest has a point. Then Oblio begins his return journey to the Land of Point to face the count and give an account the King.
The tale is narrated by Ringo Starr and includes songs written and sung by Grammy Award-winner Harry Nilsson. It has a real fun 60’s feel to it – almost like an old Beatles video mixed with Saturday morning cartoons. The songs are catchy (especially “Me and my Arrow”) and fun. Not only is it a great bit of nostalgia, but it’s also a great film with a good message, too.
The Last Unicorn
The newest addition, this 1982 feature just got added to Prime. There’s so much to love about this animated feature. First, it’s a Rankin Bass creation. If you are old enough to know who Rankin Bass is, then you know most everything they made was wonderful in some fashion.
The Last Unicorn is the story of a unicorn who goes out into the world to find out what happened to all the other unicorns. She soon comes to find that a mysterious creature called the Red Bull has driven them all away into the kingdom of King Haggard.
Along the way she is captured and then befriended by a wizard and a serving maid, and they make their way to the King Haggard’s castle to see if they can solve the mystery of the missing unicorns.
The movie is based on the famous book by Peter S. Beagle, and he also wrote the screenplay.
The animation is well done and definitely has that Rankin Bass feel (some of the characters feel similar to those of The Hobbit in design). But the Lady Amalthea/Last Unicorn definitely has a slight Anime feel to her, and it’s a very appealing mix.
What is unique about this movie is that it really has an all-star voice cast, long before such things were a staple in animated features. I think this is partly because some of these actors were just getting started in their careers. Notably:
- Mia Farrow as the Unicorn / Lady Amalthea
- Alan Arkin as Schmendrick the Magician
- Jeff Bridges as Prince Lir
- Angela Lansbury as Mommie Fortuna
- The late Christopher Lee is King Haggard
Lastly, the film features a wonderful soundtrack by the 70’s band America. The songs are really wonderful.
Taken as a whole, The Last Unicorn is a real treat to watch, and has plenty of fun and entertaining moments, as well as some sadness for the plight of the unicorns. Definitely don’t miss this one if you have never seen it.
So what are you waiting for? Head on over to Amazon Prime and get these into your watchlist. You’ll be happy you did!