Aug 22 2012
Many times, especially here in the West, we consider animation to be something for kids. That assumption is starting to change, of course, with major studios like Pixar and DreamWorks producing animated fare that can just as easily appeal to adults as well as their children. Even then, however, the younger demographic is the major focus. So almost always the heroes win, the main characters learn a valuable lesson, and everyone is alright in the end.
Every so often though, an animated feature will refuse to remain in the happy ending camp and just thoroughly eviscerate the viewer, whether it’s intended for kids or not. Here are six animated films or shows that made me feel like dying. Note: this list is purposely Pixar and DreamWorks free since I want to throw the attention towards older films and smaller, less well-known studios, but rest assured: I saw the first 10 minutes of Up. Also, some of the text and clips will be spoilery, since they’re showing the sad stuff.
The Animals of Farthing Wood
Well he seems friendly enough!
The Animals of Farthing Wood was a 90′s European television show based on a series of books by Colin Dann. It detailed the trials and tribulations of a group of animals forced out of their homes by humans hell-bent on “progress,” and didn’t bother shying away from its darker themes in spite of being developed with a younger audience in mind. Main characters suffer and die, and there’s even some blood.
Here’s a clip portraying the specific kind of dementia that can set in right before death:
I was about 10 when I saw this. Perfect time to learn about “growing old gracefully.”
Still, I have to give the show kudos for not talking down to its audience. It’s a bit hard to find nowadays, though it appears to be up in its entirety on YouTube, cut into many parts. The storyline is strong and the characters are both flawed and likeable, so seek it out if that sort of thing floats your boat.
The Plague Dogs
John Hurt does his voice, so get ready to be dead. Just like the guy on the ground.
I almost put Watership Down on this list too, but later decided we only needed one Martin Rosen adaptation of a Richard Adams book to keep us all drowning in our own tears. And speaking of drowning:
Ladies and gentleman: your opening scene. The “hook” if you will.
It pretty much just gets better from there. And by “better” I mean “so goddamned awful that I vowed, as a child, to never let my own children rent a movie and watch it without watching it first, even if it is animated.” HOWEVER. When I was young I used to dream of being an animator, and it was films like this one (and Fire and Ice, American Pop, and The Hobbit) that made me want to do it. This movie is rated PG-13, and rightfully so. A savvy 13-year-old would have much to gain from watching this film, as would his or her fully grown counterparts.
When the Wind Blows
I didn’t really know any of my grandparents, so I had a tendency to imagine any older couple as being them. Not such a great idea, in this case.
When the Wind Blows is the story of a retired couple who survive a nuclear attack, only to slowly succumb to radiation poisoning afterward. They are generally affable and lovable people, which makes the increasing hopelessness of their situation all that much harder to stomach.
When the Wind Blows and Up, two films that know showing us an older couple frolicking around as their younger selves is the surest way to break our hearts.
It’s based on the graphic novel of the same name by Richard Briggs, the couple is voiced by John Mills and Peggy Ashcroft, and the soundtrack features music from Roger Waters and David Bowie. It’s a wonderful little gem of a movie that everyone should check out. If you’re interested, you can find it in full here.
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