7 Animated Movies Clearly Not Aimed At Children

With the exception of anime (which I am leaving off the list, or we would be here all day), the biggest misconception people make when it comes to animated films is that they are all made with the intent of having  children as their target demographic. In some cases, that could not be further from the truth. Animation is an incredible medium in which to tell a story, and some directors realized that, at the time, they could do more (and get away with more) using animation than they  could shooting the same story, live action.

Also, the certain simplistic animation techniques that could be implemented were time saving and money saving (rotoscoping), even if the ends results were, at times, not pretty. And though the animation could be weak at moments, the intricacies of these tales often revealed themselves over time, and not upon initial viewings. As a child, I went at some of these with the “it’s animated, so it must be made for me” mentality, and the end result was me being traumatized by a few of these. In hindsight, though, now I can see just how subversive and brilliant some of these films are. Ofcourse, as is the case with any medium, some of these are shocking just to be shocking, so the beauty here is digging deep, and finding the diamonds among all the coal.

Fritz the Cat


Yes, you will see a few Ralph Bakshi films on this list, as I am sure you were somewhat aware. If I were a bit lazier, I could have done ONLY Bakshi movies, and been done with this list in ten minutes, but I decided to focus on only a few of his films, and try to capture a bit of a wider range. But as far as cartoons aimed at adults, he is the innovator, and Fritz was the forerunner.

For the uninitiated, Ralph Bakshi was pretty much the anti-Disney. He made independent, adult-oriented animated films. And though he has many to his name, and a bit of a cult legacy, it all began with his first film. An animated version of the much loved Robert Crumb comic strip, Fritz the Cat, which was released in theaters in 1972. It was also the first animated film to ever receive an X rating.

Yes, Fritz the Cat was an X rated cartoon that was released in theaters, although not many.

The best way you can describe Fritz the Cat if you watched it right now is it is a sex and drug fueled comedy that fears no taboo and takes pleasure in crossing lines that few would fear to tread. It is racially insensitive, politically incorrect, and honestly, a little uncomfortable to watch. Well, at times, a lot uncomfortable to watch. Rape scenes in cartoon are not cool, which is why there are so few of them in old Looney Tunes cartoons anymore.

Are there awards for most racist thing ever? Because this pic would win one.

That being said, this movie was a wake up call to people who really did think that animated films with talking animals were only done by Disney.

In Fritz’s world, animated character would literally be “done” by Disney.


While Fritz the Cat was just a little too over the top for me, Bakshi would go on to blow my mind eleven years later, with…

Fire and Ice


Inspired by the “too awesome I cannot find the proper words to sum it up” fantasy artwork of the immortal Frank Frazetta, and an actual collaboration between the two artists,  Fire and Ice was a somewhat typical sword and sorcery movie. Regardless of that, when you see that movie at nine years old, and up to that point all you knew were Mickey and Donald, it can be a pretty life changing moment . My father is an artist, and was a huge fan of Frazetta, which is why I was lucky enough to see this movie with my older brother and my Dad when I was so young.

This is Frank Frazetta’s art. Death Dealer might be one of the greatest paintings ever. If I had a van, this would SO be on the side of it.

Fire and Ice it had everything that made movies awesome to me: Axes, Ice Queen’s, Ogres(or orcs or trolls or subhumans whatever you choose to call this particular version) breast physics, feminine, long haired heroes (I was a weird kid), badass sidekicks with a vague moral compass who chooses to fight for good, killing, ice mountains, lava lakes, buxom calendar girl type damsels, and animation. Hell, most of those STILL meet my requirements for a perfect film.

Also, finding out Robert Rodriguez bought the rights to the film and is remaking it is what inspired this list. The film has begun to show it’s age, and I can only imagine what type of madness Rodriguez will inject into the it when he gets his hands on it.

This already has that Robert Rodriguez feel to it.

Also, funny trivia fact: Thomas Kinkade  (who recently passed, and was famous for all those Bob Ross type nature paintings that end up on candles) painted quite a few of the backgrounds in this film. So Ralph Bakshi, Frank Frazetta and Thomas Kinkade walk into a bar. Sounds like the opening of a nerd joke that has no punchline.

Watership Down


Let’s go see an animated movie about talking rabbits, they said.

It will be adorable, they said.

They lied! But what the movie lacked in cute, it made up for in badass, so it is OK.

Ever since Thumper in Bambi, I have loved animated, talking bunnies (please do not comment about the differences between rabbits and bunnies. I know….), so it only made sense to us that I would want to see a movie that was FILLED with animated, talking bunnies. Well, imagine my horror when the bunnies started killing each other. Well, it isn’t that simple, but it does get there.

It is a movie about a pilgrimage some rabbits make, and the hardships they encounter. From the politics between the rabbits themselves, to issues as heavy as death, the movie is unexpected, but utterly engrossing.

Now despite the fact that the film messed up my young mind at the time, watching it now, it captivates me. I still feel like it handles death with more grace than most movies do, and that scene when Simon and Garfunkel’s Bright Eyes is playing just a truly breathtaking moment in a film, and it is a moment where you completely lose sight of the fact that this movie is animated. Rarely do animated movies summon emotions like this in a viewer for as long of a time as this film does.

in hindsight, the movie poster should have acted as a warning to my young mind.

You know that feeling you got when Bambi’s Mom gets shot? Yes, this movie is that feeling, the whole time. But that does not make it a bad film. It is emotional and exhausting at times, but there are also moments of true beauty and brilliance, and it is worth the journey just to see how it plays out.

BUT, it is said, you cannot talk about Watership Down without talking about….

The Plague Dogs


Both Watership Down and Plague Dogs are novels by author Richard Adams, and both deal with animals placed in incredibly tense and harrowing situations, and we get to see how those situations effect them, and effect the lives of those around them. Though Plague Dogs is the darker of the two stories, they deserve spots on this list, side by side. The animation styles between the films is consistent, and though they take place in “the real word’, the consistency between the two makes it feel like they take place in the same world, making the whole story feel more believable.

Between this and Old Yeller, I cry every time I see a dog.

The Plague Dogs is a story about two dogs, Rowf and Snitter, and their subsequent escape from a testing facility and their attempt to reintegrate themselves into society and survive, all while being hunted by their old captors (there is little doubt that this book inspired WE3, the comic I have gushed about before). Much more is revealed as the story progresses, and when the great question as to whether or not these dogs are carrying a bubonic plague type chemical weapon gets asked of the viewer, suddenly, even you will be unsure if their escape was the best course of action.

And I can also tell you, (slight SPOILER) the book got eventual epilogues that explains what happens to Rowf and Snitter, but the movie sort of leaves things out at sea, so do not expect an uplifting ride with a story book ending, because you will not get that. Instead, you get a constant sense of hopelessness that permeates every frame of this film.

But it is also incredibly moving and warrants a viewing from everyone, if for nothing else than to marvel at the bravery it took to see this film through to completion.

We can’t imagine an animated movie about dogs that were used for experiments and then escaped but  they may or may not carry a world ending disease and who may or may not survive was an easy sell, so props for that. And just because an animated movie is for adults, that does not mean the movie has to always be heavy or super serious, as perfectly displayed the enigmatic and awe-inspiring…

The Triplets of Belleville


A French animated comedy film that is also a musical and has some of the most whimsical and stylish animation I have ever seen and it was made less than a decade ago? Yes please.

I heard about this film from a friend of a friend, and watched about ten minutes of it before I knew it was absolute magic.

A delightfully surreal story, for me to explain the full tale here would ruin some of the fun reveals that happen over time in the picture, but I will do my best to give you a basic idea. A story about a sad boy and his grandmother, and all that grandmother does to make him happy. That may seem simple, but do not let that deceive you. Many layers reveal themselves over time (insert onion joke here) and we follow these two for many years.

My only problem is that the kid looks too much like a young version of Tim Burton’s Penguin character from Batman Returns.

Using the retro art style and music to tell the story, it has many twists and turns (the mafia and the Tour De France being just two examples) and the story is told so succinctly and so distinctly that it needs not weigh itself down with heavy dialogue or expositions, for so much is said using so little.

And the music is delightful, even for people who dislike musicals, like myself. Director Sylvain Chomet has since released The Illusionist, another animated tale aimed at the more mature crowd, and I have heard similarly amazing things about, but have sadly yet to see. And while Triplets is a more mature take on adult animation, sometimes, I just like to keep it simple and stupid, at which point I bust out…

Heavy Metal

Harry Canyon

A movie based around the magazine of the same name. Heavy Metal was a comic book-esque mag that would feature different stories by different prolific science fiction and fantasy authors and artists. Generally, the stories jumped between space and horror, with a few, cool fantasy stories thrown in to balance it all out. It was a bit of a hodge podge, but was chaotic fun.

And while the movie kept some of the comics charm, a lot of that charm was lost in translation. I felt compelled to include it here for two reasons. The first reason being, I have always felt that the opening story, called Harry Canyon, set the tone for the main character in The Fifth Element.

Now that I can validate my Fifth Element theory in print, I feel relieved.

Second, I included it because I wanted to talk about that scene where the WWI fighter pilot faces off against the zombies. I almost feel it is worth watching the whole film just to see that one segment, because it is that crazy awesome.

Also worth noting, David Fincher was supposed to make another Heavy Metal ( there is a crappy sequel that came out, but don’t even waste our time watching it ), using some of his favorite modern day writers and artists, but it fell through. Can you imagine how marvelously trippy that would have been? Speaking of trippy….

Waking Life


What do you know about death? What do you know about dreams? What do you know about perception? What do you know about transgression? What do you know about lucidity? What do you know about reality? Is any of this real? Are we grains of sand on a cosmic beach? Is there more to life, or is this all there is? Would you like fries with that?

This film asks (almost) all those (deeply existential and philosophical) questions, one after the other, using real life actors, animated over using rotoscoping. And while Ralph Bakshi got bashed for using rorscoping (it is just tracing, they would scream), director Richard Linklater seemed to inject some much needed style into it, and was applauded for using what another similar director was condedmned for using just twenty years ealrier. Funny how things loop, huh?

Waking Life would say you are reading this article right now because you needed to, and that it is not actually written by anyone other than you, in a self contained and completely narcissistic universe, similarly inhabited by only you.

In other words, this is another one of those animated films you watch when you are on drugs and it blows your mind about six hundred times, and then it ends and you look at your friend and say: What the hell did we just watch?

Truth be told, though, it is a brilliant film that touches on some issues that are rarely expanded upon outside of philosophy classes and deep discussions in rooms illuminated by only blacklights. Linklater would go on to rotoscope A Scanner Darkly, and release it 5 years after Waking Life. And though A Scanner Darkly is a beautiful and fun ride, Waking Life came first, and at the time, was all but indefinable. By many people’s standards, it still is, which is what makes it so great.

That, and the animation.

Honorable Mentions:

Persepolis: A great film about a young woman’s maturation while growing up in Iran. Based on an autobiographical comic book by the author, Marjane Satrapi, the movie retains the cool black and white art of the book, as well as much of the heart.

Fantastic Planet: Trippy as hell and at times, quite creepy, Fantastic Planet was said to all be a metaphor for the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia. It looks and feels like being inside a lava lamp, and is a ride I recommend taking atleast once.

Some good old fashioned, hand drawn, nightmare fuel right there.

Yellow Submarine: Much like Fantastic Planet and Waking Life, we imagine this film is best enjoyed while partaking in some substances that may or may not be illegal, but being fine upstanding citizens, we would know nothing about that.

Animal Farm: Ofcourse the Orwell classic had to be here or else I would have no place writing this list.

Wizards: Another Bakshi movie with babes with big boobs and warriors and wizards and so on, but this one was kind of dope because it rocked a cool, steampunk vibe long before steampunk even had a name. This film can be a little jarring for its jumps between Disney style animation and realistic looking rotoscoping, but was still ahead of it’s time for storytelling. How often do you see movies that have nuclear war AND fairies?

no, I said WIZARDS, not The Wizard. run from this film, now….

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  1. Haven’t heard of some of these, I’ll check them out.

    A couple of other animations not aimed at children:

    Chico and Rita – a love story and the rise of Latin music

    Waltz with Bashir – about the Israel/Lebanon war

  2. Ummm…. Urotsukidōji , Legend of the Overfiend.
    We grabbed it at the local Blockbuster, thinking “Hey… We liked Ninja Scroll, lets try this!”

    WOW. As wikipedia says ( which we didnt have in ’92):
    Hideki Takayama took great artistic liberties with the Urotsukidōji story, mixing elements of horror, violence, and sadistic scenes of rape not present in the original work

  3. not animated, but puppetry- surely belongs on this list of not for children if in a style associated with children….

    Meet the Feebles

    –how Mr. Jackson ever got all those billions for the tolkien series after making feebles amazes me. Surely they watched every movie he ever made before giving him 285 million dollars… and feebles was one of them…..

  4. Good picks. Watership Down was a favorite of mine ever since I saw it as a kid. I ended up loving the novel as a grown up. I can’t say the same for the Plague Dog’s book. I cannot get through it because the two characters depress the shit out of me. I totally feel We3 was made so the author could get over what he experienced while reading Adams’ effed up novel.

    And yes! Heavy Metal rules! Fifth Element recycling and all. Not just the cabbie was copied but the whole thing, the chic (even her looks) popping out of nowhere needing help, the city’s look, hell even the Evil Orb was lifted from HM.

    I love both flicks though.

    I have to recommend Vampires in Havana (1985), on Netflix Instant. I saw it as a college student and I remember it being a lot of fun.

    Rock and Rule (1983) was also a favorite growing up. Mutants, sex, drugs and some very cool songs by Lou Reed, Cheap Trick and Debbie Harry.

  5. A buddy of mine used to get seriously offended when people called Heavy Metal a cartoon. He would say, “It’s an ANIMATED FEATURE!” It became a running joke.

  6. I always felt Heavy Metal was very under-rated for it’s time but another honorable mention I think would be Gandahar which was even better then Wizards, imo.

    I am also glad I was not the only one that saw the similarities between Heavy Metal and the Fifth Element. Actually, one could say the same with Gandahar and Avatar.

  7. Another great article, Remy! Seriously love your posts. Have you seen American Pop? It’s another Bakshi (personal idol of mine, back when I wanted to grow up to be an animator), and it’s a fantastic history of American music told by following four generations of the same family. Killer soundtrack, as you might expect.

  8. Regarding the list (and the beyond stellar recommendations), it started as five movies, then it went to six, and then seven, and then I HAD to stop myself, or I could have gone on for days. I kept it Disney free because I felt like too many lists use the “Bambi’s Mom” trope and I wanted to avoid that. Great calls on Rock N Rule and American Pop. Thought I might lose some people with the music, but I adore both of those films for entirely different reasons. Grave of the Fireflies was another one that was tough for me to leave off, but that would have opened the door for Anime, which would have made this list another 200 entries too long.
    @ Sara C, thank you very much. Feel like some of you have become like family over the last few months (as silly as that sounds) and I appreciate the constant support. Does not go unnoticed. We are all very like-minded, which makes this place more like a neighborhood full of cool people than an actual website.
    @ Nimmy, you just intrigued the hell out of me. Must go find that film right now….

  9. I don’t know if anyone pointed this out, but Crumb hated the movie version of Fritz the Cat and actually kill the character off with an ex-girlfriend stabbing him in the back and head.

  10. Pretty much could have put all of Bakshi’s films on here. Fun fact: Wizards actually was made specifically for children. That’s how Bakshi does children’s films. I know, right?

  11. Really don’t like Fritz the Cat. I’m not one of those”I didn’t get it, therefore I don’t like it” kind of guys, either. I thought it was interesting, and I like what it was trying to do with it’s sick and biting satire of beatnick culture in the 60s, but, much like Fritz’s creator Crumb’s opinion, I found it to be unfunny for the most part (like you said, it’s very unsettling) and I thought it was very pessimistic. Like, drowning in it. It was constantly showing you a repulsive look on life for fun, but it never felt insightful, just angry.

    I’d probably recommend it though just for how very different it is, but I’m not a fan. Good list though!

  12. I agree with you guys and Crumb, Fritz that was put on film lost ANY of the charm of the comic character, and ended up just being smutty and racist for the sake of being shocking. @Jake Fortner, very well put.

  13. ninja scrolls is the best animated movie everrrr..even after all these years its still looks amazing..

    theres a storm coming….

  14. Wizards sucked. I’m sorry, but it was a mess (bad animation, wooden dialogue, a straightforward story but choppilly put together, and it put racy bits in just to crap on the movie even more). Also, there is no way it was aimed at children (I cringed just watching by myself, about age 22 at the time).

  15. Robotech anyone? Sure it’s an anime rehashed for US audiences but as a kid I was shocked at all the death. And kissing and stuff. And I still despise Min Mei.

  16. I wouldn’t count Waking Life an animated movie, as its a movie acted out then rotoscoped. Shouldve included something like Starchaser:the legend of Orin or maybe even the likes of Akira or Ghost in the Shell

  17. @Wayne, even if people do not consider rotoscoping animation, it is still animation. I wasn’t doing any anime or manga titles or we would have been here all day. Akira, Ninja Scroll, Ghost in the Shell, Grave of the Fireflies, Perfect Blue. I almost put Starchaser, but that film is so bad I am afraid I would be laughed off the web.
    @ Reynaldo, great call. I adore that film….

  18. There was this movie with brad pitt that jumped back and forth between animation and reality I dont remember what its called but I know that was not for children. It was really good though.

  19. Great article and a few I am going to have look out for, particularly Plague Dogs. I’ve not heard of that before and yet Watership Down is a huge favourite of mine so I must look that out.

    A film that stayed with me since I saw it as a teen over 20 years ago is When The Wind Blows, a book about the before and after effects of a nuclear strike on a middle aged couple. Just heartbreaking stuff and a fantastic soundtrack by David Bowie.

    I saw this article thanks to Geeks Are Sexy website and will be bookmarking for further reading.

  20. Just wanted to make one nit-picky correction. In Heavy Metal, it was a WW2 pilot fighting the zombies. They only wished they had bombers like that during WW!. Otherwise, great article. Still trying to hunt down some of these films.

  21. So much anime out there, better animation and all and not aimed at children. Picture this, 100 penises flying trough the air, dodging swarm of bullets, just to impregnate girl who he loves, … anime … all is possible

  22. “Animated Movies Clearly Not Aimed at Children” the first thing I thought of was Felidae, which is a German film, based on a series of books, containing graphic violence and an accurate depiction of cat sex. (I have actually seen this movie)

  23. I’ve seen Persepolis, Heavy Metal, The Illusionist, and The Triplets of Belleville. Really enjoyed the highly stylized French films Belleville and Illusionist, that guy is incredible. Heavy Metal really changed my perceptions of what animated movies were, right at the crux between childhood and teenagerdom. Ever since then I have always lover differently animated movies with less than childlike premises. Sometimes I watch them in secret for fear that I would be judged by the content of things I watch, since they’re so out of the “normal” realm.

    Another that haunted my childhood was a little known movie known as The Elmchanted Forest. It played on Disney way back in the day and there are no known copies of it available on DVD or VHS, but I remember the imagery really stuck in my mind. I think it was Portuguese, but dubbed in English. It was way more than just some flowery Disney film, it tripped the line between fantasy and fantastical.

    And anything by Don Bluth is absolutely terrifying. Rats of Nihm anyone? Read the book and saw the movie as a kid, nightmares for weeks!

  24. I think the germen animated film Felidae should be recognized. Its about cats and how in the 60s and 70s they used cats for medical research. The movie not only depicts the torturous ways of a research lab but also the effects it has on the animals, the main test cat is Claudandis and because of his torture he kills the less significant of the species. it has a mild sex scene where the main character mates with a female. it is one of my new fave’s. Here is the movie link to youtube, http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLCNQ5OAWWSyfcJlB7zMizT7dIByYibat0

  25. Actually, I have watched Heavy Metal, Fire and Ice, and Wizards when I was a kid. I’m talking when i was like…er…6-8…somewhere in that range. I turned out okay. I still love those movies to this day. Oh Reynaldo, good one on Secret of Nimh.

  26. i think Scooby Doo on zombie island belongs in this list because it was a lot darker then the other Scooby Doo cartoons and the villians actually died

  27. i think osmosis jones belongs in this list because it was originnally going to be rated PG-13 but was changed to PG but its still not a kids movie it was really vilonte the main villian draxx murdered a bunch of germs it had lots of sexual innueondoe and swearing like f*** and theirs a song in the movie that has the word hoe in it and the main villians death is pretty graphic his skin burns off and he evaporates

  28. ‘When the Wind Blows” an aging couple dealing with the aftermath of a nuclear strike, with soundtrack by Roger Waters and David Bowie. Also a recent one I forget the name about a little girl in a abusive family that writes a sort of mentally incompetent guy out of the blue and corresponds with him the whole time she grows up (I think its called Mel and Max?). Rock and Rule, Down & Dirty Duck (that is a WTF did we just watch one). “The Suicide Shop” is twisted Addams family with a twist.

  29. Titan AE, anyone? Watching the world get destroyed. Aliens who don’t give a d[p]it about you, or your kind. Double-crossings. Sexual innuendos. There are a number of things that make it not suitable for kids.

  30. Just want to point out that it’s not Simon and Garfunkel that did Bright Eyes. It was Mike Batt that wrote the song and Garfunkel performed it.

  31. Its ‘rotoscoping’ not ‘rorscoping’ And even though you wanted to stay away from Anime, I assume because of its often violent and sexy content, you should not forget Barefoot Gen, based on a comic, about the aftermath of Hiroshima.

  32. star chaser the legend of orin alois nebel my dog tulip wrinkles jack boots in the whitehouse i married a strange person mutant aliens the Tune beowolf and food fight

  33. the haunted world of el super beasto the secret of nihm free jimmy terkel in trouble immigrants Back to LA idiots and angels cheatin high hair film noir the district boogie rocks in my pockets and killer bean forever

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