Whether it was from Bambi’s Mum being shot or Mufasa falling to his death, many moviegoers first experience mature themes as a result of their favourite kid-friendly cartoons. However, there are some animated movies you should definitely keep out of reach of children until they reach an older age.
10. Watership Down (1978)
Based on the Richard Adams novel of the same name, Watership Down follows a band of rabbits as they flee their warren after seeing a vision of death and destruction. The film is surprisingly violent as the rabbit’s escape from predators, humans and even their own kind, and it has a notorious reputation for its dark tone.
9. Persepolis (2007)
Persepolis is a coming of age story based on the memoirs of Marjane Satrapi. A young, outspoken woman in Iran during the 1970s, she witnesses first hand how the new Iran, now ruled by Islamic fundamentalists, has become a repressive tyranny of its own. The film was critically well received (with a 95% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes) and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature. The Iranian government were much more critical, slamming the movie as nothing more than propaganda presenting an “unrealistic face of the glorious Islamic Revolution”.
8. Paprika (2006)
Based on the novel of the same name, Paprika is a colourful but still assuredly adult-themed Japanese animation which centres around a device that allows people to record and watch their dreams. The device is stolen by a thief who uses it to enter people’s minds and it is up to our titular character, a young female therapist, to discover the thief whilst warding off attacks towards her own psyche. There were plans for a live-action adaptation, but after the release of ‘Inception’ – also about entering and shaping dreams – the plans were put on indefinite hold.
7. Fritz the Cat (1972)
Fritz the Cat became the first animated feature to ever receive an X rating in the United States. The cartoon focuses on Fritz, an anthropomorphic cat in the late 1960s who explores the ideals of hedonism and sociopolitical consciousness. Fritz the Cat had a very controversial release as many balked at the content of the film and its political context. Nevertheless, despite a limited run, the movie grossed over $90 million worldwide on a budget of $850,000 and became the most successful independent animated feature of its time.
6. Tarzoon: Shame of the Jungle (1975)
Also released in the early 1970s, Tarzoon: Shame of the Jungle takes place in the deepest part of Africa, known as Bush Country. Shame discovers his woman, June, has been kidnapped by a gang of giant penises and taken to the Queen Bazonga, a woman with 14 breasts. It is up to Shame to gather a gang to help rescue her. The film features the vocal talents of comedy stars including John Belushi and Bill Murray, but received a lukewarm reception for its crass humour. New Zealand banned the film for its content in 1980.
5. Mary and Max (2009)
Mary and Max is an Australian stop-motion film which follows a tale of penship between two unlikely people: an 8 year old friendless Australian girl with an alcoholic mother and a morbidly obese New Yorker with Asperger’s. Dealing with issues of neglect, depression, loneliness, autism, obesity, sexual frustration, suicide and anxiety, Mary and Max is definitely not one to watch with the children on a Saturday night. However, it’s a touching, heartfelt movie which was very well received by critics and was shortlisted for Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards.
4. Waking Life (2001)
From writer/director Richard Linklater, Waking Life is a docu-fiction drama focussing on the life on an unnamed man as he shuffles through a dream and meets various people. Discussing the meanings and purposes of life and the universe, the film explores a range of philosophical issues including the nature of reality, dreams, free will and existentialism. Unlike traditional animation processes, this was completed through rotoscoping. Live action footage is shot and the film cells are then animated over, approximating the images actually filmed. As a variety of animators were employed, the feel of the movie constantly changes – and gets stranger as the story continues.
3. Waltz with Bashir (2008)
The only documentary on our list, Waltz with Bashir chronicles an Israeli film director as he interviews fellow veterans of the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. Ari Folman has no recollection about this period of his life and begins to piece together exactly what position he played as a soldier. The film took over four years to complete and combines classical music, 80s music, realistic animation (not to be confused with rotoscoping) and surrealistic scenes. The film became the first animated feature to be nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Academy and Golden Globe Awards.
2. Akira (1988)
Based on the manga of the same name, Akira is an epic science fiction thriller set in a dystopian Tokyo in 2019. A secret military project turns a biker gang member into a rampaging psychopath, complete with psionic abilities, so it’s up to two teenagers and a gang of other psionics to save the day and avoid total annihilation. Akira is widely considered to be a landmark of Japanese animation and is considered by many to be amongst the top animated films of all time. Since the early 2000s, Warner Bros. have attempted a live-action remake, although the plans have (thankfully) continued to fall through.
1. South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut (1999)
Trey Parker and Matt Stone brought their hit TV show to the big screen in the form of a musical comedy in South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut. The film parodies everything from The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast to Les Miserables as our gang of foul-mouthed children rally to save their favourite TV Canadian characters. With songs including Uncle Fucka and a melody by Saddam Hussein, it’s no wonder many conservative groups were offended. Regardless, the film was widely well received, with many critics praising the outrageously profane humour.