3) DuckTales: The Treasure of the Lost Lamp
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88%
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Can I just go ahead and reiterate that I am not the arbiter of the order of this list? I came up with the criteria, compiled this list of films, ran the Rotten Tomatoes score in ascending order, and yes, completely forgot about The goddamned Goofy Movie (don’t worry, it wouldn’t have made the Top 10 anyway), but this is pure critical consensus and not my personal opinion. Obviously, the guy who made an entire show based on cartoon ducks loves this movie, but honestly, I never expected this movie to be appreciated by anyone but me. Seriously, I’m as shocked as you are! Many of us have found memories for either the Carl Barks comics, the Disney Afternoon Show, or that beautiful goddamned video game. The movie? Not so much. FACT: I love this movie. FACT: It’s pretty unremarkable.
DuckTales: The Treasure of the Lost Lamp is a weirdo product of its time, made while Disney was on a bit of a hot streak. Smack dab in the middle of Disney Afternoon TV phenomenon and an theatrical animation renaissance that included The Little Mermaid, Beauty in the Beast, and Aladdin, Disney bumped up this direct-to-video film to theatrical status, and the results were not good. Couple that with the poor performance of Rescuers Down Under, Disney Feature Animation’s first theatrical sequel and one of it’s worst performing bigscreen efforts up to that point, and the new studio originally created to bring even more DuckTales pictures to cinemas, Disney MovieToons was busted down to making regrettable garbage like Bambi II, and turning Aladdin and Cinderella into unnecessary trilogies.
2) The Simpsons Movie
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%
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For some of you this might be controversial, but as a Simpsons fan who was well lapsed heading into the new millenium, I can honestly say The Simpsons Movie is objectively fucking wonderful. Well worth the wait, and hey, look at that: I’m not alone in that opinion. Even if the movie didn’t actually make me fall in love with the show all over again, it got me curious enough to dive back in and watch the current show again.
Depending on what sources you want to believe, The Simpsons Movie began as far back as 1997 and the script went through a reported 100 revisions, as many of the writers from the show’s heyday came back aboard to concoct what people had been clamoring for for almost two decades with no real idea of what they really wanted from a Simpsons theatrical outing. That’s a much harder feat than most people would imagine, and Sweet Jesbus, there are ELEVEN fucking people credited with the screenplay. Even if you don’t love the plot of a doomed/domed Springfield, the wonderful return of Albert Brooks, or the upped ante of seeing Bart’s dick, know that it could’ve been a helluva lot worse. Season 17’s “Bonfire of the Manatees” and the recent, widely despised “The Man Who Came To Be Dinner”, where the Simpsons meet Kang and Kodos for the first time outside of a Halloween special, originated as concepts for a Simpsons movie.
1) A Boy Named Charlie Brown
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%
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From the morose mind of Charles Schulz, we’ve been watching Charlie Brown get kicked in the balls since the first Christmas special aired in 1965. And yes, reading it even longer than that, but I don’t feel like explaining what a newspaper was. Compared to a lot of these other TV-turned-movie toons, Snoopy’s path to bigscreen stardom happened considerably faster. Let’s remember that the Peanuts didn’t get a proper TV series until the early 80s, and was enjoyed as irregularly aired specials at that time. Technically only six “episodes” aired before Charlie Brown got his own film, and that’s a TV-to-theater record that (I’m guessing) can only be disputed by Police Squad/Naked Gun.
I’ll never understand why the world loves these ultra-bleask little characters as much as I do, as they depressingly quip cruelty and unleash failure allegories in the most adorable ways, but I’d wager most won’t really see how this film ups the TV ante of the minimalist, light jazz-scored showcase of childhood existentialism that’s remained defiantly popular for over half a decade. It’s hard to see what makes it special, especially when you look at what it’s only competition looked like in the 1960s (Sword in the Stone, Jungle Book.). Which, BTW, consisted only of Disney back then, and many of the critics charmed by A Boy Named Charlie Brown praise it simply for being an alternative to that longstanding animated monopoly.
Eagle-eyed Peanuts fans will no doubt know what makes it special. Most noticeably, in addition to Vince Guaraldi’s classic licks, the film is the first Peanuts outing to feature any lyrics, including the needlessly cruel song “Failure Face” sung to Charlie Brown in order to push him closer to suicide.
With the handful of musical numbers to punctuate Chuck’s decidedly untheatrical trip to a spelling bee (of course he fucking fails) the film does up its animated ante with a few wonderfully lavish sequences, including rotoscoping and Andy Warhol-inspired design choices that make the lovable TV specials look just a bit crude by comparison.
I’ve been embedding trailers here, but those with a Hulu subscription can watch the whole movie now
PROBABLY SHOULD’VE PLACED BETTER
The Chipmunk Adventure
Rotten Tomatoes Score: NA
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I know what you’re saying: You hate The Chipmunks. But I posit that you do not. You hate the new Chipmunks. The obnoxious CG trilogy, and I’m with you. However, if I’m being nostalgically honest, I kinda love The Chipmunks, and every generation has every reason to feel the same. What they do defies time, trends, and culture, like a far less clever Al Yankovic; they don’t create songs, they celebrate them. Thinking back, I can admit to myself that, yeah… I enjoyed the hell out of my time with their 80s NBC cartoons show. Beach Boys songs and Batman parodies: What’s not to like?!
Even if this isn’t the only example of product placement in a 2D theatrical cartoon, it’s at least the most blatant
But I‘m betting critics felt the same knee jerk reaction to Alvin and The Chipmunks, and that’s why none of them bothered to review The Chipmunk Adventure. If they had, I bet it would’ve fared well enough to appear on the Top 10. It takes the Chipmunks and the Chippettes (who I SWEAR TO GOD I’m not still outrageously attracted to) and puts them on a globetrotting quest. And instead of the usual crop of cover songs, favors mostly original, wonderfully 80s-flavored jams in several gorgeously animated sequences. Speaking of which, The Chipmunk Adventure looks way better than it probably should. Thanks to the apocalyptically poor performance of The Black Cauldron, The Chipmunk Adventure was able to employ a bunch of recently shitcanned Disney animators and the onscreen result is one of the most beautiful feats of 2D ink-and-cell work you’re likely to see. As long as you don’t have a sensitivity issues regarding the portrayal of foreign cultures (jungle natives, horny sultans) I thoroughly recommend revisiting this by yourself, with your kids or both.
FUCK GENDER INEQUALITY: Remember when Rock n’ Roll was the most important thing in the universe?!
A Goofy Movie
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 53%
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DISCLOSURE: I forgot this movie existed during the course of my research. But even if I hadn’t, it wouldn’t have made the list. Why am I mentioning this? Well, what if Laser Time were also preparing a list/show regarding the WORST animated films based on TV cartoons?! And what if we also forgot The Goofy Movie there too? That’s a gentle nudge and a sincere apology.
That Disney studio we mentioned in the DuckTales movie section got just one more shot at a theatrical glory, and wouldn’t you know it, it was with another Disney Afternoon property. And as previously mentioned, that studio was then demoted to making straight-to-video Disney sequels, which The Goofy Movie eventually got in 2000 with An Extremely Goofy Movie. Today all that studio cranks out Tinkerbell movies and Cars sequels starring flying cars because nobody said life was fair.
Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%
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I’m getting a bit of shit from some of our UK listeners for not including this film. In my defense, Wallace & Gromit technically haven’t ever had a TV show; they’ve had four TV specials over the course of the last 20 years. But since some of the BBC’s most famous shows have as little as like six fucking episodes, I can totally see why a cartoon-lovin’ Brit would expect to see it here.
Whatever. I wanted to give it a brief mention because not only was Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the WereRabbit incredibly successful and pretty fucking great, its Rotten Tomatoes score would have landed it at #1 on our list, unseating the movie also based on a series of irregularly aired TV specials. But Charlie Brown wins because AMERICA.