Cheerful, intelligent anime and cartoons - dubbed or in English
December 16, 2013 8:58 AM   Subscribe

My mother's health isn't so great (and it isn't, sadly, going to get much better). She still enjoys movies, however, and I'd like to get her some animated stuff. Her vision isn't strong, so subtitles are out - so these must be dubbed or from Anglophone countries.

She has enjoyed The Triplets of Belleville, A Cat In Paris and most Studio Ghibli releases. She thought The Book of Kells was intellectually flimsy and unappealing.

Things that won't work: Pixar-style stuff, explicit sexual or scatological humor, anything with a sort of contemporary, backtalk-oriented kids' movie sensibility, superheroes. (She's seen Fantasia, Snow White, etc.) Also nothing too sad - no Barefoot Gen or Night on the Galactic Railroad.

What can I get for her on DVD? If there's some dubbed Soviet animation that you'd recommend, she might enjoy that, or anything international and dubbed.

I'd love to be able to send her a few DVDs in time for the holiday (even though I know this means I'll have to spring for express shipping).
posted by Frowner to Media & Arts (18 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Dragon Hunters is good, but I'm not sure if it's close enough to Pixar for you. Check out the trailers.

Has she seen the most recent Ghibli (or their like) stuff.

Journey to Agartha aka Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below
Wolf Children haven't seen this yet, but it looks good.
posted by pyro979 at 9:07 AM on December 16, 2013

The films of Hayao Miyazaki are quite amazing and may fit here. I particular: Ponyo, My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. (at least most of) These are available in dubbed format, many with big-name actors.
posted by originalname37 at 9:11 AM on December 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

Man, I'm coming up with a lot of either intelligent or cheerful; not a lot that pegs both meters the way that Studio Ghibli does.

Bamboo Blade is about girls in a kendo club. It's a slight, but unexpectedly affecting look into female friendships. I recommend it all the time. I didn't listen to the dub but it does have one.

If she enjoyed the bits about the gods in Spirited Away, she might enjoy Kamichu!, which is also not weighty but is a happy, odd little series about an average kid who becomes a goddess, and pretty much continues living her regular little life.

Mushishi is another one that I often recommend--it's beautiful and interesting and complex but still oddly soothing. The closest US description would be "ghost story", but they're deeper than that, and there are very few actively scary moments. The art is super lovely, though, and I don't mind the dubs at all. Based on your description it's the one I'd guess that she'd enjoy the most.
posted by tchemgrrl at 9:51 AM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Avatar: The Last Airbender (the animated series, NOT the live-action movie atrocity). It's fantastic, a kids show without pandering, and wonderful characterization. Yes, it deals with genocide and war, but in a...non-depressing way. (Doesn't get remotely as sad as most of the Ghibli stuff I've seen). Looks like anime, but it's actually a western collaboration (I think a lot was animated in Korea from what I remember), and handled quite well.

I rewatch it about every year or so. There's also a sequel in progress called The Legend of Korra, which is also quite good but 'older' feeling, and really doesn't make much sense if you haven't seen ATLA.

(Whoops, noticed you asked for movies specifically. This is a 3 season TV show.)
posted by aggyface at 10:15 AM on December 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

I came here specifically to recommend Tokyo Godfathers and I'm really irritated to learn there's no dub, because it's the only thing I can think of that's a perfect fit.

This is much more difficult than I assumed, even knowing not much is ever going to compare to Ghibli. It looks like all the Russian animation I've seen lacks a dub as well.

There's Aardman Animations, but they are claymation, not 2D, which makes me suspicious that it may be too close to Pixar. I think Wallace and Gromit or The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists would be my top choices.

Maybe The Girl Who Leapt through Time and Summer Wars.

I haven't actually seen it, but Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva looks charming.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas? The Point? Iron Giant? Land Before Time?
posted by SometimesChartreuse at 11:32 AM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

How does she feel about science fiction?

The Iron Giant is fantastic.

You might want to check out My Neighbors the Yamadas, which is light and funny but unexpectedly quite touching.

I personally adore Lilo and Stitch, if that isn't too young for her. It's easily my favorite Disney animated film.

Persepolis is quite good, if she hasn't seen it already.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 11:40 AM on December 16, 2013

Seconding "Summer Wars."

Make sure you haven't missed any of the "obscure" Studio Ghibli releases, e.g. "Whisper of the Heart." Unfortunately, a couple of their best ones, like "Omoide Poro Poro," have never been released with subs that I know of. Not officially anyway.

Have not seen but suspect might work: "Sita Sings the Blues," "Persepolis." I'm not sure how cheerful they are, though! People I like swear that "The Emperor's New Groove" is actually worth watching, but I haven't taken them up on their claims yet.

There are several short and not-short series that might work, which are more likely to have dubs than a lot of the great feature-length films ("Planetes" - not really cheerful but uplifting, etc.), but if they're out of the question, that's all I can come up with.
posted by wintersweet at 11:54 AM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Emperor's New Groove is hilarious and clever and intensely charming, although I have no idea if it would be your mother's sort of humor.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 12:21 PM on December 16, 2013

Allegro Non Troppo is a great, sometimes absurdist, Italian take on the Fantasia format. I cannot remember if there is a dubbed version, though. Since it's mostly music and images, it should not matter. The interstitial bits with the director speaking, would be a bit difficult without dubbing.

The Illusionist
, by the maker of Triplets, is a solid animated movie, though if I recall correctly it was a little on the cloudy side of the spectrum.
posted by GrapeApiary at 12:32 PM on December 16, 2013

If series are ok, it might be worth getting her a Netflix account. Avatar TL Airbender is available. So is stuff like My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, and Phineas and Ferb; while neither is a Spirited away or Summer Wars, they can be quite entertaining.
posted by Jacen at 12:39 PM on December 16, 2013

Another vote for Avatar/Legend of Korra.

I watched The Legend of Korra with no previous Avatar knowledge and loved it. I actually think it might be a better introduction to the world for an adult - Korra has a very defined plotline, while Avatar is pretty much just picaresque, and I really needed to know about the world a bit more before I could get excited about a goofy 12 year old. (I'm watching Avatar now though, and loving it.)
posted by escapepod at 12:41 PM on December 16, 2013

The Man Who Planted Trees is a short (30 minutes), you can find it in a compilation of Frederic Back's work.

Would stop-animation work? If so, Fantastic Mr. Fox.

For a non-Ghibli anime, Urusei Yatsura Movie 2: Beautiful Dreamer. It's well loved by anime fans.
posted by TheGoodBlood at 1:10 PM on December 16, 2013

Cowboy Bebop: The Movie

Mary and Max (claymation)
posted by jillithd at 2:06 PM on December 16, 2013

If claymation is OK, has she seen any of the Wallace & Gromit movies?
posted by jillithd at 2:09 PM on December 16, 2013

Nthing Whisper of the Heart, which is so goddamn lovely and My Neighbours The Yamadas.

Also Nthing Mushishi. It's not humorous, but it's reflective, somewhat sentimental, and so beautiful.

On a similar note, she might enjoy Haibene Renmei, it's about ummm, kind of about young angel girls. Again, not humours, but gentle and sentimental and nice.
posted by smoke at 2:26 PM on December 16, 2013

Oh, jumping back in to say she might enjoy Wolf and Spice. It's a teensy, tiny bit sexy, but no more than any prime time television, and the central relationship is quite cute. Quasi-European setting like a lot of Ghibli.

And Kino's Journey - but I'm not sure if there's an english dub or note. A nice, meditative, journey kind of series.
posted by smoke at 2:28 PM on December 16, 2013

A third vote for Avatar and Legend of Korra. I'm re-watching them now. Very intelligent and lovely.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 8:08 AM on December 17, 2013

was thinking more about this and I also recommend Samurai Jack. There's a movie version, which I think is just the first few episodes of Season 1. But overall, the entire series is solid.
posted by GrapeApiary at 11:45 AM on December 17, 2013

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