Favorite Animated Films

Ries and I have always loved animated films, but we have never watched the same animated film on repeat like Gus does now. Listening and watching a movie over and over again (especially as a person educated in screenwriting) puts them under a microscope in a new way.

One of Gus’ first favorite movies was Moana—a movie I wasn’t a huge fan of in the theaters, but now after hearing the thing a hundred times, I’m able to articulate specific plot holes that make it one of my least favorite Disney films. (If you want to get me fired up, ask me about it sometime.)

I grew up with a thirty minutes of electronics a day rule. While I get the logic behind it, we probably won’t be that strict with our kids when it comes to movies. We’ll just be selective with what our kids watch. There are a lot of DUMB animated movies these days, but there are a lot of movies that tell great stories and are artistic masterpieces. Those are the kinds of movies I won’t feel guilty about my kids watching.

I wanted to share a list of ten movies that Ries and I love. (Gus has seen most of these ten, but not all.) If you know Ries and I, you know we’re huge Disney fans. While this list could start off with well known masterpieces like Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King, we wanted to share some of our less popular favorites from Disney and other studios.

You can view a longer list here.

Song of the Sea

Song of the Sea is probably one of our favorite animated movies ever, and not many people have heard of it. It’s a fantastical story of a small family that explores Celtic myth, loss, and sibling relationships. It’s one of those films that’s appropriate for younger audiences, but hit adults on another level. I still cry every time.

Toy Story

There’s not much I need to say about Toy Story, but what I will say is that after watching Toy Story 2 on repeat lately, the series remains relevant even after a time of so much change. Ries made the point that he thinks Toy Story is secretly a story about being parents—being such an important part of a child’s life, and slowly watching the child grow up and move on.

A Letter to Momo

This was a great find I stumbled upon while searching on Amazon Prime several years ago. Letter to Momo is about a young girl who, after losing her father, is followed by three yokai (or spirit guardians) that are watching over her while her father is transitioning to the afterlife. The yokai are hilarious and mischievous, and this is a movie that will hit you right in the feelings.


After moving to a new state and a new shared house, Coraline discovers a trapped door that leads to a parallel universe where she has an “other mother” and “other father” who are much nicer, and her neighbors are much more interesting. But there’s always a catch, and this ultimately ends up being a little scary for kids. It’s one of Gus’ favorites, but I think he’ll find it scarier when he’s a little older. (It’s based off a children’s book by Neil Gaiman after all.)


Norman is not quite normal. He can see ghosts and in a New England town known for its historic witch trials, he ends up finding himself in quite a situation. Norman is the only person who can find the ghost of a little girl unjustly punished for being a witch, who haunts the town by bringing back its dead. (This is another of Gus’ favorites, but kids that aren’t quite accustom to seeing the undead showing up in movies might be a little confused or scared.)


Zootopia is quite possibly the most underrated Disney movie. I read somewhere that Disney thought the movie was going to be unpopular, so they did very little promotion and made almost no merchandise for the movie. It’s essentially a kid-friendly noir movie where humans don’t exist and animals have evolved to talk, wear clothing, work jobs, and get along with other animals they instinctually did not before. The humor is on point and the movie covers difficult topics without banging you over the head with them. It’s probably my favorite Disney movie that has come out since the 1990’s.

How to Train Your Dragon

One of Dreamworks’ most successful projects, How to Train Your Dragon, is the story of two unlikely allies becoming friends: a dragon and the son of a viking warlord who hunts dragons as a point of pride. It’s a good one, so don’t miss it.

Spirited Away

Spirited Away is a film created by the Japanese animator, writer, director, and producer, Hayao Miyazaki, (also known as the Japanese Walt Disney) who created other great titles such as: Kiki’s Delivery Service, Howl’s Moving Castle, My Neighbor Totoro, and more. If you don’t know anything about him, please, please, please go watch one of these movies, because you’re missing out. The story of Spirited Away is about a girl who moves to a new town and finds that she’s wandered into a fantastical new world while exploring.

James and the Giant Peach

Gus has not seen this one, but it’s based off Roald Dahl’s book, where an orphan escapes his cruel guardians and finds a fantastical life living in an enchanted peach with critters of all sorts, and sets sail for New York. It has a special spot in my heart because Ries and I watched it in college together.

Big Hero 6

Big Hero 6 is another underrated Disney film that takes place in the Marvel Universe, centered around a boy genius, Hero, who lives in fictional city San Fransokyo. When one of his inventions is used maliciously, he attempts to track down the mysterious user. The movie’s most famous character is the giant, lovable marshmallow-looking, Baymax, and if you want to know what’s to love, you’ll have to check out the movie. (Big Hero 6 is actually also where we got the name for our first cat, Hiro, also known as Nugget.)

If you want to see a longer list of our favorites, check it out here.