Let’s Get Animated: Movies For The Young At Heart

These family-friendly features tell enthralling stories through a variety of animation styles, including stop-motion and computer animation.

By Yong Shu Chiang        22 June 2022

There are cartoons and there are “cartoons”.

For some, cartoons mean something frivolous and light, and merely suited for young children – and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with such shows. However, there are now a wide range of animated feature films, more than just “cartoons”, created in various vivid styles, that are fit for the whole family.

These PG-rated movies, each with a compelling storyline, include classics such as James and the Giant Peach, an adaptation of a Roald Dahl book, and The Iron Giant, which was based on a 1968 science fiction novel by the English poet Ted Hughes.

There is the offbeat and quirky Rango, about a lost chameleon voiced perfectly by Johnny Depp, and Frankenweenie, a fresh and funny take on the Gothic tale of Frankenstein’s monster by Depp’s long-time collaborator Tim Burton.

Then there are two beautifully animated films featuring Asian culture and characters.

One is China’s ground-breaking fantasy epic, Big Fish and Begonia, which was inspired by classic texts and myths; the other is the latest Disney-Pixar film, Turning Red, about a Chinese-Canadian girl who learns a family secret while having a difficult time blossoming into a young woman.

Turning Red

Available now, Disney+

Stars: Rosalie Chiang, Sandra Oh, Finneas O’Connell

Mei (Chiang) is a normal 13-year-old girl whose priorities include school, her friends and a boy band that’s about to play a concert in town. Her life, however, is turned upside down when she wakes up one morning and realises that she has come of age. In the tradition of her ancestors, this means that she turns into a large red panda – yes, that’s right – whenever she experiences strong emotions. Her mother (Oh) tells her that this is just a “little quirk” that runs in the family, but for Mei, this feels like the end of her ordinary life.

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Available now, Google Play Movies

Stars: Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Timothy Olyphant

A hapless chameleon (Depp), who is unfamiliar with the ways of the wild having been a pet, is dropped accidentally into the Mojave desert. There, at every turn, he is told that he is a stranger who won’t last very long. After narrowly escaping a hungry hawk, he goes into the town of Dirt, where he creates a persona for himself of a tough and mysterious drifter. He is then made the town sheriff, and a series of thrilling situations and outrageous encounters forces him to become a real hero.

James and the Giant Peach

Available now, Disney+

Stars: Paul Terry, Miriam Margolyes, Pete Postlethwaite

James is a young orphan child who lives with his cruel aunties, Sponge and Spiker. One day, after he saves a spider from them, he receives a magical gift that enables him to grow an enormous peach. His aunties see it as an opportunity to exploit tourists, while James decides to explore inside the fruit. Lo and behold, within the heart of the peach are a group of friendly insects, including a grasshopper, ladybug, centipede and the spider he had saved. Together, they embark on an improbable voyage, in the giant peach, to New York City.

Big Fish & Begonia

Available now, Netflix

Stars: Stephanie Sheh, Guanlin Ji, Johnny Yong Bosch

As she turns 16, Chun, a girl from a mystical realm, must go on a journey to explore the human world. Taking the form of a red dolphin, she gets caught in a fishing net and struggles for her life. When a human boy saves her from the net, he is overcome by the elements and drowns. Grief-stricken, Chun returns to her world and strikes a bargain with the Soul Keeper – she will sacrifice half her life-force to revive the boy’s soul. However, to return him safely to the human realm, Chun has to fend off the hostile forces of her world.

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The Iron Giant

Available now, Apple TV

Stars: Eli Marienthal, Vin Diesel, Jennifer Aniston

Playing with toy robots is a perfectly normal activity for a young child. To befriend an enormous sentient robot, one that appears to have arrived from outer space, is not quite as normal. Living in 1950s America during the Cold War, nine-year-old Hogarth (Marienthal) tries to hide his new friend, a curious and gentle metal giant (Diesel), from a suspicious government agent, while teaching him about what it means to be human. However, when the military is called in, Hogarth, the iron giant and the people in his town are all put in danger.


Available now: Disney+

Stars: Charlie Tahan, Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short

A dog is a man’s best friend. And so it is for Victor (Tahan), a young boy who would spend much of his days with his bull terrier, Sparky, instead of with kids his age. One day, after his beloved pet is killed in a tragic accident, Victor decides to use science – and a bolt of lightning – to bring Sparky back from the beyond. Incredibly, his experiment works and his canine pal is soon back wagging its tail. All is well, for a while, until the newly reanimated Sparky escapes and Victor’s classmate, E Gore, realises what he’s done.  

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