As far as media genres go, animation is one that rarely gets its due. Cartoons enchant us as children, but are then left in the past, their artistry and potential forgotten. But whether on your laptop or your Saturday morning television screen, good animation can make us laugh, cry, or learn the entire plot of Hamlet at a young age (here’s lookin’ at you, Simba).
Animation studios can define the genre for their respective generations. Hanna-Barbera Productions did just that from the 1950s through the 1990s. William Hanna and Joseph Barbera formed the company when their Tom and Jerry studio, MGM, gave up on animation ventures. They so believed in cartoons that they wanted to continue sharing them with the world, and share they did. From Yogi Bear to Scooby-Doo, Hanna-Barbera dominated hearts and TV screens for decades.
The Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge seeks to immortalize that legacy with the exhibit Hanna-Barbera: The Architects of Saturday Morning, on display through May 29. In honor of that exhibition, I’ve compiled a list of animated media that inspires and enthralls me. Check out the exhibit, then consult these titles for further animation inspiration.
Last Day of Freedom (2015; dirs. Nomi Talisman and Dee Hibbert-Jones; Living Condition LLC) — Netflix
I’m a sucker for an animated documentary, and this one is exquisite, albeit dark and depressing. Real-life wives and artistic collaborators Talisman and Hibbert-Jones unravel the story of one man’s struggle with the criminal justice system when his own brother is convicted of murder.
Abstract: The Art of Design Episode: “Christoph Niemann: Illustration Design” (2017; Scott Dadich) — Netflix
This new Netflix series pulls back the curtain on some of today’s most brilliant design minds. It kicks off with an episode about illustrator Christoph Niemann. In this short doc, Niemann struggles to create a VR cover and experience for The New Yorker. Aesthetically pleasing from head to toe, this clean-cut profile showcases the potential of visual art both in print and on screen.
Pearl (2016; Patrick Osborne; Google Spotlight Shorts) — YouTube
Pearl is the first virtual reality piece to ever receive an Academy Award nomination, and it’s in the running for the 2017 Best Animated Short Film Oscar. The immersive experience follows a girl (Nicki Bluhm) and her father (Kelley Stoltz) on a musical and automotive journey through life that will have you dying for a replay.
World of Tomorrow (2015; Don Hertzfeldt; Bitter Films) — Netflix
This charming short chronicles the adventures of Emily (Winona Mae), a toddler who meets her unsettling future clone (Julia Pott). Emily’s lines, and her character, organically sprung from a recording of Hertzfeldt’s niece, Winona. As imaginative and deep as it is hilarious and adorable, this 16-minute whirlwind is a real gem.
Over the Garden Wall (2014; Patrick McHale; Cartoon Network) — Hulu
When you hear about Cartoon Network’s existential, death-focused miniseries, you might think it aired during Adult Swim. In fact, Over the Garden Wall aired at 7 p.m., right before bedtime. The series follows Wirt (Elijah Wood) and his half-brother, Greg (Collin Dean) as they navigate an autumnal world inspired by creator McHale’s Massachusetts roots. If you’re a fan of the delightfully weird, you’ll love this series more than potatoes and molasses (you’ll get it once you watch the show).
Stream Queen runs twice monthly. Contact Lena Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org.