Listing my top five animated movies is like listing my favorite memories in life. Each of these films will instantly transport me to the time and place I first experienced them as their magic washed over me leaving me forever changed. I love these films with all my heart and when I watch them, I swear to you, it actually feels like these films love me back.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
This Tim Burton-produced and Henry Selick-directed film convinced me—I was 17 when it came out—that I wanted to do animation for a living. I ditched school to see a morning screening, got in huge trouble with the nuns at my Catholic school and... it was completely worth it! The magic I felt entering these loving versions of Halloween and Christmas lands made me feel like I was the most special guest in the world. I wanted to do the same to audiences with The Book of Life and welcome them to the fiesta of my culture.
I had just been fired from my first job at Sony when my wife and I saw this in a theater in Santa Monica. We both sat in awe as our problems vanished. It reignited the fire in my belly to strive to make things that are culturally authentic but universal in their themes. My all-time favorite Hayao Miyazaki masterpiece! The film is just bursting with soul, heart, and passion. It feels very much like a privilege to be welcomed into this magical world. Impossible to not be hypnotized by this film.
This Disney classic was the first film I saw as a little boy in a theater in Mexico City in the 1970s. My father took me and I remember laughing and crying and never wanting it to end. The journey our young hero takes, both internal and external, was something that spoke to me as a little kid in Mexico. That's how powerful and universal this film was and is today. That last moment of Pinocchio floating after they escape the whale will haunt me with its beauty forever and ever.
The Iron Giant
I was an animation intern on Stuart Little (1999) when I was invited to a crew screening of this landmark film. Seeing Brad Bird's first masterpiece with lots of artists who actually worked on it was an experience I will never forget. The power and emotion that burst out of the screen that evening is something I feel to this day. How can someone not be moved to tears and be eternally inspired by our beloved medium after seeing this movie!?!
The Book of Life
I know I probably shouldn't pick my own film, but my 11-year-old son Luka, on the Autism spectrum like myself, is currently obsessed with it so we watch constantly. I am immediately transported to my beloved Mexico, which I can't visit these days, and I get to laugh and cry tears of joy remembering all my loved one who have passed away. The endless heart the whole crew, including our amazing producer Guillermo del Toro, poured into every single frame of this film is hopefully something that all audiences can feel. My cinematic love letter from this Mexican to the world.