Credit Sony Pictures Animation/Columbia Pictures via The New York Times

The power of nostalgia: Reflections on three childhood animated films

Meriel ponders the appreciation you gain as an adult when looking back at the films that defined your childhood.

The Incredibles gets better every time I watch it. Even though it was created before the second coming of cinematic superheroes (courtesy of Marvel), it still stands out as unique, due to director Brad Bird’s vision of a family drama that just happens to contain superpowers. The result is a fun family film with memorable characters, and a sophisticated script that doesn’t talk down to its audience. If you first saw it as a child, there are so many layers to discover when re-watching from the perspective of an adult. The film’s visuals form a key part of its identity, providing creative superhero action through animation, and showcasing a stylised 50s aesthetic that has interesting lore and world-building in the background. I wish a prequel could shine a light on the other superheroes mentioned in the first film, but The Incredibles nonetheless remains one of the main pieces of media that kickstarted my love of superhero stories. It shows the endless possibilities of what one can do with the genre: younger viewers can enjoy its colourful animated superhero action, while adults can appreciate the nuance of its characters. There is something for every generation with The Incredibles.

Glancing at the poster for Surf’s Up might make you think it’s another 2007 children’s comedy about quirky penguins, just with an extra gimmick (in this case they surf). However, its execution means this is far from the case. It is a parody of surfing documentaries, and is “filmed” like a hand-held documentary. This often includes segments where characters are being interviewed by themselves; they are animated to move like people would realistically behave when being filmed, including humorous moments where they briefly look away from the camera, or try to get attention from the camera crew. Through its mockumentary format, the film really lets its characters and story breathe. Although anyone can enjoy the film as a standalone story, it also demonstrates a genuine love for the surfing genre, as real surfing personalities were brought in for cameo voice roles. All this allows Surf’s Up to seem fresh and unique among other animated children’s films.

Kiki’s Delivery Service remains a classic of Studio Ghibli’s impressive library. A simple story about a young witch who starts her own delivery service, combined with Ghibli’s beautiful artwork, manifests in an emotional coming-of-age experience. Kiki’s strength of character and iconic look – a cute red bow and black cat – makes her extremely memorable. She works hard to become independent, but is also able to learn from her vulnerable moments, gaining wisdom and maturity. Her journey will always have a timeless relatability, particularly when her flying abilities transition from being her special skill to her job. You can root for a likeable and endearing protagonist and lose yourself in another of Ghibli’s vibrant worlds in this wholesome film.

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