The magic of animation is hard to define, perhaps because it’s so infinite in scope. While major animation studios like Disney, DreamWorks and Pixar dominate the genre landscape with mass appeal epics and family-friendly adventures, there’s an entire other realm of animated delights in the annals of cinema where filmmakers unconcerned with marketability or four-quadrant appeal demonstrate the limitless potential of the medium when refined craftsmanship meets unfettered creativity.
The world of weird animation is vast and diverse, and why wouldn’t it be in the medium that has provided, long before CGI, the means to visually articulate the most fantastical realms imaginable without the budget-breaking limitations of live-action filmmaking. As such, in curating a list of recommended alternative animated films, this is only a small selection of the wonders you can find, from the proud careers of filmmakers like Ralph Bashki and Bill Plympton to the dark corners of films like Watership Down and The Plague Dogs (both of which are just a little too emotionally devastating for my taste). This is by no means a catch-all list, but a collection of a few of my favorite examples of how animated films can play outside the rules to create new worlds and concepts, sometimes far beyond the pale, that stretch our concepts of storytelling and world-building to their most fantastical, free-spirited ends.