Every week on My Favorite Slice, a Movie Trivia Schmoedown competitor shares their favorite category on the wheel! This week’s guest is Emma Fyffe, Singles competitor, Innergeekdom competitor, manager of The Fyffe Club, newly crowned Schmoedown Commissioner and the new Schmoedown Patreon manager!
Patrons, friends, fans, lend me your eyes (because, you can’t really lend your ears to an article, unless I release this in podcast form at a later date). It is I, your new master of all things Patreon, Emma Fyffe, here to tell you about my favorite slice that anyone who’s ever seen me on basically anything I do outside Schmoedown probably already guessed: Animated.
For anyone not familiar with my background, I came into the professional adjacent broadcasting world via my Sailor Moon podcast, “Love and Justice: A Serious Sailor Moon Podcast” (“serious” meant ironically) which I produced with a couple of my best friends in L.A., one of whom happens to be my roommate and co-cat parent.
What came before that was lifetime love of animation which began in the latter half of the 1980s. My parents, who are to this day very much into movies, bought me copies of all the Disney animated classics available on VHS: Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Peter Pan, and, my personal favorite Robin Hood (ya know, the one where he’s a fox – literally) to name a few. I watched these films CONSTANTLY, and would frequently dress up in an old square dancing petticoat, which was a dress on my then three year old body, affectionately referred to as a “foof” and act them out in real life.
When The Little Mermaid was released in November of 1989, my brother Colin was only two months old, and my mother was not about to take an infant to a movie theater. So one day after he was done with work, my dad came and picked me up from nursery school and we made it to the local “Ciné” off Eagle Road in Danbury CT, which had all of I think four theaters in it and is now a Wells Fargo, just in time to watch Grimsby vomit off the side of Prince Eric’s ship during the opening number. I was enraptured: I had watched plenty of animated features at home before, but this was the first time I had ever seen one in the theatre–full disclose this may be the first time I had ever seen ANY film in the theatre–and the early signs of my addictive personality began to emerge.
I had never had to wait for a movie to be released on video before and to this day, patience is not exactly a quality I possess in spades. Oh yes, I got to go see the movie again, with my mom this time, and I got the coloring books, the Barbie dolls, the McDonalds toys etc. But what I wanted was to be able to watch The Little Mermaid in the comfort of my own home, whenever I wanted. Fortunately, my dad discovered a different Little Mermaid VHS at Saturday Matinée the premiere video store at the Danbury Fair Mall. It was clearly not Disney’s Little Mermaid because, well, the mermaid on the cover of the VHS had blonde hair and Ariel was iconically red headed. But it was called The Little Mermaid and I had fulll on mermaid mania, so we popped the in the VHS player hooked up to the TV in my bedroom and I gave it go.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that this would be the beginning of my love affair with Japanese Animation. You see, the Little Mermaid my dad brought home was the 1975 film Han’s Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid produced by Toei Animation, the same studio that would go on to produce Sailor Moon, which I would fall in love with six years later when it aired in syndication in North America. It was a much more faithful adaptation of Andersen’s original story, keeping the original, beautifully tragic ending, but also incorporating things like talking fish friends, and the heroine’s fascination with retrieving human objects, which Disney not so subtly borrowed for their film. And yes, at just shy of four, the emotional gravitas of Marina’s choice at the end of the film didn’t resonate and I couldn’t understand why she didn’t just do as her sisters told her and go back to living in the ocean with them. I was also filled with a sensation of “I maybe shouldn’t be watching this” every time I saw one of Marina’s more mature sister’s fully exposed, albeit nippleless, breasts. A feeling I would relive many times over as I began my journey deep down the anime rabbit hole a decade later.
I somehow missed seeing Princess Mononoke, the first of Hayao Miyazaki’s films to receive a North American theatrical release beyond film festivals, and I really had no excuse since it almost certainly played at my hometown of Bethel’s little art house cinema – I certainly saw both Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle there in later years. No excuse that is, beyond the fact that this was largely before the heyday of the internet, so I honestly don’t know how we ever knew what was playing or when and it was 1999, so I had no income or driver’s license and, though my parents are very cool, they’re not exactly super into anime (neither is Hayao Miyazaki, but at this point, we didn’t know any different).
I remember scanning the dish network movie rental channels for it every day until it finally appeared and my dad let me rent it. I must have watched it three times during that rental period, once with my brother, once on my own and once with my dad to try and convince him to love the movie as much as I did. Once again I was filled with the thrilling sensation of “maybe I shouldn’t be watching this” as Ashitaka, armed fueled with the curse of an ancient, dead god turned demon, literally shot the heads off of his assailants with a bow and arrow.
I think my own love of animation is very much in line with Princess Mononoke director Hayao Miyazaki’s own: that, long before the technological advancements of computer generated imagery (which is technically animation, by the way) it allowed creators to tell stories limited only by their imagination. I look at something like My Neighbor Totoro or Don Bluth’s The Secret of NIMH or even Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, which features a whole sequence of the villainous Maleficent turning into a dragon and it still looks as good as it did the day it opened in theatres. Sure, the animation style might be dated and seem simple in comparison to the films of today, but it will never look as retrospectively miserable as, say, Ang Lee’s Hulk, or the too small, weird CGI Jabba in the special edition of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.
Animation has always had the advantage of creating everything from the ground up, uninhibited by the need to make what ends up on the screen work in the real world. When done right, the world of an animated film plays as much of a role as any of the characters in telling the story. And those are the worlds I always have and always will want to get lost in.
Plus one of these days I am going to gain the Studio Ghibli trademark ability to emote with my hair.
Emma Fyffe’s 10 Favorite Animated Films, in no particular order (this was very hard to do):
1. Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
2. Summer Wars (2009)
3. The Little Mermaid (1989)
4. Beauty and the Beast (1991)
5. Princess Mononoke (1997)
6. Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse (2018)
7. Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)
8. Your Name (2016)
9. Whisper of the Heart (1995)
10. Grave of the Fireflies (1988)