When you hear the word animation, you normally don’t think of queer films. And some would even go so far as to think of cartoons or “kids” movies. Thankfully, neither misconception is true! And to prove that, this month’s theme focuses on Five Queer Animation Films.
But as usual, before we dive deeper into these five selected animation films, what exactly IS an “animation” film?
Well, according to good ‘ol trusty IMDb, the animation genre consists of films where: “over 75% of the title’s running time have scenes that are wholly, or part-animated. Any form of animation is acceptable, e.g., hand-drawn, computer-generated, stop-motion, etc.“
So while the genre is so much more than most folks realize, it clearly does include cartoons and common animated kids’ movies such as the ones that Disney, Pixar, and other major studios are known for. But while both are gradually increasing their respective representation of queer characters, the major studios are often not the ones known for QUEER animation films.
Of the five queer animation films I’ve selected are a wide range of this unique genre. Two of these films belong to the subgenre of anime. Another is a feature-length film based on a web cartoon series that gathered a unique following. The last two are films that, while definitely queer, are so subtly characterized that many may miss the specific queer aspect. (And the one actually can be quite controversial! BUT I stand my ground and insist that it absolutely IS a queer animated film!)
So take a look through this list of five queer animation films. And don’t forget to let me know which one is your favorite – or perhaps which queer animation film I missed!
[Note: Not all of these films have full reviews yet – but they’re added to the quickly growing list of films I plan to tackle soon!]
5 Queer Animation Films
During a Christmas Eve in Tokyo, three homeless people, middle-aged alcoholic Gin (Tôru Emori), former drag queen Hana (Yoshiaki Umegaki), and dependent runaway girl Miyuki (Aya Okamoto), discover an abandoned newborn while looking through the garbage. With only a handful of clues to the baby’s identity, the three misfits search the city to find its parents.
“Tokyo Godfathers” is a film that has been on my watch list for a while, primarily because it’s a also queer Christmas film. While it’s not the Christmas holidays yet and it took me longer than I’d like to confess to finally watch, I actually quite enjoyed Satoshi Kon‘s queer animated film! Yet it’s a rather divisive film. The film’s plot is full of multiple seemingly random circumstances that all interconnect in a beautiful way. It will either captivate and intrigue you – or you’ll laugh at the absurdity of it all. However, it’s this ability to keep the story going paired with manga-style animation that makes this queer animated film stand out. Add in the dash of a Christmas miracle, and this animated film will make you smile. “Tokyo Godfathers” is a great queer film to add to your watchlist for this upcoming holiday season!
Queer Duck (Jim J. Bullock) and his partner of 18 months (a lifetime in gay years), Stephen Arlo “Openly” Gator (Kevin Michael Richardson), hit a relationship crisis when the fey fowl is wooed by a brassy Broadway broad. Queer Duck wonders if he’d be happier being straight, while Gator the waiter spills his problems to a compassionate Conan O’Brien.
Reuniting all of the well-known characters from the original animated series, “Queer Duck: The Movie” is a full-length queer animated film that celebrates homosexuality in the campiest and comical ways! Utilizing the same adult cartoon humor as other animated shows, both the original series and this feature film tackle things such as sexual identity, stereotypes, and more. While some of the jokes and subplots are now a bit dated, having premiered in the early 2000’s, there is much about this queer film that still holds true today. And with some A-list celebrities joining the regular cast, “Queer Duck: The Movie” is quite enjoyable! Even if you weren’t a fan of the original series, this queer animated film is a quick watch that will make you laugh.
Sam the snowman (Burl Ives) tells us the story of a young red-nosed reindeer who, after being ousted from the reindeer games because of his beaming honker, teams up with Hermey (Paul Soles), an elf who wants to be a dentist, and Yukon Cornelius (Larry D. Mann), the prospector. They run into the Abominable Snowman and find a whole island of misfit toys. Rudolph (Billie Mae Richards) vows to see if he can get Santa (Stan Francis) to help the toys, and he goes back to the North Pole on Christmas Eve. But Santa’s sleigh is fogged in. But when Santa looks over Rudolph, he gets a very bright idea…
I’m sure some of you might be wondering – how the heck is “Rudolph” a Queer story? After all, this beloved Christmas classic was released on television back in 1961, in a time when the word “gay” still meant cheery or happy, not homosexual. But that’s why you’re here – to find out why I have decided that “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” is, without any doubt, a queer film. Both Rudolph and Hermey are made fun of for being different, something that every gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered person can relate to. But as Santa discovers, what makes them both unique also makes them special to save Christmas. With a message of acceptance accompanied by a cheery, classic soundtrack, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” is the perfect Queer Christmas film (and the longest-running Christmas Special in history!) If you haven’t watched it already this holiday season – and even if you have – rewatch this classic TV special and find out how queer it really is!
In the town of Blithe Hollow, Norman Babcock (Kodi Smit-McPhee) can speak to the dead, but no one other than his eccentric new friend Neil (Tucker Albrizzi) believes his ability is real. One day, Norman’s eccentric uncle tells him of a ritual he must perform to protect the town from a curse cast by a witch centuries ago. Eventually, Norman decides to cooperate, but things don’t go according to plan. Now, a magic storm of the witch threatens Blithe Hollow as the accursed dead rise. Together with unexpected new companions, Norman struggles to save his town, only to discover the horrific truth of the curse. With that insight, Norman must resolve the crisis for good as only he can.
Overall, “ParaNorman” is quite an enjoyable animated film! However, while it was included in IMDb and few other’s lists for being queer, at first glance I couldn’t determine what actually makes it a queer film, let alone a queer family film. The key point is a single line at the end of the film, when the muscular hunk Mitch makes a quick remark about “My boyfriend…” – A HA! Even though we see absolutely nothing about this supposed boyfriend, and there is nothing about Mitch that would give off even the over-done stereotypical “gay” vibes, “ParaNorman” can be classified as a queer film. And since it’s also an animated film geared towards the family, then it certainly is a queer family film! It’s rather cute to watch, but if you’re wanting a true queer storyline, this isn’t the film for that.
On an island off the coast of Okinawa, two young men meet on a beach: Shun Hashimoto (Josh Grelle), a gay novelist and Mio Chibana (Yoshitsugu Matsuoka), a somber high school student. Day by day, the two of them grow closer, but then, suddenly, Mio decides to leave the island. They reunite three years later, and Mio says he is ready to be with Shun, but will Shun make the commitment?
I must confess, my knowledge of anime, manga, and the like is direly lacking. Which is probably why my reaction to “The Stranger By The Lake” is mixed. While the imagery of this queer animated film is stunning, the plot is confusing, rather unrealistic, and quite simply – it’s hard to follow. Often referred to as “boys love” films, many of the elements I found problematic are actually characteristic of the Shōnen-ai sub-genre of anime! Unfortunately, the poor characterization and a rather basic plot kept me from enjoying this animated film. But again, I’m certainly no expert – many others have found “The Stranger By The Lake” to be a good representation of the genre! So I leave it to you to make your own decision. Find the time to watch this queer animated film and let me know what you think.
Watch “The Stranger By The Lake” on Prime Video.