Thought-Provoking Animated Films about Animals

There are many films about animals even animated films. This list consists of themes about animals like the loss of habitat, animal cruelty and animal testing. With animation, the animals communicate their perspectives. The animation styles in this list are traditional animation style, 3D animation, claymation and stop motion.

Rio (2011)

This is a 3D animated feature of a little blue bird named Blu born in Rio de Janeiro but raised in Moose Lake, Minnesota by Linda the book shop keeper after smugglers accidentally dropped a crate carrying him out of the truck 25 year prior. An ornithologist visits Linda to help repopulate the dying species since she owns the last male Spix’s macaw. When Linda and Blu go down to Rio to proceed with the excursion, Blu and the other bird in the study get kidnapped by smugglers for the black market. It’s a very vibrantly colourful movie with some expected singing and dancing from a Pixar film. It’s not so much thought-provoking but it can be used as a conversation starter. A kid’s movie on this list but not the last.

Jewel (a female Spix macaw) just flicked away a bug on Blu's back (a male Spix macaw) in a dark jungle.
Screenshot of 20th Century Fox’s Rio (2011). Jewel just flicked away a bug on Blu’s back.

Felidae (1994)

This animated film is a horror mystery with themes of eugenics. A young housecat, Francis, partners up with an old wise cat from the block, Bluebeard, to try to solve a series of cat murders in his new neighbourhood. The story has the two cats discover old experiments of a geneticist and empty cages of cats in his basement. The film has anthropomorphic cats as the cast leading the mystery of the film. The film is an animated film noir that is written similarly to the crime dramas of the 90s. The film is based on Akif Pirinçci novel of the same name and was made by the novelist. This animated film is for adults because of the mature themes.

Screenshot of Royal Filmproduktions GmbH’s Felidae (1994). Francis talking to Felicity.

Plague Dogs (1982)

Plague Dogs is a 1982 animated drama British-American film based on the 1977 novel of the same name by Richard Adams and directed by Martin Rosen. This was the second time they paired up together for a film; their previous movie together was Watership Down. This film is about Rowf, a Labrador-Mix, and Snitter, a Smooth Fox Terrier, escaping a cruel animal testing lab for a better life. But the lab thinks they might have a contagious disease and must be put down. The dogs meet up with a fox who tries to give them street smarts for city life but the dogs emotionally suffer. The film is bleak with an ambiguous ending. There are some depressingly sad scenes of animal experimentation and animal cruelty throughout the film. It shows the dogs being treated in a discarded way and hunted like they are the enemy when they are the victims. This is too dark for kids and sensitive people to watch because it’s so depressing, grim and scary.

Screenshot of MGM/UA’s Plague Dogs (1982). The two dogs are running away from a helicopter.

The Secret of NIMH (1982)

A mouse, Mrs. Brisby, that can talk to other animals must move her home more into the field before the farmer starts plowing the field. But her youngest son falls ill and seeks help from the rats who have heightened intelligence and lengthened lifespan after being the subjects of experimentation by a nearby lab. The story about what happened to Mr. Brisby and animal experimentation are the main themes of the story. The film is a classic that isn’t spoken much about. Even though it is a drama it has some well-crafted animated scenes. The film is based on the Newbery Award-winning book “Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH” by Robert C. O’Brien. This is a kid’s movie but it can be scary for the easily scare-able.

Screenshot of Don Bluth’s The Secret of NIMH (1982). Mrs. Brisby talking to Nicodemus, the old prophet rat.

Princess Mononoke (1997)

In the 14th century Muromachi Japan, a village is attacked by a demon who was the boar god corrupted with demon leeches on his right arm known as the Tatarigami’s curse. A young opportunist opposing as a monk goes on a quest to find a cure to the curse. He finds himself in between a battle of the forest gods and guardians, and the Tatara mining colony clearcutting the forest. The English dub was known for having an all-star Hollywood cast but both the Japanese version and the English version are a good watch. A kid’s movie with some fighting.

Moro (a giant white wolf God) and San (a young woman with face paint and a beige fur cape)looking on in a forest.
Screenshot of Toho’s Princess Mononoke (1997). Moro and San looking on in a forest.

One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)

Before the prequel about Cruella De Vil is released, this is the 1960’s Disney animated film about a London couple having 101 Dalmation puppies stolen by a rich fashion snob designer. The puppies were stolen to make a coat out of the puppies because of the scarcity of having puppy fur and the “fashion statement”. It was animated with Disney’s experimenting with Xeroxing cells for the movements which are why the film has a messy sketched quality. it also kept the cost low. It’s another kids’ movie but some things outside of the animation style might be outdated.

Screenshot of Disney’s One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961). All of the dogs are watching TV.

Animal Farm (1954)

The animal cruelty is a metaphor for the McCarthyism witchhunt that was happening at the time. The animals are killed by the farmers and by the other animals for political benevolence. This is a propaganda film that was made by the British-American film studios The Associated British-Pathé, Louis de Rochemont Associates, and Distributors Corporation of America (United States). It was also produced by a CIA division, The Office of Policy Coordination (OPC), to help combat communism. Based on the George Orwell novel of the same name, animals on a drunk farmer’s farm are led by his prize hog Old Major. They gather around the barn to discuss the abuse they endure from the farmer and plot a rebellion. Some animals like Snowball the pig, Napoleon the pig, Boxer the donkey, and Benjamin the donkey are Old Major’s right-hand “men” who agree with him with his politics. When Old Major dies, Napoleon raises political favour within the farm by secretly raising a group of puppies to do his bidding. Over time the farm deteriorates under Napoleon’s rule. This film was all voiced by one actor – Maurice Denham. Kids could watch this film because it is used as an educational tool about communism. Therefore, it depends on you.

Screenshot of Animal Farm (1954). Napoleon being guarded by his dogs in the old master’s house.

Chicken Run (2000)

Before the sequel comes out in 2023, this film is about a rooster and a chicken escaping a farm when they discover that their owner is plotting to kill them. This is a stop motion film that produced films like Wallace and Grommet series. It has a similar animation style. It is voice-cast stars Mel Gibson, Julia Sawalha, and Miranda Richardson. The theme of the film where it is connected to animal cruelty is the idea if the animals we eat daily become aware of the global murder plot against them. It’s okay, it’s a kids movie.

Screenshot of Aardman Production’s Chicken Run (2000). The chickens are conspiring to leave the coop.

Pom Poko (1994)

An animation film by Studio Ghibli of a group of raccoons battling for the right of their forest land from the humans. They shapeshift into people, objects to camouflage themselves in city civilization. They also can blow up their own “sacks” has a utility device for parachuting and sofa sitting. The film is like a fake documentary with a narrator that satires human behaviour and conflicts in the animal kingdom. They battle an unseen enemy of deforestation for housing by haunting the construction with creatures from Japanese mythology. This is most suited for a YA audience and up.

Screenshot of Studio Ghibli’s Pom Poko (1994). The shape-shifting raccoon dogs are battle training.

Save Ralph (2021)

This is a four-minute stop motion animation about a test rabbit doing a “documentary” about his life. He talks about his bruises, pains and emotional losses in his little home. The stop motion animation style looks similar to The Fantastic Mr. Fox. It was made to bring awareness to the beauty industry testing their products on animals like Ralph the rabbit. It was cast by a few all-star actors while Ralph is by Taika Waititi with the interviewer being played by Ricky Gervais for the English version. George Lopez did the Spanish version of the short. It’s grim, disturbing, and moving for the audience to feel sympathy to stop the testing on rabbits for cosmetic products. It’s viewable for most audiences.

Short film Save Ralph (2021)
Banner credit: Under The Moonlight
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