The date is November 2019. The city is Los Angeles. Earth has undergone massive population explosions in the urban areas, the city landscape is a mish-mash of every culture, and almost everywhere you go there are advertisements. The most prominent of these advertisements is floating space-barge advertising the Off-World colonies, offering excitement and adventure. It appears there’s much excitement to be true, when six replicants (android-like creations that resemble humans in nearly every possible way, with the exception of enhanced agility and strength, constructed to work as slaves in off-world colonies) commit mutiny and escape to Earth, where they have been outlawed under penalty of death, to find a way to increase their four year lifespan, causing a Blade Runner named Deckard (Harrison Ford), a special LAPD task force whose job is to kill any and all replicants, to come out of retirement. This visionary sci-fi masterwork is directed by Ridley Scott.
Disney’s first big foray into the realm of computer animation would prove to be a box office disappoiuntmen in 1982, but garner a legion of fans over the years for its revolutionary design work and the influence it still continue to have in science fiction today. Jeff Bridges stars as Kevin Flynn, video game programmer, who is ripped off of several ideas by an unscrupulous power hungry man named Ed Dillinger. Dillinger soon starts a meteoric rise to the top of a powerful global corporation, Encom, while the computer that runs it has become so powerful that it is a life-force unto itself, thinking and talking (not to mention plotting world domination). Flynn tries to hack into the computer to get evidence of Dillinger’s theft, when the Master Control Program sucks Flynn into its own cyber-world, dubbed “the grid”, where programs in the voice and form of the programmers that created them are mere toys by which Master Control Program uses for its own enjoyment. Bruce Boxleitner, Cindy Morgan and David Warner also star in this film by Steven Lisberger.
Rankin and Bass, the team that brought us Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer as well as the ThunderCats, brought this charming animated feature featuring Japanese animation from the team who would go on to form Studio Ghibli, and voiced by stars like Mia Farrow, Jeff Bridges, Alan Arkin, and Christopher Lee. Peter S. Beagle adapts his own children’s book, tapping into the metaphorical journey from the safety and security of youth to the strange and perilous odyssey of growing up, with the last unicorn as our guide. Featuring folk-rock tracks sung by America and written and composed by Jimmy Webb, the nostalgia is strong with this one.
Jim Henson conceived of this elaborate realm of fantasy in which two competing races vie for the destiny of a faraway planet, as the evil Skeksis try to thwart the Gelflings of prophecy from uniting the planet yet again and bringing equilibrium to life there for those enslaved. This imaginative film had been a disappointment on early release but has gained a rabid following among fantasy fans. Frank Oz co-directs this film done entirely with puppets, and is a rare film that doesn’t a human character in sight.
Don Bluth’s first big screen effort under his own name after splitting from Disney, along with several other Disney animators and artists, in order to try to return to the kind of groundbreaking style and commitments to storytelling that their former company had been skimping out on during the 1960s and 1970s. THE SECRET OF NIMH adapts Robert C. O’Brien’s 1972 book, “Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH”, and makes an interesting animated allegory for the experience these artists went through on their quest for independence and destiny.