The 10 Best Animated Flying Sequences

best animated flying sequences

(Welcome to Let’s Get Animated!, a column that spotlights the best of film animation. In this edition: the best animated flying sequences.)

The best kinds of animated films sweep you away — whether in their dazzling technical craft, their boundless imagination, or their awe-inspiring execution. And the best kinds of animated flying sequences achieve all three.

In honor of the release of How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the third and final film in a franchise that has given us some of the most breakthtaking flying sequences rendered to celluloid, I have compiled the best flying sequences from animated films. Because of my arbitrary decision to limit the definition of “flying” to characters achieving lift for a significant amount of time, it pains me to say that I won’t be including last year’s brilliant Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, but honorable mention goes to that leap of faith. Now that that’s all said and done, here are the 10 best animated flying sequences.

10. The Iron Giant – Superman

This is the briefest of flying scenes, but it makes this list because of how emotionally devastating it is. The Iron Giant is a staunchly antiwar film that is also a love letter to superhero movies of old and that rousing, aspirational quality they inspire. One of the most important qualities of classic superhero movies: flight. Directed by Brad BirdThe Iron Giant has deservedly cemented its place as an animation classic thanks to that stirring final flight that the titular giant takes to save the small town of Rockwell from nuclear annihilation. There’s no moment that can elicit more sobs in ’90s babies than the frame of the giant smiling to himself as he says to himself, “Superman.”

9. Paprika – Diving into the Dream

Satoshi Kon is a master of the smash cut, using the technique to full effect in his highly influential 2006 film, Paprika. It’s what makes the flying scene in Paprika feels so euphoric. The contrast from the subdued, dark Doctor Atsuko Chiba to her vibrant and cheery dream alter ego Paprika is brilliantly jarring. As Paprika dives into the dream of the chief of their dream therapy department, Doctor Torataro Shima, the bright blues of the sky and Paprika’s fiery red hair are practically blazing off the screen. Paprika‘s flying sequence perfectly captures that dream-like intensity, and that release of giving yourself over to your subconscious.

8. Peter Pan – You Can Fly

Disney magic is at its finest in the first flight in Peter Pan. Right down to the musical interlude, the hilarious mishaps by the Darling children as they first take flight, and the classic line, “Any happy little thought?” this is a scene for animation history. Try not to smile when you listen to the chorus of voices exclaim, “You can fly!” Peter Pan may be an annoying brat in this film, but the unbridled joy from the other children and Tinker Bell’s jealous antics more than make up for that.. And you might ask where Dumbo‘s flying scene is on this list since it checks a lot of the same marks as Peter Pan‘s, but I had to exclude it because the uncomfortable racial caricatures ended up putting a damper on the breathtaking flight scene.

7. Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Gahoole – Into the Storm

Yes, I know this movie is bad, and it’s a little strange that I’ve already featured it twice in my column. But Zack Snyder‘s 2010 film is one of the few CG-animated films that achieve the breathtaking quality of the traditional 2-D animated films before it. The success of the film rides on those soaring flight sequences, the most impressive of which has been used excessively in the marketing for the film — and for good reason. You’ve probably seen this scene even if you’ve never watched the film: An owl glides through a thunderstorm, water glancing off his wings as the lightning illuminates every speckle, every feather on his body. If not for the attention to detail and the artistry of this scene (one of the few times that Snyder’s love of slow-motion pays off!) this flight could have easily come off as a glorified video game cutscene. Instead, it’s a magnificent example of

6. Aladdin – A Whole New World

There’s that Disney magic again! Disney once again dedicates a whole song to the joys of flying, and it is indeed a whole new world for an entire generation of children in the 1992 film Aladdin. Suspend your disbelief for a bit at the magic carpet’s ability to take a crooning Aladdin and Jasmine from Egypt to China in 10 seconds flat, and embrace the whirlwind magic of this sequence, which sounds just as good as it looks. Alan Menken and Tim Rice’s smooth, sweeping love ballad is a perfect match for the spectacle that Aladdin and Jasmine encounter on their magic carpet ride. The film’s beautiful hand-drawn animation is accentuated by Aladdin‘s use of CG animation — the magic carpet was in fact one of the earliest uses of CGI for a character.

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