There are so many things that have had a big impact on me and, by extension, my work. Cartoons are among my earliest (and kindest) sources of inspiration. After watching The Last Unicorn again recently, it made me somewhat nostalgic, and I started thinking about other cartoons that inspired me as a child. In the spirit of that nostalgia, I decided to make a post discussing five of the animated films that had the biggest influence on me when I was younger. Most of them, I’d also love to see turned into live-action films, if done properly.


1. The Last Unicorn

The Last Unicorn, based on the novel of the same name by Peter S. Beagle, is the story of a unicorn who sets off to find the rest of her kind after she learns that she may be the last. I watched the film when I was very young before ever reading the book, and it’s one of the most touching animated movies I’ve seen. Like the rest of the shows on this list, the fantasy elements of the work helped stir my imagination. There was some talk of creating a live-action version of The Last Unicorn, but, unfortunately, it never came to fruition. For those interested in continuing the story, Peter S. Beagle did write a sequel story called “Two Hearts.”


2. Coraline

Coraline is the tale of a girl who finds a doorway to a seemingly perfect parallel world that conceals the disturbing designs of its maker. The most prominent morals I first took away from it are that nothing is as it seems and it’s best to trust no one. I enjoyed the book by Neil Gaiman even more, but the film is satisfyingly creepy. I think a live-action version of Coraline would be incredible, especially if Gaiman had a lot of influence on the making of it. With its sinister yet fantastical themes and imagery, Coraline fueled my love of dark fantasy and horror. I had to debate with myself about whether to give Coraline or The Nightmare Before Christmas this place, but, while I watched the latter first, I feel Coraline rang with me more.


3. Spirited Away

Spirited Away is one of my favorite Hayao Miyazaki films. It’s the first one I watched, and it remains the one that moves me the most. It follows the story of a young girl who finds herself separated from her parents and trapped in the realm of the spirits. In that world, she finds friendship in unlikely places and delves into hidden reserves of courage, strength, and wit. She transforms from a frightened little girl into a confident young lady. The fantasy elements were, of course, especially inspirational, but the themes of learning to fend for oneself and overcoming fear were also influential.


4. Ferngully

Ferngully is, basically, an animated film about a fairy struggling to save the rainforest with the help of a human. On a deeper level, it’s also a story about overcoming prejudices, caring about the environment, finding inner strength and acceptance, and working together to help make the world a better place. Ferngully is a very imaginative work, with beautiful, captivating imagery that makes it hard to tear one’s eyes off the screen. It was one of the earliest escapes that made me fall in love with fantasy.


5. Treasure Planet

Loosely based on the Robert Louis Stevenson novel Treasure Island, Treasure Planet is a coming-of-age story about a troubled teen who embarks on an adventure aboard a spaceship in search of a fabled planet filled with pirate loot. Among the themes of finding oneself and discovering how love has more value than wealth, the camaraderie between many of the shipmates and the character development were very intriguing. Treasure Planet is also the first show that sparked in me a love of science fiction.



Courage the Cowardly Dog

Courage the Cowardly Dog was a delightfully demented cartoon series that aired from 1999-2002. Blending horror and comedy, this show centered on a farm dog named Courage who always saved his masters from unexpected terrors. Courage was one of my favorite cartoons to watch as a child, and it helped turn me on to the horror genre. I admired how the titular character managed to overcome his fears to save his loved ones. Often, he had to rely on his brains, not his brawn, to do so. That approach to defeating evil was intriguing and still influences my novels today.


What are some cartoons that inspired you as a child?