Cartoons in North America have always been regarded as made for children. This is in contrast to foreign markets, where perhaps because they don’t have the budget to tell their stories, they rely on cartoons as an easy way to put their visions into the theatres. This has lead to a number of mature films shown to youth markets because they were cartoons and were assumed by American buyers to be for children. Eventually, I imagine after many parent complaints, the American market executives decided to actually watch the films they were buying and the glory age of not for kids, kids movies was over.

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Fantastic Planet (1973)

This surrealist science fiction film takes place on a distance planet where humans are kept as domesticated pets by an alien race of blue humanoid giants called Traags. On the Traags’ planet Ygam, the movie follows the narrator, an Om called Terr, from infancy to adulthood, when he escapes his ignorance with a Traag learning device with which to educate the savage Oms and incite them to revolt. I have to wonder how many mothers walked into the “lounge” only find their little snowflake watching this movie that has serious S&M undertones not to mention suggestive adult content.

The Dark Crystal (1982)

OK not really a cartoon but instead puppets but puppets are stuck in the same typecast children story universe. Jim Henson’s fantasy epic The Dark Crystal is basically a knock off of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Henson tells the story of a race of grotesque birdlike lizards called the Skeksis, vulture like dragons who rule their fantastic planet with an iron claw. A prophecy tells speaks of elf like creatures destroying their Empire so they slaughter the entire race but of course one gets away and with a crystal shard tries to destroy the Skeksis’ source of power.

I remember being so freaked out by the Skeksis’ but totally engrossed with the film. This was one of many of Henson attempts to break into mature movies. He envisioned so much for his puppets and struggled to expand his puppets outside the Sesame Street role they had.

Watership down (1978)

I remember being so fascinated with this film about a rabbit who has visions and sees the coming apocalypse and manages to convince other rabbits to leave the warren on his urging. The story follows the group as they struggle to find a new home outside of their normal comfort zone. As a kid I wasn’t shocked but watching it again now I realize how dark it really is. Of course Hollywood got its revenge by creating a TV series with the same name that was totally Disney safe and boooring.

The Plague Dogs (1982)

I had actually never seen this movie until recently but I had a girlfriend who always talked about a movie she called the, “scary dog movie” that haunted her dreams. After watching this I know which one she is talking about. The movie follows two dogs who escape an animal testing laboratory and then are chased around the countryside by the army who thinks they have the plague because of some complicated plot by politicians to gain more power.

I’m making it sound more complicated that it is … basically its a story about what you do to survive. Watching this movie now was a real treat. The animation is incredible, and the conversation between the dogs themselves and other animals are exactly how you’d expect a dog to speak. But its dark, oh so dark and surprisingly violent too. Lots of gory deaths and the ending … oh the ending.

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

OK this movie doesn’t really count as it was a relative recent release with live action sequences mixed with CGI but still if you watched the trailer you’d think it was a kids movie. It is rated R but that didn’t stop some clueless parents bringing their kids to the cute fairy movie and then quickly leaving when the Spanish fascist officer smashes a mans nose into face in a horribly graphic scene reminiscent of the fag bar sequence in Irreversible .

Guillermo del Toro’s movie follows a young girl whose mother marries a Spanish officer fighting republican forces in the closing days of the Spanish Civil War. The military step father strict ways start the girl on a voyage that leads her to complete a number of tasks for some sort of wild beast that is looking for a princess.

Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

I’ve only included one Japanese anime film here because the genre was virtually unheard of until a few years ago. So true Japanese anime has everything from kids movies to tentacle porn but it wasn’t in the North American market till after executives had smartened up on kids content.

There was one film though that a few people saw when it was released. Grave of the Fireflies follows a boy and his younger sister as they try and survive in Japan while the American bombardment slowly destroys everything around them. The incredibly moving film is loaded with some scenes that show the horrors of war but its the political content that guaranteed the American public would never see it.