Art, Architecture and Design play an important role in making a movie but what about animated movies? Well here everything depends on how far the director is willing to experiment. Does he keep the animated similar to the real world or does he show us something out of the box?

The following is a list of animated films in which architecture plays a significant role in the story or acts as a backdrop to the stories of the people who built it, the architects.

1. Big Hero 6 

Apart from Hiro’s adventure with Baymax, the set pieces and locations are especially breath-taking. The design of San Fransokyo is a blend of San Francisco and Tokyo. The urban setting and geography of San Francisco is combined with the neon-radiating beauty and cultural nuances of Tokyo. The Golden Gate bridge designed in the shape of torii (the Japanese arch), the koinobori-shaped wind turbines, and many such elements are overlapped seamlessly upon the iconic skyline of San Francisco.

A view of San Fransokyo – Big Hero 6
A view of San Fransokyo – Big Hero 6
A view of San Fransokyo – Big Hero 6

2. Kung Fu Panda Franchise 

Bringing the fairytale into life for the titular character. The movie not only grap the famous Kung Fu culture of china but also captivates the viewers with their beautiful depiction of Chinese architecture. The design team involved in this film had visited China to study the ancient architecture and capture all of the specifics for the films. They often used repeating patterns and motifs to highlight and demonstrate the architectural designs’ uniqueness.

Kung Fu Panda Franchise - Sheet1
Valley of Peace, Kung Fu Panda, Dreamworks Limited
Kung Fu Panda Franchise - Sheet2
Valley of Peace, Kung Fu Panda, Dreamworks Limited

Kung Fu Panda Franchise - Sheet3

3. Gintama

Leaving aside the bizarre adventures of the Yorozuya (lit. Odd Jobs) trio and the trashy comedy, this animation is a great example of how sudden shift in powers can influence environments. Set in late Edo-period, the aliens’ conquest of Japan forced change unnatural technological advancements, leading to a strange mix of space-age designs, vernacular elements upon concrete buildings, and realistic organic urbanisation. Feudal palaces stands in its remnant glory as spaceships glide by; by far the weirdest but realistic juxtaposition within a fictional world.

Gintama - Sheet2
Bandai Namco
Gintama - Sheet3
Bandai Namco

Gintama - Sheet14. How To Train Your Dragon Franchise 

A fantasy story about Hiccup and his dragon Toothless amid a dragons-versus-people situation has the most accurate representations of a Viking settlement. The details, however, does not stop merely at architecture. The weaponry, battle strategies, geography, and their daily activities form an interesting introduction (albeit fantastical) for the uninitiated in Viking rural and fortification architecture.

How To Train Your Dragon Franchise - Sheet1
Dreamworks Limited
How To Train Your Dragon Franchise - Sheet2
Dreamworks Limited
How To Train Your Dragon Franchise - Sheet3
Dreamworks Limited

5. Wall-E 

This Disney Pixar production gives us a grim warning about the Earth’s wastage in a cursory manner while keeping the story of our titular robot protagonist’s quest to search for EVE, the sleek robot from Axiom (the mothership). The Earth, now a wasteland, still shines bright with the Buy-N-Large (BNL) billboards and buildings in decay while braving the devastating sandstorm. Axiom’s futuristic environment with MagLev tracks riding a vehicle with in-built entertainment facilities, machines serving humans on the whims and fancies of humans riding on it, the stark differences in these two environments is jarring. The settings and design of the locations are beautiful and realistic, yet it generates unpleasantness about the course of the future for living standards and extreme consumerism.

Wall-E - Sheet2
Pixar Animation Studios
Wall-E - Sheet3
Pixar Animation Studios
Wall-E - Sheet1
Pixar Animation Studios

6. Cowboy Bebop 

This genre-bending cult classic is a testament to world building. Due to the destruction of teleporter in 2071 and continuous rock showers, the Earth was now dangerous for living. The inhabitants now shifted to terraformed planets or moons. This is the adventure of Spike Spiegel and three other members, as they traverse across the new inhabitations within their mothership, Bebop. 

What makes this show architecturally impressive is how close it is to the Earth’s usual settlements, yet futuristic. Each planet/moon has its distinctive character, a setting, and history visually depicted through the architectural style. This indirectly depicts the class divide and underworld crime settings pretty well.

Fun Fact – Within this show, Mars is considered the richest planet among all planets terraformed in this universe *Looking at Elon Musk*.

Cowboy Bebop - Sheet2
Sunrise Inc.

Cowboy Bebop - Sheet3

Cowboy Bebop - Sheet1
Sunrise Inc.

7. Coco

Apart from the story of Miguel’s desire to be a musician and his unexpected adventure to the Land of the Dead, the creators of the movie took deep inspiration from the Mexican households, their inhabitants, and especially the festival called ‘Dia de le Muertos’ (Spanish – Day of the Dead). The designs for Saint Cecilia were modelled after actual Mexican villages, whereas the ‘Land of the Dead’ mirrors a dystopian, organically growing society as it accommodates the new dead members into its land. The topic of death and celebrating their life is well expressed through the colourful, vibrant yet muted palette; making this animation movie a visual treat.

Coco - Sheet3
Pixar Animation Studios
Coco - Sheet1
Pixar Animation Studios
Coco - Sheet2
Pixar Animation Studios

8. One Piece

For a large story running since 1997, and still telecasted, it requires even a larger universe that supports the wide scale of this fantasy of Eiichiro Oda (the creator). The adventures of Luffy, a wannabe Pirate King, take us to various places with their own urban design, architecture and lifestyles. Every kingdom visited is unique unto itself; you can nearly point out the inspirations or detail, but still find impressive mixes of other popular cities in the world as well.

One Piece - Sheet2

One Piece - Sheet3
One Piece, Eiichiro Oda, Shueisha, Toei Animation
One Piece - Sheet1
One Piece, Eiichiro Oda, Shueisha, Toei Animation

Bonus Round!

Any movie by Makoto Shinkai – Makoto Shinkai took the world by storm with ‘Your Name’ and ‘Weathering with You.’ However, the use of architecture, interiors, surroundings, and climate to depict the mood of the characters remains constant throughout his filmography. ‘Every frame a painting’ is the motto of this breakthrough creator.

Do check any of his popular works. If not for the story, go for the rendering of each scene.

#renderinggoals #beauty #lighting #anime

Makoto Shinkai, Comix Wave
Makoto Shinkai, Comix Wave
Makoto Shinkai, Comix Wave
NRK Sudheendra Teja
Author

N. R. K. S. Teja is an architect, who loves minimalist works, survives on spicy food and an internet junkie, absorbing all kinds of information related to interior design and architecture. He believes if drawings speak more, words articulate better.

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