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This research became more complex when they began using materials such as aluminium foil to make the gunpowder easier to cast. After he received poor school results, Parsons' mother sent him away to study at a private boarding school in San Diego —the Brown Military Academy for Boys—but he was expelled for blowing up the toilets. The Parsons family spent mid on a tour of Europe before returning to Pasadena, where they moved into a house on San Rafael Avenue.

With the onset of the Great Depression their fortune began to dwindle, and in July Jack's grandfather Walter died. He flourished academically, becoming editor of the school's newspaper El Universitano and winning an award for literary excellence; teachers who had trained at the nearby California Institute of Technology Caltech honed his attentions on the study of chemistry.

Parsons soon constructed a solid-fuel rocket engine , and with Forman corresponded with pioneer rocket engineers including Robert H. Parsons and von Braun had hours of telephone conversations about rocketry in their respective countries as well as their own research. Parsons graduated from University School in , and moved with his mother and grandmother to a more modest house on St. John Avenue, where he continued to pursue his interests in literature and poetry. He saved money in the hope of continuing his academic studies and began a degree in chemistry at Stanford University , but found the tuition fees unaffordable and returned to Pasadena.

The trio focused their distinct skills on collaborative rocket development; Parsons was the chemist, Forman the machinist, and Malina the technical theoretician. Malina wrote in that the self-educated Parsons "lacked the discipline of a formal higher education, [but] had an uninhibited and fruitful imagination. Landis writes that their creativity "kept Malina focused toward building actual rocket engines, not just solving equations on paper". They often socialized, smoking marijuana and drinking, while Malina and Parsons set about writing a semiautobiographical science fiction screenplay they planned to pitch to Hollywood with strong anti-capitalist and pacifist themes.

Parsons met Helen Northrup at a local church dance and proposed marriage in July At one point he pawned Helen's engagement ring, and he often asked her family for loans. Malina recounted that "Parsons and Forman were not too pleased with an austere program that did not include at least the launching of model rockets", [32] but the Group reached the consensus of developing a working static rocket motor before embarking on more complex research. They contacted liquid-fuel rocket pioneer Robert H.

Goddard and he invited Malina to his facility in Roswell, New Mexico , but he was not interested in cooperating—reticent about sharing his research and having been subjected to widespread derision for his work in rocketry. Miller , William C.


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Rockefeller , and Rudolph Schott ; Schott was relied upon for the use of his pickup truck to transport equipment. Water cooled the rocket during the burn. Thrust pulled down a spring which measured force. The deflection of the spring measured the force applied to it. A small diamond tip on the apparatus scratched a glass plate to mark the furthest point of deflection. The rocket and mount were protected by sandbags, with the tanks and the experimenters well away from it. Three attempts to fire the rocket failed; on the fourth the oxygen line was accidentally ignited and perilously billowed fire at the Group, but they viewed this experience as formative.

Several months later Weld Arnold, a Caltech laboratory assistant who worked as the Group's official photographer, also joined. The main reason for Arnold's appointment to this position was his provision of a donation to the Group on behalf of an anonymous benefactor. When Kynette was convicted largely on Parsons' testimony, which included his forensic reconstruction of the car bomb and its explosion, his identity as an expert scientist in the public eye was established despite his lack of a university education.

By early the Group had made their static rocket motor, which originally burned for three seconds, run for over a minute. Although he never joined the society, he occasionally attended their talks, on one occasion conversing with a teenage Ray Bradbury. Celebrants of the church had included Hollywood actor John Carradine and gay rights activist Harry Hay.


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  • Feeling both "repulsion and attraction" for Smith, Parsons continued to sporadically attend the Church's events for a year. The initials of this motto spelled out T. N —with T. N represented in Kabbalistic numerology as —the name with which he frequently signed letters to occult associates—while Helen became known as Soror Grimaud. He has an excellent mind and much better intellect than myself JP is going to be very valuable". Crowleyesque in attainment as a matter of fact", and mooted Parsons as a potential successor to Crowley as Outer Head of the Order. Since their formation in , they had also performed experiments involving model, black powder motor -propelled multistage rockets.

    In a research paper submitted to the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics AIAA , Parsons reported these rockets reaching velocities of 4, miles per hour, thereby demonstrating the potential of solid fuels to be more effective than the liquid types primarily preferred by researchers such as Goddard.

    It was here that JPL would be founded. Former colleagues like Qian were prevented from returning to the project by the Federal Bureau of Investigation FBI , who ensured the secrecy of the operation and restricted the involvement of foreign nationals and political extremists. Englishman George Emerson replaced Arnold as the Group's official photographer. The Group's aim was to find a replacement for black-powder rocket motors—units consisting of charcoal, sulfur and potassium nitrate with a binding agent.

    The mixture was unstable and there were frequent explosions damaging military aircraft. Parsons theorized that this was because the ammonium nitrate became dangerously combustible following overnight storage, during which temperature and consistency changes had resulted in a chemical imbalance. Parsons and Malina accordingly devised a method in which they would fill the JATOs with the fuel in the early mornings shortly before the tests, enduring sleep deprivation to do so.

    Boushey, Jr. During a series of static experiments, an exploding JATO did significant damage to the rear fuselage of an Ercoupe; one observer optimistically noted that "at least it wasn't a big hole", but necessary repairs delayed their efforts. The military ordered a flight test using liquid rather than solid fuel in early Upon the United States' entry into the Second World War in December , the Group realized they could be drafted directly into military service if they failed to provide viable JATO technology for the military.

    Informed by their left-wing politics, aiding the war effort against Nazi Germany and the Axis powers was as much of a moral vocation to Parsons, Forman and Malina as it was a practical one. Parsons, Summerfield and the GALCIT workers focused on the task and found success with a combination of gasoline with red fuming nitric acid as its oxidizer ; the latter, suggested by Parsons, was an effective substitute for liquid oxygen.

    Andrew G. Although Aerojet was a for-profit operation that provided technology for military means, the founders' mentality was rooted in the ideal of using rockets for peaceful space exploration. Later on you will have to see that we all behave well in outer space. Despite these successes, Parsons, the project engineer of Aerojet's Solid Fuel Department, remained motivated to address the malfunctions observed during the Ercoupe tests. In June , assisted by Mills and Miller, he focused his attention on developing an effective method of restricted burning when using solid rocket fuel, as the military demanded JATOs that could provide over pounds of thrust without any risk of exploding.

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    Although solid fuels such as GALCIT were more storable than their liquid counterparts, they were disfavored for military JATO use as they provided less immediate thrust and did not have the versatility of being turned on and off mid-flight. When it failed the test, he realized that the fuel's binding black powders rather than the oxidizers had resulted in their instability, and in June that year had the idea of using liquid asphalt as an appropriate binding agent with potassium perchlorate as oxidizer. Malina recounted that Parsons was inspired to use asphalt by the ancient incendiary weapon Greek fire ; in a talk for the International Association of Astronomical Artists Captain Boushey stated that Parsons experienced an epiphany after watching workers using molten asphalt to fix tiles onto a roof.

    This set a precedent which according to his biographer John Carter "changed the future of rocket technology": the thermoplastic asphalt casting was durable in all climates, allowing for mass production and indefinite storage and transforming solid-fuel agents into a safe and viable form of rocket propulsion. Aerojet's first two contracts were from the U. Despite this drastically increased turnover, the company continued to operate informally and remained intertwined with the GALCIT project. Caltech astronomer Fritz Zwicky was brought in as head of the company's research department.

    Company heads including Parsons were exempted from this austerity, drawing the ire of many personnel. Parsons' newfound credentials and financial security gave him the opportunity to travel more widely throughout the U. Among Parsons' favorite works of fiction was Williamson's Darker Than You Think , a novelette published in the fantasy magazine Unknown in , which inspired his later occult workings.

    Boucher used Parsons as a partial basis for the character of Hugo Chantrelle in his murder mystery Rocket to the Morgue Helen went away for a period in June , during which Parsons, encouraged to do so by the sexually permissive attitude of the O. Upon Helen's return, Sara asserted that she was Parsons' new wife, and Parsons himself admitted that he found Sara more sexually attractive than Helen. He converted the garage and laundry room into a chemical laboratory and often held science fiction discussion meetings in the kitchen, and entertained the children with hunts for fairies in the acre garden.

    Although there were arguments among the commune members, Parsons remained dedicated to Thelema. He gave almost all of his salary to the O. They disapproved of his hesitancy to separate his vocations; Parsons became more rigorously engaged in Aerojet's day-to-day business in an effort to resolve this weariness, but the Agape Lodge soon came under investigation by both the Pasadena Police Department and the FBI.

    Both had received allegations of a " black magic cult" involved in sexual orgies; one complainant was a year-old boy who said that he was raped by lodge members, while neighbors reported a ritual involving a naked pregnant woman jumping through fire. After Parsons explained that the Lodge was simply "an organization dedicated to religious and philosophical speculation", neither agency found evidence of illegal activity and came to the conclusion that the Lodge constituted no threat to national security.

    When Parsons paid for her to have an abortion , McMurtry was angered and their friendship broke down. Crowley and Germer wanted to see Smith removed as head of the Agape Lodge, believing that he had become a bad influence on its members. Parsons and Helen wrote to them to defend their mentor but Germer ordered him to stand down; Parsons was appointed as temporary head of the Lodge.

    Parsons soon created the Thelemite journal Oriflamme , in which he published his own poetry, but Crowley was unimpressed—particularly due to Parsons' descriptions of drug use—and the project was soon shelved.

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    Smith remained skeptical as Crowley's analysis was seemingly deliberately devised in Parsons' favor, encouraging Smith to step down from his role in the Agape Lodge and instructing him to take a meditative retreat. Parsons—who remained sympathetic and friendly to Smith during the conflict and was weary of Crowley's "appalling egotism, bad taste, bad judgement, and pedanticism"—ceased lodge activities and resigned as its head, but withdrew his resignation after receiving a pacifying letter from Crowley.

    Though JATOs were being mass-produced for military applications, JATO-propelled aircraft could not "keep up" with larger, bomber planes taking off from long aircraft carrier runways—which made Aerojet's industry at risk of becoming defunct. The Navy guaranteed Parsons a contract on the condition that this residue was removed; this led to the invention of Aeroplex , a technology for smokeless vapor trails developed at Aerojet by Parsons. As the U. Aerojet's Caltech-linked employees—including Zwicky, Malina and Summerfield—would only agree to the sale on the condition that Parsons and Forman were removed from the company, viewing their occult activities as disreputable.

    JPL historian Erik M. Conway also attributes Parsons' expulsion to more practical concerns: he "still wanted to work in the same way as he'd done in his backyard, instinctive and without regard for safety". Parsonage resident Alva Rogers recalled in a article for an occultist fanzine : "In the ads placed in the local paper Jack specified that only bohemians, artists, musicians, atheists, anarchists, or any other exotic types need to apply for rooms—any mundane soul would be unceremoniously rejected". Science fiction writer and U.

    Navy officer L. Ron Hubbard soon moved into the Parsonage; he and Parsons became close friends. Parsons wrote to Crowley that although Hubbard had "no formal training in Magick he has an extraordinary amount of experience and understanding in the field. From some of his experiences I deduce he is direct touch with some higher intelligence, possibly his Guardian Angel. He is the most Thelemic person I have ever met and is in complete accord with our own principles.

    Parsons and Sara were in an open relationship encouraged by the O. From the start he always wanted to evoke something—no matter what, I am inclined to think, as long as he got a result. Pendle suggested that Parsons was particularly susceptible to these interpretations and attributed the voices to a prank by Hubbard and Sara. Describing this magical operation as the Babalon Working , he hoped to bring about the incarnation of Thelemite goddess Babalon onto Earth. He allowed Hubbard to take part as his "scribe", believing that he was particularly sensitive to detecting magical phenomena.

    Their final ritual took place in the Mojave Desert in late February , during which Parsons abruptly decided that his undertaking was complete. Believing her to be the " elemental " woman and manifestation of Babalon that he had invoked, in early March Parsons began performing sex magic rituals with Cameron, who acted as his " Scarlet Woman ", while Hubbard continued to participate as the amanuensis.

    Unlike the rest of the household, Cameron knew nothing at first of Parsons' magical intentions: "I didn't know anything about the O. Everybody was watching to see what was going on. Inspired by Crowley's novel Moonchild , Parsons and Hubbard aimed to magically fertilize a "magical child" through immaculate conception , which when born to a woman somewhere on Earth nine months following the working's completion would become the Thelemic messiah embodying Babalon.

    Hubbard suggested that with this money they travel to Miami to purchase three yachts, which they would then sail through the Panama Canal to the West Coast, where they could sell them on for a profit. Parsons agreed, but many of his friends thought it was a bad idea. Hubbard had secretly requested permission from the U. Navy to sail to China and South and Central America on a mission to "collect writing material"; his real plans were for a world cruise. When Crowley, in a telegram to Germer, dismissed Parsons as a "weak fool" and victim to Hubbard and Sara's obvious confidence trick, Parsons changed his mind, flew to Miami and placed a temporary injunction and restraining order on them.

    Upon tracking them down to a harbor in County Causeway , Parsons discovered that the couple had purchased three yachts as planned; they tried to flee aboard one but hit a squall and were forced to return to port. Parsons was convinced that he had brought them to shore through a lesser banishing ritual of the pentagram containing an astrological, geomantic invocation of Bartzabel —a vengeful spirit of Mars.

    Allied Enterprises was dissolved and in a court settlement Hubbard was required to promise to reimburse Parsons. Parsons was discouraged from taking further action by Sara, who threatened to report him for statutory rape since their sexual relationship took place when she was under California's age of consent of Hubbard, already married to Margaret Grubb , bigamously married Sara and went on to found Dianetics and Scientology. The Sunday Times published an article about Hubbard's involvement with the O.

    In response, the Church of Scientology released an unsubstantiated press statement which said that Hubbard had been sent as an undercover agent by the U. Navy to intercept and destroy Parsons' "black magic cult", and save Sara from its influence. The Church also stated that Robert A. Heinlein was the clandestine Navy operative who "sent in" Hubbard to undertake this operation. He wrote in his letter to Crowley that he did not believe that "as an autocratic organization, [the O.

    In May , Parsons gave a talk at the Pacific Rocket Society in which he predicted that rockets would take humans to the Moon. Many of Parsons' former colleagues lost their security clearances and jobs as a result, and eventually the FBI stripped Parsons of his clearance because of his "subversive" character, including his involvement in and advocacy of "sexual perversion" in the O.

    He speculated in a June letter to Germer that his clearance was revoked in response to his public dissemination of Crowley's Liber OZ , a tract summarizing the individualist moral principles of Thelema. When they interviewed Parsons he denied communist sympathies but informed them of Sidney Weinbaum's "extreme communist views" and Frank Malina 's involvement in Weinbaum's communist cell at Caltech, which resulted in Weinbaum's arrest for perjury since he had lied under oath by denying any involvement in communist groups.

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    Malina's security clearance was withdrawn as well. Unable to pursue his scientific career, without his wife and devoid of friendship, Parsons decided to return to occultism and embarked on sexually based magical operations with prostitutes. In this oath, Parsons professed to embody an entity named Belarion Armillus Al Dajjal , the Antichrist "who am come to fulfill the law of the Beast [Aleister Crowley]". In the latter work, Parsons writing as Belarion prophesied that within nine years Babalon would manifest on Earth and supersede the dominance of the Abrahamic religions.

    During this period, Parsons also wrote an essay on his individualist philosophy and politics—which he described as standing for " liberalism and liberal principles"—titled "Freedom is a Two-Edged Sword", in which he condemned the authoritarianism, censorship, corruption, antisexualism and racism he saw as prevalent in American society. Through Heinlein, Parsons received a visit from writer L.

    Sprague de Camp , with whom he discussed magic and science fiction, and disclosed that Hubbard had sent a letter offering him Sara back. De Camp later referred to Parsons as "An authentic mad genius if I ever met one", and based the character Courtney James on him in his time travel story A Gun for Dinosaur Parsons was also visited by Jane Wolfe, who unsuccessfully appealed for him to rejoin the dilapidated O. He entered a brief relationship with an Irishwoman named Gladis Gohan; they moved to a house on Redondo Beach , a building known by them as the "Concrete Castle".

    Parsons responded by initiating divorce proceedings against her on the grounds of "extreme cruelty". Parsons testified to a closed federal court that the moral philosophy of Thelema was both anti-fascist and anti-communist, emphasizing his belief in individualism. This along with references from his scientific colleagues resulted in his security clearance being reinstated by the Industrial Employment Review Board , which ruled that there was insufficient evidence that he had ever had communist sympathies.

    This allowed Parsons to obtain a contract in designing and constructing a chemical plant for the Hughes Aircraft Company in Culver City. Rosenfeld offered Parsons a job with the Israeli rocket program and hired him to produce technical reports for them. She accused Parsons of espionage and attempted theft of classified company documents on the basis of some of the reports that he had sought to submit to the Technion Society. Parsons was immediately fired from Hughes; the FBI investigated the complaint and were suspicious that Parsons was spying for the Israeli government.

    Parsons denied the allegations when interrogated; he insisted that his intentions were peaceful and that he had suffered an error of judgment in procuring the documents. Some of Parsons' scientific colleagues rallied to his defense, but the case against him worsened when the FBI investigated Rosenfeld for being linked to Soviet agents, and more accounts of his occult and sexually permissive activities at the Parsonage came to light. In October the U. The Review Board still considered Parsons a liability because of his historical Marxist affiliations and investigations by the FBI, and in January they permanently reinstated their ban on his working for classified projects, effectively prohibiting him from working in rocketry.

    Parsons reconciled with Cameron, and they resumed their relationship and moved into a former coach house on Orange Grove Avenue. Parsons converted its large, first-floor laundry room into a home laboratory to work on his chemical and pyrotechnic projects, homebrew absinthe and stockpile his materials. They also congregated at the home of Andrew Haley, who lived on the same street. Though Parsons in his mid-thirties was a "prewar relic" to the younger attendees, the raucous socials often lasted until dawn and frequently attracted police attention.

    He offered a course in its teachings for a ten dollar fee, which included a new Thelemic belief system called "the Gnosis", a version of Christian Gnosticism with Sophia as its godhead and the Christian God as its demiurge. He also collaborated with Cameron on Songs for the Witch Woman , a collection of poems which she illustrated that was published in Parsons and Cameron decided to travel to Mexico for a few months, both for a vacation and for Parsons to take up a job opportunity establishing an explosives factory for the Mexican government.

    They hoped that this would facilitate a move to Israel, where they could start a family, and where Parsons could bypass the U. He was particularly disturbed by the presence of the FBI, convinced that they were spying on him. On June 17, , a day before their planned departure, Parsons received a rush order of explosives for a film set and began to work on it in his home laboratory. His right forearm was amputated, his legs and left arm were broken and a hole was torn in the right side of his face.

    He tried to communicate with the arriving ambulance workers, who rushed him to the Huntington Memorial Hospital , where he was declared dead approximately thirty-seven minutes after the explosion. Cameron learned of her husband's death from reporters at the scene when she returned home from grocery shopping. Pasadena Police Department criminologist Don Harding led the official investigation; he concluded that Parsons had been mixing fulminate of mercury in a coffee can when he dropped it on the floor, causing the initial explosion, which worsened when it came into contact with other chemicals in the room.

    Two colleagues from the Bermite Powder Company described Parsons' work habits as "scrupulously neat" and "exceptionally cautious". The latter statement—from chemical engineer George Santymers—insisted that the explosion must have come from beneath the floorboards, implying an organized plot to kill Parsons. Harding accepted that these inconsistencies were "incongruous" but described the manner in which Parsons had stored his chemicals as "criminally negligent", and noted that Parsons had previously been investigated by the police for illegally storing chemicals at the Parsonage.

    He also found a morphine-filled syringe at the scene, suggesting that Parsons was narcotized. The police saw insufficient evidence to continue the investigation and closed the case as an accidental death. Both Wolfe and Smith suggested that Parsons' death had been suicide, stating that he had suffered from depression for some time. Others theorized that the explosion was an assassination planned by Howard Hughes in response to Parsons' suspected theft of Hughes Aircraft Company documents. The immediate aftermath of the explosion attracted the interest of the U. These initial reports focused on Parsons' prominence in rocketry but neglected to mention his occult interests.

    When asked for comment, Aerojet secretary-treasurer T. Beehan said that Parsons "liked to wander, but he was one of the top men in the field". A private prayer service was held for Parsons at the funeral home where his body was cremated. Cameron scattered his ashes in the Mojave Desert, before burning most of his possessions. Parsons was considered effeminate as a child; in adult life he exhibited an attitude of machismo. As well as a fencing and archery enthusiast, Parsons was also a keen shooter ; he often hunted jack rabbits and cotton tails in the desert, and was amused by mock dueling with Forman while on test sites with rifles and shotguns.

    Upon proposing to his first wife Helen, he gifted her a pistol. As well as intense bursts of creativity, Parsons suffered from what he described as "manic hysteria and depressing melancholy. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington D. Parsons' obituary listed him as a member of the Army Ordnance Association , the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the American Chemical Society , the American Association for the Advancement of Science , and—despite his lack of an academic degree—the Sigma Xi fraternity.

    It also stated that he had turned down several honorary degrees. Maybe he thought he had a shot. Either way, there's not a dry eye in the house.

    A fight between Grumpy and Doc was animated, but cut out from the movie. It can be found as an extra on DVD. Cranky, grumpy, irascible, cantankerous. Carl Fredericksen is all of these things and more, but the genius of Up's lead the first of two characters from their arguable masterpiece to make this list is that we know right from the off why he ended up that way.

    And it's not just because he's old. Watching Carl slowly shake off the shackles off loss and hurt over the course of odd gloriously rejuvenating moments is a rare joy, the sort of thing that Pixar seems to specialise in. Carl impeccably voiced by Asner remains one of the most well rounded and plain human characters in animation history. Even though it's not as cathartic as the moment when Carl stumbles upon Ellie's scrapbook and decides to move on with his life, and instead merely illustrates why Carl becomes the man he is when we meet him, we have to go for the Married Life montage near the film's beginning.

    The most moving, boldly brilliant four-and-a-half minutes of moviemaking we've seen in a long time, it retains the power to provoke tears even now. Possibly the most random character on this list, Steve is and there's no easy way of describing this a monkey. Nothing random about that, admittedly. And those thoughts mostly revolve around eating Gummi Bears, and doing what monkeys do, which is act like children hopped up on sugar and fizzy drinks.

    The master of the hilarious non sequitur, Steve's every appearance in this underrated gem is gold, and further proof that NPH can do no wrong. The look of unrestrained, demented triumph on Steve's face near the end as he rips the still-beating heart out of the chest of his nemesis, a giant Gummi Bear, and pops it into his mouth.

    Steve was the star of his own game on the Cloudy promo website, where he attempted to read your mind. Generally, it worked, as long as you were thinking of potatoes. Miyazaki has a wealth of great characters, from bizarre gods to eccentric spirits and terrifying witches. But it's his heroines who are usually the best, and Spirited Away boasts the best of the lot. Over the course of her adventures Chihiro matures from a spoiled little brat into a mature and courageous young woman, helping others who are worse off than herself and eventually earning her own freedom and that of her enchanted parents.

    She also gets bonus points for getting a job - most animated characters are a bunch of benefit-scrounging layabouts. It's probably the scene where Chihiro has to help clean a terrifying and rather repellent "stink spirit", which is revealed under her ministrations to be a polluted river spirit, poor thing. Pixar's John Lasseter is well known to be a Miyazaki fan, but it's mutual: the jumping light which shows Chihiro the way is intended as a reference to Pixar's mascot Luxo Jr. Yes, we've gone for Hiccup rather than his adorable dragon Toothless?

    Because he's a character we don't see enough of in animation: someone smart, competent and braver than he gives himself credit for. While the wise-cracking, geeky outsider is familiar in live-action teen movies, he's given a fresh breath of life here amid a town full of Vikings and plagued by dragons, and Hiccup's developing bond with Toothless is one of the most finely drawn friendships ever established in the genre.

    Also, his awkward relationship with his father is much better than the average orphan story, with bonus points for the joke about his mother's breastplate. It's at the end of the film, where Hiccup wakes up in his bed to discover that he's lost his foot in the battle with the enormous dragon. He stares wordlessly for a moment, but after a single sigh refuses to dwell and - with Toothless' help - gets out of bed to try out his prosthetic. Heartbreakingly good. The novel's version of the story is almost entirely different: Toothless is very small and brown, there's no giant dragon to fight in the last act and Hiccup remains whole.

    To be honest, however, it's not as good. One of the few non-star voice actors to appear in Wes Anderson's stop-motion adaptation of Roald Dahl's book, Eric Chase Anderson nevertheless got perhaps the most amusing character in a cast of eccentrics. He's a nephew of Mr Fox's, but his presence causes no end of grief for Fox's son Ash, who is thoroughly outshone by the polite, meditation-practicing, entirely self-sufficient cousin.

    While Ash gets the more obviously interesting character arc, Kristofferson's just so amusingly perfect that he keeps stealing the show - and of course he turns out not to be such an obnoxious little nerd after all. Three cheers! Beating up the mole who tries to pick on his cousin Ash, first taking off his shoes so that his Kristofferson's mad martial arts skills don't kill him.

    Kristofferson is, as you'd expected, named after legendary singer and Blade star Kris Kristofferson, since Wes Anderson and writer Noah Baumbach are both fans of his work. Maybe it's because Captain Hook started out on stage that he's so darn good at getting us all cheering and yelling at the screen - for the other guy. A villain more adept at sneering you'd look hard to find, and as cold-blooded killers go it's hard to top him.

    But he's also a man of culture and some pretentions to finesse, making his all the scarier when he decides to just go for the throat. And it's a testament to this film that, while the character's been played a thousand times, this one feels like the original. Maybe it's that dashing red coat - we do love a man in uniform. The gibbering panic that overtakes the otherwise snarling bad guy whenever the sound of ticking comes near. This was the last Disney film that all nine of the legendary animators the Nine Old Men worked on as directing animators. After this, they were spread across different concurrent projects at any given time.

    When it comes to Monsters, Inc. You could go for Boo, arguably the cutest kid in movie history. Or Sulley, John Goodman's lovable walking rug of a monster. Or even Roz, the first evidence that Bob Petersen could do more than work behind the microphone. But it's the refreshing, unforced jollity and decency of Billy Crystal's Mike Wazowski that just about wins out. Endearingly hapless, with a cavalier attitude towards paperwork, the manic wackiness of Wazowski provides the perfect counterbalance to Sulley's more lugubrious nature.

    And when he's funny, boy, is he funny. No wonder the dude goes into stand-up by the film's end. Oh, and we should also point out that Wazowski is effectively a walking eyeball just another excuse for the boys at Pixar to show that they can take any object or shape and invest it with emotion and life. The sweetness that's exposed when Wazowski or Googlie Bear, as he might also be known goes on a date with his beloved Celia.

    It all goes wrong, naturally, but it's nice to see another side to the big goof-eyeball. Culture clashes have always been dramatic meat for filmmakers, but this is a more imaginative take on it than most. And Jack Skellington is at the heart of it, good-hearted but profoundly ignorant of what he's messing with.

    His obsession is not something you usually see in kid's cartoons - he's not a man on a noble mission but a weirdo fixated on something against reason, and it's his friend Sally who, like the audience, knows it's a bad idea and wants him to stop - but it's his flaws that make him human, first getting swept away despite himself and then, eventually, doing the right thing. He also gets bonus points for owning animation's most adorable ghost dog, as Zero and his cute little Jack o' lantern nose couldn't belong with anyone truly evil. The song "What's this", as Jack - accustomed as he is to the dark, twisted Halloween Town, tries to get his head around the sweetness and light of Christmas Town.

    It's no wonder he gets things a bit mixed up. Tim Burton who, please remember, did not direct came up with the idea for this film after seeing a department store swap straight from Halloween decorations to Christmas ones.

    Choosing the right bag

    His original story only included the characters of Jack, Zero and Santa Claus; the rest were added for the screen. First Appearance: Shrek! Anyone remember the last time they really cared about Shrek or Fiona in a Shrek movie? Us either. It's all about the supporting cast, who upstage the ostensible leads every single time the camera turns their way. Donkey - hyperactive, desperately insecure, unfailingly loyal - is one of the best of them. Eddie Murphy plays nerdier and sillier than his usual characters and, in profound contrast to his efforts in Norbit, it pays off in spades.

    Sure, we have yet to forgive him for making us wonder how a donkey and a dragon mate, but apart from that he's a raving success. The single best Donkey moment in the series is probably when Puss-in-Boots appears in Shrek 2, trying to wangle his way into Shrek's affections with his adorable kitty pose. When Steven Spielberg bought the rights to the book on which this is based, in , he apparently envisioned making a traditionally animated film with Bill Murray as Shrek and Steve Martin as Donkey.

    We'd rather like to see that one. Ever been annoyed by a celebrity voice coming out of a cartoon's mouth? If so, blame this guy, because Robin Williams' electric voice performance as the Genie in this Disney fairytale set something of a fashion for star casting in animation.

    What most of the copycats missed, however, was the fact that it wasn't Williams' star power that did the job here but his gift for comic improvisation - and the ability of Disney's animators, led by Genie supervising animator Eric Goldberg, to keep up with him - that made the Genie such a memorable, magical character. Also, far too few animated characters turn themselves into rockets.

    Probably the 'Prince Ali' musical number, which sees the Genie perform the main song but also transform himself into crowd members to start a hundred different rumours as Aladdin, disguised as a prince, makes his triumphal entry into the city. Robin Williams was allowed to improvise much of his performance, which is pretty unusual in animation. His initial recordings included about 52 separate characters, which Eric Goldberg then took and worked with, picking the funniest bits to animate.

    She may be older than most of the characters here, but the grandmother in Belleville Rendezvous is the very definition of indefatigable. When her cyclist grandson is kidnapped by nefarious underworld biking fans, she pedals across oceans with only her faithful dog for company, enduring hardships without number to seek him out. She also endures the all-frog diet of the eccentric triplets of Belleville before finally taking on gangsters and tycoons to rescue her prize.

    Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is dedication. In an unusual approach to sports massage, Madame Souza massages her grandson's overworked calves with an egg beater. Cuddly, gentle and peace-loving, Totoro is a pure forest spirit who comes to the assistance of people in emotional need. He and his small friends also make kick-ass stuffed toys.

    Created by Japanese animation king Hayao Miyazaki, his gang resemble a cross between a rabbit and a Moomin, but have a quirky personality all of their own - they carry around bags of acorns which they use to grow trees , use umbrellas and travel in a cat bus. That's right: a cat that is also a bus. But even amid such cuties, Totoro's round and cuddly self is still our favourite. The beautiful, silent sequence where young heroine Satsuki stands beside Totoro at a bus stop during a storm. Enjoying the sound the falling rain makes on his umbrella, the magical creature grins, then jumps up and down, shaking water from the trees above.

    Animation's answer to Leonard Shelby, Dory is as sunny and good-natured as she is incapable of remembering your name for more than a few moments. Her short-term memory problems make for easy jokes within the context of the film, but as the story builds they acquire immense poignancy as she tries to overcome her limits and remember. Her triumphant realisation that she recognises the name Nemo is a moment of triumph on a par with Rocky conquering those darn steps, or the final mission in Top Gun. You'll never root as hard for any other fish.

    The myth that goldfish have a memory of only seconds is not, in fact, true. Experiments with mazes and with feeding routines have shown that their memories last substantially longer - months rather than moments. About as subtle as a Simon Cowell critique, the clue to the true nature of Dodie Smith's great villainess can be found in her name, like Dr. In other words, beware a woman named de Vil, who smokes liberally, cackles malevolently at the drop of a hat, swans around in a car that has a King Kong-sized carbon footprint, and wants to make a fur coat out of the skins of gorgeous little Dalmatian puppies.

    Oh, and she's called Devil. But it's the OTT nature of Cruella capitalism run rampant, greed gnarled into a snarling mask of hatred - that makes her so memorable, and has sustained the character through animated sequels, live action movies where Glenn Close had an absolute blast and even on Broadway. If she doesn't scare you, so the song goes, no evil thing will. Her unique approach to keeping her two henchmen, Jasper and Horace, on her side, constantly slapping them, threatening them and berating them for admittedly catastrophic failures. Someone needs to give her a reality show, quick smart.

    She could buy a Dalmatian farm at that rate.

    The 'middlepause': what no one tells you about turning 50

    Neil Gaiman's dark-tinged children's tale combines perfectly with stop-motion genius Henry Selick's signature style, and Coraline herself pops off the screen even without the 3D glasses. She's a fully-realised kid, prone to annoying her parents and going off in a huff and being irritated by a neighbouring geek. But she's also smart, capable and ultimately fearless in seeing off the dark forces that threaten to tear her away from her family, showing that there's more to her than being a brat.

    She's also a masterpiece of stop-motion animation, with thousands of facial expressions and spot-on pre-adolescent body language. It's the scene where Coraline hangs her hands around a doorknob and swings back and forth, pestering her father for attention while he's trying to work. To weave the cloth and knit the jumpers used for the film's puppets, the team had to use needles as fine as human hair. Now that's what you call detail work. You know how motorcycle gang members are.

    Tetsuo's always been the odd man out, reliant on his friend Kaneda for support and protection. But when he is picked up by government scientists, and starts experiencing strange headaches, it becomes clear that Tetsuo may have more going on upstairs than anyone realised. It's the slow and nightmarish realisation of what that power involves that sets Tetsuo's story apart from most other animation, and his descent into a sort of madness is infinitely compelling - even if, as is traditional with manga, you have only the haziest idea what's going on.

    It's probably the scene where Tetsuo's girlfriend, Kaori, tries to talk to him after he's started to go super-mental, regrowing his own arm and on the run from the government. Wondering what's happened to that live-action Akira that's been talked about for so long? Well, it's still apparently a go project, with producer Andrew Lazar saying earlier this year that a new screenwriter had been brought aboard. The beauty of Buzz Lightyear is that, beneath the superficiality of the initial premise he's an utterly delusional toy who thinks he's a real Space Ranger there's real emotional depth and endless capacity for reinvention.

    Witness Toy Story 3's neat reprogramming gag, wherein Buzz becomes a flamenco-flecked Spanish-language toy, complete with an eye for the ladies and neat dance moves. But we love Buzz for so much more than that. We love him because of his bluster. We love him because of his never-say-die spirit. We love him because he's a leader of plastic men. We love him because he's faintly ridiculous. We love him because Tim Allen's macho voice work is so perfect that it almost removes the universe's need for William Shatner to exist.

    We love him because he has a little light that blinks. We love him because he. And sometimes that's all you need. At the end of Toy Story 2, when Buzz witnesses Jessie's astonishing acrobatics, and suffers a slight case of premature ejection. Bit of blue there, for the dads. Buzz Lightyear's name was inspired by astronaut Buzz Aldrin. Aldrin acknowledged the tribute when he pulled a Buzz Lightyear doll out during a speech at NASA, to rapturous cheers.

    He did not, however, receive any endorsement fees for the use of his first name. Alien mayhem machine Stitch steals the show, of course, but in terms of character he isn't a patch on his human counterpart, the adorable Lilo. She causes absolute disaster for her older sister on any number of occasions - but she's also loving and clearly wounded by the tragic death of her parents. Few cartoon characters manage to pack so much into such a small frame. Lying on the floor, listening to Elvis after suffering a bad day, Lilo's an inspiration to us all.

    But after that tragedy, this was changed to the existing spaceship chase through the mountains of Kaua'i. The chief failing of the Shrek series is that the title character has always been a little bland, and always a lot overshadowed by the more colourful supporting cast. But who cares when, as in the case of Puss In Boots, they're this entertaining?

    A glorious reimagining of the swashbuckling charm of Zorro, transplanting his derring-do spirit and Latino swagger into the body of a cat just about higher than the boots he wears, Puss In Boots gave Shrek 2 a welcome shot in the arm just as Shrek and Donkey's banter was beginning to wear thin. Voiced to perfection by Banderas, it's Puss' loyalty, his indomitability in the face of overwhelming odds, his supreme self-confidence, and his ability to make his eyes as big as Lazy Susans, that make him more than worthy of his own spin-off.

    The only mercy we'll be praying for is from laughter. His introduction in Shrek 2 when, mid-grandiose speech, he begins to choke and splutter, eyes bulging out of his head like a Pierluigi Collina tribute band. Furball, he sighs, apologetically. Many films have presented us with animals made human, but few have managed to give an animal speech but still keep their essential personality intact. Three cheers then for Dug, a recognisably doggy dog whose unfailing cheer and surprising complexity lift the second half of the film almost to the heights of that unforgettable opening.

    While his backstory is further developed in the delightful DVD short Dug's Special Mission, it's really all onscreen, with the dog's good nature vying with his insecurity and unhappiness under his old pack, and euphoria at meeting Russell and Carl, and the many distractions of life as a dog. Lassie eat your heart out: this is cinema's best dog. Doug sort of appears in Ratatouille, as the instantly recognisable shadow of a dog who threatens Remy while he makes his way through French apartment buildings. For maximum doggy authenticity.

    Oh, Dumbo. There aren't enough tear ducts or heartstrings in the world to absorb the emotional impact of the little elephant who thought and could, as it happens fly. So cute it looks like he was engineered in a lab, Disney's mute pachyderm uses his big eyes and bigger mudflaps to endlessly expressive effect, as he rises from beleaguered whipping boy to star of the show in 64 glorious minutes. Now that's storytelling.

    The bizarre sequence where Dumbo and Timothy Q. Mouse get inadvertently drunk and see a parade of pink elephants; a symbol of a happier, more innocent time. Nowadays, Dumbo would have a traffic cone on his hand and wake up to find Timothy Q. Mouse dipping his hand in a bucket of warm water, and putting it on the internet. Dumbo was bumped off the cover of Time magazine in December by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour.

    Well, not so much a fun' fact, but you can't have everything. If you're not quite sure why everyone's looking forward to Brad Bird's take on Mission: Impossible IV, check out this beautiful and moving adaptation of Ted Hughes' already-powerful children's book. Bird's film may have sunk without a trace at the box office, but it's one of the great animated films, a tale of friendship, tolerance and fear for the ages.

    The Iron Giant himself, voiced with surprisingly delicacy by Vin Diesel, manages to be by turns mysterious, childlike, warlike and heroic. His final decision to emulate his comic-book hero, Superman, will break your heart. The devastatingly emotional last act. Remember the first time you watched ET and he went home at the end and you cried all the way home from the cinema?

    It's like that. Even though this is a traditionally 2D animated film, the Iron Giant himself is entirely computer generated. They just added a slight wobble to his lines to make him look handdrawn and help him to fit in with the other kids characters. Hands down, no argument, the greatest animated villain ever. She's sexy, she's sensuous - in a Disney cartoon! For added badassishness, she takes revenge on poor, defenceless infants in retaliation for perceived social snubs.

    Yes, if you fail to invite her to your next soiree, she'll probably curse your baby to a future as Sarah Palin or something. OK, so technically she's a fairy, which sounds neither scary nor powerful, but this lady is to normal fairies what Michael Phelps is to the Water Babies class at your local leisure centre. Her only flaw? Hiring cinema's least competent henchmen. She turns into a frickin' dragon; what more do you need? Although we do also like her twisted scheme to imprison Prince Charming until he's decrepit and only then let him rescue Sleeping Beauty.

    The sound of Maleficent's dragon fire was created properly, with the use of a flame-thrower, not any namby-pamby mixing desk. The sound of the dragon's teeth snapping, however, was recorded using castanets for a little Spanish flavour.