Steampunk has its place in almost every medium available in the entertainment industry. Books, films, video games, comics and even boards games all have a great variety of different properties that fall into the steampunk category and there are some fantastic titles each. That being said I don’t think any medium is quite as able to showcase the Victorianesque alternate future that we so love as animation. We’re going to take a look at some of the wonderful movies that the animated genre has to offer in that will hopefully scratch that steampunk itch, at least for the runtime.
Howls Moving Castle
First up let’s take a dive into Studio Ghibli’s adaptation of Howls Moving Castle. This movie, released in 2004 and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, tells the tale of an 18 year old named Sophie who is unwittingly transformed into an elderly lady by none other than the wicked witch of the waste. In hopes of being restored to her young self she seeks help from a wizard named Howl who (you guessed it) has a fantastic moving castle. Unlike most steampunk this isn’t set in a dystopian future, it is perhaps better described as a steampunk-fantasy piece. Though there are still plenty of marvellous contraptions and machines that certainly do fit the bill and are an absolute treat for the eyes.
In 2002 Disney released its take on the literary classic Treasure Island in a rather surprising (yet absolutely welcome) approach to the subject. Treasure Planet tells the story of Jim Hawkins and the nefarious Long John Silver but this time they’re travelling the galaxy using nothing but steampunk technology. Flying ships, steam powered robots and plenty of period clothing make this a real epitaph to the genre. It’s a criminally underrated Disney movie and is a must watch for any fan of steampunk.
9, released of course in 2009, follows the story of a doll who, after an apocalyptic war fought between humans and wicked machines must fight said machines in order to restore the humans’ way of life. This film is filled to the brim with gadgets and gizmos quickly cobbled together from old machine parts, the dolls themselves appear to be powered by gears and there’s even a steam powered fabrication machine to boot. And of course, the dystopian factor is in full swing here for those that like their steampunk bleak.
Atlantis: The Lost Empire
Another entry from Disney, 2001’s Atlantis: The Lost Empire follows Milo Thatch, grandson to the famous explorer Thaddeus Thatch who using his notes joins a team of explorers in an attempt to find the ancient city of Atlantis. Think 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea on a much larger scale and then add a touch of the Pocahontas storyline and you’ve essentially got Atlantis: The Lost Empire. What it may lack in originality though it does make up for with its amazing steampunk vehicles, most notably that fantastic submarine as well as some stereotypical steampunk archetypes that certainly won’t disappoint the fans.