Thai animated movies

ThaiAnim cover
Images adapted from: The Movie Database, The Movie Database, mad Arai-D Co., Ltd.

While lockdown continues to ease around the world, school’s already out for certain places and others might not reopen until the end of summer.

By now, the family’s already watched every CG-animated film from well-known international studios but still got an itching for more animated films to get through the break. Try these animated films for a touch of Thai culture.

Also read:

1. Khan Kluay, 2006

Themes: Duty and loyalty, nationalism

Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Historical

What’s it about?

ThaiAnim KK poster
Image credit: The Movie Database

A young elephant named Khan Kluay gets separated from his herd when he sets out to find his father. Happenstance leads him to become King Naresuan’s personal war elephant.

*Naresuan the Great’s campaigns against the Toungoo Empire (Burma, currently Myanmar) led to Ayutthaya Kingdom (Siam, currently Thailand) restoring her independence for over a hundred years. 

Why should you see this film?

ThaiAnim KK screen

Khan Kluay brushes aside heavy history lessons and looks through the eyes of the young elephant on his journey. The battlefield doesn’t become the focus until the titular elephant joins the war himself, leading up to one of the most pivotal duels in Siam’s ancient history. 

It is also one of the country’s first 3D feature films, and its success turned Khan Kluay into a kid-friendly national mascot alongside Pangpond, a popular comic book character. Khan Kluay illustrates a time when elephants were revered as a national symbol of strength and royalty still seen on some official seals today.

Today, elephants in Thailand are an endangered species. If anything, it can raise concerns about the declining elephant population in Thailand and why it’s important to preserve them for future generations. Unsurprisingly, Kantana Group also distributed the green-themed Echo Planet, from the same director.

Watch it on Netflix here.

2. Khan Kluay 2, 2009

Themes: Duty to country versus duty to family, nationalism

Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Historical

What’s it about?

ThaiAnim KK2
Image credit: Pantip

A follow-up from the first film, Khan Kluay is now a decorated war elephant and cannot choose between life as the “Lord Defeater of Hongsa” and being a father to newborn twins. Things get complicated when he finds out the Hongsa army has captured his family.

Why should you see this film?

ThaiAnim KK2 screen

While the first film focused on themes of sacrificing for a greater cause, the second reminds viewers that the most significant sacrifice isn’t always bloodshed, but time.

The sequel tones down history in favour of magic and bigger action, but has a strong message behind the fun nonetheless. The story this time focuses on Khan Kluay learning to be a better leader on the battlefield and in the family.

Watch it on Netflix here.

3. Nine Satra: The Legend of Muay Thai, 2018

Themes: Loyalty, virtue, selflessness, sacrifice

Genre: Action, Fantasy

What’s it about?

ThaiAnim 9Satra poster
Image credit: The Movie Database

As foretold by a prophecy, Ott, a boy trained in the art of Muay Thai, must travel to Ramthep Nakorn to defeat the tyrannical yaksha* prince, Dehayaksa. He joins a diverse group of fighters, each with their own mission. Meanwhile, the yaksha prince is determined to destroy the satravuth (a mystical weapon) that has the power to defeat him.

*yakshas are a type of demon that commonly appear in Thai mythology. They can be just guardians or fearsome fiends. A yak (ยักษ์) means “giant” in Thai.

Why should you see this film?

ThaiAnim 9Satra screen

This animated film combines the art of Muay Thai with magic and folklore, adding to the mysticism of the ancient martial arts passed down from generation to generation. In the same way Muay Thai Live – The Legend Lives wowed audiences IRL with history and acrobatic feats, 9 Satra takes a fantastical approach. The film turns Muay Thai into the stuff of legends.

Note: Take caution as the film has some violent scenes that may be too strong for younger viewers.

Watch it on Netflix here.

4. Khun Tongdaeng: The Inspirations, 2015

Themes: Animal rights, loyalty, culture

Genre: Comedy

What’s it about?

ThaiAnim Tongdaeng poster
Image credit: The Movie Database

Popular Thai comedian Mum Jokmok (as Uncle Nhong) tries to convince Little Oon that temple mutts like Mr. Hey are just as smart as more expensive breeds. He tells the story of how Tongdaeng went from a stray life to becoming one of King Bhumibol’s favourite canine companions. In between, there are three animated stories of dogs demonstrating the qualities of Tongdaeng.

Why should you see this film?

ThaiAnim Tongdaeng screen

As the title suggests, the film takes inspiration from the biography of Tongdaeng, one of His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s favourite dogs. The ultimate message of the film is that all dogs have potential and deserve second chances.

Watch it on Netflix here.

5. Echo Planet (Echo Jew Gong Lok), 2012

Themes: Cultural differences, environmental issues 

Genre: Adventure

What’s it about?

ThaiAnim EchoP poster
Image credit: The Movie Database

Siblings Norwa and Jorpe live a happy life in their Karen* village away from technology. Jorpe can speak to nature and one day has a premonition about the end of the world. Meanwhile, the bratty First Son of Capital State, Samuel Johnson Jr., coincidentally ends up in the village. He learns that his father’s attempt to save the world may end up playing a part in ending it.

*The Karen people are a group of hill tribes located in the northwestern part of Thailand bordering Myanmar.

Why should you see this film?

ThaiAnim EchoP screen

Its environmental message resonates with a worldwide audience. Also, its focus on a smaller group of people and culture raises another concern about fading traditions in a modernising world. The film switches between Thai and Kayan, a language spoken by the Karen subgroup.

Watch it on Netflix here.

6. Yak: The Giant King, 2012

Themes: Differences, dreams versus destiny/fate

Genre: Adventure

What’s it about?

ThaiAnim Yak poster
Image credit: mad Arai-D Co., Ltd.

A loose adaptation of Ramakien (the Thai version of Ramayana) epic set in a world populated by robots. Zork (Thotsakan) and Pinky (Hanuman) fall into a slumber during a battle, waking up a million days later to find themselves chained to each other, much to the latter’s chagrin. Despite being sworn enemies, they form an unlikely friendship and go against fate.

Why should you see this film?

ThaiAnim Yak screen

Its unabashedly crude humour seems inspired by innuendos sprinkled throughout works from Pixar and Dreamworks. Yak‘s setting and message of dreaming big in particular draws comparisons to Blue Sky Studios’ Robots.

Still, do check out the original film or the other English dubbed version that’s closer to the film’s original plot. The available version rewrote the plot and included a lot of ad-libbing.

Watch it on Amazon Prime Video here and iTunes here.

The website eThaiCD has a Blu-Ray with both English and Thai audio and subtitles available here.

Note: Opinions are based on the digitally-available US dub.

Broadening your horizon from home

Not only are you showing your family something different, but also helping a growing industry that’s trying to bring local culture to audiences worldwide.

Similar to how Disney’s Amphibia draws Thai culture from personal experience, a film based on different and even unfamiliar  customs can be an eye-opening experience for the family.

For more Netflix goodies, also read:

Enjoying The Smart Local Thailand? Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for all things Thailand