The Other Side of Animation 188: Next Door Spy Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Since we just got done with reviewing SCOOB! I think it’s kind of amazing at how there isn’t much in the way of mystery thrillers for kids and families in animation. Sure, you get super simple mystery shows and to an extent, Scooby-Doo, but the animation scene doesn’t have a Murder on the Orient Express or a Knives Out, or anything to that kind of degree. Scooby-Doo might have its plots revolve around a mystery, but it’s never the main focus. I know it’s tough to balance out a smart plot that kids and families can both be invested in without alienating one or the other, but it would be cool to see a feature film try to give kids a Clue-style experience that, well, isn’t Clue. I recieved a screener, which is why I rambled on with this opening, because I needed to give some context to today’s review, Next Door Spy

Written and directed by Karla von Bengston, this film is from Denmark from the production company, Copenhagen Bombay. If that name doesn’t sound familiar, then you may know them for their film that I reviewed back in December, Finding Santa. They are also known for the film Tigers and Tattoos, and the TV series Me & SonnyNext Door Spy was released back in 2017 in its original release, but has now finally come over stateside by the distributor Tricoast Entertainment. So, this will be my second time encountering this company and the animation fare they have brought over. What do I think about this mysterious little film? Well, let’s find out. 

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The story follows a 10-year-old girl named, and I’m not kidding, Agathe Christine. Yes, it is just a two letter difference from the famous murder-mystery writer. Anyway, she lives with her police officer mother, her older sister, and younger brother. Her family is moving to a new location, and is having trouble fitting in, and decides to open up her own detective agency. She ends up encountering a boy around her age while visiting a convenience store, and catches that something is up with this boy. What is he hiding? Am I ever going to get over the fact this girl’s name is Agathe Christine?

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So, what do I like about this film? Well, as usual with my encounter with this studio, I like the art direction. It feels like a children’s book come to life. Sure, I have issues with how the animation was executed, but for all things considered, they could have easily gone with a super cheap CGI look to everything, but they didn’t. The film also has some decent colors and lighting. It even goes into little black and white sequences when the lead is imagining herself as a roaring 20s-style detective. As for the mystery itself, it’s simple, but I think kids will enjoy it. I don’t think the mystery is as thrilling as say A Cat in Paris or Phantom Boy, but it’s decent enough. I like the little details of the film, like the mother is a cop, which in concept adds some conflict of interest with the lead. There are bits and pieces in this film that seem like interesting ideas on paper. 

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Now, with all that said, there are a few elements I found flawed. First off, the dialogue. It doesn’t come off as natural, and the voice work sounds stilted at points. Some even sound like they directly translated it into English without fixing the proper grammatical elements. Also, there is a shocking amount of cursing involved. Maybe about two or three times in the entire film, you will hear the kids casually drop a swear word because, well, because. If this is meant for younger kids, you do not want them to hear those words at a young age. I don’t care if you are one of those “oh, my kids hear me swear all the time” people, there is a reason why you don’t hear swear words in most family films, and even in the ones you do hear, they always feel forced. 

Also, let’s talk about the giant lizard in the room. At the beginning of the film, you see our hero have an egg with her. It then hatches into a flipping komodo dragon-sized lizard by the end of the film. It has no real point in the story, and I feel like it was meant to come off like some kind of symbolic element to the lead’s struggle to solve the case, but it’s never really expanded upon, and no one else finds out about the lizard. Even when it’s taken away in the end, the mother doesn’t even bother asking the lead what the heck is up with the giant lizard. The lizard also talks and, yeah, there is no point in it. No other animals talk in the film. I also found the animation to be distracting. While I don’t think it looks as bad as children’s television shows using motion-tween programs for the animation, it does a disservice to the art style being used, and that’s a stone-cold bummer.

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At the end of this mystery, I simply don’t have enough energy to muster much anger at this film. I don’t love it, but it’s not anything incredibly mediocre either. Maybe it’s my fault for looking at this from the angle of someone my age, but I don’t know how kids will react to this one. I think some elements aren’t kid-friendly enough, but I don’t know if kids would have this much patience for a slow-burn mystery. However, I could see younger viewers liking this film. I’m not always the best judge on what kids may or may not like. If you are interested in checking this film out, it will be readily available to rent on digital platforms like Amazon, Itunes, DirectTV, AT&T, Fandango, FlixFling, and Vudu June 16th. If you are interested in more mystery-style family films for kids, I would recommend checking it out and seeing what you think. I’m just one person, and maybe you will agree or disagree with me on this one. Well, for now, I’m going to work on some editorials and will be focusing on Annecy content, but next time, we will be going back to Netflix with the Netflix exclusive A Whisker Away.

 Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time! 

Rating: Rent it!

The Other Side of Animation 187: Once Upon a Forest Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Since the process of hand-drawn animation and animation, in general, takes time to create, sometimes, you will see a bunch of projects get greenlit when some film in the theatrical scene makes it big. The other studios see that, and want to capitalize on it or a popular trend. Sometimes, you just get four movies in a short period that happen to be around Bigfoot. Sometimes, you get a bunch of films about different takes on superheroes. In the 70s, you had so many sexually-driven animated adult films. Too many to be exact, but that’s beside the point. Heck, remember how many films have come out then and now since Despicable Me that want to make that Minions money? During the 90s, there were quite a lot of films coming out that were about protecting the trees and our forests. Many studios play the short-term, and it doesn’t always work out when you chase a trend. For some reason, 20th Century Fox, decades before getting bought out by Disney, had two animated films based on environmentalism with Ferngully: The Last Rainforest and today’s review of Once Upon a Forest

Directed by Charles Grosvenor, executively produced by William Hanna (and yes, Hanna-Barbera’s William Hanna), produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions and ITV Cymru Wales, Once Upon a Forest was released in 1993 and was unfortunately for everyone involved, a box office bomb, only making $6.6 million on a $13 million budget. Now, I haven’t seen this film in ages. It’s one of those animated films I sort of saw when I was little, but forgot everything about it. Maybe that’s for the best, but sometimes, you don’t remember much when you are a kid. It’s now time to see 27 years later how this film holds up in a fairly non-competitive year in animation as 1993. 

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Our story revolves around a group of humanoid animal children called furlings. I don’t know why they are called that, but that’s not the point. These include a mouse named Abigail, voiced by Ellen Blain, a mole named Edgar, voiced by Benji Gregory, Russell, a hedgehog voiced by Paige Gosney, and a young badger named Michelle, voiced by a super young Elisabeth Moss. They go to class one day to learn from an old badger named Cornelius, voiced by Michael Crawford. After going about a rambunctious lesson during the day, the kids learn about gravity, plants, and the evilest creature of all, man! After the lesson, a truck carrying poisonous gas crashes off the road, and the gas leaks into the forest. Everyone tries to get back to their families, only to find that everyone is gone. Michelle tries to go find her parents, but ends up getting ill from the gas. Cornelius offers a solution for Abigail, Edgar, and Russell to find some plants to make an antidote for Michelle. Along their journey, they encounter a monstrous owl, a group of gospel birds with their leader voiced by Ben Vereen, and a group of animals that fight over food. Can our three heroes get what they need and save Michelle’s life along with their forest? 

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So, what do I like about this movie? Well, while I wouldn’t say it’s one of the best films from 1993’s animation scene, I do like parts of the story. The film has some pretty decent atmospheric moments with some very lovely lush background art. The film also doesn’t try to undo any of the deaths that do appear in the film. Normally, other films would try to make a nice little ending where everything is, well, happy. The film has a happy ending, but it does accept the fact that things did happen, and it won’t all 100% be the same, but it still has a fairly optimistic look at it all. Even the forest that was damaged by the gas doesn’t suddenly return to normal. You don’t see children’s films with that kind of consequence set in stone. Even animated films today don’t always commit to certain decisions made in the story. It was gutsier than what a company like Warner Bros was doing at the time. The film also has a pretty decent list of themes, like friendship, teamwork, overcoming your fears, and the not-subtle environmentalism commentary. However, I do like how they frame the poison gas as a man-made accident. Sure, in real life and today’s climate, it would have the humans as 100% the villains, but the humans here aren’t portrayed that way. They are portrayed as somewhat antagonistic and uncaring of their environment, but the humans at the end of the film were not, and that’s what I admire about it. It has a bit of a Ghibli sense of there being no real “villain”. Maybe this is giving the film too much credit, but considering this was 1993 and this was the year we got stuff like the Tom and Jerry the Movie and the butchered cut of The Thief and the Cobbler, I’ll take any film that adds a bit more nuance to the story than nothing at all. Sure, this was also the same year the US got My Neighbor Totoro, which is a better film, but still.

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Animation-wise, for a film that cost $13 million to make, and where some of it probably went to Michael Crawford, it looks decent. Now, yes, you can tell where some animated objects like the miniature flying contraption do not blend well with the background, but it’s pretty decent animation. Everyone moves well, the designs are harmless to look at, and it reminds me of someone who was trying to capture that Don Bluth-style with how the characters move and look. It easily could be a film set in The Secret of Nimh universe. There isn’t much to say about the voice cast. It’s one of those animated films that heavily relies on the fact that it got Michael Crawford as Cornelius, but the acting overall is pretty good. Michael Crawford is probably the best one of the bunch, and yes, you can criticize his voice work for being a bit too whimsical, and his song sequence being hit-or-miss depending on how you like his singing voice, but I felt like he put a lot of heart into the role. Sure, his character vanishes for a huge majority of the movie, but when he does show up, he is the best part of the film. The child actors also do a decent job, and the cast of child actors is honestly interesting since there is a young Elizabeth Moss in one of her first film roles. I also liked Ben Vereen as the religious bird Phineas, and the other voice cast members they hired are good as well, with Charlie Adler, Paul Eiding, Susan Silo, Janet Waldo, and an uncredited Frank Welker as the barn owl they encounter. 

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So, what don’t I like about the film? It sounds like it’s rough around the edges, but a respectable title. A lot of what I talked about with the pros of the film comes from the third act. I found the pacing to be a touch slow as it takes a bit before the plot is moved forward by the poison gas situation, and much of the first act is spent with the three kids and Cornelius. After that, it plays out more like a road trip movie with events that come and go without much connection, and the side characters they encounter not being mentioned again. Some of them even happen too fast and end so quickly, that you wonder what the point was. It’s also a touch safe in terms of its themes and how it handles its story. It’s easily digestible for kids, which to be fair, is the target audience for this film, but it’s also a little too adult in spots for kids. It’s a weird uneven mix, and I think it should have either leaned more one way to slightly older kids, but in a PG (a serious PG) way or just go sugar sweet. Finding that balance is tough and it doesn’t always work. The characters are also not the most interesting. The three kids are all basic kid characters, and the most interesting of the characters, the one played by Michael Crawford, is not the focus. 

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Even with my criticisms aimed at this film, I can’t find myself hating it. Sure, it’s not the best animated film of 1993, the same year we got The Nightmare Before Christmas, but Once Upon a Forest is not the worst. I can see why people who grew up with this film enjoy it, but I also can see why it was maybe forgotten by many, despite having a lot of interesting facts surrounding it. For some reason, since 20th Century owns the rights to this film, it’s not available on Disney Plus, but that may also be due to Hanna-Barbera being the rights holders as well, but who knows. If you want to check it out, it’s pretty cheap on DVD. Now then, next time, we are going to look at another screener. That’s right, your possibly favorite animation reviewer has obtained another one! I’ll make sure you all get a clue about what I’m reviewing in my next review. 

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time! 

Rating: Rent it!

The Other Side of Animation 186: SCOOB! Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

As a franchise, Scooby-Doo has been able to stand the test of time and still be a relevant part of pop culture. Out of all of the Hanna-Barbera properties to still be around, it’s not all that surprising that it’s this one. And yes, technically, I know Joe Ruby and Ken Spears created the property, but it’s owned by Hanna-Barbera, so let’s not get into specifics about it. Anyway, the formula and premise easily translate itself to being able to transcend time and the ever-growing world of animation. Sadly, at times, at least, more recently, it has started to show its wear and tear, as I don’t think the creators know where to take the characters. A lot of their more recent films have been mediocre at best and insulting to previous films at worst. It’s a shame, because I do like a few of the direct-to-video films, and the voice cast for the gang has always been stellar. So, how does Scooby-Doo handle himself with his first major “theatrical” animated feature, SCOOB!

Directed by Tony Cervone, SCOOB! has had a fairly long production cycle, as it started in 2014 with Dax Shepard writing and co-directing the film. In 2018, Dax Shepard was kicked off the project, and Cervone took full directing responsibility with Matt Lieberman, Adam Sztykiel, Jack Donaldson, and Derek Elliot taking over writing duties. The film is also noteworthy for it being the first major animated film to skip out on theaters entirely due to the current viral situation and go straight-to-video. Trolls: World Tour doesn’t count since it was released in both theaters and on-demand the same day. So far, it has gotten a mixed reception, and where do I stand with this film? Well, you should grab your favorite flavor of Scooby Snacks and read the review. 

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The story revolves around the organization called Mystery Inc, a group of young adults that solve mysteries and crimes that are perpetrated by supposed ghoulish monsters. The gang includes Fred, voiced by Zac Efron, Daphne, voiced by Amanda Seyfried, Velma, voiced by Gina Rodriguez, Shaggy, voiced by Will Forte, and his talking dog Scooby-Doo, voiced by Frank Welker. After a business investment falls through the cracks, the gang separates, and what results are Scooby and Shaggy getting targeted by an evil villain known as Dick Dastardly, voiced by Jason Isaacs. Luckily, the two are saved by their favorite superhero Blue Falcon, or, at the very least, his son Brian, the new Blue Falcon, voiced by Mark Walhberg. The story then turns into a pseudo mystery about why Dick Dastardly is targeting Scooby and Shaggy, and what his ultimate plan is. Can the gang solve this mystery and save the world? 

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This movie is frustrating to review. Not because it’s the worst thing ever, or that I’m trying not to step on the toes of obviously hard-working animators and writers. However, it’s because the execution of everything is what I’m struggling with. On one hand, there is so much passion put into this project. You can tell the team behind it loved Scooby-Doo to the point of even almost 100% recreating the opening of the original Scooby-Doo! Where Are You? opening. There are references to other Hanna-Barbera properties all over the movie, and especially in the main part of the credits. There are small character quirks that show off that the people making the film understand Scooby-Doo as a franchise. Heck, they even made a dessert they had from one episode that made me chuckle. Even the other Hanna-Barbera properties mix well into the world of Scooby-Doo. The problem isn’t that they don’t mix. Scooby-Doo and Hanna-Barbera properties have always crossed over with one another. This isn’t even the first time the Mystery Inc has crossed over with Blue Falcon. Another high point in the film is the opening where we have Shaggy and Scooby-Doo meet for the first time. It’s probably the best part of the film, and is the emotional lynchpin holding the film together. There is a lot to like in this film, from the animation to the jokes that they slide into the dialogue. 

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On the other hand, there is a real good reason why this film is getting mixed reviews, and it once again comes down to how everything was executed. First off, the dialogue is clunky and awkward. When the film was at its best, it was with the characters talking like how they would from the show and previous animated features. There are a lot of pop culture references and shout-outs in this film, and they are so forced into the script. They don’t flow or come naturally to any of the scenes where they show up. It feels like this film got studio-noted in the same way Chicken Little did. It’s not like you can’t make pop culture references, because you can, but you have to be so careful with how they are implemented. The film isn’t going to age badly because it has Simon Cowell or a joke about Netflix. It’s going to age badly because of how awkwardly shoe-horned they are into the story. Only a few of the pop culture references work, and the only references that do work are the ones to the Scooby-Doo! IP or the greater Hanna-Barbera universe. At least with Ralph Breaks the Internet, the pop culture stuff felt a bit more fluid and natural. 

The film’s pacing could easily be noted as one of its biggest downfalls due to how the stakes are revealed in a very uneven fashion. It doesn’t build up properly to the initial mystery, and then it turns into a road trip-style faux superhero flick. It’s frustrating because the mystery has to be the film’s strongest element, but it is not, and I should know since I binged through 26+ direct-to-video Scooby-Doo films and shows. Due to the clunky nature of the pacing of the story and how it escalates, emotional moments don’t land properly and you feel taken out of the film. At least, that is how I felt. I’m mad about this because the emotional core of the film is Shaggy and Scooby’s relationship, but due to the execution, the conflict parts are readily predictable. It’s another film that’s too busy to just be one film, but also be a universe starter. It’s a Hanna-Barbera film, but it’s not really a Scooby-Doo film. They could have made all of these characters like Blue Falcon and Captain Caveman fit perfectly, since, again, this isn’t the first time a Hanna-Barbera connected universe has been made, but it’s not handled well. 

So, what about the characters? Sadly, they are pretty inconsistent. I liked Shaggy and Scooby, as they are the best part of the film, Dick Dastardly is a fun villain and you can tell Jason Isaacs is having a lot of fun in the role. Zac Efron’s take on Fred has some of the best jokes in the film, and Blue Falcon and Dynomutt have a decent arc together. Again, and say it with me, it’s the execution that falls flat. Daphne once again does very little, and I know that’s kind of the joke of the series, but she doesn’t do much. Neither does Velma. Oh, and as for Kiersey Clemon’s DeeDee Sykes, way to relegate the one black character as simply the person who drives everyone else around. Seriously, I don’t think this was intentional, but she does nothing else than drive Blue Falcon’s jet. When I first heard that Tracey Morgan was going to voice Captain Caveman, I was excited since it’s ideal casting, but while he does a solid job, he doesn’t bring any of the Captain Caveman mannerisms outside of his battle cry. Otherwise, he’s just playing himself from 30 Rock. Dastardly seems like the most consistent character in the entire film, and he is probably the most fleshed-out. Due to how everything is paced, the conflict points are easy to spot and are not shocking when they happen. It’s a film that leaves these characters to be fairly forgettable.

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So, let’s talk about the animation, which is a big deal breaker to many. Not because it’s CGI, but due to how it was handled. Listen, I know many are going to label the film as cheap-looking, when most people don’t even know what cheap CGI can really look like. The studio that animated the film, REEL FX, is a super talented studio that has worked on films like The Book of Life and Rock Dog, but the problem is not them, but the overall design and animation process. The characters are too weighty and sluggish, some of the characters’ proportions look off, and it really seems like this film needed to dive more into the cartoonish direction with the designs and animation. This needed something like the team behind Hotel Transylvania or STORKS to be the head of the animation and design work. Everyone needs to be snappier and not so realistic and robotic in their movements. It’s especially distracting when you get Simon Cowell in the same scene as Scooby, and the art style doesn’t match or work. The voice work is also hit-and-miss. This might be the first time where celebrity stunt casting has actually bothered me. I know Will Forte is doing his best as Shaggy, but when Mathew Lillard has been doing an amazing job as Shaggy for 10+ years in both live-action and animation, it’s obvious that Will Forte is just doing a Shaggy impression. Efron probably does the best out of the main Mystery Gang, but I still think if you have Frank Welker as Scooby, then why not keep him as Fred? Gina Rodriguez brought nothing to Velma when Kate Micucci has been doing a solid job as Velma for five years now. Amanda Seyfried can be funny, but come on, Grey Griffin is right there! She’s been Daphne for 20 years now. What is wrong with not getting her back? It’s not like the celebrities add anything to the experience. I think the only ones I enjoyed were parts of Tracey Morgan’s Captain Caveman, Jason Isaac’s Dick Dastardly, Mark Wahlberg’s Blue Falcon, Keon Jong’s Dynomutt, and Frank Welker as Scooby-Doo. 

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As you can tell, I’m all over the place. I don’t think it’s a good Scooby-Doo movie, but it’s not a bad Hanna-Barbera film. It’s too busy to commit to either. It’s a shame because you can make the format work, but once again, WB wanted another universe starter and they started with too much in the first film. They could easily cut out a lot of the universe stuff and just make it a more straight forward Scooby-Doo film. I want to see more from this universe in sequels, and since it’s getting some high digital download and purchase numbers (as far as we know), maybe we will. Now then, next time, I’m going to take a look at the last 20th Century Fox film that I will probably tackle due to them being swallowed by Disney with Once Upon a Forest

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time! 

Rating: Rent it!

Worst to Best Animated Films of 2019 Part 3

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Welcome back! Now, it’s time to get into the films that I enjoyed! This is the long part as we count down from 27 to 11! If you have yet to see the first two parts, make sure to use the tags in this editorial to get to Part 1 and Part 2. Now then, let’s keep counting down!

27. Son of the White Mare

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While this is a film from a few decades ago, it was never fully or officially released in the states until last year and will be coming out on Blu-ray this year. That’s a bloody shame, because this movie is awesome. The visuals are striking; the storytelling is straight-forward, but really, you watch this movie to see the amazing visual experience that it offers. Otherwise, it’s a simple fairy-tale-style story that relies way more on its abstract visuals to comment on certain topics. However, sometimes, you want to sit back and take in a film that offers outstanding visuals and enjoy the ride! I can’t wait until more people see Son of the White Mare.

26. This Magnificent Cake

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I honestly contemplated whether I would include this film on the list. Not because it doesn’t count as one, but I just find it odd that a 45-minute or as it’s called, a mid-length feature, is a film. Still, outside of that personal opinion, this is a very poignant and very dark piece about colonialism in the Congo. It obviously could have used a longer running time for everything to be a bit more impactful, and the ending fizzles out into abstract weirdness that is symbolic and meaningful, but it’s still one of the most unique experiences you can find in animation. I can understand why Barry Jenkins loved this film.

25. Abominable 

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It’s always a gamble nowadays on whether a DreamWorks release will be good or not, and that’s a shame because when they release something like Abominable, it shows why people still support them. Sure, it might not have the strongest characters or the beefiest story, but Jill Culton and her team were able to still bring a solid story with some gorgeous visuals to life with a way more interesting villain and tone that you don’t see a whole lot from the studio. I still have my issues with this studio, but Abominable shows that they still have a better sense of talent and storytelling than most animation studios.

24. Teen Titans Go! vs Teen Titans

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While I’m not a huge hater on the current iteration of the teen superhero team, I’m starting to get a little tired of it all now. It’s still a delightfully funny experience, the action is decent, and they were able to make the chemistry between the two different versions of the characters work. It’s always funny to see the same voice actor play two different versions of the same character. This iteration of the franchise might be losing its steam now, but if you enjoyed 2018’s Teen Titans Go! To the Movies, then you will find a lot to enjoy in this one.

23. Aya of Yop City 

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Produced by the director of 2013’s The Rabbi’s Cat, and directed by the creator of the comic series it’s based on, Aya of Yop City is easily one of the hidden gems of foreign animation. Not only is it one of the few animated films I have encountered that star an all African cast of characters, but isn’t about any of the major turmoils that are set in that country in a manipulative way. It’s more of a slice-of-life story, as Aya and her family and friends go through the challenges of relationships, love, jobs, and life. It can be surprisingly funny, endearing, and has a great visual look. It’s a shame that it wasn’t released until this year. Sadly, the story flounders in the end, and Aya herself is not the most interesting character, but people should still really check out this film. Just be ready to experience a film that doesn’t have a traditional story.

22. Wonder Woman: Bloodlines

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It’s rather sad that we finally got a second animated feature after 10 years, but the wait was worth it. The drama between Wonder Woman and one of the villains was compelling, the action was stellar, and it was nice to see a superhero film with a mostly female-lead cast. It’s also a bummer that there are a few moments where you can tell a guy directed the film, and the final act falls into generic action fare, but for a direct-to-video DC animated film, I enjoyed this one!

21. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

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It might be the weakest of the three DreamWorks Dragon films, and it 100% shows that DreamWorks doesn’t know how to handle its side characters, but it’s still a pretty stellar finale with downright stupidly good-looking animation, fantastic scenes with Hiccup and Toothless, and it shows how to somewhat properly cap off an incredible franchise.

20. I Lost My Body

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This shouldn’t be a big shock. Yes, I was not as huge of a fan as everyone else in the world with this multi-festival winning film. I didn’t think the film balanced out both stories well, I found the humans to be the biggest issue with the film, and I felt like other films should have been nominated. With all that said, this is easily one of 2019’s most unique films. It’s ethereal and mesmerizing watching the sequences with the hand and how the story unfolds. It also has a unique visual style that no other film in 2019 can copy. While I do not have the same love and support of it, I still found the experience to be enthralling from beginning to end.

19. Batman versus TMNT

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It seems like that my love for the DC animated films that go direct-to-video always leans to the non-Action 52-style storyline going on right now. I adored the art direction, the action was thrilling, and due to the two properties getting combined into one movie, the story goes bonkers with some sequences. It’s 2019’s Batman Ninja, and I am all here for it.

18. Frozen II

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The first film was lightning in a bottle, and Frozen II was going to have to go through some hurdles to overcome the giant challenge of trying to be as good or better than the first film. To a degree, I do like Frozen II better. I like the songs better, I like the tone, I like the commentary, and the film still does show why Anna and Elsa are great. It’s also a film that feels like the last act got changed due to probably being too dark. I don’t know if I’ll ever know what exactly happened with the third act that rubbed me and others the wrong way, and how Sven got the short end of the stick in terms of plots, but despite the rough spots, I still enjoyed my time with Frozen II.

17. Spies in Disguise

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It’s rather refreshing to sit here and type out the fact that I absolutely loved a Blue Sky Studios film. Seriously, outside of The Peanuts Movie and to an extent Robots and FerdinandSpies in Disguise feels like Blue Sky’s most cohesive film. The animation, the lighting, the designs, the characters, and the themes it tackles with how it handles aggressive and defensive tactics in spy work is rather ambitious for a film from a studio that has a mixed reputation. It doesn’t do it perfectly, and certain casting choices are distracting/bad, but overall, I would absolutely watch Spies in Disguise again in the future.

16. Mai Mai Miracle

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Don’t worry, this is the last of the “we didn’t get this movie until now” films on the list. Honestly, it is shocking that it took until 2019 to get one of the more charming animated features from Japan. It’s very much a film in the same vein as My Neighbor Totoro or the director’s recent work, In This Corner of the World. The story is about two girls from different financial classes enjoying and exploring the countryside post-World-War II. It has the same kind of problem as with the other films listed, where it seems like they had to have some kind of conflict, but if you love films like My Neighbor Totoro, you will love Mai Mai Miracle.

15. Okko’s Inn

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Technically, I saw this film two years ago at Animation is Film, and I still stand by my opinion that it is easily one of 2019’s hidden gems to check out. It’s a delightfully low-key coming-of-age drama that despite having a more simplistic art style, was able to really invest you into Okko’s trials of losing her parents. It also has some set pieces that are a wonder to the eye to see unfold with the power of animation.

14. I Want to Eat Your Pancreas

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I perfectly get why people would absolutely be on the fence with this one. It’s another one of those teen dramas that has one of the teens with a deadly disease and, yeah, sometimes it milks it a bit too much, and the film is a touch too long, and the designs aren’t all that memorable. However, In terms of these types of films, it’s easily one of the best versions of it. The animation is great, the characters have actual chemistry, and I was able to be fully sucked into the drama and romance. Your reception to this film will vary, but one thing we can all agree on is that this film costs way too much to purchase, Aniplex! Lower the blu-ray’s price!

13. Penguin Highway

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For a first time directing gig, Penguin Highway is a smart and creative coming-of-age story about a boy going through puberty and wondering about the world around him. Granted, I don’t know if your journey through growing up included a random infestation of penguins, but still. It overstays its welcome a tiny bit, and I can understand people having an issue with the boy’s fixation on an older woman character, but other than that, I really enjoyed it. I can’t wait to check out Studio Colorido’s future projects.

12. The LEGO Movie 2

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It’s truly a shame WB decided to burn through too much of the LEGO IP and it’s understandable as to why this film underperformed. I think it deserved to do better because it’s still a fantastic film with a great theme of boy vs girl mentalities, toxic masculinity, and identity. It’s still lighting quick with its wit, highly enjoyable comedy, and the characters are still strong, and I would argue are better than the first film. It might not have that lightning in a bottle hype the first film got, but overall, this film deserved to have done better.

11. Toy Story 4

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While I disagree with its Oscar win for Best Animated Feature due to it being the safest bet of the films nominated, and it runs into the DreamWorks situation of not being able to do anything with its side characters that aren’t the new ones, Toy Story 4 is still a stellar film in probably the most consistently high-quality franchise in animation. It might be an epilogue for Woody’s story, and Buzz gets short-changed, but the story is still strong, the characters are likable, the jokes are funny, and it still has a lot of that Pixar love that people adore about the studio.

Thanks for reading the editorial/list! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

The Other Side of Animation 185: Mortal Kombat Legends – Scorpion’s Revenge Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

You know, you would think I would tackle more video game adaptions in animation. Granted, the track record of good video game properties adapted to the world of animation is as shoddy as live-action attempts, but at the very least, animation takes away a lot of the limitations you get doing it in live-action. People in the entertainment industry might look down on animation for no reason, but with animation, while you may have to make everything by hand, it is not bound by physical limitations. The visual arts is a world with no boundaries, besides the ones you put on yourself. I mean, there is also time, money, manpower, but that’s beside the point. Today, we are taking a look at the newest film from the notoriously hyper-violent franchise, Mortal Kombat.

Today’s film, Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge, was directed by Ethan Spaulding and animated by Studio Mir. As mentioned above, it’s the newest film in the franchise since the disastrous Mortal Kombat Annihilation. Scorpion’s Revenge was released April 28th of this year to mostly positive reviews. So, do we have another video game disaster or do we have another video game hopeful? Well, let’s get over here and find out!

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So, the story revolves around Hanzo Hasashi aka Scorpion, voiced by Patrick Seitz. He’s on a mission to go after Bi-Han aka Sub-Zero, voiced by Steve Blum, who murdered his entire clan and family. After being sent to hell and making a deal with Quan Chi, voiced by Darin De Paul, Scorpion sets out to take down Sub-Zero, who will be attending an otherworldly fighting tournament hosted by Shang Tsung, voiced by Artt Butler. However, despite the film being called Scorpion’s Revenge, we also follow the story of three human fighters; Liu Kang, voiced by Jordan Rodriguez, Sonya Blade, voiced by Jennifer Carpenter, and Johnny Cage, voiced by Joel McHale. The three humans were chosen by the thunder god Raiden, voiced by Dave B Mitchell. Can Scorpion get his revenge, and can the humans save their realm from being taken over?

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So, let’s talk about the title of the film. Listen, I get it. Scorpion is pretty much the face of Mortal Kombat. However, the film is not really about him. Or at the very least, it’s not 100% about him. It’s one part Scorpion story, one part generic Mortal Kombat story, and one part universe starter. At first, the story focuses on him, but then the film also decides that it wants to be a franchise starter for a Mortal Kombat cinematic universe, so it has the three human leads who are unfortunately not all that interesting. It’s frustrating because while Scorpion is in the title and is what the film should focus on, Johnny Cage gets more of a focused storyline. Scorpion gets side-lined in his own movie. How much of the film is Scorpion in? Mostly, in the beginning, he vanishes for most of the middle part, and then stays in the third act. Because of this, the film has a real pacing issue throughout. The film spends a lot of time playing out like a normal MK storyline with the tournament, but then shuffles between the main characters, the villains, and shoving in cameos and fanservice appearances of certain characters. It even drops a plot twist 10 minutes before the film ends that lands like a lead balloon. It’s a real lopsided story, and it’s a shame because I do like the story when it actually follows Scorpion, and Johnny Cage, who, while annoying, was the most entertaining character in the film. It’s just a disappointment that this film isn’t really a Scorpion movie. There is a good story hidden in here. Even if it’s a typical revenge plot, this movie had more effort put into it than Annihilation did. Sadly, the focus went into the same mindset that the 2017 The Mummy went into, not to tell a single story, but to set up a bunch. This movie should be renamed Mortal Kombat Universe Pilot.

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The animation is where I also have some mixed feelings. It’s quite obvious that they went with an entirely different art style than trying to copy the style used in the major DC-animated features that WB puts out every year. The designs are more striking, and the characters look great. Sadly, this is a direct-to-video film under the Warner Animation Group collective. That means that while it’s nowhere near as bad looking as that 40-minute promo video that was made to promote the first film, it still suffers from having animation quality that’s basically on par with the DC TV series. Some scenes look fine, and then you can tell when they drop the frames of movements. However, with all that said, this film has some of the more striking visuals, and a lot of the gore and violence you play the games for. Mortal Kombat can have more story and more depth to their characters, but if you don’t have the gore, then what’s the point? I did like the action sequences that decided to have a little more money thrown into them because the action in this film is pretty stellar. I mean, it’s a film with martial arts and magic. If you fail at that, then what on earth are you doing? It’s like making lasagna without the creamy cheese, there is no point to it. I could complain about the film, but it nails the visuals. In terms of voice work, it’s good. It’s nothing groundbreaking, and they probably could have gotten someone other than Joel McHale, but the actors put in solid performances. You have people like Patrick Seitz, Kevin Michael Richardson, the always delightful Steve Blum, Grey Delisle, Dave B. Mitchell, Robin Atkin Downes, Jennifer Carpenter, Jordan Rodrigues, Ike Amadi, and Fred Tatasciore.

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This was a rough review to write. Not because the film was astronomically bad or a masterpiece that I was having trouble putting into words. It’s because this movie is okay. It’s probably the most okay movie of 2020. If it didn’t have the stellar action, the distinct visual style, and the gore, it would have probably been a decent if somewhat forgettable action film. It’s the second-best Mortal Kombat film, and so far, against what else is coming out, the best action film in the animation scene this year so far. I just hope this film did well enough to get a sequel, because the film itself leaves so much open for sequels that it isn’t funny. Honestly, if this film flops, then you wasted so many characters by focusing on the future film, and not the film you are currently making. Well, before I can get into the newest DC/WB animated feature that might cap off the entire storyline of the current animated film universe, let’s dive into another WB-focused film and hopeful universe starter with the newly released SCOOB!

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

Rating: Rent it!

The Other Side of Animation 184: The Willoughbys Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Something I’m noticing that I would argue started back in 2015 with the release of Blue Sky’s The Peanuts Movie film, is the fact that bigger studios are starting to slowly move into being more experimental and creative with the visuals and usage of CGI animation. While I think CGI animation gets a bad rep due to how overwhelming it is, and I, of course, would love to see more 2D animated features from the bigger studios, getting more ambitious with CGI visuals is a good direction to go into. Think about it, we had the already mentioned The Peanuts MovieCaptain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, 2018 gave us Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and Disney/Pixar are doing more creative visuals in their shorts. We also have this year’s Connected from Sony Pictures Animation, and I think that’s pretty healthy. I have said in the past that studios and films need to have their distinct flavor and look, and the major studios are only now catching on what the indie/foreign scene has been doing for the better half of a decade or more. Unless the execution is off, I don’t see why more studios can’t experiment a little more. Heck, that’s why I adored Netflix’s newest animated feature, The Willoughbys.

Directed by Kris Pearn, co-directed by Rob Lodermeier, and written by both Kris Pearn and Mark Stanleigh, The Willoughbys is yet another film on Netflix’s streak of original animated projects! It’s produced and animated by Bron Animation, the same studio that did the unfortunately disappointing Henchmen film. So, how did Netflix’s next step into animation go? I say grow your beefiest mustache and let’s get to it!

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The story follows the four Willoughby children, Tim, voiced by Will Forte, Jane, voiced by Alessia Cara, and Barnaby A and Barnaby B, voiced by Sean Cullens. They are part of a famous family with a prolific legacy of adventurers, inventors, and so on. Unfortunately, the Willoughby children are the kids to the current Willoughby adults, Father, voiced by Martin Short, and Mother, voiced by Jane Krakowski. The two adults are neglectful of their kids to the point that when the children find an abandoned baby, they get kicked out of the house. The children then come up with a plan to “orphan” themselves by getting rid of their parents. They send the terrible duo on an epic adventure that has multiple areas that may result in them six feet underground. Along the way, the children will encounter other adult individuals, like Linda the nanny, voiced by Maya Rudolph, and the candymaker Commander Melanoff, voiced by Terry Crews. Can the children get rid of their parents? Or will they find their true family elsewhere?

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Let’s cut to the chase, and talk about the first thing that stands out about this film, the animation. For those that are curious, it’s using CGI, but everything is crafted and animated like it’s stop-motion. I know some have an issue with this for some unknown reason, but to me, it’s smart for CGI animation to start experimenting with how they tackle visuals. A lot of animation fans complain about how most CGI films look the same, so why not go out of your way to look distinct? It has a style that makes it stand out, and it looks gorgeous. There are so so many bright colors and fantastic designs that make the world the film takes place in pop. You can even see it in the trailer that the colors are vibrant, and it might be very candy-coated colors, but man, do I love it. They even match the snappy stop-motion movements of the style it’s imitating. It looks good and while it is fast-paced, the humor and movements are not fast enough to be missed or are too overbearing.

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Now, as for the story, while this film is not meant to be taken seriously, it does balance out the quirk with the more serious themes that it’s tackling. Sure, the major moral of the film is that family is what you make of it, and it’s a nice theme, but the film doesn’t excuse the fact that the parents in the film, while dialed to 11, are awful. Unlike most films, this one doesn’t try to redeem or sideline the parents. They are terrible, and the film constantly paints them in a negative light. Martin Short and Jane Krakowski do put in some very funny performances, but they are incredibly neglectful of the kids in the film. Luckily, the rest of the characters constantly mention it. The kids themselves also have great chemistry and distinct personalities that feel fairly grounded. Yes, this world is wacky and colorful, but you get why the kids act as they do. I know they are mostly played by adults, but for a comedy like this to work, I don’t know if I would run the risk of using child actors. Plus, the cast works well off of one another. Will Forte, Sean Cullen, Martin Short, Jane Krakowski, Terry Crews, Maya Rudolph, and Alessia Cara all put in charming performances. However, I will say that the film’s marketing is a touch misleading, as the main character is not Jane. In fact, the main character of the film, and who gets the most fulfilling character arc is Tim.

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For as much as I adore this dark comedy family feature, I have three issues with the film. The first criticism I have is that the absurd elements sometimes clash with the pacing of the more traditional story bits. Not in a distracting way, but it’s noticeable when the film has to halt the breaks on the absurdity for the story to hit certain beats. It’s not that the more story-focused beats are bad, but they are just story bits that you have seen before. The second issue I have is with the original song and the placement of it. I get that Netflix wants to get a chance to be nominated for an original song at something like the Oscars and such, but it felt like it was somewhat forced into the last third of the film. I bring this up because the film, as I have mentioned, does market Jane as the lead when she is not, and while the song is pretty solid, it was distracting. It’s a double-edged sword for the film, since you know why it’s there but still may not care for it. Finally, I did not like Ricky Gervais as the cat narrator. Yes, the cat does have a few great lines, but I think Gervais was miscast, and I do mean that without also admitting that I do not like him as a comedian or actor. The cat needed to be played by someone else, as I was thinking of maybe someone like Matt Lucas or Eddie Izzard. The character needed someone with a bit more energy and goodwill associated with them.

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While rough around the edges in some areas, The Willoughbys is a new Netflix hit that I think everyone should check out. I understand, if respectfully disagree, with some of the more negative reviews of the film, but I get why this film might not be for everyone. It’s a film that’s abstract and out there, and you are either for it or not. I simply hope one day, Netflix puts this film on Blu-ray alongside their other original animated features, so I can own them physically. So, we shall now move on from quirky family film to a film based on a video game that’s unintentionally a backdoor pilot for sequels. That’s right, next time, we are going to look at Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge.

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

Rating: Go See It!

Worst to Best Animated Films of 2019 Part 2

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Here we are with Part 2 of the Worst to Best Animated Films of 2019! We shall now dip our toes into the films that were, simply put, okay, and some that are pretty solid! Nothing wrong with that. If you have yet to see part 1, then I recommend doing so. Now then, let’s get started!

39. Reign of the Supermen

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While I like the second part of the infamous Superman story arc, I still find it overall just okay. Sure, it might have better character dynamics, better jokes, and some solid action, but it’s still having to follow up a story that already had to pretzel itself into fitting the storyline, and it’s one of the last stories in the current DC animated film universe. Hopefully, they can end on a high note.

38. Batman Hush

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Yet again, we have another DC adaptation of a famous comic book that decided to change things up for some reason. I love the chemistry between Batman and Catwoman, and before the reveal, I loved Hush as a villain. Even characters I don’t have the patience for, like Damian, get a good line. Sadly, the twist does undo a lot of the mystery, and I get that they wanted to probably change it, since fans already know, but still. Don’t change too much, DC and WB, or else you might end up ruining the entire point of the story.

37. The Lion King (2019)

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On one hand, yes, this is quite possibly the worst animated film of the year. It was a pointless retelling of an already good film. The photo-realistic CGI is impressive, but it takes away the emotion of it all, and the fact that no one talks about it anymore, but is yet a billion-dollar maker is frustrating, when people could have gone and seen other movies. Films like this shouldn’t be rewarded. On the other hand, I find the tech highly impressive, the cast is great, and I get why people went to see it. I still prefer the original, and if I could, I would combine elements from both the remake and the original into an ultimate version, but alas, we have yet another remake that shows that the Disney remakes aren’t dying anytime soon.

36. Zombillenium

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Out of all of the animated films from overseas that I was interested to see, Zombillenium was the biggest disappointment for me. It has such a fun setting and a cool art style, but the dialogue is weak and the film can’t commit to either being a family film or focused on the commentary of the workforce. It has its moments, and I love some of the darker jokes, but I can understand why this film went under the radar and got overshadowed by other films.

35. Justice League vs. The Fatal Five

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For once, I can talk about a newer Bruce Timm DC animation product and not be on the back of my heels for it. Sure, it falls apart near the third act, and Miss Martian felt tacked on, but the main story and how it handled talking about traumatic events and characters was combined with some of the better action sequences of the DC animated films. I’m rooting to see them return to the so-called Justice League universe in future animated films.

34. The Addam’s Family 

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Out of all of the big theatrical animated features, this one was the most disappointing. It felt like they didn’t want to go far with the dark humor, the story was lopsided in giving characters satisfying arcs, and the animation was cheap-looking. It has a lot of fanservice for fans of the franchise, the casting was great, and when the dark comedy was able to breathe, it was really funny. Hopefully, they can make a sequel that’s better looking, and better told the next time we see this kooky spooky family.

33. Pachamama

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Probably the most family-friendly film of the list, Pachamama was a simple, but charming film that I had the opportunity to see before it hit Netflix, and it’s such a treat. Not only does it take place in, and is a bit more faithful to the culture it’s based on, it also has a unique visual style that it can call its own. It’s more family-friendly, and it’s a fairly simple film, but nothing wrong with well-executed simplicity.

32. The Angry Birds Movie 2 

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Talk about one of the biggest surprises of 2019. Yes, the story isn’t the strongest, and yes, when the jokes don’t land, they fall hard, but who would have thought this was going to be one of the best comedies of last year? On top of the solid animation, the jokes go out there, and are in such an abundance of different flavors of comedy. I give the team that made this film so much credit for going out there, and making this one of the best video game animated films out there.

31. Genius Party/Genius Party Beyond

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This is a wild bunch of shorts that we finally got legally, and it is one of the purest forms of what animation can do, in terms of visuals and storytelling. Some of them don’t work, and the ones that don’t work absolutely don’t work, but when they do, they are some of the most creative visuals you will see out of Japan. I hope they don’t stop doing these anthology shorts, so they can keep bringing in or showing off talented individuals in the animation industry.

30. The Case of Hana and Alice 

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While it is a prequel to a live-action film, the mix of roto-scope and CGI animation doesn’t fully work, and it can be a touch slow, I found myself enjoying the story of these two friends. It takes its time with the actual story that connects the events, but the chemistry of the two female leads sells you on their friendship. It might not be one of the best films out there, but I found the overall charm and small-scale story to be worth watching.

29. Another Day of Life 

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Based on the true events of a famous Polish journalist, Another Day of Life combines CGI roto-scope animation with live-action documentary footage in a dramatic and war-torn time of the Angolan Civil War. It also has some pretty out-there visuals, and can be a rather gripping story. I think it’s a little long, and it’s not a film I’m thinking about rewatching multiple times, but it’s an interesting story, and the visual look alone is worth checking this flick out!

28. Ne-Zha

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It’s amazing how in one year, China was able to show the world that they should be taken seriously with their theatrical animation, and Ne-Zha is one of those films. While looking downright gorgeous, and telling a story about discrimination and destiny, it is also seasoned with some of the best action you will see in CGI animation. It’s a shame that while the story can be deep and the lead characters are likable, the comedy drags the story down, and it’s a lot of comedy that isn’t funny. Still, seeing this become one of China’s biggest hits, and it was one of two amazing animated films from China, it shows a bright future ahead for the industry.

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!