2017 in Animation So Far

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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. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this editorial!)

So, it’s been over half a year now for 2017, and it’s time to look back at the year so far. I thought it would be interesting, since I don’t really talk about all the big movies until I do my Worst to Best list for every year. I’ll be setting this up differently as well, with the execution of this article. I’ll be doing separate little segments for what were my favorites so far, the biggest surprises so far, the most average films so far, the biggest disappointments so far, and the worst. At the end, I’ll put down some films that I am looking forward to, and hopefully some films that will come out in the states in the near future.

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Best Animated Films (so far)

My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea: Trippy, unusual, darkly comedic, and the definition of pure visual LSD, this indie film is the best animated film I have seen this year. With a great voice cast, a fun sense of humor, and a unique experience, I can’t wait to buy this movie for my collection.

LEGO Batman Movie: While I respect the comments that it relies too much on Batman references, and it doesn’t have the full heart of the original film, I went in wanting this to be a fantastic film, and that is what I got. Outside of My Entire High School, I haven’t laughed so much or enjoyed a theater-going experience this year as much as I have enjoyed LEGO Batman. It’s clever, the characters are likable, and I was smiling like a fool from beginning to end. Yeah, I have my issues with the film, but it’s actually good, unlike a lot of films from 2017.

Ethel & Ernest: This is such a simple movie, but it’s so good. It’s nothing super grand, or some characters going on a big adventure, it’s just the life and times of Raymond Brigg’s parents. It feels like such a personal film, and the team that made the movie obviously cared very much about the book the film is based on. With wonderful performances, multiple touching moments, and gorgeous animation, I am impatiently waiting for this film to get a US release.

Ocean Waves: Finally, after what seems like a century, the US finally gets a legit release of the last Studio Ghibli film to be brought over. While it is disappointing that there is no English dub for this film, it definitely has a lot of elements that would have made it hard to translate to English. It’s also a slower-paced and more realistic film about teens growing up during high school. It has its flaws in terms of story pacing and characters, but I still loved watching it, and when it hit it out of the park, it really hit it out of the park.

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Biggest Surprises (so far)

Captain Underpants: Who knew a film everyone was dreading ended up one of the most fun movies of the year? With characters that have charm, great animation, and an obvious amount of passion and soul put into the end product, I was pleasantly surprised by this film. Not to say it doesn’t have its problems, but I had more fun watching this than most of the animated films from this year. It knew what it wanted to do, and I respect that.

 Justice League Dark: It’s no surprise that DC has had an amazing year in 2017, and kicked it off with a fun and more mature story of magic, demons, and the return of Matt Ryan as John Constantine. It’s a film that takes advantage of its situation, and while it does have some pacing problems because of the 70-minute runtime, it’s still a blast to watch, and actually see some charm in the drab DC universe.

Teen Titans: The Judas Contract: This is pretty much an apology letter for Justice League vs Teen Titans as everything that was so good about this movie should have been in the previous film. Everyone has ample screen-time, the action is good, and I don’t want to strangle any of the characters. The main villain is definitely weak, and there are some predictable story beats, but it’s so much better than I was thinking it was going to be. I’m glad I was surprised.

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Biggest Disappointments (so far)

Cars 3: You would think by the third film, they would know what to do with this cash cow of a franchise. While I was definitely more emotionally invested in this one, and love that they just retconned Cars 2, I wouldn’t call this a great animated film by any stretch of the imagination. It’s definitely more of a sport movie than the previous films, but there is a bit too much going on, and it doesn’t know how to pace itself. The villains were weak, and the ending had some elements that I would call shenanigans on, since they just leave it open to make another Cars movie. While not the worst Pixar film by any means, it’s a shame the film didn’t live up to the extremely false advertising.

Despicable Me 3: Second verse, same as the first. Despicable Me 3 was better in a lot of ways to the previous installments, but was hugely flawed. It once again had way too many plots going on, and none of them get enough time to be fleshed out. It results in a movie that can be entertaining, but completely hollow at the same time. I don’t know how many more films they can make with the current style before people just turn on them. At the very least, Trey Parker’s portrayal as the villain was super entertaining. I’ll have more to say when I review it in the future.

Blame!: Since CGI animation in anime already has a tainted reputation for low quality products, you would hope a film like Blame! could show how to do it well. Sadly, all that you get is a rather boring and sometimes fun sci-fi world builder. The characters are bland, and even the higher quality movements can’t hide the fact that CGI animation in anime can and will be distracting.

 Seoul Station: While not a terrible zombie movie, I have no urge to rewatch this film. It has its moments and its social commentary, but since this film is supposedly connected to the fan favorite Train to Busan, then I think it needs to be more than just where the zombie outbreak started.

Smurfs: The Lost Village: While the trailer for this gave off both a good and bad impression, I was still hopeful that this would be a pretty solid film. Sadly, what we got was a rather predictable and yet again boring film. There is just nothing there for kids or adults. It’s way better than the live-action films, but that’s not saying much for a film that’s not willing to take risks.

The Boss Baby: While I don’t hate this movie, it’s obvious they went with one gimmick and didn’t really do much else. Alec Baldwin is the best part of the movie, but that’s not enough for this film to be good. It has good animation, and I liked a lot of the lines and jokes, but everything else felt so hollow, and lacked substance. We are sadly getting a sequel for some reason, but hopefully, it can be a Madagascar situation where they get better with each sequel.

Sahara: Probably one of the most disappointing films to hit Netflix. I was thinking they got a French animation gem on their hands, but instead, they got a French dud. While the CGI animation is pretty solid, the colors are vibrant, and there are points where the film does slow down, it doesn’t make up for an annoying cast, an English dub that forced me to watch it in French, and a film that’s not really interesting to watch. It definitely could have been a lot better in terms of story and characters.

Rock Dog: This film went through so much political baloney, that it’s hard to really trash this film. It has no focus, tone is an inconsistent wreck, the animation isn’t theatrical quality, and the side characters are pointless. It’s a shame, since it’s not a cynical cash grab, and it tried to be earnest in its intentions. It just didn’t pan out, and all we got was a mediocre film.

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The Worst (So far)

The Emoji Movie: While I know this is everyone’s favorite punching bag, it’s just a forgettable bad movie, people! It’s not super offensive outside of the concept, but it’s not super amazing either. It’s probably the most forgettable bad animated movie of 2017, that got pushed into the limelight because people call it the death to cinema. I’m working on a review of it right now, and I’ll say this, calm down, people!

Leap!: Yes, technically, I should wait to talk about this film when it’s officially released, but on the other hand, since it’s already available in an English format, and The Weinstein Company is simply redubbing and recasting for no reason, I have a right to say this movie is still 100% terrible. It’s an enjoyable type of terrible, since some choices in terms of animation and plot points are insane, but it’s otherwise bland and really forgettable with a terrible sense of humor, and animation that can be rather creepy-looking. I’m sure this had good intentions behind it, and I can’t say it’s the worst movie I have seen this year, but it’s still something I never want to watch again, but I sadly have to, since if I want to be fully fair to this film, I need to watch The Weinstein version.

A Stork’s Journey: I don’t get why this film had to get a limited release. Was anyone asking for this badly animated film? Its mean-spirited characters, bad pacing, and predictable plot also bog down the experience. It has one little scene that works, but that’s about it. Just avoid at all cost.

Spark: a Space Tail: Unlike the film mentioned above, I found nothing redeemable, or enjoyable about this movie. Open Roads didn’t give this film a wide release, and is now considered one of the biggest bombs in the animation scene. Even with that distinction, it has horrible animation, terrible characters, boring action sequences, a bland story, and it has no real reason to exist. Not even Patrick Stewart could save this. Until I say otherwise, this is still the worst animated movie of 2017.

Well, that was a bummer way to end the list, how about we close the editorial up with some movies that are coming out this year that I’m excited for? And yes, a lot of them are GKids films.

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The Remaining Films I’m Looking Forward to Through 2017

Coco: While Cars 3 did not fully deliver, Coco will hopefully be the one Pixar film to be fully satisfying with its themes of Day of the Dead, family, and music with a great art style, and gorgeous animation.

Mary and the Witch’s Flower: GKids recently picked up the rights to this film, and I’m not really surprised. It’s got veteran Studio Ghibli members, and GKids has a great connection with the famed studio. The first movie from Studio Ponoc looks really promising with beautiful animation, awesome character designs, and just a huge amount of creativity. I think this could easily be an Oscar contender for Best Animated Feature.

The Breadwinner: Probably the other Oscar contender for Best Animated Feature is yet another GKids-distributed film, based on the famous book. Cartoon Saloon is once again on a roll with a touching story, great animation, and they are mixing it up this time with two different styles of animation. It looks great, and I trust anything these two companies, GKids and Cartoon Saloon will put out.

The LEGO Ninajgo Movie: Well, so far, the two LEGO Movies we got have been pretty fantastic, can’t see a reason why not to be excited for this one. It’s also nice to see it be a mostly action-focused film, since it seems like we can’t get an action anything in animation these days. While the recent trailer probably showed off too much in terms of jokes, I’m still looking forward to the next LEGO Movie.

The Girl Without Hands: While I’m sort of disappointed this one-man film is not coming to my neck of the woods, I will wait for a DVD release, since I really want to see this visually ambitious and mature animated film. I have talked about it a bit on an Animation Tidbit, so I won’t go into much detail there.

Birdboy: The Forgotten Children: I have talked about this dark animated film as well, so if you want to see more of my thoughts about this Spanish-animated film, you can go to the link I put above for The Girl Without Hands, but none the less, I am looking forward to see how this dark tale unfolds.

In This Corner of the World: A big Annecy Film Festival winner about a young girl as she grows up during World War II. It has a luscious watercolor art style, a vibe that feels similar to a Studio Ghibli film, and a sad, but endearing story.

Loving Vincent: Hey look, another film I talked about in an Animation Tidbit editorial. It’s a beautifully abstract film, with a lot of blood, sweat, tears, and tons and tons of paint put into the overall project. I can’t wait for this film to get a wider release in October.

That is it for now, let’s hope more amazing films come out, and I will make a new list in the New Year covering the worst to best of 2017!

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The Other Side of Animation 92: A Stork’s Journey 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. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

One of my main rules is that I don’t tackle straight-to-video animated films, unless it has a reason for me to check it out, whether it be a streaming exclusive, or getting a limited theatrical released. I don’t do it with every straight-to-video schlock, because if I did, I would probably not want to review another animated film for life. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have to watch films like Spark or today’s review of yet another Lionsgate alumni, A Stork’s Journey. This German-animated film is directed by Toby Genkel and Reza Memari. It was a Google Play exclusive, but got a theatrical release at the end of June 2017. Listen, I know I have been critical towards Lionsgate and their animation distribution, since they tend to bring over some truly awful films, but I’m always willing to give them a chance. Let’s dive in and see if they should have made an “art house” film instead of this “wide appeal” film.

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The story is about a small sparrow named Richard, voiced by Drake Bell. After the movie decided to go Tarzan on his parents within the first three minutes, he was raised by storks. He feels upset that his father doesn’t love him, and isn’t allowed to travel with his adopted family to Africa. Richard then decides to say “screw it” to how birds actually work, and not realizing that sparrows don’t travel, tries to fly to Africa. Along the way he meets an owl named Olga, voiced by Jane Lynch, and a parakeet named Kiki, voiced by Marc Thompson. They travel, and go on a high flying adventure to find Richard’s parents.

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This movie was another chore to watch. While I get that not every studio around the world can throw around money or talent like Pixar and Disney, you would think by now, they could get the tech, tools, and talent used by, at the very least, 2011 Pixar. A Stork’s Journey doesn’t look good on a visual level. Everything looks like it was ripped right out of a full-motion cut scene from the original PlayStation days. It has flat textures, and everything from the grassy fields to the desert lands of Africa look so dull, way too shiny, and lifeless. While it doesn’t look as bad as Spark, Stork’s Journey is still way below theatrical-quality animation. Normally, I could look past wonky animation if the story or characters were any good. Sadly, that is not the case here. Richard is a really grating individual who is a pill of a character to watch. It doesn’t help that he’s kind of bone-headed, and constantly puts himself in danger. Jane Lynch’s character’s gimmick is that she has an imaginary friend, and while there are some scenes that almost hit a decent emotional note, it grows tiring really fast. Kiki, on the other hand, is just unlikable for the first half of the film, and became a character I lost interest in mere minutes after he appeared on screen. His story arc is so rushed, that it pretty much ends within, say, 14 minutes after he is introduced into the story.

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Actually, a lot of areas of the film feel rushed. Richard’s parents are killed within five minutes of the film, Kiki has no character besides being foppish after his “arc” wraps up, and they throw in a real last-minute villain into the mix. So the main characters can’t hold the story, what about the side characters? Yeah, good luck with that. The mother is bland, and the father is just the worst type of person. He will constantly put the rest of the stork flock in danger because of his stubborn pride, and the old “I’m a guy so I don’t need help” trope. Like, they get to Africa, find out the watering hole they usually go to is dried up. He gets an offer to find another watering hole, but he, for no reason, declines the offer. It’s 2017, and parents can be portrayed in unique and various ways. They don’t need to be the most hateful characters anymore. It’s a boring film to sit through, since you know how these buddy road trip films go, and since I don’t care for anyone in the film, I can’t think of a reason to watch it.

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The film also has this weird element of having yet another YouTuber as one of the actors getting top billing when they don’t even show up in the movie a whole lot. The “actor” this time is famous YouTuber ijustine as one of the couple of internet-addicted pigeons that you see throughout the film. I mean, I’m sure she is a nice person and all, but did she truly need to be one of the three actors mentioned at the top of the DVD case? It’s not like they really needed her for the role, when any actress could do what she did. This might just be me pushing a bias issue of YouTubers attempting to be more than what they are, but I never found why hiring them was such a big deal. I understand to get with the times and know that YouTubers are some of the bigger “celebrities” out there, but at the same time, incidences like the hugely mediocre EA E3 conference and the recent Vidcon stories makes them look horrible, no matter if they are personally involved or not.

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So, this must be truly worse than Spark right? Well, not really. Spark is still the worst animated film of the year, because it feels cynical and no real passion went into making the movie. While I don’t think A Stork’s Journey is great, I can, at the end of the day, tell that they were at least trying to tell a good story and have a story of being true to yourself no matter what, and so on. It doesn’t work at all and the film is obnoxious to sit through, but there was an attempt to make a film. I also think Jane Lynch, while her character is aggravating at points, has probably the only semi-emotional moment where she talks about her backstory and how she met her imaginary friend. It’s also done in a nice 2D animated sequence that doesn’t look bad. It makes you wonder why the rest of the film wasn’t done in 2D. I also respect the idea behind the pigeons being addicted to the internet as they sit along the wires. It could have led to an interesting bit of social commentary.stork09Even then, while it’s not as bad as Spark: A Space Tail, A Stork’s Journey is still terrible, and I have no idea why Google Play and Lionsgate wanted anything to do with this movie. You wonder with how much money they make being Google, and Lionsgate’s live-action stuff, they can’t afford to invest into some foreign films that people would actually want to watch. This is just another mediocre animated film that will be forgotten by the passage of time, with actors like Jane Lynch wasting their talents in it instead of firing their agent to find better projects. This movie annoyed me more than I thought it would, and I don’t want all of the animated films I’m reviewing counting down to the 100th review to be bad. How about next time, we try to do nothing but animated films that are amazing? Next time, we will look at Porco Rosso. Thanks for reading! I hope you all enjoyed the article, and I will see you next time.

Rating: Blacklist/The Worst