Worst to Best Animated Films of 2016 Finale

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Welcome back to the final part of the Worst to Best Animated Films of 2016. If you have not seen the previous part of the list, here is a link. These are the final ten films that I love, and would watch many times over. I consider them new classics that everyone should check out and support. Honestly, I would just tell you to buy them all, but that’s just me. Let’s get started

10. April and the Extraordinary World

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I know everyone is in a bit of a bum mood, since the future of Studio Ghibli is up in the air as Hayao Miyazaki works on his supposedly “last” film, so instead, I want to turn your attention to what some have considered a French Ghibli alternative. April and the Extraordinary World is a fun Castle in the Sky-style action adventure film set in a world where science never got past the steam age. It’s filled with high-flying action, sci-fi technology, and it’s just a fun adventure with fun characters. I still think some of the chemistry between characters could have been better, but I really loved watching this film. If you need your Castle in the Sky fix and to see how to do Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow better, then definitely watch this movie.

9. Long Way North

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Let’s call this the polar opposite of a Disney princess film. This French film about a Russian princess wanting to redeem her grandfather’s legacy is simple, yet complex. It’s easy to get into and well executed. The film can be very quiet and atmospheric with a honestly dark edge to the adventure she goes on to find her Grandfather’s ship. Granted, some of the voice work isn’t the best, but the film is gorgeously animated, and it has a great cast of characters with a story that shows the darker side of events like this. I was a tad disappointed that this film wasn’t seen by more people, since I truly think it’s a fantastic film. It’s easily the best film Shout! Factory has distributed, and I highly recommend you support this film by buying a copy.

8. The Boy and the Beast

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Man, I don’t know why people aren’t more willing to say Mamoru Hosoda is the new “Miyazaki”, because films like The Boy and the Beast are why he’s one of my new favorite directors. This tale with themes of father and son relationships, different family situations, and parents being up-front with your children is masterfully fused with the beautiful animation, great action, and likable characters. I think the pacing could have been better in the third act, but that shouldn’t detract from how amazing this movie is. I can’t wait to see what Hosoda does in the future.

7. Only Yesterday

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Yes, it’s technically a 2016 release since we never got it when Disney was bringing over all of the Ghibli films. Luckily, GKids decided to be awesome and help us out with bringing over probably one of my favorite Ghibli films to date. I love the more mature tone, the characters, the setting, and the voice cast. I adored Daisy Ridley as the lead, and I found her character to be rather complex and interesting. I’m sure everyone in their life has wondered if they feel like they got what they wanted out of their life. Sure, it can be a tad slow, and I can totally understand if someone finds this film boring, but I found it unabashedly fascinating. Easily one of my top five favorite films from the studio, and I think Isao Takahata’s best movie from the ones that I have seen from him.

6. The Little Prince

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Talk about a victim of circumstance. This amazing and mature CGI/stop-motion film from France with the director of the original Kung Fu Panda got screwed out of being in theaters, and whether it’s true that Paramount wanted the studio to pony up more cash for distribution and advertising or not, The Little Prince deserves more attention than it got. Yeah I get the complaint about the third act and such, but in the end, I loved my overall journey with this film from beginning to end.

 5. Moana

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In some regards, Moana had a disadvantage coming out right after the huge hit that was Zootopia, and being another Disney princess film right after the monster that was Frozen. Luckily, Moana I think does better in terms of an overall experience, while being progressive for a Disney princess film. Moana is a fantastic lead, Maui is a blast, the villains are hugely memorable, and the overall story is well-told. Sadly, it does take that dip in quality in the third act, and brings up very outdated Disney story elements, but I would call it safe than lazy, like some reviewers would argue. In the end though, Moana is a super fun adventure film, and is easily one of Disney’s best offerings in a year where they were doing pretty well.

4. My Life as a Zucchini

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Probably the most real and “human” animated film from last year. This Golden Globe/Oscar-nominated stop-motion film about a kid living in an orphanage is well animated, emotionally touching, charming, and it does feel human. Even with the English dub, the actors still bring in that calm and quiet spirit. The child actors were, once again, a situation where they would make or break the film, and well, they pulled it off. Granted, I wish the film was longer than 70 minutes, since I really enjoyed being with these characters and I liked the lead’s relationship with the police officer. It’s just an amazing film, and I would highly recommend checking out this award winner.

3. Zootopia

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While Moana is a fantastic film that I could watch over and over, Zootopia is the better movie. While it might not be super subtle with its themes, its clever writing, world building, hugely likable characters, great designs, and a fun sense of humor lifts itself up from such a problem. It was also a bigger risk, since it was Disney’s first animated film in a long time to use bipedal animals. If there was one film to take home the most awards for Best Animated Feature, I’m glad it was Zootopia. Sure, I wish Kubo and the Two Strings took the award, but hey, at the very least, I agree with Disney winning Best Animated Feature this time.

2. Miss Hokusai

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If there was a film that I wish could have gotten more acclaim and nominations, it would be Miss Hokusai. This down-to-earth, character-based film just won me over in an instant. I loved the daughter interacting with everyone and dealing with different situations in life, I loved the different art styles used for different parts of the story, I love the voice cast, I love Richard Epcar as Hokusai, I just loved this movie. Yes, there were some characters who you obviously knew were there for a very specific reason, but I don’t care. I love films like this since it shows animated films can be more than just wacky comedies, and that more adult animated films can be more than stoner comedies. It’s easily one of my top five favorite films GKids brought over, and I would recommend following the director and seeing what he does next.

1. Kubo and the Two Strings

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It should be no surprise that the film that had probably the biggest fighting chance of dethroning Zootopia at the Oscars is my favorite animated film from 2016. Kubo and the Two Strings surprised me in how much I loved it. I was not surprised by Finding Dory being great, I was not surprised by Kung Fu Panda 3 for being great, I was not surprised Moana was great, and you get the idea. I was surprised at how well-animated it was. The voice acting was amazing, the music was fantastic, the visuals were awe-inspiring, and the themes and tone of the film made it a darker family film. I love how it’s about life, and how you can’t live in life without hardships. The action was fantastic and well-choreographed.  I’m so upset this didn’t do better, and even if there is nothing wrong with Zootopia winning the Best Animated Feature at the Oscars, Kubo and the Two Strings deserved it more, and rightfully deserves the spot as my favorite animated film of 2016.

Well, that was 2016, a fantastic year for animation, and I know 2017 hasn’t been that great so far, but keep your hopes up and go see the smaller releases. Thanks for checking out this long list and I’ll make sure to get these out sooner rather than later next time.

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The Other Side of Animation 55: April and the Extraordinary World 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!)

So far, 2016 in animation has been pretty fantastic. It is easily having one of the best years in animation. While there have been a few clunkers like Norm of the North, Ice Age: Collision Course, Batman: The Killing Joke, Ratchet & Clank, and Bling, the huge amount of great movies have outweighed the terrible in spades. I mean, this year’s Oscar race for best film will and should include Zootopia, Finding Dory, Kung Fu Panda 3, Boy and the Beast, Only Yesterday, The Little Prince, Kubo and the Two Strings, and depending on how good it is, Moana. I also feel like while there have been a lot of great and mature films for this year, I do wish there were a few films that were similar in spirit to films like Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Arc, The Rocketeer, and those old pulp sci-fi adventure shorts and books. Luckily, GKIDS has our backs yet again with April and the Extraordinary World. This 2D French and Belgium collaboration was directed by Christian Desmarues and Franck Ekinci, and produced by Michel Duthell, Franck Ekinci, and Marc Jousset. It was released back in April (ha ha), and was recently released on DVD and on-demand. So, is this adventure worth your time into an extraordinary world? Or is it a clunker like Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow?

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The story places us into a world in the early 20th century, where all the scientists in the world are suddenly vanishing. As a result, the world doesn’t get introduced to electricity, and motor engines, and is stuck in this steam punk-like time period, where there are barely any trees or plant-like life left in the world. The story then goes on to focus on a young woman named April Franklin, voiced by Angela Galuppo. When she was a young girl, her parents and grandfather vanished after a chase sequence from the police. She is now living on her own with a talking cat named Darwin, voiced by Tony Hale.  During this time, April has been working on a formula that her parents had been working on before the incident when they vanished. Unfortunately for her, the police detective, Pizoni, voiced by Paul Giamatti, is looking for her and uses the help of a street urchin named Julius, played by Tod Fennell, to keep track of her goings-ons. What happens next is April discovers the serum, and gets chased by an unknown force that is behind the scientist kidnapping. Can she and Julius find her still-alive grandfather, voiced by Tony Robinow, and stop whatever is trying to capture them?

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What I like about this movie is, unlike Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, which only captures the look of the setting, but not its characters, is that it captures that penny dreadful/pulp fiction-style story and setting perfectly. You are kept invested with why this evil force is capturing scientists, and why this serum that April’s parents were making is so important to the force. It also leads to characters that, while some could consider them simple, are still very likable. I love April as a female lead, and that the film, like Big Hero 6, shows how science can be a pro rather than a stupid dated joke. The film definitely takes advantage of its setting, and you get a lot of creative and amazing visuals and technology for this world with barely any plant life left. While it might not be “scientifically accurate”, it does remind me of the creativity with the idea of steam punk, like in Steamboy with its massive machines. It also has some good adventurous scenes and chase sequences with the chase at the beginning of the movie easily being one of the best scenes in animation in 2016. It really does capture a The Last Crusade and Rocketeer-style adventure film that you rarely get to see these days.

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The animation is great. It has a lovely French-style comic look to the entire film, and it is smooth in terms of movements. Like most European animations, the physical humor is blended well into the story, and is truly funny and never feels forced. I don’t know why, but with the exception of a few people in Hollywood, European animation has found a way to make humor gel well, and not feel clunky or awkward. Maybe it’s the execution of the jokes, or maybe it’s the writing. I don’t know, but the look and atmosphere brings in elements of films you would see from Pixar and Studio Ghibli. Heck, this entire film reminds me of Castle in the Sky in some ways. It’s a film that will age really well for future viewings and generations. I also enjoyed the voice cast. While I think maybe one or two performances were just okay, I really liked everyone else. They also hired a pretty good cast of actors for this film, like Paul Giamatti, JK Simmons, Susan Sarandon, Tony Hale, and Angela Galuppo.

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Unfortunately, this tale of adventure in a steam punk world is slightly flawed. I think even though it almost has a two-hour running time, they could have maybe made it a bit longer to explain a few elements, or at the very least fix some of the clunky storylines, like the relationship with April and Julius. The conflict at times feels a bit forced with the two, and while I do like the two characters, I think they could have handled the relationship better.

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Still, I really do love this movie. I think it’s easily in my top 10 of the year with its, pardon the pun, extraordinary world, likable characters, creativity, and how fun it is to watch. I would have to think about where I would put it in terms of the best of GKIDS, but I think no matter where I put it, April and the Extraordinary World is still going to be a pretty big recommendation if you like fun adventure movies. Definitely get the Blu ray and DVD combo pack, and lose yourself in a world of steam and adventure.  Let’s keep these positive vibes going with the controversial Sausage Party. Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed the article, and see you all next time!

Rating: Go See It!