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.

Worst to Best Animated Films of 2013 Part 3 (Finale)

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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!)

Now it’s time to look at the final 11 films from 2013, and be done with this underwhelming year of movies!

11. Colorful

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Before making one of my favorite films of 2016, Miss Hokusai, Keiichi Hara made this animated feature, Colorful. This film is about a soul that gets a second chance at life by being brought back into the body of a young boy who committed suicide. It is up to the soul to find out who he is before six months are up. For the first half of the film, I was not enjoying it. I thought the character designs were ho-hum, the lead character was a giant jerk, it was sort of boring to sit through, and the lead’s voice actor was really annoying. I was sitting there wondering why it was so popular at festivals, and why so many people were gushing over it like it was the most important animated film of all time. When I got to the second half, it finally started to get good, and show why this film was made and its purpose. I loved the scenes between the lead and the father, the lead with the odd friend, and the more atmospheric and quiet moments. When the lead was actually putting his head into the game as to why he was chosen to be brought back, he becomes much more interesting as a character. It has a lot of great moments, but sitting through half a film of mean-spirited characters to get to a really good second half was difficult. I’ll go more into detail at a later date with this film, but I can definitely say that in the end, it was worth checking out.

10. Approved for Adoption

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This is one of the few animated films from 2013 that I would wholly consider unique. Approved for Adoption is an animated/live action documentary about the life of Korean-Belgium comic artist known as Jung. It is about his life when he was adopted by a Belgium family when he was a kid during the Korean War. It’s mixed with beautiful CGI-animated sequences, home-movie footage, and archival footage from that period in time. You can technically call this cheating, since it isn’t purely animated, but in my opinion, it’s animated enough to count. It deserves to exist more so than half the movies on this list. It’s a touching story of Jung’s life as he grows up with his adopted family, and finds his identity in the world. I do have some complaints, like the CGI animation is at times clunky, kid Jung is a punk, and the mother is unlikable as the film goes on. I wasn’t expecting rainbows and lollipops, in fact, it’s probably best that the film doesn’t sugarcoat the actual person’s life, but still. It’s definitely a film that’s not going to appeal to everyone, but it’s a touching story that deserves your attention.

9. Frozen

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I’ll be frank, the reason why this film is in this spot is because Disney milked it to death, and it ruined the charm for me. It’s still a great movie, with likable characters, great dialogue, funny comedy, touching moments, and is overall a fantastic film, but Disney couldn’t let this film be. They squeezed so much cash from this cow that it started to bring out the hipster effect, to where the film got too popular and people started to backlash against it. It does have its faults, like the troll song in the third act, the villain, and the unique fact that this is the first Disney film to be about two sisters and one becomes a queen, but they stay separated for a majority of the film. The ending is also pretty weak, but it’s still great, due to how touching the final moment is and how good the acting was. I still love this movie, but I think a few elements could be better.

8. From Up on Poppy Hill

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I know there is a bit of a split on whether people like this movie or not, but with the exception of the ending, I really enjoyed the story of two kids in a post-World War 2 setting. It really reminds me of the corny, but ultimately charming, Whisper of the Heart. It’s a very laid-back film that has some really great moments between characters, and a rather intriguing mystery on whether the two leads are actually related. Unfortunately, the ending just abruptly happens, and it ends on a whimper. It’s a shame, since the film was directed by Goro Miyazaki and was written by Hayao Miyazaki. It’s still a solid movie, but I wish the ending was better.

7. Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox

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There is very little surprise as to why this is one of the best reviewed DC-animated films. It’s a well-executed mature film about a “what if” situation focusing on The Flash, and shows the results of one change to the timeline, and how one thing just dominoes into a much different future. The mystery was good, the history changes were intriguing. It was interesting to see some of the dramatic changes, like how Bruce Wayne is killed, and his parents become Batman and The Joker separately, and how essentially, the cataclysmic event of the film was partly started by one of DC’s punching bags, Aquaman. Yeah, I have a few problems that revolve around that, but in the end, that was the one problem I had with this film. It always seems like the writers for the animated stuff had more fun writing for The Flash than any other character. This is one of the few DC animated films that I have seen that I would highly recommend watching on Netflix, or buying a copy if you are curious.

 6. The Painting

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This is essentially Inception with paintings. It is the story of people who live inside paintings that go and search for their creator. This is one of my favorite European-animated films of this decade. I just love the focus, and sincere emotions, and chemistry the characters have for one another. I love the sequences where they jump to and from different paintings that lead them into different worlds and min-sets of said worlds. I adore the great colorful art style that definitely makes this CGI film stand above and beyond a majority of the competition in terms of how good CGi from overseas can look. I do wish there were some sequences explained more, but I can live with that.

5. Wrinkles

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Here is possibly the saddest film on the list. Wrinkles is a film from Spain that follows the life of a retired banker who is slowly going through the states of Alzheimer, voiced by Martin Sheen, as he is moved into a retirement home and becomes roomates/friends with  another old man, voiced by the late George Coe. The story is very mature, and is very much about the relationship between Sheen and Coe’s characters, and how they affect one another. It’s touching, sad, visually fun, humorous, charming, and that last scene. I cried during that last sequence because the words said are so tragic, yet touching. It does have a groaner joke here and there, and I can totally understand if this is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I can highly recommend Wrinkles for anyone looking for a mature animated film that isn’t a stoner comedy.

4: A Letter to Momo

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Once you know this was directed by the same guy who did Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade, it makes for an interesting contrast between that dark political thriller and this mature, but more light-hearted film. I have reviewed this film as well, as it’s a wonderful slice-of-life drama dealing with the loss of a loved one, and moving on. It has great characters, wonderful comedic animation, and has yet another Ghibli-style mood and atmosphere with how laidback a good chunk of the film is. There are some moments that somewhat annoy me, but they never bothered me enough to ruin the experience. The best characters were very much the three spirits that follow our female lead around. They worked well off each other, were hilarious, and were likable characters by the end of it all. It can be a very odd movie, but I highly recommend checking out A Letter to Momo if you are looking for a good Studio Ghibli-style movie.

3: Ernest & Celestine

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This was the film that got me into loving everything that GKids does, so it should be no surprise that I put it this high on the list. I already did a review of this movie since it was my very first animated film review, but the story of a mouse and bear becoming close friends in a world where that isn’t allowed, won my heart over, and was the film I think should have won Best Animated Feature, but I digress on that. The beautiful watercolor art direction, with some great animation and good timeless physical comedy, combined with some great chemistry among the characters, makes this one of the most appealing animated films to watch and is easily the first one I would recommend watching if you want to get into the GKids library of animated films.

2. The Wind Rises

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This is definitely one of the more controversial animated films of the past few years. The Wind Rises is a romanticized/fictional biographical story of Jiro Horikoshi, the man who designed the kamikaze fighter jets. I can definitely understand the raised brows and concerns, but since this is Hayao Miyazaki, they don’t approve or praise what Jiro did. More of the focus is Jiro’s passion of making planes. He even regrets and hates that his beautiful planes and designs were used for such a hateful incident. The rest of the movie is about his journey and life as a plane designer. It has everything you love about Ghibli films with its atmosphere, likable characters, quiet moments, and the whimsy. The voice cast is also fantastic, with Joseph Gordon Levitt doing an amazing job as Jiro. Sure, the love interest played by Emily Blunt might not be in the movie a lot, but she and Jiro, while not having too much time on screen, are adorable. I just loved this movie, and if this was actually Miyazaki’s final film, I would have been happy. It might be long, but The Wind Rises is a fantastic movie.

1. Wolf Children

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Surprise of the century that a Japanese animated film could do a better job at a Pixar/Disney film than Disney and Pixar in 2013! Seriously though, Mamoru Hosoda’s Wolf Children is my favorite movie from this year. The story of a widow taking care of her half-human half-wolf kids is right up there with Spirited Away in terms of the best Japanese animated films of all time. It does everything right, in terms of an animated movie. It has likable/endearing characters, a well-paced story, subtle mystical elements that never feel distracting, complex themes of how kids can grow up differently, kid characters who are actually good, top-notch animation, and a fantastic musical score. It’s what you look for in a movie and it’s just a perfect animated film. If you felt like 2013 was bad in terms of animation, I dare you to say that after watching Wolf Children.

Worst to Best Animated Films of 2013 Part 1

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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, I was thinking while I’m working on a list of the Worst to Best Animated films of 2016, I’m going to, from time to time, make lists tackling films from different years. It’s probably going to be more on the side of the recent years due to how many animation studios there are, and how willing certain companies are in bringing more movies from different countries. So, what year did I decide to tackle first? 2013. Why did I choose this year, specifically? Because it was one of the best years for films that I have ever seen. Actually, that would be a lie, since 2013 was pretty bad. Not that we didn’t get anything great, since the Oscar-nominated films were fantastic, and from time to time, you would get a great movie, but man, no one, or at the very least, not everyone was willing to give their A game. This was the year we got stuff like Iron Man 3, Thor: Dark World, After Earth, Oz: The Great and Powerful, The Lone Ranger, The Host, and you get the idea. It wasn’t any better for animation, since Disney, DreamWorks, and Pixar decided to go on auto-pilot with a majority of their films in 2013. However, even though it wasn’t a great year for films in general, 2013 was a fantastic year for indie-animated films. So, what are the rules for these types of lists? 1. They had to be released in the states in 2013. I’m not going to add a film to the list unless it came out that year. 2. No straight-to-video schlock. Unless that direct-to-DVD release was worth a hoot, then I’m not counting it. That way, we don’t have to go through the terrifying number of DVD bargain bin nightmares. 3. They are also in order of which ones I would watch again. 4. it’s my list. It’s my opinion on what I thought were the worst to best animated films, and so on. Will you disagree? Maybe, but don’t be malicious towards me if you see that I didn’t like your favorite animated movie on the list.

Now then, let’s begin with one of the biggest corporate blunders of all time!

27. Walking with Dinosaurs

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You know who the biggest victims of this film were? The animators that worked painstakingly hard on getting the movements, textures, and nature of the animals down, only to have it backfire on them by studio execs ruining everything. Instead of letting the film be its own quiet, albeit generic, dinosaur story, they forced voice-overs at the last minute. It ruins any tension in the film, due to there being jokes and comments that ruin the tone. They will even insert a joke that doesn’t fit into a scene where someone horribly dies. I hope the person who thought this was a good idea loved losing over $44 million+ in the box office. It’s one of the biggest financial blunders of all time in terms of CGI-animated films, and there is no reason for anyone to see this movie.

26. The Snow Queen

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Here is the situation for this movie. It was originally released a year before Frozen, but then was brought over to the states a month before Frozen was released. It is based more on the source material than Frozen is, but overall is just a worse movie. The characters are bland and have dead-eye syndrome, the designs were awkward, the pace of the film makes impactful scenes not work, and the animation, while not terrible, is nowhere near the quality it could have been. My only real positive is that it at least tried to be more akin to the source material, but due to how rushed it all feels, it leaves very little for the viewers to take in, and its clunky animation doesn’t help, either. It’s mediocre, but knowing the stuff I have seen this past year, it’s still more watchable than most. I just wouldn’t recommend it.

25. Justin and the Knights of Valor

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The only reason this is on the list is that it got a limited theatrical release, and Antonio Banderas produced it. Funny enough, he is only a really annoying side character in the film. While this animated film might be worse in overall quality compared to the great CGI of Walking with Dinosaurs, Justin and the Knights of Valor was at least presented as intended. It’s yet another Shrek-style fantasy/comedy that doesn’t really understand why Shrek 2 worked, and is constantly not funny. It also has a universe that doesn’t make a lot of sense, due to how knights were replaced by lawyers, but for some reason still have armored men around, and so on. Justin and the Knights of Valour feels like a concept that didn’t get fleshed out enough. However, when the story focuses on Justin, he’s a pretty solid protagonist. The CGI might not be great, but considering what you can usually see with European CGI, it’s upper-tier. A decent protagonist and “good enough” CGI can’t cover up the horrible humor, pointless side characters, weak villains, a mediocre fantasy/comedy setting that isn’t fleshed out enough, and forgettable characters. Still, I’ve seen worse.

24. Free Birds

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I already reviewed this movie, but I’ll keep it short. Free Birds is a decent attempt at a first-time theatrical trailer for Reel FX, but it’s still super-generic in terms of its story and characters. The jokes aren’t consistently funny enough to make the film enjoyable to sit through, the human characters have no character, and there really isn’t anything worthwhile for older audiences, which is a shame, since there are animated films that can be enjoyed by both kids and adults. However, even though it’s not a great experience, I did find myself enjoying Woody Harrelson’s character, and how the time machine was voiced by George Takei, who is always entertaining. Still, if you were to watch one movie from this studio, you are better off overlooking Free Birds, and going directly to The Book of Life.

23. Escape from Planet Earth

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I don’t really remember a whole lot from this film, besides seeing one or two commercials for it on TV when it was coming out, and boy, I can understand why no one might remember this movie. It’s a low-grade CGI family film that had the unfortunate situation of a huge amount of studio exec interference, and well, it really shows. The animation is decent, but the designs are ugly, some of the characters are really grating, it’s yet another “jock vs. the nerd” story, and about half the jokes work. However, I do like the nerdy brother, and how competent he is. I mean, with these types of films, the nerdy individual would be inept at about everything, but in this movie, he isn’t. I also enjoyed some of the jokes, especially when the introductory video in Area 51 was shown. Like I said though, even with some of the positives, this film has no reason to be viewed by anyone unless you are very curious in terms of wanting to check out a financially underwhelming film that was screwed over by stupid executives.

22: Planes

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A lot of films you see on this list are definitely in that realm of “no one was asking for this, but execs wanted another financially lucrative merchandise-selling film, so this is why it exists”. Seriously, after the critical failure of Cars 2, you would think Disney would not touch the franchise ever again. Sadly, we got Planes, and while it isn’t by Pixar, it still feels like a waste of money. It’s cheap-looking for something from Disney, the side characters have one-note personalities, the story is generic, and there is no reason for this film to exist other than to sell toys. Luckily, there are still a few bright spots with the film. I actually like Dane Cook’s performance as the lead character, and some of the flying sequences are nice. They just needed a bit more polish to get to that peak of How to Train your Dragon quality of flying sequences. Some of the character interactions have enough chemistry to pay attention to, but you won’t miss anything by not viewing this cash grab spin-off.

21: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2

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Speaking of cash grabs, the rushed feeling and cheapness of this sequel is very apparent when you watch it. It had a budget that was $22 mil less than the original, and it shows. While the animation is still better than most films, everyone looks plastic and toy-like in terms of skin textures, the animation is really fast to a nauseating degree, the jokes don’t work all the time, there is a stupid misunderstanding/jerk plot point that no one cares about, a bunch of the side characters don’t have much to do, and it’s easily a really annoying experience. The story feels half-baked (ha), due to how the villain, a Steve Jobs parody, hijacks the film, and you can really tell that his animation didn’t get the most attention due to how clunky and, again, cheap it looks. When the film was about seeing the creative food animal designs, it was pretty decent entertainment. The crazy expressions were fun to look at, and the film was pretty vibrant in the color department. Even some of the food puns were pretty funny. The voice work also gets a thumbs-up, due to the material they had to work with. It’s not great material, but you can tell the actors were doing their best when the story wasn’t rehashing jokes or gags from the first film. It’s a sequel with sequelitis problems, and is definitely not a great movie. Although, I do disagree with people calling it the worst animated film of 2013, or one of the worst sequels of all time. It’s bad, but I can think of worst films from 2013, and worst sequels.

20: Turbo

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Freaking DreamWorks! It’s movies like this that make people not take you seriously. Instead of doing something creative and good, DreamWorks (this is pre-buyout by Universal), in all of their wisdom, made a snail that wants to race against actual formula 1 racers. Like, what focus group test did they run, and who were these people who were like, “yeah, this looks like a great idea!” It isn’t. It’s predictable child-pandering auto-piloted schlock. While Ryan Reynolds is a decent protagonist, the slug posse was the most entertaining element about the cast. They aren’t in the film enough, but they were the best element of the film. It’s overall pretty harmless tripe that’s well-animated, but it’s nothing to write home about. It’s easy to see why this film underperformed in the states.

 19: Despicable Me 2

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Talk about a huge improvement in terms of animation. In just a few short years, Illumination was able to improve their animation quality, and it really shows when you watch both Despicable Me films back-to-back. It’s definitely got a lot of the quality aspects of a good movie, like the two leads are funny, the minions were funny (this was before it was the giant annoying trend that it is now), and there was some heart. It’s unfortunately a film that trades in story for humor, and that’s not a terrible thing, but it once again points out that Illumination need better storywriters. The lead villain is tolerable, but they just don’t do anything with the three little girls, and they feel tacked on to the story. Like, I get they can’t retcon them out of the series, but they didn’t do anything. The female lead played by Kristen Wiig is entertaining, but at times is too hyper, and it distracts from the chemistry that she and the lead character have. It’s entertaining, and a film you can turn your brain off to and enjoy, but it still isn’t that great of an overall movie.

Let’s take a break and I’ll post Part 2 in the near future!

Why Your Name Probably Wasn’t Chosen at the Oscars

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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, recently the Oscar nominations came out, and for the most part, people did a collective “no surprise” shrug at the nominees for film of the year and out of morbid curiosity, decided to see what the other nominees were, since they also matter. With the exception of the backlash for La La Land getting more nominees than any other movie, everyone felt fine about who was nominated. That is, unless you were an animation fan. The five animated films nominated for Best Animated Feature were Zootopia, Moana, Kubo and the Two Strings, The Red Turtle, and My Life as a Zucchini. While this sounds like a pretty good line-up, the internet was having a collective heart attack that Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name was not selected. Of course, the usual comments that “they are full of Disney bias” or “the academy is flawed and doesn’t watch all the films that are nominated” came up, and of course, the less favorable comments that popped up will not be mentioned here. So, are people just being upset for no reason and are not thinking straight about why it wasn’t chosen? Personally, I feel like there are perfectly understandable reasons that Your Name was not chosen. Let’s just ignore the flawed thought process of the Oscars, and as best as possible, take out personal bias for the film itself, and dive into why Your Name probably didn’t make it on the list.

There was literally no hype or push for the film in the states.

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So, like it or not, films get chosen by the groups who push and lobby for their films to be chosen by the voters of the Academy. It also helps if you get your films out there to as many viewers as possible, whether it be showing them at film festivals, or being released and getting hype a couple of months before the actual award show. There is more to this than what I just said, and there are definitely videos talking about what goes on with the films released during the Oscar season, and how to know what will get chosen. So, what did Your Name not do here? Well, everything. Now, not to say there was literally no one talking about it, but most of it was “Look how amazing it’s doing in Asia and Japan” or “It’s the highest grossing Japanese animated film in Japan”. Doesn’t seem like there was much talk about the American viewers, or even the rest of the world for that matter, was there? The only hype it got over here was when Funimation announced that they got the rights to distribute it. I mean, that’s cool, but there wasn’t much else. Funimation either couldn’t or, quite frankly, didn’t lobby or hype the film. They released a subtitled trailer, but no English dub trailer, and unless you were able to see this film at some convention or in Australia or any of the countries outside of Asia and Japan that got to see it in a limited theatrical run, there was no way to legally watch the film. So, this must mean that that America will get to see the film soon? You wish. The only possible legal way to watch the film will be when Funimation releases it in April. So, to recap, if you live in the states, and want to feel morally well-rounded and see this film, you will have to go two months after the award show. Even if voters were to watch every film in the running, how can anyone check it out when there are barely any possible ways to watch the film? Why didn’t Funimation make the push for people to see it?

So, you must be wondering then why The Red Turtle and My Life as a Zucchini get chosen when no one was really able to see them until now? Well, they have been making their rounds in the film festivals, and have been winning awards left and right, which result in the spread of word of mouth. It also helps that the two films have companies that are attached to them that have weight, GKids, Sony Pictures Classics, and Studio Ghibli. Those are all recognizable names that have had their films in the awards for years, so it’s no surprise that they got into the award show. Just because the film was doing gangbusters in regions that could relate to it more, doesn’t mean that same success is going to happen everywhere else if you don’t do anything to make it viewable to as many people as possible.

 Cultural themes and personal opinion might get in the way.

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Heads up, I am going to be using my personal opinion on the film for a bit with this example. Okay then, even if you were able to watch the film, would you honestly consider it better than what came out in 2016? Personal opinion will be put into perspective, and I simply couldn’t get into the movie as much as so many people praising it from head to toe did. I just don’t feel like it’s a film that can appeal to everyone in the right way, where it’s both entertaining, but complex enough to not be mindless fluff. I also found the film’s heavy use of Japanese culture, themes, and lifestyles to be distracting, and made it hard to get into the film about a boy and a girl swapping bodies.

Now, how does that make sense? Shouldn’t a film, no matter the country of origin, culture, and themes, be able to be enjoyed and understood by anyone? So then, why do films like Ernest & Celestine, The Boy and the Beast, and the American-made Kubo and the Two Strings, which has a heavy lean on Japanese folklore and visuals be so beloved by everyone? Easy, because they have stories and themes with characters everyone can get behind. The Boy and the Beast is about a father/son-like relationship, and has a unique moral for parents to be upfront with their kids and not constantly lie to them, and the consequences of doing so. Ernest & Celestine deals with discrimination, and is about the friendship of two souls who feel ousted by their own communities. Kubo and the Two Strings deals with the fact that life is about the balance of happiness and sadness, and how shielding yourself away from the hate and sadness in the world is not a good idea. These films are able to grab you, since they don’t really focus on their country of origin. They were telling good stories, and having interesting characters first. Personally, Your Name doesn’t do that. While it might have a pretty good chemistry among its characters, the film’s surroundings seem to take over the forefront. It also doesn’t help that a third act time travel twist happens, and ruins the film for me. I would have loved if they just focused on the romance between the two, or keep focusing on the body-swapping thing that somehow vanishes as the film goes on. Like, I get Makoto Shinkai has this thing about long-distance relationships, but once the third act comes into play, it feels weird and confusing to me. I really couldn’t get into it. I’m sure there are themes and ideals as to the sudden twist and the body-swapping, but it drags the film down. Plus, the character design and school day setting might be a bit bland and tiring to some. Make no mistake, Your Name is beautifully animated and looks downright gorgeous, and the fact that it has a theme of “everyone has someone out there” is nice, but it looks like a lot of other anime out there. I just felt too distracted by the film at certain points. I keep harping on the fact that so many people keep trying to say Makoto Shinkai is the next Hayao Miyazaki, but Makoto Shinkai needs to work on his storytelling and writing before he can get to levels of filmmakers like Miyazaki, Satoshi Kon, or Mamoro Hosoda. Shinkai is a very talented individual, but he uses “flash over proper substance” way too much, and I just won’t sit here and agree with the world saying it’s the best movie of all time, when it’s not what I believe. Even if the voters in the academy were not going by bribes or sweet swag offerings, personal opinion is still going to be a thing, and not everyone is going to agree on it being a good movie. Even checking out the reviews for it, there are people who don’t like it for understandable reasons. They aren’t doing it because it’s the popular thing to do by bashing a film everyone loves. Heaven forbid, that is what makes us unique, when we all have our own opinions.

 2016 was a tough year for animation.

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Personal preference for the film aside, it’s not like Your Name was going to get a spot in the Oscars so easily. To me, 2016 was one of the best years of animation of all time. Zootopia, Moana, Kubo and the Two Strings, Finding Dory, The Little Prince, Phantom Boy, Miss Hokusai, My Life as a Zucchini, April and the Extraordinary World, 25 April, Mune: Guardian of the Moon, Sing, Storks, Sausage Party, Kung Fu Panda 3, The Boy and the Beast, and you get the idea. It was going to have major competition. You have films from both big and small studios with distributors who aren’t going to be holding back in terms of wanting to be selected for those award nominees. It was a tough year. If this was something like 2002 or 2011, I would understand, but it wasn’t. It was 2016, and animation was strong.

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With all that out of the way, am I saying that these are the 100% facts? Of course not! This was never meant to be actual factual information. It was a guess as to why the film wasn’t recognized at the award show, and some logical reasoning behind the “snub”. Was I annoyed that Frozen beat out Wolf Children, The Wind Rises, and Ernest & Celestine? Of course, but I knew they weren’t going to win. Was I annoyed that Big Hero 6 won Best Animated Feature, when there were Song of the Sea, The Tale of Princess Kaguya, The LEGO Movie, and DreamWorks’ How to Train your Dragon 2? Yes, but I’m not going to sit here and be grumpy that Disney got yet another Oscar. Yes, it’s very hard for non-Ghibli Japanese-animated films to get recognition from the Academy, but in the end, what makes these types of films special to you also makes it not  matter if they get an award or not. GKids might have not won any of the American Awards, but it doesn’t diminish that the films they bring over are fantastic. While I’m not fully on-board with Your Name’s popularity, it shouldn’t matter if it was nominated for an award or not. Some recognition would be nice, but if you consider it a good movie, then by all means, keep considering it a good movie. It’s in my top 20 of 2016 for a reason, since I feel like its strengths are indeed strong. Don’t let it being left out of the Oscars weaken your love for the film. Go see it when it comes to theaters in April, and buy it when it comes out on DVD. I’m just saying don’t be freaked out that it wasn’t picked.

Was It Really Our Fault For The Death of 2D Animation?

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Around the mid-2000s, 2D animated films were struggling, with a majority of the flops coming from Disney and DreamWorks. This was when their 2D animated films were not bringing in waves of delicious greenback bills, and were instead being critically panned, and flopping/underperforming. This list of films include Home on the Range, Brother Bear, Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, Treasure Planet, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, and you get the idea. The only 2D animated films that were doing really well during this time period were the films made by Studio Ghibli, like Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle. When Home on the Range and Sinbad came out, both Disney and DreamWorks told the world that 2D animation was not a profitable way of filmmaking anymore, no one was seeing 2D animated films, and the new profitable form of animation was CGI-animation. This was essentially throwing 2D animation under the bus. So, was it really the public’s fault that 2D animation was dead? Is there a reason Europe and the rest of the world is keeping it alive and not getting wide releases? Well, let’s talk about what was going on around this time period.

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On one side of the spectrum during the early to mid-2000s, the only financially/critically successful animated films that were being made were of CGI, and Pixar and DreamWorks were leading the charge. This was when we were getting films like Shrek 2, Finding Nemo, and The Incredibles. All of these films were critical darlings, and are pretty fantastic films. On the other spectrum, you were unfortunately getting Disney and DreamWorks 2D animated films that were not doing well with audiences and the bank. Like I said above, the 2D animated films were not making enough of a profit, and were getting critically panned at the same time. Sure, you would get a film like Lilo & Stich, Emperor’s New Groove, and Spirits: Stallion of the Cimarron, but those films were few and far between in terms of being successful 2D animated films. The point is Disney and DreamWorks were losing money, and the only thing that was bringing in the cash besides their live-action films were their CGI animated films. Not to say that each CGI animated film during this period was a success, since this was when DreamWorks was trying to compete with Disney/Pixar, but the numbers and money talked.

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So, does this mean that 2D animation was 100% dead? Of course not! Even if Disney, Pixar, and DreamWorks were moving toward full-on CGI animation, due to the masses leaning more to CGI animation by overall audience appeal, there were a few studios and directors that were passionate or really stubborn about Hollywood’s sudden lack of 2D animation. This was when we were getting a lot of the Studio Ghibli films brought over by Disney, like Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Porco Rosso to name a few. Other directors like Sylvain Chomet gave the public The Triplets of Belleville, one of the best pieces of 2D animation around, and was a critical and Oscar winner. Japan has a multitude of amazing animated films during this time period, and even today we have incredible 2D animated films, like the late Satoshi Kon’s Paprika, Mamoru Hosoda’s Wolf Children, The Boy and the Beast, and Summer Wars, Makoto Shinkai’s The Garden of Words, and of course, Katsuhiro Otomo’s slew of films like Steamboy, and anthology project, Short Peace.  Europe has been rocking the 2D animation, with films from France, Spain, Scotland, and other areas including Song of the Sea, The Secret of Kells, A Cat in Paris, Phantom Boy, Ernest & Celestine, The Illusionist, Nocturna, Wrinkles, and Chico and Rita. Even Disney came back with two 2D animated films, with The Princess and the Frog and Winnie the Pooh. Sure, they didn’t break a gigantic amount of bank, but I love that Disney at first was going to do one 2D film, then a CGI film, and go on like that until they went full-on CGI animated. Even Brazil gave us Boy and the World, one of the most visually amazing films, not just animated films, I have ever seen.

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So, if 2D isn’t technically dead, since the rest of the world and the indie scene are treating it with the respect it deserves, then what really killed it? Well, it’s actually pretty obvious and simple. There is no reason to go into a college-based philosophical journey for the answer. Really, it’s the Hollywood machine, and the studios’ fault for killing off 2D animation.

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Yeah, I know it sounds like a hipster thing to do, and blame the bigwigs for killing off a style of animation, but it’s quite frankly the truth. So, during the mid-2000s of 2000-2005 or so, what were the companies releasing during this time that was 2D? This was when Disney was releasing films like Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Brother Bear, Treasure Planet, Lilo & Stich, Emperor’s new Groove, and Home on the Range. On top of that, this was also the tail end of their Straight-to-DVD fling, where they released a bunch of mediocre sequels to their popular Disney films. I’m sure you can find merit and something positive to say about certain elements of these films, but they were really scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of quality with these straight-to-DVD flicks. DreamWorks on the other hand only released about two 2D animated films, with one being a hit, and the other causing the infamous “2D animation is dead” quote with Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron and Sinbad. Now then, we’ve got our suspects from the 2D side of things from both companies, what went wrong with the studios making these films? After watching them recently, with the few exceptions that I have mentioned above, the rest feel like movies that were ruined by the higher-ups putting their focus-grouped hands into the mix. Films like Brother Bear, Sinbad, Treasure Planet, and Atlantis: The Los Empire could have been incredible movies, but what you get are films with bits and pieces of greatness and things to like, but then have to get past the elements that are distracting or not very interesting. Most of the time, the biggest blunder these films made was within its dialogue. When the characters talked like they were part of that time or setting, it was great and engaging. You felt like you were there with them. However, when the modern dialogue, Disney whimsy, and hip lingo pops into time periods where it isn’t remotely appropriate, and is only put there because some idiot higher-up thinks everyone would like it, it’s frustrating. It’s like they couldn’t fully stay invested in their own tones. If you want to be dark in Atlantis, then you need to keep the mature tone, and not throw in so many side characters, humor, and a weak bad guy. How much better could Brother Bear be if he didn’t turn into a bear and he was kept just as a human? I could say all of this with the other films like Treasure Planet and Sinbad. These studios, for the most part, would rather throw someone or something under the bus to avoid the honest truth that they made a bad movie that no one wanted to see, or have to admit that they were trying to cater to the lowest common denominator, and it wasn’t working. Oh, and was anyone really asking for Home on the Range? I mean, really?

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Yeah, I don’t buy that 2D animation died because people stopped caring about it. I think it died because studios here in the states kept giving us films that either couldn’t stay in the tone they set out for, higher-ups got their meddling hands into the pie, or were just terrible movies. Luckily, with the huge success of films like Zootopia, The Secret Life of Pets, Finding Dory, and the animated films distributed by GKIDS, animation has become a huge success during 2016, where with a few exceptions; a mass majority of the 2016 big Hollywood flicks are not panning out. Sure, you could argue it’s just the summer movies, but I feel like the animated films and indie films have been getting more of the spotlight and praise. Hopefully, this means that the bigger companies can try and come back to 2D someday, but due to how current Hollywood is run, it will probably take some time. Just remember, it’s not always your fault Hollywood made a stupid mistake. Thanks for reading, I hope you liked the article, and see you all next time.

Hit-or-Miss Movie Predictions: Zootopia

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Welcome back to Hit-or-Miss Movie Predictions. This is a series of first impression articles covering the newest trailers on animated films, and breaking down the good or bad that the trailer offers.

Disney has been on a streak of critically acclaimed movies over the past seven years now. Sure, some were more well received than others, but overall, they were good movies. It’s interesting to see that their next film, Zootopia, does take a few more risks than past films. First off, it’s one of the very, and I mean very few Disney animated films that use humanoid animals, the other two being Robin Hood and Chicken Little. Anyway, if you want to see the trailer for yourself, I will make sure to hyperlink it here. Now then, let’s break down the impressions.

 

Animation/Art Direction

I mean, this is Disney after all, you shouldn’t expect anything but great animation, with visually pleasing worlds and expressive characters. Like I said above, it’s interesting to see Disney do another film with human-like animals like in Robin Hood. It all looks fantastic. I also love the little visual jokes, like the hippos playing volleyball with giraffes, or the rhino cop fist-bumping the little bunny cop, and how the fist literally pushes her. It’s a film that was allowed to be creative and open-minded with its designs and world.

 

Humor

Unlike the humor you see in that piece of garbage Norm of the North, Zootopia seems to love its satirical take on society, and has a lot of visual gags with the animals they chose use. I already listed the volleyball match above, but it seems like a film that has jokes in the foreground, and in the background. Some jokes were predictable like “MR. Big” is actually a tiny animal, but most of the jokes and gags seen in the trailer and clips made me smile.

 

Story

Ginnifer Goodwin plays Officer Judy Hopps, a newly hired cop in the city of Zootopia, a city where prey and predators live together in peace. However, not everything is as peaceful as everyone thinks. An incident is causing certain predators to go crazy. While trying to solve this case, she teams up with a foxy con man named Nick Wilde, voiced by Jason Bateman. Can they solve the crime and save Zootopia?

 

Casting

Personally, I like the casting. Disney and Pixar always seem to get casts that fit the characters, and not just pick the biggest celebrities right now because they have the most buzz or are super popular. Zootopia’s cast includes Jason Bateman, Ginnifer Goodwin, Idris Elba, J.K. Simmons, John DiMaggio, Nate Torrence, Jenny Slate, Mark “Rhino” Smith, Tommy Chong, Octavia Spencer, Maurice LaMarche, and many more. I think the only one that stands out as “ we got her on name value alone”  is Shakira, who plays Gazelle, a pop star that is famous in the city of Zootopia. Kind of feels like they missed an opportunity in making her an animal based on her name, like a shark and calling her Sharkira. I guess I’ m slowly growing to say bad puns and dad jokes.

 

Any concerns?

For as much as I like the moral of the story that they are advertising, “don’t stop and keep on pushing no matter what”, I am concerned this film will be predictable. We have seen these kind of buddy cop comedy films before, and while I still want to see the movie, I don’t want to go through the film already knowing when something is about to happen. I wonder if Disney will put any creative spins on the overall film and tropes that are in this feature.

 

Prediction: Hit!

If this was Disney in the mid 2000s, I would have been more cautious, but since this is current Disney, and their past few movies have been great, I have no doubt that this will be a good, if not simply entertaining movie. It seems to take advantage of its set-up and how all the characters are animals. We will have to see next month if this film will be successful. I hope it is, since I want to see Disney do more than just princess films. Not that their other upcoming film, Moana doesn’t look amazing, but Zootopia seems like an interesting film, which I guess was probably greenlit due to how much money Disney made from Frozen. Still, I hope Zootopia is good!

The Negatives: Frozen

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Welcome to The Negatives. This is where we look at the critically acclaimed films from Disney, Dreamworks, and Pixar, and, well, point out their problems.

For In Defense Of, we looked at one of Disney’s biggest failures with The Black Cauldron, and I found some positive elements of the film. This time, let’s take a look at one of Disney’s biggest moneymakers of all time, Frozen. Now, even though we are about to look at the negative aspects of the film, I do want to say that I really do like this movie. Not as much as everyone else, but I still loved watching it. It brought a certain spark of Disney love back into me after my being so cynical about the company for years. However, over time, I have thought more critically about the film, and while I love Frozen, it really does have some flaws. Let’s get started!

 

The villain was weak!

Now, to be fair, I started off with this negative opinion, since in some ways, the villain, Hans, voiced by Santino Fontana, does work. Hans could represent the consequence of Anna being too outwardly social and trusting due to being inside a castle for so many years. It’s the reason why you shouldn’t be super-social and trusting of everyone, since some people out there are willing to hurt you and do things you don’t want to do. However, I think everyone could have seen this plot twist coming from the very beginning of the film. About 20 minutes into the movie, you hear Han’s father mentioning his plans for taking over the kingdom that Anna and Elsa rule. It’s not very original, and I feel like they didn’t really need a villain, since the main focus of the film is on the relationship between Anna and Elsa.

 

The Rock Troll song in the final third

You know how the song from the gargoyles was really distracting in Hunchback of Notre Dame? It was during a point in the story where the stakes were high and at that point, you were enthralled with the drama. Too bad that gargoyle song just ruins the entire mood and didn’t need to be in the film. That is how I felt about the song from the Rock Trolls in the final third of the film. This is after Anna was slowly freezing over. The male lead took her to see the Rock Trolls to try and cure her. Sadly, this leads into a song that really didn’t need to be in the film. It’s like “Hey! Anna is dying! Can you stop singing for a freaking minute, and try and save her?!” Granted, in the end, they couldn’t do anything to cure her, but they could have said that before breaking out into a song that ruins the mood and heartbreak of seeing one of the film’s main characters dying! At least Olaf’s song was amazing since he was so blissfully unaware of his fate if the sun hit him. Not to mention it was probably made to take a jab at annoying side characters.

 

Not really based on the source material

So, this film is very loosely based off the classic story, The Snow Queen. Why base Frozen off The Snow Queen story, when you barely do anything with the original story? Why not actually make a dark fantasy film? Dark fantasy films can work like The Dark Crystal. It is rather tiring that Disney, while they have been making good movies these past few years, will not do straight-up adaptations. It would be so nice for them to not think of how marketable this can be, or how many toys they can sell. Heck, that piece of CGI garbage The Snow Queen film at least hit elements of the original story more than Frozen, and I think Frozen is the better movie! They can at least say not “based on” and instead say “very loosely based on”.

 

Being overly marketed and commercialized ruined its charm!

When Frozen came out, it was a huge hit, and it was like, “Finally! Disney is back on track with good movies!” Not that they didn’t hit gold with the films leading up to Frozen, but still. Sadly, after Disney saw how hugely successful the film was, they tainted it with commercial tie-ins, putting the film back in theaters multiple times, and it resulted in all that charm and good graces that Disney got back, being now gone. It was overplayed, hyped-up to be the Citizen Kane of Disney films, and it was way too much. I really enjoyed it the first time I saw it, but that love shrunk slightly because of business. I know Disney is a company, and at the end of the day, it is all about making that bottom dollar, but at the same time, they should know when too much is, well, too much.

Like I have said many times, I do like this movie. Would I put it in my top 5? No. What about top 10? Well, maybe. I am glad it did well, and I am curious to see how they would do a sequel. I don’t think they should, but that’s just me. Well, next time we will be going back to In Defense Of, and I think it’s time to poke at Dreamworks. However, we might have to go a long way from Home to find something positive. Thanks for reading!