As a seemingly, strangely protracted awards season fades into the distant past, that doesn’t mean that we’ve totally forgotten the last year, or to bring you our site’s annual recap, with our staff’s favorite (and least favorite) picks of film, television, and any other form of media! Plus, of course, your picks for what you thought the best animated movies of 2021 were. So please allow us — if we May (!) — to proceed with our own version of the Oscars — only with a lot less slapping!
For most of us, 2021 was thankfully a lot calmer than the collective nightmare that was 2020. But at the same time, we didn’t quite get back to where we all wanted to be. Many of us continued to feel safer at home. Returning to our former way of life felt frustratingly out of reach.
And while the vaccines becoming readily available did a world of good for the general public, we still kept reading stories about the virus spreading, leaving us uncertain as to what was “the right thing” to do. And no one seemed able to agree on what that was!
Ironically, just as the world started to gradually begin reopening its doors, Disney made the announcement that they were shutting the ones of their recently acquired Blue Sky Studios, home of Scrat [above], for good. It was a move that somehow felt both shocking and inevitable, with the logic for the decision presumably revolving around the perceived need for budget cuts in the aftermath of Covid-19. Yet regardless of the reasoning behind it, the news was sad for animation lovers everywhere.
Always something of an underdog despite their frequent success, Blue Sky consistently exceled as far as their visuals went, never delivering a film that looked the same twice, whether it was their flagship Ice Age series, the wildly creative toy box world of Robots, or the spectacularly colorful Horton Hears A Who! What a shame that their (supposedly nearly finished) Nimona isn’t going to see the light of day now. Blue Sky will very much be missed.
For a while, 2021 behaved a lot like its predecessor as far as box office returns were concerned, with movie theaters remaining empty despite studios trying their darndest to fill seats. This must’ve made the victory of Godzilla Vs. Kong [right] a monster-sized sigh of relief for venue owners, with it becoming the first true blockbuster since the initial shutdown.
It turns out that when you take the two biggest cinematic beasts in the world and have them face each other, people are going to want to view the spectacle on the biggest screen they can find (although, let’s face it, the human characters may as well have not even bothered to show up for this outing!).
Equally promising was the pop culture phenomenon that was Demon Slayer The Movie: Mugen Train [below right]. After breaking seemingly every record in Japan (during a global pandemic no less), the action-packed adventure exploded in the US as well, becoming the biggest anime film since 1999’s Pokémon: The First Movie.
Part of a so-called “genre” normally restricted to a niche audience in the states, Demon Slayer has broken out into the mainstream thanks to an accessible storyline — girl turns into demon, boy must fight other demons to change her back into a human — combined with stunning animation and exhilarating fight scenes, and Mugen Train provided its loyal fanbase with plenty of thrills.
But movie theaters, alas, faced problems that extended beyond patrons needing to “mask up” before buying their popcorn, as streaming services became the dominating the force in how people chose to consume their entertainment.
Some films skipped being shown at the multiplex entirely. Others had “theatrical windows” which sometimes only lasted a matter of days (in the case of Disney’s Encanto, it was a month; Illumination’s Sing 2 was just 17 days) before they were available on home platforms.
The Mouse House appeared to be content with allowing their once indestructible Disney Channel to slowly fade away, prematurely cancelling popular shows such as The Owl House in favor of placing a priority on creating “exclusive content” for Disney+.
And Warner Bros. made the controversial decision to have their entire theatrical catalog for the year available on HBO Max the same day of release.
It was perhaps predictable that such actions would result in some lawsuits, most notably a high profile one from Scarlett Johansson over Black Widow [below right], but if there is a “war” going on in the industry right now, then streaming is winning it, for better or for worse.
True, there were still some huge box office hits last year. Spider-Man: No Way Home, against all odds (and some would say common sense), managed to gross $800 million (that’s more than Titanic made, kids!) during a time when public health officials were urging everyone to avoid crowds. At the end of the day, however, if a movie didn’t have “Marvel” above the title, it more likely than not wasn’t going to sell many tickets anyway.
Even F9: The Fast Saga struggled to bring in the kind of profits the mega-franchise has become used to. Is there hope for non-IP productions to find success through projectors in the future? We would like to think so, but only time will tell.
As always, there were more deaths than we could ever do justice to in a single article, with notable ones including Superman: The Movie director Richard Donner, Cloris Leachman, The Little Mermaid voice actor Samuel E. Wright, Christopher Plummer, Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim, Ed Asner, and — as a particularly painful way to end 2021 — universally beloved comedian Betty White, who passed away only weeks before what would’ve been her 100th birthday.
Well, that’s enough seriousness from us. We hope you enjoy our annual look back at the past year (even if it comes just a little later [“Sorry, my fault — Ben“] than we might’ve been hoping!). As always, we tip our hats to you, our readers, for keeping this website going. Animated Views is a labor of love for all involved, and we’re grateful to each and every one of you who normally pay us a visit. And so, we present The Best Of 2021: The More Things Change…
To paraphrase another famous sequel’s tagline, “just when you thought it was safe to go back into the cinema”, 2021 did in fact turn out to be a fairly predictable rerun of 2020, albeit with more vaccinations and hope that the year might have seen an end to the pandemic. But, nutty humans being what they are (I’m glad I’m not one of ’em!) meant that not everyone saw the advantages of getting jabba-dabba-dood, and not all countries imposed it based on so-called “choice”, which of course is a fallacy — we all have to pay taxes, drive with insurance, not kill our neighbors, etc, so why not just follow “the rules” and help your fellow humans? And so it rages on, somewhat diminished thanks to those vaxes, but still a concern for us vulnerable types…
In film, it was just as much of another crazy year out of the cinemas as it was on screen. Could leftover Wonder Woman 1984 be any more of a weirder start to what the next twelve months would bring, also launching an insane year of Warner Bros. movies that opened in our living rooms the same day as the (still mostly closed) theatres?
In the same realm, Zack Snyder’s Justice League [right] was almost perfectly redeemed, except for an awfully out of tone, cheaply tacked on ending. The much lesser of two semi-evils, the “Snyder cut” is a great, big, joyous mess of a movie — but it would be absolutely terrible if it wasn’t!
Now, CGI moustache shenanigans aside, I really didn’t mind the 2017 version. Sure, it was a hodgepodge of competing Snyder and Warner-dictated Whedon visions, but in the afternoon I spent watching it and the overblown emptiness of Hulk vs Thor’s Ragnarok, it was Justice League that I came away liking much more. When you compare it to the new version, it’s actually a pretty good, condensed, more character-friendly version of what Snyder was up to, which was exactly what Warners wanted after (fan!) complaints that Batman Vs Superman had gone too dark and off track…!
The Oscars didn’t fare much better, in a strangely surreal stripped down version in which Promising Young Woman bafflingly won something when it offered nothing we hadn’t seen before in other female revenge thrillers, of which there are many better ones. The Father provided an engrossing, labyrinthine “plot” with an extraordinarily nuanced performance from Anthony Hopkins, while the soft and gentle Nomadland‘s Best Picture win was just lovely. Animated Feature winner The Mitchells Vs The Machines was not always coherent due to being so overwhelming with bombast, noise and a hyperkinetic tone, but undeniably the mix of visual styles was standout: freeze any of this CGI pic’s frames and it looks hand painted, and extraordinary. Elsewhere, Marvel came along again with a trio of feature offerings, none of which I have seen still after being somewhat burned out with Falcon and Loki disappointments (though WandaVision was great), and even James Bond couldn’t escape a virus in the end.
Other venerable franchises notched milestones, too: Lord Of The Rings was twenty, and Dirty Harry, Alex, and his Droogies, turned fifty, while much more fun on the (anti)hero front was THE Suicide Squad, which was just all kinds of big screen bonkers even though most saw it on TV, also where Supergirl‘s final season fizzled out apart from a pitch-perfect last episode, a tone that has largely carried over into the Superman & Lois series, which I have been enjoying.
Less well received was the strangely lackluster In The Heights, and Nobody came from the writer of John Wick, who should sue himself for plagiarism. Bigger and more bombast came from the (second!) almighty showdown between Godzilla Vs Kong, which was insane enough to be enjoyable, as were the Disney and Pixar offerings of the year (the superlative Raya, lovely Luca, the interminable Encanto), even if nothing was really outstanding outstanding, perhaps after being spolied for too long where there are no real surprises anymore. That said, both Cruella (campy, fun) and Last Night In Soho (a terrific ghost story) proved what’s old is new again, being a pair of wildly engrossing throwbacks, while Peter Jackson’s extraordinary The Beatles: Get Back [above] was a genuine trip back to the 60s!
In fact, it was down to good old physical video discs to once more give other old-fashioned old favorites the chance to sparkle again, with Criterion finally going 4K on home video and offering up a superlative collection of supplements for their Citizen Kane, and the sad deaths of such personal favorites as Richard Donner, Cloris Leachman, Christopher Plummer and, especially, Stephen Sondheim took us back to rewatch their greatest works…as well as the new, sadly redundant version of West Side Story.
Which brings us to the end of the year, when wacky Warners brought us a bizarre new Matrix that felt more dated than the twenty-two year old original. Thankfully, Spider-Man: No Way Home was on call to save the day, with a film that just provided a massively thick wad of perfectly formed Hollywood escapism and entertainment.
No, it doesn’t make a stick of sense, and gets just as tangled up in its own web of time and space meddling as, honestly, the end of my favorite film of all time, Superman: The Movie (thanks, Donner!), but to do that just as effortlessly and nostalgically, by way of the actually-not-worst-kept secret casting in history [above], was some feat, and it even somewhat redeemed the not-so Amazing Spidey flicks, and finally got me to see what everyone else has seen in Tom Holland’s take on the character, too.
I look forward to seeing what other surprises opening up the multiverse of madness brings us soon, to sharing our thoughts on such matters, and hopefully a more solid return to “normal” in the coming months. Take care out there!
2021 was a strange year for me. While it was unquestionably “better” than 2020, I went through a lot of physical health issues (including two hospitalizations), and much to my sorrow didn’t make a return to my “home away from home” — the cinema. That said, I did take some personal steps forward which I am proud of myself for, and for the most part, the media I did find time for I largely ended up enjoying.
Sometimes, a show comes along that just feels “special” for want of a better word, and in the case of The Owl House [right], that has certainly been an appropriate description.
Unlike anything the Mouse House has ever made before, the first half of its second season was exciting to experience, with a borderline dark sense of humor and some terrific action scenes.
But what makes it revolutionary are its themes. With teenage lovebirds Luz and Amity, audiences both young and old have been able to see themselves in two characters as deserving of a happy ending as any other Disney couple. We often hear about how representation matters, and that’s of course true. When it’s handled with the compassionate hands of creator Dana Terrace, it can also be profoundly beautiful.
I’m ashamed to say I’m very behind on my animated movies right now. I still have yet to watch The Mitchells Vs. The Machines (which I own a hard copy of!) or even Encanto (meaning I’m the only person left on earth not aware of why no one talks about Bruno).
However, I was impressed by Raya And The Last Dragon, which continued Disney’s winning streak for feature films with great animation and a pacifist message worthy of Studio Ghibli.
True, I could’ve done without some of Raya’s “modern” dialogue (and Kelly Marie Tran may have been miscast), but darn me if I wasn’t crying buckets during the emotionally satisfying ending. And Sisu the dragon is a hoot!
Also falling into the “wholesome” category was Street Gang: How We Got To Sesame Street [right], a must-watch for anyone who has ever adored the wonder of Jim Henson or grew up with Big Bird and Cookie Monster in their lives.
By far the most extensive Sesame Street documentary ever produced, this is a journey through the early years of a children’s television landmark, featuring rare behind-the-scenes footage that should leave longtime fans in awe. Never has Mr. Hooper’s death hit harder, nor has “Letter B” ever felt more haunting and funny than they do in the context they’re given here.
In a way, it’s a shame that Brian Henson sounds so bitter over his father’s legacy when interviewed, as the history of “the street” hasn’t always been sunny days. Still, this is largely a celebration which reaches an almost ethereal level, and audiences who seek it out will find it deeply rewarding.
As has become the norm, Marvel seemed to dominate every aspect of pop culture once again, but that doesn’t shortchange the accomplishments of DC Films.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League might’ve been my favorite movie of the year (despite technically being from 2017), as it did the impossible and surpassed the hype surrounding it. With massive battles and enough drama to pack a powerful punch, it’s a superhero epic for the ages, and a full vindication for the vision of its director.
On the more comedic side of things, The Suicide Squad was another brilliant comic book extravaganza from James Gunn, firing on all cylinders as a bonkers, violent, hilarious, and surreally poignant thrill ride. Margot Robbie remains perfect as Harley Quinn, but the entire cast is fantastic, and it makes me even more pumped to find out what Gunn does with The Guardians Of The Galaxy Holiday Special later this year.
Also providing quirky entertainment for grown-ups was Helluva Boss [above, right]. What started as a brutally zany crossover of Looney Tunes and The Office has evolved into so much more, and as an independently produced YouTube cartoon, it’s truly on the top of its game.
The production values rival those of similar shows that air on cable television, the elaborate musical numbers are always a delight, and the demonic assassin heroes have all become quite lovable. The future looks bright for this unusual little gem, and I can’t wait to see where it goes next.
As far as live-action is concerned, Dune: Part One was every bit as awesome as everyone said it was, and sets the stage for what’s to come in a big way. Guillermo del Toro’s Nightmare Alley was an absolutely mesmerizing love letter to noir cinema, while still feeling fresh and original in its own right. Belfast was Kenneth Branagh’s best work in years, a bittersweet, semi-autobiographical tale which features many loving tributes to classic films. And Malignant deserves a shout-out for being the most insane horror movie I’ve seen in a long time, sending jaws everywhere to the floor with a plot twist no one saw coming.
Off the screen, I was very happy about the release of Bluey: The Album. The show has a sophisticated musical score which is unique for each episode, and it’s wonderful to see it getting the respect it deserves.
Frozen II: The Manga [right] was an unexpected but very welcome adaptation of a wonderful film, filled with breathtaking illustrations that should please all fans of Elsa and Anna. I did, in spite of how much I liked, witness a true dud in 2021 in the form of Santa Inc., which might be one of the worst shows I’ve sat through…ever. Painfully unfunny, infuriatingly self-righteous, and misguided on almost every conceivable level, I was far too generous with the “2 out of 10” score I gave it in my review!
In all honesty, 2021 came off as a curiously lazy period with regards to my media intake. I only went out when I felt it was worth the effort, as with many, when select events started to open back up, as cautiously as they were willing. But I otherwise stayed home. The interesting part was that I spent more time playing video games and watching reaction videos than anything else, so I ended up missing out on a bunch of media I probably should have watched at some point and still need to, most notably The Mitchells Vs. The Machines and Centaurworld. Yet I feel rather content with what I was able to see and experience.
Arcane [right] absolutely topped 2021 for me. No one could have imagined that an animated series adapted from the video game League Of Legends would turn out to be arguably one of the best shows created. Yet Riot Games, Fortiche Production and Netflix managed to deliver an outstanding program that was as majestic as it was heartbreaking.
Featuring a wonderful narrative that was carefully crafted and emotionally tear-jerking, awe-inspiring animation that beautifully mixed computer generated imagery with hand-drawn illustrations, and a fascinating ensemble of characters voiced by a delightful cast of performers, Arcane succeeded beyond expectations and is a true game-changer. Nothing else this year came close to being in the same league with this legendary masterpiece.
On the theatrical end, I was quite enamored with Raya And The Last Dragon [below]. The fantasy epic utilized the influence of Southeast Asian cultures and lore to create a lush and beautiful world in Kumandra that was breathtaking to watch come alive. It further showcased Disney’s apparent interest over the last couple of decades to diversify their animation library with unique styles, stories, and characters while managing to maintain the studio’s magic touch to stand out.
For me, the film’s charm was in the dynamic between Raya and Sisu, playing off one another’s personalities in wonderful ways that are heightened by the lovely voice acting from Kelly Marie Tran and Awkwafina respectively. It really was an enjoyable feature and one that hooked me in from start to finish.
After taking 2020 off, the Marvel Cinematic Universe roared back to life in grand fashion and showed little signs of having slowed down their momentum of producing good, entertaining programs as they kicked off Phase Four in 2021.
The big stand-out for me among the films was Spider-Man: No Way Home. Unabashedly my favorite feature of the year, No Way Home was a glorious love letter to Spider-Man fans with an emotional journey that superseded the hype and delivered a triumphant hallmark for Marvel. I also really enjoyed Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings, showcasing the studio’s continued interest in diversifying their films in taking one of their lesser known heroes and developing a beautiful, touching martial arts adventure.
Critical Role, the weekly Dungeons & Dragons broadcast played by animation voice actors, had quite the eventful 2021. The second campaign closed out with a thrilling finale on the scale of the Final Fantasy video games. There was a mini-campaign in Exandria Unlimited ran by guest dungeon master Aabria Iyengar and featured new players in Aimee Carrero (She-Ra And The Princess of Power), Robbie Daymond (Sailor Moon), and Anjali Bhimani (Overwatch). And a third campaign was started with Daymond staying on for a while as new and returning characters began their journey in the most chaotic way possible. In addition, more comic books were released and a novel published. All the while getting ready to release the highly anticipated animated series The Legend Of Vox Machina in 2022.
With the launch of the PlayStation 5 the previous year, 2021 provided players like myself an appetizer of what the next generation of video games could offer.
And there were indeed a few delicious titles that took advantage. Psychonauts 2 proved to be worth the sixteen year wait, following up on the cult favorite original with dazzling visuals and animation along with an insightful narrative. Ember Lab introduced themselves to the medium with their beautiful debut title Kena: Bridge Of Spirits [right], presenting their love for classic gaming with some of the most gorgeous animation to date. And Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart triumphantly showcased the power of the PlayStation 5 while also displaying feature film quality animation as well as fun, exciting gameplay to be relished.
Rounding out 2021 for me are some honorable mentions. Vivienne Medrano and her team at SpindleHorse Toons continued to produce quality animation as they resumed through the excellent first season of Helluva Boss. Dana Terrace and Disney enchanted with an amazing first half to the second season of The Owl House. Fan gathering events slowly re-emerged as the San Diego Comic Con held a heavily scaled down, yet no less enjoyable special edition. Los Angeles Comic Con was boldly exciting, albeit rather chaotic in having their show packed with eager attendees. But the fun surprise for me was the discovery of Secret Cinema, running an interactive participatory Arcane event in Los Angeles to coincide with the release of the animated series that was fantastic and a blast to engage in.
Like many others, my entertainment was relegated to my home theater in 2021, only to be exposed to a lot of mediocre content that largely recycled more than innovated. Still, there was much that entertained me on streaming and Blu-ray. Perhaps my favorite major animated release of the year was Pixar’s Luca [right], which presented itself as a minor film overly inspired thematically by Finding Nemo and The Little Mermaid, but managed to become its own charming tale of friendship, set in a lovely Italian town. It didn’t seem to receive the same accolades as 2020’s ambitious, plot-challenged Soul; but I consider Luca to be the better film, despite its less lofty intentions. Sony’s The Mitchells Vs. The Machines was a winner, too, utilizing cutting-edge graphics and a superb visual style. Meanwhile, films such as Disney’s Raya And The Last Dragon, and Encanto largely stuck to gorgeous but by now familiar visuals. And, while it’s great to see more diversity in casting and locales in the Disney films, the tales and themes tend to be somewhat timeworn.
Away from the Disney empire, another sameness pervades other American features, with their tales of perky loser heroes and buddy comedies, largely presented in similar styles. It doesn’t help that most films seem to be sequels these days: Addams Family, Boss Baby, and Sing all got them. Spirit got a new film, too, but its kiddie TV show reinvention hardly qualifies as a true sequel to the underappreciated 2002 hand-drawn feature. DreamWorks disappoints me the most, as it really did begin as a fresh voice in animation, before succumbing to the economic needs of the marketplace long ago. Unfortunately, I did not get around to seeing any new Euro or Asian animation this year. I need to rectify that, as that’s where the real action seems to be.
As for films intended for home video [right], Batman: Soul Of The Dragon took an interesting, grounded kung fu film delightfully set in the funky 1970s, and then nearly ruined it by awkwardly plugging Batman into the story. The Justice Society: World War II movie was a disappointment, relying on a modern-day Flash tie-in and telling only a part of a story.
Elsewhere in the world of home video, I was glad that Cartoon Saloon’s Wolfwalkers became available at the end of the year, but in both the UK and North America consumers have been forced to buy it as part of an Irish Folklore Trilogy set even though most fans would already have the first two films in their collections. This can likely be blamed on demands from the streaming service Apple+, who have a financial interest in Wolfwalkers. Similarly, Paramount forced a movie collection on us by putting out a set of all the hand-drawn Peanuts films, with two having been previously available on Blu-ray, and the last two exclusive to the set.
But the boneheaded home video move of the year goes to Disney, who finally put their remaining two animated classics – Make Mine Music and Melody Time – onto Blu-ray, but only exclusive to the North America-based Disney Movie Club. Worse, they used lesser audio for the Blu-rays of these musical fantasias, and even worse yet they retained the deletion of the first sequence in Make Mine Music (originally omitted on the early 2000s DVD release), to the immense disappointment of Disney fans everywhere. Those that want to see The Martins And The Coys on home video have the option of a Japanese laserdisc or a UK DVD, but not the new Blu-ray.
On the positive side for home video, Warner Archive put out a few Saturday morning shows on sparkling Blu-rays, including fan favorites The Herculoids and Thundarr The Barbarian, plus a welcomed third volume of Tex Avery Screwball Classics. (Thank goodness they brought George Feltenstein back in time to get that one mostly right, after a less-than-stellar second volume, the preparation of which was also affected by pandemic issues.)
Universal surprised us by putting out a Woody Woodpecker Blu-ray disc, though a larger set of Lantz cartoons in HD would have been welcomed. Kino Lorber also put out some old-school animation, with Jetsons: The Movie and Rankin-Bass’ The Daydreamer, not to mention the less family-friendly Fritz The Cat films. And Thunderbean got some releases out [above], with More Stop Motion Marvels, and a dazzling Blu-ray upgrade of Rainbow Parades.
Moving slightly away from animation, I appreciated the good stab at old-school Muppets in Muppets Haunted Mansion, and loved the deluxe Blu-ray sets for Gerry Anderson’s Supermarionation shows Supercar and Fireball XL5 that came out in the UK. From the publishing world [below right], one surprisingly good read this year came from the always reliable TwoMorrows. Issue 129 of Back Issue was a wonderful look back at Bronze Age comic book adaptations of classic cartoon television properties; with articles on such characters as Rocky and Bullwinkle, Mighty Mouse, Underdog, and all of Hanna-Barbera, it was a great read from start to finish. Fantagraphics also continues to impress with their classic Disney comic reprints, such as Paul Murray’s Mickey Mouse and Carl Barks’ Uncle Scrooge.
As for live action superheroes, I loved seeing the long-awaited and very hyped Zack Snyder’s Justice League, which was not perfect in its operatic indulgences, but was far more satisfying overall than the abbreviated Whedon version. Marvel’s Black Widow and Shang-Chi were solid if unremarkable, but at least they veered a little bit from the standard formula by giving us a (slightly) more grounded action film and a mystical martial arts spectacular. (I have not seen Eternals yet, but I look forward to trying something different, even though I understand that reviews were mixed.) Disney+’s Marvel shows started off with the undeniably clever and wonderful WandaVision. The following Falcon And The Winter Soldier was quite enjoyable (even if the aims of the antagonist group were never entirely clear), Loki was a mess despite its terrific cast (did even the writers understand the premise?), What If? was a grand experiment in speculative fiction, and Hawkeye was terrific comic book-y fun. The year ended with a bang for superheroes with Spider-Man: No Way Home. I admit I had fun with it, but I was actually disappointed with the convoluted plot, muddled messaging, and messy ending. Into The Spider-Verse did it better.
After a rough 2020, the past year brought a few rays of hope but not a complete return to normal. I’m sure that meant something different for each of us in our own lives, but for the entertainment industry that meant some movies finally returning to theatres, while many others held out on the small screen for another year. Again, whether that is a good thing or a bad thing is probably different for each of us as well!
Hopefully in 2022, we can put most of the dystopia behind us. But until then, dystopia was the theme of some of the best animated films released in 2021. The year’s slate as a whole wasn’t the strongest, but featured a lot of solidly made entries that were entertaining enough and made choosing a top three list somewhat difficult.
Ron’s Gone Wrong [right]is one of those rare movies that has a message for those who want to receive it, but isn’t pushy about it if you just want to enjoy the show.
The writers did such a wonderful job of almost surreptitiously demonstrating to the main character and the audience that friendship is not a one way street. And social media, which only shows part of our lives and doesn’t involve any real interactions with those commenting and liking, is literally a digital version of a one-way street — making building a true friendship difficult. Kids experiencing relationships through their phones isn’t necessarily a bad thing. During the pandemic and lockdowns it was a life line.
But Ron’s Gone Wrong reminds us that may have forgotten (or maybe teaches those too young to have realized) that it’s the people on the other ends of these devices that we should be forming bonds with, not the devices themselves.
The Mitchells Vs. the Machines [right] is yet another film featuring a techno-pocalypse. Unlike Ron’s Gone Wrong where social media gets in the way of people forming relationships, here it’s the characters themselves putting up barriers.
The story centers around a father and daughter who just can’t understand why the other doesn’t understand them — even though they are both more alike than they seem to think.
What really gives the movie its emotional heft is something that a lot of stories aimed at kids ignore: the parents’ perspective. Parents get short shrift in a lot of animated films. (Assuming they’re even alive! Looking at you here, Disney!) But in The Mitchells Vs. the Machines, not only does the father learn to see and appreciate things from his daughter’s point of view, she is encouraged to take a step back from the hustle and bustle and other distractions of a teenager’s life to really see and comprehend what he has sacrificed for her. That’s a plot point grown-ups watching with their kids will appreciate… even if some may find some of the social-media-style-asides a little weird.
Several films were worthy of my number three spot so, as I have often done in the past, I’m awarding it to the one I didn’t expect to be here.
Vivo [right] is one of those types of films from studios not named Disney, Pixar, or DreamWorks, that always worry me, especially when they feature singing/rapping animals! But, like a lot of recent Sony animated films, this one was a pleasant surprise. What really drew me in was a choice made early in the film that let me know the filmmakers were willing to take some risks in the direction the story would go. The plot has the too often used cartoon road trip as its foundation, but doesn’t fall into the episodic trap. The journey is interesting enough, has some fun characters along the way, and isn’t too predictable. The film has a fairly solid emotional core that by the end will have you actually caring about what happens to the characters. I’m not the biggest fan of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s music, but thankfully the ratio of “works” to “doesn’t work” is more on the plus side than usual. Vivo may not be an Oscar contender, but it is entertaining and obviously made with care.
While I didn’t get to see it yet, I’d like to take special note of the movie Flee which made history this year as the first film to be nominated for three of the four best feature Oscars: Animated Film, Documentary Film, and International Film. It didn’t win, but it was a very impressive achievement nevertheless.
While I’m not excited by too much on the 2022 calendar, hopefully, much like the year itself so far, things will start looking better!
Now it’s time to find out what you said in our Readers’ Choice Poll and, for just the first time in the ten years we’ve been asking Animated Views readers to rank the best animated movies of the year, we have a tie at the top!
The Mitchells Vs. the Machines and Luca both recieved a score of 37 out of a perfect 100. To break the tie, we go to first place votes, where The Mitchells was the clear winner, with 30% of voters choosing it as their top pick — twice the votes as the next top vote-getter. The film appeared on 44% of all ballots. Luca picked up only 14% of the first place votes but appeared on more ballots, at 58%.
Third place went to Encanto, who just missed out on making it a three-way tie with a score of 36/100. It picked up 15% of the first place votes and was on 58% of all ballots. Raya And The Last Dragon came in fourth with a score of 27/100. It earned 15% of the first place votes and appeared on 36% of all ballots. And Ron’s Gone Wrong took the fifth spot with a score of 9/100, getting 3% of the first place votes and appearing on 15% of the ballots.
Well, as a certain cartoon pig says, “That’s all, folks!” We hope that you have a wonderful (and safe!) rest of 2022, and we’ll see you again next year — hopefully a little earlier this time — for our recap on what the next few months hold. In the meantime, please make sure you get those shots (and boosters!) as needed going forward. That’s how we truly go back to normal…someday!
— Dacey and the entire Animated Views Team.