15 items from 2016
There’s something inherently remarkable about the field of animation: that, with just a paper and pen, one can use infinite imagination to create a world unbound by physical restrictions. Of course, in today’s age it goes far beyond those simple tools of creation, but it remains the rare patience-requisite medium in which a director’s vision can be perfected over years until applying that final, necessary touch.
With Pixar’s 17th feature arriving in theaters, we’ve set out to reflect on the millennium thus far in animation and those films that have most excelled. In picking our 50 favorite titles, we looked to all corners of the world, from teams as big as thousands down to a sole animator. The result is a wide-ranging selection, proving that even if some animation styles aren’t as prevalent, the best examples find their way to the top.
To note: we only stuck with feature-length animations of 60 minutes or longer — sorry, World of Tomorrow, and even Pixar’s stunning Piper — and to make room for a few more titles, our definition of “the 21st century” stretched to include 2000. We also stuck with films that don’t feature any live-action (for the most part) and that have been released in the U.S. thus far, so The Red Turtle and Phantom Boy will get their due on a later date. Check out our top 50 below and let us know your favorites in the comments.
50. The Lego Movie (Phil Lord and Christopher Miller)
Admit it: When The Lego Movie was announced, you did not expect it to wind up any best-of-the-year lists. But, against all odds, Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s first smash hit of 2014 is an unadulterated pleasure. This bold, original film has a wildly clever script (by the directors) with a message of creativity that made it a glorious surprise. It is also well-cast: Lego is the first movie to fully make use of Chris Pratt’s essential sweetness, and offered Elizabeth Banks, Will Ferrell, Liam Neeson, and Morgan Freeman their freshest parts in years. It is not often that a “kids” film entertains adults as much as their children, but The Lego Movie is far more than a piece of entertainment for the young ones. What could have been a headache-inducing, cynical creation is instead a pop treat. Everything is, indeed, awesome. – Christopher Schobert
49. 5 Centimetres per Second (Makoto Shinkai)
Makoto Shinkai’s emotional tour de force is the embodiment of the Japanese term “mono no aware,” which describes a wistful awareness of life’s transience. In the way its characters are haunted by bygone moments in the face of a vast and shapeless future, 5 Centimetres per Second could function as a spiritual companion to the oeuvre of Wong Kar-wai, but whereas Wong’s lovelorn protagonists are stuck in the past, Shinkai’s move forward, steadily, in a state of melancholic acceptance. Time is itself a character here, a fact brought to our attention by shots of clocks, the evolution of technology alongside the characters’ aging, and scenes where narrative stakes ensure that the passing of each second is palpably felt. And yet it is precisely the ephemerality of these seconds that lends them elevated significance —fittingly, the film’s animation is breathtakingly detailed and tactile, allowing us to identify with the characters by having us inhabit each, vivid moment before it vanishes. – Jonah Jeng
Leave it to Steven Spielberg to eke more thrills out of an animated feature than most directors could with every live-action tool at their disposal. The Adventures of Tintin is colored and paced like a child’s fantastical imagining of how Hergé’s comics might play in motion, and the extent to which viewers buy it depends largely on their willingness to give themselves over to narrative and technical flights of fancy. Me? Four-and-a-half years later, I’m still waiting for a follow-up with bated breath. – Nick Newman
It’s the movie that took down Don Bluth, netted Fox a $100 million loss, and starred the young voices of Matt Damon and Drew Barrymore. From a script by Joss Whedon, John August, and Ben Edlund, Titan A.E. is a swashbuckle-y tale with stirring visuals and moments of sheer originality that now feels like a more-accomplished precursor to something such as Guardians of the Galaxy. If you’re going to go down, this is an impressive picture to sink with. – Dan Mecca
46. Metropolis (Rintaro)
Metropolis has more than a little in common with the apocalyptic orgy of violence of 1988 anime touchstone Akira, as the story follows the tragic inevitability of mans’ relationship with overwhelming power. But Rintaro’s Metropolis — which is based on Osama Tezuka’s manga and Fritz Lang’s canonical film — is also a story of overwhelming kindness in its central relationship between Kenichi, a well-intentioned and naïve child, and Tima, a cyborg capable of immense destruction. Distinguished by its washed-out watercolor character designs and its inventive cast of characters, Metropolis is a distinctly lighter take on the characteristically dreary dystopia genre. – Michael Snydel
Animation has never shied away from grief. It’s the bedrock of everything from Grave of the Fireflies to the majority of Pixar’s filmography, but it’s rarely been as unbearably beautiful as in 2014’s unfairly overlooked Song of the Sea. Animated with a mythic tableau style, steeped in Celtic folklore, and filled with a cast of characters worthy of Hayao Miyazaki, Tomm Moore’s work is the rare heartwarming family film that knows it doesn’t need to compromise genuine emotion with fake-outs or Hollywood endings. – Michael Snydel
While much of Studio Ghibli’s popularity focuses on the adored writer-director Hayao Miyazaki, some works from other directors deserve equal praise. One of them — which, yes, cheats a bit because Miyazaki scripted it — is The Secret World of Arrietty by first-time helmer Hiromasa Yonebayashi. The film follows a little boy’s fascination with the Borrowers — small humans that live in our world — and weaves the story of him and his family with Arrietty, one of the Borrowers. There are intensely dramatic moments as the Borrowers are constantly striving to survive amidst this world of luxury and easy life that the larger humans enjoy. Much like some of the best of Ghibli’s work, the film works on multiple levels and layers and thus becomes one of the studio’s most beautiful, enjoyable, and enduring works. – Bill Graham
43. ParaNorman (Chris Butler and Sam Fell)
A story of bullies and the bullied, Laika Studios’ second stop-motion film, ParaNorman, was unfortunately overshadowed by their astounding previous effort, Coraline. But time has been kind, and ParaNorman feels ahead of its time in both the exploration of darker themes (witch hunts, child murder, bigotry) and its juxtaposition of a Puritan New England ghost story and a vividly supernatural present. Buoyed by Jon Brion’s characteristically thoughtful score and an inventive reconfiguration of horror movie iconography, ParaNorman is a coming-of-age story that recognizes that even the “bad guys” have their reasons. – Michael Snydel
42. Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were Rabbit (Nick Park and Steve Box)
Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were Rabbit, Aardman Animation’s second feature collaboration with DreamWorks, brings Nick Park‘s brilliant claymation series about an absentminded inventor and his mute canine companion to the big screen. Working as humane pest removal specialists, Wallace and Gromit have hatched a plan to brainwash every hungry rabbit in town to dislike vegetables, preventing Gromit’s prized melon from being ruthlessly devoured. But the experiment backfires and the Were-Rabbit, a monstrous beast with an unquenchable appetite for veggies, is unleashed on the lush gardens of Tottington Holl. On par with the most uproarious shorts of Park’s career (working this time out with co-director Steve Box), the film slyly evokes fond memories of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein in never treating its goofy leads as seriously as its surprisingly effective scares. It’s a shame that Park has announced the titular duo are likely retired, due to the failing health of voice actor Peter Sallis. Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were Rabbit is a light-hearted and whimsically clever gem that also works as a charming introduction to the horror genre for young cinema-lovers. – Tony Hinds
41. Lilo & Stitch (Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois)
What other film can pull off starting with an all-out sci-fi adventure and transition into a heartful ode to culture and family? Before they delivered an even more impactful variation on a similar sort of creature-human bond with How to Train Your Dragon, Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois created this touching tale. Featuring a return to watercolor-painted backgrounds for Disney, as well as a reliance on 2D animation, it’s one of the company’s last in this era to have that long-missed tangibility. As often repeated in the film, “Family means nobody gets left behind,” and, by the end credits, you’ll feel like you’ve added a few new members to your own. – Jordan Raup
- The Film Stage
Focus Features has released the final poster for Laika Studios' Kubo and the Two Strings, an epic action-adventure set in a fantastical Japan. In the film, clever, kindhearted Kubo (voiced by Art Parkinson of “Game of Thrones”) ekes out a humble living, telling stories to the people of his seaside town including Hosato (George Takei), Akihiro (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), and Kameyo (Academy Award nominee Brenda Vaccaro). But his relatively quiet existence is shattered when he accidentally summons a spirit from his past which storms down from the heavens to enforce an age-old vendetta.
Now on the run, Kubo joins forces with Monkey (Academy Award winner Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey), and sets out on a thrilling quest to save his family and solve the mystery of his fallen father, the »
- email@example.com (Victor Medina)
Meet Kubo. Art Parkinson’s humble warrior who is destined for greatness – and he doesn’t even know it yet. Adorning the latest and indeed final poster for Laika and Focus Features’ animation Kubo and the Two Strings, Parkinson’s eyes a grand adventure alongside his two loyal companions.
Those allies in question are Charlize Theron’s Monkey and a charismatic Beetle, played here by Matthew McConaughey. As if Theron and McConaughey’s presence on the casting sheet wasn’t enough – two Oscar winners, no less – Travis Knight’s hearty feature also boasts the likes of Rooney Mara, Ralph Fiennes, Art Parkinson, George Takei, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa and Brenda Vaccaro
What has us all the more excited for Kubo and the Two Strings is the fact that Knight, having served as an award-winning animator and head of Laika, is poised to make his directorial debut in a few months’ time. Can »
- Michael Briers
In terms of Hollywood animation, no studio comes close to the level of detail and texture found in the films of Laika. Perhaps it has to do with their foundation of stop-motion animation compared to the reliance of CG from the likes of Pixar and DreamWorks, but with every film they’ve delivered something different, and beautiful. After the wonderful trio of Coraline, ParaNorman, and The Boxtrolls, the animation company is back with Kubo and the Two Strings, this time CEO Travis Knight helming solely.
Coming from an original script by Marc Haimes and Chris Butler (ParaNorman) the stop-motion/CGI hybrid (like their last work) is described as a sweeping, swashbuckling adventure set in a mythical ancient Japan. With a voice cast featuring Art Parkinson, Matthew McConaughey, Charlize Theron, Rooney Mara, Ralph Fiennes, George Takei, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, and Brenda Vaccaro, the final trailer has now arrived, along with a set of beautiful posters. »
- Jordan Raup
Laika, the stop-animation maestros behind such visual treats as Coraline and the ghastly ParaNorman, return later in 2016 with Kubo and the Two Strings, and today brings forth the third and likely final trailer for Travis Knight’s mythic adventure.
Thrusting Game of Thrones actor Art Parkinson into the title role, Knight – who is making his directorial debut with Kubo – has brought together a who’s who of A-listers to join Parkinson in the voice booth, making for a casting docket that comprises Rooney Mara, Ralph Fiennes, Art Parkinson, George Takei, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa and Brenda Vaccaro
Looking after an ailing mother, Kubo and the Two Strings opens at a time when our wholesome and good-natured hero accidentally summons an ancient deity hellbent on raining down chaos on the land he calls home. And so, in a bid to prevent said destruction and save his family, Kubo enlists a team of adventurers »
- Michael Briers
The movie opens worldwide on Aug. 19.
The film follows a young storyteller who goes on an epic adventure after he accidentally releases a spirit bent on carrying out an ancient vendetta. Kubo, voiced by “Game of Thrones” actor Art Parkinson, must battle gods and monsters to save his family and solve the mystery of his fallen samurai father with help from his magical musical instrument, a shamisen. The film, set in Japan, also features the voices of Matthew McConaughey, Charlize Theron, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara and George Takei.
- Terry Flores
As the studio behind such instant animated classics as Coraline and ParaNorman, there’s a crackle of excitement going into the release of Kubo, particularly considering that the feature acts as Knight’s directorial debut. He’ll be flanked by Laika alum Marc Haimes and Chris Butler, who penned the script for this summer’s swashbuckling epic.
Centering on the magical journey of the title hero (played by Game of Thrones actor Art Parkinson), Kubo and the Two Strings opens with our kindhearted and humble protagonist caring for an ageing mother. But when he inadvertently summons an ancient spirit from the past, he recruits a crack team of adventurers, including Monkey (Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Matthew McConaughey).
- Michael Briers
If the CGI-heavy studio animations can start to feel similar, leave it to Laika, whose foundation is stop-motion animation, to deliver something different, and beautiful. After the wonderful trio of Coraline, ParaNorman, and The Boxtrolls, they’ll release their latest film this summer and today brings a new trailer.
The animation company is back with Kubo and the Two Strings, this time CEO Travis Knight helming solely. Coming from an original script by Marc Haimes and Chris Butler (ParaNorman) the stop-motion/CGI hybrid (like their last work) is described as a sweeping, swashbuckling adventure set in a mythical ancient Japan. With a voice cast featuring Art Parkinson, Matthew McConaughey, Charlize Theron, Rooney Mara, Ralph Fiennes, George Takei, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, and Brenda Vaccaro, check out the new trailer below.
- Jordan Raup
Kubo and the Two Strings is an epic action-adventure set in a fantastical Japan from acclaimed animation studio Laika. Clever, kindhearted Kubo (voiced by Art Parkinson of Game of Thrones) ekes out a humble living, telling stories to the people of his seaside town including Hosato (George Takei), Akihiro (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), and Kameyo (Academy Award nominee Brenda Vaccaro). But his relatively quiet existence is shattered when he accidentally summons a spirit from his past which storms down from the heavens to enforce an age-old vendetta.
Now on the run, Kubo joins forces with Monkey (Academy Award winner Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey), and sets out on a thrilling quest to save his family and solve the mystery of his fallen father, the greatest samurai warrior the world has ever known. With the help of his shamisen - a magical musical instrument - Kubo must battle gods and monsters, »
The Sci-Tech Awards genuinely acknowledge the most invisible aspects of filmmaking. Often the artists, engineers and scientists who receive these trophies invented technologies a decade or more before they receive an honor; it simply takes that long to see the impact of their invention.
This year we take a look at several of the achievements being honored. Chances are you’ve already watched dozens of scenes that benefitted from these advances.
If you’ve seen Laika’s “Boxtrolls,” “Coraline” or “ParaNorman,” then you’ve seen the use of rapid prototyping for character animation in stop-motion film production, which earned Brian McLean and Martin Meunier a Scientifiic and Engineering Award. In this process, multiple parts of a handcrafted puppet’s face are replaced in order to make it appear as though it’s moving. These pieces are 3D-printed in the prototyping process. First, handcrafted puppets are made and then scanned. They’re brought into Maya, »
- Karen Idelson
How did a genre-smashing director make a heist thriller so generic, with characters too unlikable to be engaging but not twisted enough to be intriguing? I’m “biast” (pro): love John Hillcoat’s films, love Ejiofor and Winslet
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
A new film from Australian director John Hillcoat should be reason to celebrate. In 2012 he gave us Lawless, a novelistic Prohibition-era tale of corrupt cops and honest criminals. His 2006 outback-set The Proposition was as much horror flick as brutal revisionist Western. In between, in 2009, he went ultra-postapocalyptic in the harrowing The Road. This is a filmmaker who smashes stereotypes in well-explored genres makes us see familiar stories from new angles. He makes B movies feel like prestige dramas.
So what the heck happened with Triple 9? How did Hillcoat manage to make an urban heist thriller feel so, »
- MaryAnn Johanson
Coraline, ParaNorman and The Boxtrolls lead animator Travis Knight graduates up to the director's chair on Kubo And The Two String, the latest from stop motion animation house Laika. And, true to typical Laika form, it looks absolutely gorgeous. Clever, kindhearted Kubo (voiced by Art Parkinson of "Game of Thrones") ekes out a humble living, telling fantastical stories to the people of his seaside town. But his relatively quiet existence is shattered when he accidentally summons a mythical spirit from his past which storms down from the heavens to enforce an age-old vendetta. Now on the run, Kubo joins forces with Monkey (Academy Award winner Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey), and sets out on a thrilling quest to save his family...
[Read the whole post on twitchfilm.com...]
The innovative artists at Laika have revolutionized the stop motion animation industry with their critically-acclaimed hits Coraline, ParaNorman and last year's The Boxtrolls. Last month, we showed you the first trailer for their next project, Kubo and the Two Strings, set to hit theaters on October 19, but today we have a new full-length trailer with even more footage. If that wasn't enough, Focus Feaatures has debuted three new character posters, featuring Kubo (Art Parkinson), Monkey (Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Matthew McConaughey).
Kubo and the Two Strings is an epic action-adventure set in a fantastical Japan from acclaimed animation studio Laika. Clever, kindhearted Kubo (voiced by Art Parkinson of Game of Thrones) ekes out a humble living, telling stories to the people of his seaside town including Hosato (George Takei), Hashi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) and Kamekichi (Academy Award nominee Brenda Vaccaro). But his relatively quiet existence is shattered when he accidentally summons »
Matthew McConaughey, Charlize Theron, Rooney Mara and Ralph Fiennes are all headed to the Land of the Rising Sun in today’s new trailer for Laika (Coraline, ParaNorman) and Focus Features’ much-anticipated animation, Kubo and the Two Strings.
Orchestrating the sprawling adventure from behind the lens is Travis Knight, the head honcho of Laika who is poised to make his directorial debut. Lifted from a pitch by ParaNorman scribes Marc Haimes and Chris Butler, Kubo and the Two Strings is billed as a swashbuckling adventure situated in ancient Japan.
Game of Thrones alum Art Parkinson (Rickon Stark) leads the charge as the titular Kubo, a brash and wide-eyed adventurer who provokes the curse of a malevolent spirit. Keen to banish any evil from his hometown of Hosato and its surrounding lands, Parkinson’s hero sets out to topple gods and monsters alike, including Ralph Fiennes’ formidable Moon King.
Rounding out »
- Michael Briers
Following on from their previous collaborations on "Coraline," "ParaNorman" and "The Boxtrolls," Laika and Focus Features have premiered the full trailer for their upcoming fourth animateed feature together - "Kubo and the Two Strings" which opens August 19th.
Laika head Travis Knight makes his feature directorial debut on the film from a script by Marc Haimes and Chris Butler ("ParaNorman"). The swashbuckling adventure is set in mythical ancient Japan with a cast that includes Art Parkinson, Matthew McConaughey, Charlize Theron, Rooney Mara, Ralph Fiennes, and Brenda Vaccaro.
Scruffy, kindhearted Kubo has a humble living devotedly caring for his mother in their sleepy shoreside village. That is until a spirit from the past catches up with him to enforce an age-old vendetta. Suddenly on the run from gods and monsters, his chance for survival rests on finding the magical suit of armor once worn by his fallen father - the greatest samurai ever. »
- Garth Franklin
15 items from 2016
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