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Ink & Pixel: Special Edition - The Top Three Animated Films of 2013

12.20.2013

Ink & Pixel is a source of pride and joy for me as a writer and as such, I'm always striving to take this column further for those who read and enjoy it. If you yourself, or anyone you know, helped to make any of the amazing feature animated films found within this column, I would love to talk to you to further my knowledge. Please contact me at steveseigh@joblo.com so we can discuss it further.

Greetings folks, and welcome to a special End of the Year¯ edition of Ink & Pixel. All throughout the year I investigate animated films from the past, and do my best to present them to you in a fun and informative fashion. Some films are better than others, there's no doubt about that. However, the hard work, talent, and dedication that goes into each and every one of them is something that I believe cannot be ignored, and is something that should - nay, must! - be celebrated on a bi-weekly basis.

So, today I am here to present to you fine people my Top 3 Favorite Animated Films of 2013! Now, before my Top 3, allow me to explain. I'm purposefully, (and semi-regretfully) only pulling from this year's major theatrical feature-length motion pictures in the crafting of this list. So, what that means is that you won't find the hyper-violent and ridiculously awesome BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, PART 2 or JUSTICE LEAGUE: FLASHPOINT PARADOX anywhere on this list. Also not appearing on this list will be any short-films like Pixar's heart warming THE BLUE UMBRELLA, or that archaic trip down memory lane which appeared before Disney's FROZEN called GET A HORSE¯. Yeah, I didn't like that one. Not one bit.

So without further ado, let's get to the reason that you're all here! Here are my Top 3 Favorite Animated Films of 2013!

3. THE CROODS

From Dreamworks Animation - the studio who brought us such films as RISE OF THE GUARDIANS, KUNG FU PANDA, and the increasingly abysmal SHREK series - comes a prehistoric comedy adventure about a nomadic family and their journey toward salvation. The film stars Nicholas Cage, Ryan Reynolds, Emma Stone, Catherine Keener, Clark Duke, and Cloris Leachman as a band of neanderthals on what Dreamworks has described as the first family road trip of civilized man. The film starts out innocently enough, giving the impression that it's going to be yet another kid friendly¯ romp that's aiming to get youngsters and their parents out of the house for a few hours “ but about 20 minutes into the film it becomes much more than that.

Yes, the film features a plethora of sight gags that will have the children in the audience busting a gut with laughter, but just underneath the majestic environments, wildly colorful characters, and harrowing action sequences, is a story of hope and holding onto the dream of a better tomorrow. In my estimation, the film is not only about survival, or about how working together as a team (or in the case of this film, a family unit) is a necessary means to pressing beyond the harshest of circumstances, it's also about that special bond shared only between an overprotective father and his first born daughter.

Throughout the film, Grug (Cage) abides by the mantra Anything new is bad. Unfortunately for Grug, an imaginative caveman (unimaginatively) named Guy joins the family on their trip across the decaying plains of Pangaea,and Grug's eldest daughter, Eep (Stone), - along with the rest of the Croods “ soon discover that their fearless leader has indeed kept them living a life of paranoia and spiritual darkness. I dig the transformation of Grug's character in this film, as well as the gradual strengthening of the bond between a young woman and her father.

Writers Chris Sanders and Kirk De Micco obviously wanted this film not only to entertain its audience, but to also teach them a valuable lesson about love and letting go. It may not be a film that will change your life. However, it's a hell of a lot better than you would expect and will even manage to make you well up with tears of relief and joy at least once or twice.

2. MONSTERS UNIVERSITY

Ah Pixar, the premiere animation house of modern times, responsible for such classics as the TOY STORY trilogy, WALL-E, and arguably the best superhero movie ever made - THE INCREDIBLES. They're back, and this year's offering is a prequel to MONSTERS INC.; my personal favorite of the Disney Pixar catalog. Under the direction of Dan Scanlon, MONSTERS UNIVERSITY takes us back in time to when featured characters, Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) and James. P. Sullivan (John Goodman) have their inaugural encounter during their first semester at a monsters-related college.

The hook this time around is that before Mike and Sully became the best of friends, their obvious differences - both in regard to social class and scholastic capabilities - kept them on opposite ends of the fence. But when their academic futures are threatened as the result of their narrow-minded foolishness, it becomes imperative that the two monsters put aside their differences, and learn to work together if they are to have any future in the Scaring industry.

It's a little THE REVENGE OF THE NERDS, a sprinkle of ANIMAL HOUSE, and comes equipped with a powerful and important message for its younger viewers. In my estimation, that message is that being different is okay. In fact, it's better than okay. Being different is valuable in ways that we can only hope to understand, and contributes greatly to the world becoming a most wondrous and mysterious place in which to spend your days. There's also a heavy emphasis on the importance of teamwork; something that children can stand to be reminded of every now and again if you ask me.

That being said, I'm not going to lie to you, I flat out did not care for MONSTERS UNIVERSITY upon my first viewing. That's right, I said it. At first, I felt that removing the bond of affection that ties Mike and Sully together caused the film to lose much of its appeal, especially for a franchise founded on the concepts of friendship and togetherness. I'm happy to report that this was a hurdle I would soon learn to overcome after multiple viewings of the film. Gradually, I began to understand just how important it was that Mike and Sully begin their relationship as rivals. Without the rift between them, the emotional beats, lessons learned, and message of tolerance might never have been as fully achieved.

In addition to these themes -MONSTERS UNIVERSITY also gives us an endearing cast of new monsters to fall in love with. I'm speaking, of course, about the brothers of the Oozma Kappa fraternity. Squishy (Peter Sohn), Don (Joel Murray), Terri (Sean Hayes), Terry (Dave Foley), and Art (Charlie Day) are (in my opinion) the glue that holds this film together. Forget the notion that Art has some of the best lines ever in the history of the franchise, and focus more on the concept of the members of Oozma Kappa representing the often overlooked minority classmates of the Monsters University Campus. The way I see it, everyone has got a little bit of Oozma Kappa in them. We all want to be accepted for who we are, and to be treated as equals by our peers. It's an intrinsic human desire, but also a right that must be earned and maintained through ones actions. Ultimately, you deserve as much respect as you give others, so be sure to treat others the way you wish to be treated.

For me, it was a real joy watching as the brothers of the Oozma Kappa gained the respect of the student body during the course of the film. It makes for a solid underdog story, one that is seamlessly interwoven into the larger narrative of Mike and Sully's trials of friendship. All of these story and character elements set MONSTERS UNIVERISTY apart from other animated films this year, and will more than likely leave you with a freakishly large smile on your face by the end.

MONSTERS UNIVERSITY might not have been the sequel I was hoping for, but the sense of triumph for Mike, Sully and all of their brothers of the Oozma Kappa house that I felt by the end of the film is an experience I did not receive from any other animated film this year. The film's layered messaging make it an animated film that demands your introspection. Technologically gorgeous, often times hilarious, and packed with a scary amount of heart, MONSTERS UNIVERSITY is a film that I think everyone should make the time to see.

1. FROZEN

For those who have yet to see the film, FROZEN is a touching, character driven story which features the adventuresome Princess Anna (Kristen Bell), and her magically gifted sister, Princess Elsa (Idina Menzel). Loosely based upon Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen, the story describes Elsa's coronation day - the day she is to assume the throne - and the powerful magic within the would-be queen that is unleashed. Paralyzed by a fear of the unknown, the subjects of Elsa's kingdom recoil in horror at the sight of her newly revealed gifts. Elsa then retreats into the mountains - devastated and in search of solitude and escape. Unable to accept that her sister will henceforth be known as a witch, Anna teams up with the local Ice Distributor, Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), a whip-smart reindeer named Sven, and a magical snowman named Olaf (Josh Gad), to reason with Queen Elsa, and hopefully rescue her kingdom from becoming nothing more than a block of ice.

Straight up, I am not a fan of the more musical Disney animated films. I don't really have the time to explain it here, but I find something inherently creepy about the atmosphere that a musical creates. FROZEN, however,Ā forced me to set aside that irrationality, and instead marvel at the majesty that this film was able to produce. Hell, even Olaf's sight gags and foolhardy misconceptions about the Summer season were well timed and never overdone. He's a token kid character¯ who doesn't even show up until we're about half way through the film. Thank you, Disney!

You want some more reasons to love Disney's FROZEN? How about the idea that upon inspecting Elsa's journey, you'll discover that - at it's core - the film is a cleverly orchestrated coming-of-age story? Think about it, Everything that Elsa experiences in the film could be considered a metaphor for a young woman battling her way through her budding sexuality. Case in point: The king's unwillingness to accept his daughter's maturing magical abilities, Elsa's powers increasing as she nears her 18th birthday, and that powerful scene in which Elsa's magical capabilities reach their breaking point and explode in a shower of ice and liberation. It's all there. Don't believe me? Think I'm grasping at straws? Watch the movie again and tell me I'm wrong.

It's rather difficult to explain without spoiling anything for you, but pay close attention to how Anna's curse is broken at the end of this film. This is perhaps the single best reason to think of FROZEN as the Best Animated Film of 2013. In my humble opinion, the writing of this scene - and the forward thinking that it represents - serves as a milestone in Disney filmmaking. It defies a staple that has been a part of the Disney princess formula for generations, and I for one am overjoyed to see it go. I know I'm being vague, but if I tell you what it is, it will ruin the surprise. You're just going to have to watch Disney's FROZEN if you want to find out.

Well, there you have it: my Top 3 Favorite Animated Films of 2013! I thank you all, not just for indulging me this holiday season, but for all of your support throughout the entire year here at Ink & Pixel. 2014 looks to be an odd year for animation, what with films like RIO 2, LEGENDS OF OZ: DOROTHY'S RETURN, THE BOXTROLLS, THE NUT JOB, HOME, and no Pixar films to speak of hitting the theaters. I can only hope that there are surprises still to come or this might be a very thin year for animated cinema except for THE BOXTROLLS, that is going to be awesome! Happy holidays and stay animated!

Extra Tidbit: Which of the animated films released in the year 2013 were your favorites? Let us know in the Strike Back section below!
Source: joblo.com

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