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Ink & Pixel: Special Edition - The Top 5 Animated Films of 2015

01.06.2016

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. In an effort to widen the reach of our continuously growing fanbase, Ink & Pixel has broadened its horizons with the inclusion of films from the Horror, Sci-Fi, Action-Adventure, and Fantasy genres. Additionally, if you yourself, or anyone you know, helped to make any of the amazing feature 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.

Happy New Year everyone, and welcome to yet another very special edition of Ink & Pixel! 2015 is finally over, and on a personal note, I'm glad to see it go! With regard to animation on the big screen, this past year presented us with stories of beloved characters making their triumphant return, showed us how stop-motion animated films have broadened their target audience, how technological execution can take a story we've seen before to new heights, and how animation is still one of the best ways to express emotion on-screen. It's sure been an interesting year, to say the least. And now, I present to you the Top 5 Animated Films of 2015!

5. THE GOOD DINOSAUR

In the interest of being completely honest with you all, I'll admit that THE GOOD DINOSAUR came very close to appearing as nothing more than an honorable mention on this list. As a film that's been in “development hell” since 2002, Pixar's prehistoric adventure was afforded plenty of time to get its hadrosaurses in a row, and eventually present audiences with something truly spectacular. But alas, I found the finished product to be lacking in originality, both in its all-too-familiar story beats and in its un-inspired character development. Too many times did I feel as though I was watching Pixar bring their own version of Frankenstein's monster to life; the sum of its parts stitched together from elements of THE LAND BEFORE TIME, THE LION KING, and Disney's DINOSAUR.

By now you might be wondering why I've chosen to include this film on my list at all. It's quite simple really. As disappointed as I was with the aspects of the film that I've listed above, there's no denying that the film is positively gorgeous and deserves to be recognized for its outstanding technological and visual splendor. Even if the dinosaur character models weren't always to my liking, the landscapes, lighting, and effects showcased by the film's more harrowing disaster set-pieces each contributed to some of the best animation I've seen on the big-screen this year. It's because of these glowing aspects of the THE GOOD DINOSAUR in mind that I simply cannot - in good conscience – deny it a place on this list.

4. SHAUN THE SHEEP

Once again, Aardman Animation has proven that they're a force to be reckoned with in the world of stop-motion animation, with their big-screen presentation of SHAUN THE SHEEP. In all honesty, it came as no surprise that this film struck me as being delightfully charming, well-crafted, and without question, hilarious. The adaptation, picture carries with it much of the heart and humor that fans of the Shuan the Sheep stop-motion animated television series have been enjoying since March of 2007 via the CBBC network. It stands to reason that, given the program's widespread popularity (it's broadcast to a total of 180 countries globally), Nick Park's wool-clad hero would be a sure bet at the box office; though in my opinion, SHAUN THE SHEEP has much more to offer audience members than simply 85 minutes worth of stitched together re-treads of material that has already worked on the small screen.

What exactly am I talking about? Well, I don't know if you'd noticed this, but much like Aardman's CHICKEN RUN (2000), SHUAN THE SHEEP carries with it thinly-veiled themes of oppression, imprisonment, and the liberation of ones spirit after being denied one's natural rights as a creature of this Earth. They're all there, trust me. What's presented as a mad-cap adventure of a flock of sheep braving the big city in search of their amnesiac owner, can arguably be viewed as a group of individuals coming to grips with the need for order, rules, and regulations. In my estimation, SHAUN THE SHEEP is a brightly-colored and side-splitting tale of sheep in the big city, who, in the end, want nothing more than to co-habitate with their owner and to work together to tear down the fences that divide them.

3. THE PEANUTS MOVIE

You can't see me, right now, but I'm totally doing a Peanuts-inspired happy dance at the mere thought of this wonderful film. Okay, I've stopped. What? It was really hard to type while boogying down, Linus-style. Alright, here goes: Bluesky and director, Steve Martino, could have totally screwed the beagle on this one, but not only did they manage to reboot a cherished property to glorious results where countless others have tried and failed, they knocked it right out of the park. This film seriously could have gone the way of ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS, THE SMURFS, or GARFIELD, if it were not for the meticulous attention to detail in re-creating the characters, themes, and messages of the beloved Peanuts gang.

I'll be the first to admit that a vast majority of the film's 88-minute-run-time consisted of bits (and in some cases entire scenes) that were lifted from the Peanuts previous animated outings, though perhaps it was this approach to the writing that made it all work so damn well. In a time when so many studios are attempting to re-boot what I refer to as “nostalgia properties” for a new generation of youngsters, they often miss the point entirely of why people identified with these franchises and characters in the first place.

Here's the deal, folks: kids are just as complicated as us, adults. They need neurotic, self-loathing characters like Charlie Brown, and narcissistic yet mature-beyond-their-years know-it-alls like Lucy van Pelt. Do you know why? It's because children that embody those characteristics exist, and they sit, stationed on all sides of the apples of your eyes, in homeroom. Fairy-tale princesses, toy space cadets come to life, and superheroes are all entertaining and good. However, every now and then, it's nice to have a film that's just about being a kid, and all of the joys, imagination, and conundrums that come with it. 

2. ANOMALISA

I hated this movie. Actually, let me rephrase that. I hate that a film about a loathsome, narcissistic fuck-wad in the midst of mid-life crisis was so damn brilliant that it managed to slither it's way to damn-near the top spot on this year's list. For real, ANOMALISA was often-times excruciatingly difficult to stomach, with its bizarrely-paced stop-motion animated character movements and its uncomfortable conversations that felt pregnant with 9 months worth of awkward pausing. Ah, but dammit, it was so layered, and rich with emotion – even if those emotions danced gracelessly between desperation and delusion. For me, the surrealism of Charlie Kaufman's ANOMALISA served to make it one of the stand-out animated features of the year with how boldly it peers into the darker corners of the human heart, and exposes the desperation and filth using a medium almost exclusively associated with merriment, humor, and high-flying fantasy adventure.

Ugh! Just writing about this movie is making me want to leave my computer desk for the sake of a scolding hot shower. I'll say this though, it was worth waiting to post my list until after the new year (ANOMALISA received a limited release on December 30th of 2015), because I can't imagine this film not being on it. This movie bewitched me as I watched it, awkwardly, with my girlfriend beside me, gripping a large sofa pillow as a way of shielding herself from the drama. I should have known that after having written films like ADAPTATION, ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND, and BEING JOHN MALCOVICH that ANOMALISA was going to be an exercise of the human spirit, but I never would have imagined that it'd be one of my favorite films of the year.

1. INSIDE OUT

In 2001, director Pete Docter, introduced us to the lovable creatures who lurk in the darkest pitch of our closets, then in 2009 he broke our hearts with the tale of an old man who takes to the sky in an effort to posthumously grant his wife's life-long wish. This year, Docter, along with Ronnie Del Carmen, wrote and directed INSIDE OUT for Walt Disney & Pixar Animation Studios. An emotionally charged adventure that's designed to hit you right in the feels, INSIDE OUT takes us inside the thoughts and feelings of an 11-year-old girl as she under-goes a life-changing event. Deceptively marketed as a fanciful, light-hearted Pixar original, INSIDE OUT managed to rock audience members both young and old with its harshly relatable themes and scarily accurate depiction of a frightened female youth in the throws of radical change.

Honesty seems to be the theme of my little awards article, this year. I believe in full-transparency, and in my readers having knowledge of why I have ordered this year's film selections this way. The bottom line (for me) is that INSIDE OUT isn't just a superb achievement (both in its technological prowess as well as story-telling) in animation, it's also a damn important film in terms of female representation and mental-health-awareness. I could dive real deep on what I've just stated, but that's an Ink & Pixel for another day. I'll say this, though. It warms my heart to know that Pixar wasn't afraid to lay the emotional gauntlet down, once again, this year.

And there you have it, my friends, our Top 5 Best Animated Films of 2015! I want to take a moment to thank you for stopping by and supporting my column throughout the year. There's lots to come in 2016, and I invite you to stop back next time when we take an in-depth look at many of the animated films set for release in this new year. Until then, be excellent to each other!

 
Extra Tidbit: So what do you think of the list? What were your favorite animated films of 2015?
Source: joblo.com

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12:25AM on 01/11/2016
Le Petite Prince will be released on March 18, 2016 in the United States. Look for it to appear on next year's list if all goes well.
Le Petite Prince will be released on March 18, 2016 in the United States. Look for it to appear on next year's list if all goes well.
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9:56AM on 01/11/2016
Thanks for the update, man.
Thanks for the update, man.
1:52PM on 01/10/2016

Where the fuck is THE LITTLE PRINCE ?

Or is this masterpiece not released yet in the States ?
Or is this masterpiece not released yet in the States ?
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11:19AM on 01/07/2016
The Good Dinosaur should not be on this list. It was an average movie bordering on bad. It's only on this list because it's a Pixar film. You guys at Joblo are so f*cking in love with Pixar. Please judge movies based off of their own merits, not on what studio made them.
The Good Dinosaur should not be on this list. It was an average movie bordering on bad. It's only on this list because it's a Pixar film. You guys at Joblo are so f*cking in love with Pixar. Please judge movies based off of their own merits, not on what studio made them.
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10:34AM on 01/07/2016
Good list overall. Haven't seen The Good Dinosaur, so no opinion on whether or not it should have been left off the list. I didn't really care for Shaun the Sheep, though it was too over hyped. Anomalisa was a surprise, mostly because of the story and the fact it was told using stop motion animation - just a really interesting film to see. I love The Peanuts Movie, I feel that might be more for nostalgia reasons than anything else. I acknowledge it's faults - but in terms of bring a dated
Good list overall. Haven't seen The Good Dinosaur, so no opinion on whether or not it should have been left off the list. I didn't really care for Shaun the Sheep, though it was too over hyped. Anomalisa was a surprise, mostly because of the story and the fact it was told using stop motion animation - just a really interesting film to see. I love The Peanuts Movie, I feel that might be more for nostalgia reasons than anything else. I acknowledge it's faults - but in terms of bring a dated property back to life for current children, they did it right without pandering to the lowest common denominator. I absolutely agree with Inside Out being in the top spot. This is a movie where all aspects fired on all cylinders - animation was excellent, it was an engaging story, the humour/jokes were hilarious, it's a movie with a message for everyone without pandering to little kids - and I think given the target audience, that's what makes it so great.
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6:39PM on 01/07/2016
I actually wish they'd make The Smurfs movies along the line of The Peanuts Movie instead of two live action movies that we have now.
I actually wish they'd make The Smurfs movies along the line of The Peanuts Movie instead of two live action movies that we have now.
+3
8:40AM on 01/07/2016
I don't get people who don't like Inside out. I mean, there could never be a perfect movie for everybody, sure, but a movie like this comes so close to be perfect on so many levels (the story, the characters, the jokes, the little details, the animation, the music), that I find it unbelievable that some might not get into it.
I don't get people who don't like Inside out. I mean, there could never be a perfect movie for everybody, sure, but a movie like this comes so close to be perfect on so many levels (the story, the characters, the jokes, the little details, the animation, the music), that I find it unbelievable that some might not get into it.
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7:49PM on 01/07/2016
I think it was easily the worst animated film I've seen in my 40+ years on earth.

The characters weren't particularly compelling and often annoying, the story regarding poor little girl sad that she's stuck living in (oh, the humanity) San Francisco was very weak, the endless need for exposition to explain everything from the silly memory balls to the island things constantly weight down the film.

Just a mess of a film with little to no redeeming qualities.
I think it was easily the worst animated film I've seen in my 40+ years on earth.

The characters weren't particularly compelling and often annoying, the story regarding poor little girl sad that she's stuck living in (oh, the humanity) San Francisco was very weak, the endless need for exposition to explain everything from the silly memory balls to the island things constantly weight down the film.

Just a mess of a film with little to no redeeming qualities.
8:38AM on 01/07/2016
Definitely should have kept Good Dinosaur off the list. While it does have some really nice design work nothing seems to fit together in the film. In Cars if you thought about it, the world did not make any sense, but here right off nothing makes sense in the way the characters live.
Definitely should have kept Good Dinosaur off the list. While it does have some really nice design work nothing seems to fit together in the film. In Cars if you thought about it, the world did not make any sense, but here right off nothing makes sense in the way the characters live.
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8:03AM on 01/07/2016
I liked inside out, but was left feeling a little disappointed as I was expecting to come out of it thinking it would be one of the best pixar movies ever, but really, I'd rank it as the 7th or 8th best by pixar. It's a good film, but could have been far better. Anomalisa was brilliant - if you love Charlie Kaufman, you just have to see this. I'd say Anomalisa is better than inside out purely on a technical level - it's astounding what they were able to achieve with puppets /stop motion.
I liked inside out, but was left feeling a little disappointed as I was expecting to come out of it thinking it would be one of the best pixar movies ever, but really, I'd rank it as the 7th or 8th best by pixar. It's a good film, but could have been far better. Anomalisa was brilliant - if you love Charlie Kaufman, you just have to see this. I'd say Anomalisa is better than inside out purely on a technical level - it's astounding what they were able to achieve with puppets /stop motion.
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3:28AM on 01/07/2016
I enjoy Shaun the Sheep and The Peanuts Movie immensely. Inside Out is good but it plays pretty much like a drama movie instead of a cartoon for kids.
I enjoy Shaun the Sheep and The Peanuts Movie immensely. Inside Out is good but it plays pretty much like a drama movie instead of a cartoon for kids.
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8:34AM on 01/07/2016
"it plays pretty much like a drama movie instead of a cartoon for kids" - Is that a bad thing?
"it plays pretty much like a drama movie instead of a cartoon for kids" - Is that a bad thing?
6:37PM on 01/07/2016
Nope. Not a bad thing but it feels like a big drama movie, that's all.
Nope. Not a bad thing but it feels like a big drama movie, that's all.
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