Ink & Pixel: Special Edition - The Top 5 Animated Films of 2015
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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?|