Ink & Pixel: Special Edition – The Top 5 Animated Films of 2014

Last Updated on August 5, 2021

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 been granted permission to broaden its horizons with the inclusion of films from the Horror, Sci-Fi, and Fantasy genres. I hope that you enjoy this bold new direction for the column. 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 [email protected] so we can discuss it further.


Hello everybody, and welcome to a very special edition of Ink & Pixel! As 2014 fades into one last glorious sunset, let's celebrate the heights of its offerings before turning our collective gazes forward to see what 2015 will bring! Without further ado, I present to you the Top 5 Animated Films of 2014!



Would you give your own life for the sake of love? Would you make a deal with the guardian of purgatory, and stare into the soulless eyes of the damned for the chance to reclaim your rightful place beside the person you hold most dear? These are just a few of the questions you'll be asking yourself when watching THE BOOK OF LIFE. A 3D animated musical comedy produced by Reel FX Creative Studios and distributed by 20th Century Fox, this vibrant and spirited film takes a creative look at love using the myths and legends of Mexican folklore as its inspiration.

THE BOOK OF LIFE is the story of Manolo, a young bull fighter with a song in his heart, Joaquin, a misguided adventuresome sort, and Maria, a self-assured beauty who finds herself caught in a love triangle between her two closest friends. Only, their story isn't all that simple. You see, this triad of lovers soon find themselves at the epicenter of a wager forged between two guardians named La Muerte and Xibalba – each presiding over neighboring realms of the afterlife. In an effort to claim victory, Xibalba kills Manolo, and leaves him wandering The Land of the Remembered; a festive city where the dead celebrate in style and song. Now, Manolo must fight his way back to the land of the living before his beloved Maria accepts Joaquin's hand in marriage. I ask you again, how far would you go for love?

I'll say this for THE BOOK OF LIFE: it sure was nice, toward the latter end of this year, to be offered something new and exciting in the world of animated feature films. Unafraid to dig deep into its folklore roots, this movie offers a festive and bold look into the beliefs and celebrations of its Mexican heritage. The characters are uniquely designed, the worlds vibrant, joyous and soulful, and it all comes together with enough heart to fill the chests of every last member of its audience. Although its themes of love eternal could be lost on your little ones, this is surely a gem among the many 3D animated films offered this year.


I'm sure you don't need me to tell you this, but being different is okay. In fact, marching to the beat of your own drum is something that everyone should strive to do. Oh sure, there are plenty of institutions who will want you to conform to their idea of being a productive contributor to society, but I say think for yourself “ and question authority. In the immortal words of Basement Jaxx, Do your thing! THE BOXTROLLS, a 3D animated fantasy adventure from Laika, urges you to stay true to yourself and remember that those who love you are the ones who will accept you for who you are. This painstakingly-detailed film was directed by Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi, and features a combination cast including human characters and an army of glowing-eyed underground dwellers as well.

Raised by Boxtrolls ever since he was a little boy, Eggs has been living underground, convinced that he himself is a Boxtroll. Thus, when a band of miscreants known throughout the town of Cheesebridge as The Red Hats “ lead by the evil Archibald Snatcher “ offer to rid the dim-witted burg of its mischievous subterranean inhabitants, Eggs must learn to stand tall and fight for the only family he's ever known. Along for the journey is a society-born, but oft neglected, young lady by the name of Winnie. Together, she and Eggs look to change the way the citizens of Cheesebridge see the Boxtrolls, and put an end to the madness of Archibald Snatcher and his men once and for all.

Although it's not my favorite film offering from Laika – PARANORMAN still takes the top spot for me, personally – THE BOXTROLLS is truly something to behold. Having been fortunate enough to travel all the way to Portland, Oregon to visit the set, I can tell you first-hand that a lot of talent, hard work, and intense love went into the making of this film. Nobody does stop-motion quite like Laika. In fact, many studios have abandoned this method of animation, favoring full-on CGI as it saves money and time. THE BOXTROLLS presents itself as a mesmerizing art house film, whose focus on the importance of individuality shines just as bright as the craftsmanship used to bring the whole story to life on the big screen. It's a testament to what we can achieve as creative, imaginative, and passionate artists working in the field of animation today. You should totally see it.


If I could sum up this film in two words, those words would be majestic and harsh. To be honest, I wasn't certain if Dreamworks was going to be able to strike gold twice after the tremendous success of the first HTTYD film – but holy hell was I proven wrong!

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 continues the adventures of Hiccup, his Night Fury dragon Toothless, and the progress established within the viking village Berk. After the events of the first film, Berk is now a dragon-friendly society, and in recent times has forged a oneness with dragon-kind so that the two species can live and function together in peace. However, there are still tribes who have yet to discover that not all dragons are a danger to their kind, and a malicious war-monger by the name of Drago Bludvist – who actively enslaves wild dragons and forces them into submission through the use of hypnosis – is looking to add even more winged creatures to his dragon army. It's now up to Hiccup and his friends to take to the skies and defend the peace they've worked so hard to achieve. As both man and dragon head toward battle, there's no telling who will emerge victorious and who will fall in the heat of battle.

Good grief, I was not prepared for this film to come at me with an emotional gut-punch, but boy did it ever. The beautiful thing about HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 is how the film manages to stay in the child-safe zone while still coming off as an incredibly mature viewing for adults as well. There are some seriously bold themes being tossed around here and never once does the film attempt to blunt the sad events, or distract you with immature and needless fart jokes to lighten to the mood. That's not to say that the film doesn't have its fun, though. There's plenty of exhilarating moments and solid character building here to keep your adrenaline pumping and your heart soaring. But damn. Seriously Dreamworks, nice job.


It's story time, kids, gather round! I was worried about BIG HERO 6. Like, a lot. Disney and Marvel really did a fine job of keeping this one under wraps until it was time for the big reveal. Stop me if I'm wrong, but for what felt like forever, the only glimpse of this film was that test footage that was circling the net for the better part of a year. It wasn't nearly enough to get me excited, and I'd questioned as to why the media blitz for this film hadn't started long before we got our first teaser trailer. Then POW! This movie could not be stopped! Baymax plushies were everywhere almost overnight, and everyone was pumped to see what Marvel had in store for its first animated full-length feature. Sweet moves, Marvel, you're even more clever than the raptors in Jurassic Park.

Based loosely on the even-less-popular-than-the-Guardians of the Galaxy Marvel property, BIG HERO 6 tells the story of Hiro, a vastly intelligent teen, and his personal healthcare companion turned robotic super hero, Baymax. In the wake of a mysterious tragedy within his own family, Hiro develops a series of armaments that, when worn, will grant the owner an array of super powers-like abilities. However, Hiro and Baymax won't be fighting to find out the truth alone. Using his not-so-super powers of persuasion, Hiro enlists the help of 4 brilliant engineers “ Gogo Tomago, Honey Lemon, Fred, and Wasabi “ who then use Hiro's inventions to help him right the unfortunate wrongs that have befallen him and his family.

Okay, I'm just going to get this out of the way right now: this film came very close to being my #1 pick for Animated Film of the Year. Honestly, if I could, I would proclaim both films as being the best that this year had to offer, but alas. BIG HERO 6 is a impactful and beautiful film. Those flight sequences! It's by far the best looking 3D CGI animated film that Disney animation has ever produced (Yes, it looks better than FROZEN) and I wouldn't be surprised if we get word of a sequel being green-lit before the end of 2015. What this movie has going for it above any other animated film this year is a real sense of family, of what it takes to be a team.

The film is also responsible for giving us the stand out animated character of 2014 in Baymax, an inflatable, lovable paramedic who will stop at nothing until you are satisfied with your care. So much of what impressed me about this film was the way it looked. The articulation of the character's body movements and facial expressions borders on the unimaginable, and the use of 3D to show depth rather than as an in-your-face gimmick was masterful. If you have yet to experience this wonderful film you need to go and see it right now. Or, you know, after you finish reading the rest of this article and stuff.


Everything is awesome! Everything is better when you're part of a team! Uggghhhh, for the life of me I cannot stop singing that song. Pardon me for a moment, will you? Okay, I'm back. I might have had my own private dance party just now. We may never know. Anyway, here we are at the finish line for this year's Top 5 Animated Films of 2014, and bum bah bah bummmm directors Phil Lord and Chistopher Miller's THE LEGO MOVIE has claimed the top spot!

I have to say, it still blows my mind that it took Hollywood this long to bring something like THE LEGO MOVIE to the silver screen. Oh sure, there have been direct-to-video Lego films in the past such as: BIONICLE: MASK OF LIGHT, HERO FACTORY: SAVAGE PLANET, and even short films like LEGO: INDIANA JONES AND THE RAIDERS OF THE LOST BRICK, LEGO ATLANTIS: THE MOVIE, and so on – but never before has there been a Lego film of this size and scale unleashed on the theater-going public. Using the latest in CGI technology, the Warner Animation Group has crafted a genuinely hilarious, high-octane, star-studded adventure for every generation who's ever had the pleasure of letting their imaginations soar with the power of Lego.

THE LEGO MOVIE is my animated film of the year because, in my opinion, it is the most consistent of the lot. The laughs never stop coming, the nostalgia never wanes, and it fuses the many worlds of Lego together so well that there's no telling where one ends and one begins. Additionally, the dynamic camera work in this film is second to none, and forces its audience members to be a part of the action for the entire ride. It's by far the most immersive animated film this year, and is sure to be a film that will be enjoyed by generations to come. Oh yeah, I won't spoil it for you, but let's not dismiss that surreal and incredibly poignant third act. Once that curtain is blown back, and the reality of what's happening is revealed, the film takes things to a whole new level. For those reasons, and probably a whole lot more, THE LEGO MOVIE is this year's best animated film!

There you have it, folks! I'd like to thank you for joining us in this celebration of the best of the best animated films that 2014 had to offer, and I hope you've enjoyed the list. Be sure to stop by Ink & Pixel next week when we showcase many of the most anticipated animated films coming your way in 2015! Cheers to you and have a very happy new year!


About the Author

Born and raised in New York, then immigrated to Canada, Steve Seigh has been a editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. He started with Ink & Pixel, a column celebrating the magic and evolution of animation, before launching the companion YouTube series Animation Movies Revisited. He's also the host of the Talking Comics Podcast, a personality-driven audio show focusing on comic books, film, music, and more. You'll rarely catch him without headphones on his head and pancakes on his breath.