2010 in Movies: Animation

In the big business of animation there has been two stand-out movies in 2010 that I have seen.

Firstly, Toy Story 3, the third and final movie in the most successful animated trilogy ever. It’s been over 10 year since the second outing and Andy is leaving for collage, meaning Woody, Buzz and the crew are given away to the local day centre, instigating another fun adventure. The third installment, directed by Lee Unkrich (the man behind Toy Story 2, Finding Nemo and Monsters Inc.), is as high quality as the previous two installments – no one really expected any less from Pixar – featuring great new characters as well as exploring established ones. There are a lot of memorable scenes and features an absolutely perfect conclusion. Read more in my Toy Story 3 review

Secondly, Hayao Miyazaki directed Ponyo, a beautifully animated and cute re-telling of the Little Mermaid story, but with the Japanese anime style popularised by Studio Ghibli, the animation studio Miyazaki himself founded. This is another superb children’s movie, more akin to his fantastically magical My Neighbour Totoro than his more adult Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke or Howl's Moving Castle adventures.

These two movies have such contrasting styles and appeal. Pixar movies are legendary not only in their computer animation style – which is always a step or two ahead of other studios – but the fact their movies have universal appeal, meaning adults are just as entertained as the children, too whom most animated movies are solely aimed. Whereas Studio Ghibli animated movies are more traditional in their style and although a lot of their movies have broad appeal, Ponyo takes the approach of aiming it directly at the imagination of children – although simplistic, this doesn’t mean adults can’t enjoy the movie as well.

There has been a whole host of original animated properties this year, many of which were unusually well received by both critics and public alike, and will no doubt garner sequels in the coming years. Notably the most successful was probably How to Train Your Dragon, which I enjoyed. Other movies include Megamind, starring the voice-talents of Will Ferrell, Brad Pitt and Tina Fey, Despicable Me voiced by Steve Carell and the visually impressive Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole by 300 and Watchmen visionary director Zack Snyder, a man who is usually found on graphic R-Rated movies.

However, there have been a lot of good animation that hasn’t made it to my cinema and has been under my radar, so I have missed them. I have heard great reviews and would love to see The Illusionist which has appeared in numerous top-ten lists of the year. Two other indie animated movies I want to see are A Town Called Panic – a "hyperactive, surreal and bonkers" stop-motion movie from Belgian, which follows a cowboy, Indian and a horse – and The Secret of Kells – another Belgian animation which tells the fictionalized story of the creation of the Book of Kells, a famous Irish manuscript, is beautifully hand-drawn and highly praised.

2011 and Beyond

2011 sees Pixar release Cars 2, a sequel to my least favourite Pixar movie and their first sequel since Toy Story 2. My expectations are relatively low, but Pixar has a proven track record that should be trusted. In 2012 Pixar are releasing two movies, another sequel, Monsters Inc. 2 and an original property titled Brave. Monsters Inc. 2 is purported to be a prequel and I am really excited to learn more about Mike and Sulley whilst they supposedly attend Monstropolis’ University of Fear. Brave is Pixar’s first fairy tale and first movie which focuses on a woman as the lead character.

DreamWorks Animation is literally churning out unnecessary sequels to existing average properties. Carrying on from flogging the Shrek franchise in 2010 with totally pointless fourth movie Shrek Forever After, they are releasing an off-shoot based on the supporting character Puss in Boots, in a movie of the same name. They also have sequels for the Jack Black voiced Kung Fu Panda, titled The Kaboom of Doom and the third outing for Ben Stiller and gang in Madagascar 3 – the follow up to Escape 2 Africa, which was a shameless remake of The Lion King. Happy Feet 2, from Village Roadshow Pictures, is another sequel scheduled for released in 2012, but it is unnecessary after the original was so uninspiring.

Rango is an original movie by Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski. It follows an out of his depth chameleon who is transported from his contemporary American home to an old wild west town. Voice acting is lead by Johnny Depp and it features an all star cast of Hollywood actors, including Isla Fisher, Bill Nighy, Alfred Molina, Ray Winstone, and Timothy Olyphant.

Rio is another movie centered around anthropomorphous animal characters. By the Ice Age director and starring the voice talents of Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway it follows a last of his species bird as he is forced from the comfort of his caged life in to the hectic world of Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro where he must learn to conquer his fear of flying and win the heart of a girl.

Gnomeo and Juliet is a retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, with gnomes…

The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn is the animated movie I am most looking forward to in 2011. It is a 3D motion-captured animated adventure directed by Steven Spielberg, produced by Peter Jackson, and written by Edgar Wright. These iconic film-makers should inspire you, but the visuals look impressive – especially the fact they’re avoiding the uncanny valley often found in motion-captured animated movies – and the source material has a strong heritage.

Winnie the Pooh is a feature-length adaptation of the classic literacy tale, lovingly brought to screen using traditional animation and featuring five previously unadapted stories from the original books.

This is an entry in a series documenting my review of movies in 2010.