The Best Animated Films of 2010
Exploring the world of animation can be a truly rewarding hobby. Animated films have the power to sweep us away into magical worlds, and make us feel like children all over again. The effect of watching a great animation simply can't be reproduced by a live action film, no matter how good it is. Last year, we were blessed by one of the strongest years for animation yet; because while it's not unusual for one or two remarkable works to be released in any given year, 2010 gave us a stacked laundry list of them. For this article, I've narrowed down that list to my eight favorites. This would make an excellent jumping point for anyone seeking to increase their exposure to animation - or anyone with a few hours to kill, who wants to see a great movie.
8. The Illusionist
Directed by: Sylvain Chomet
Duration: 1 Hour, 20 Minutes
Sylvain Chomet gained a fair deal of international attention in 2003 after directing his film, The Triplets of Bellville. The Illusionist has much in common with that film, in that it possesses almost no dialogue. The entire story is told chiefly through visual cues. And when you consider this lack of dialogue, you may be amazed to realize how effectively the story and emotion found within are conveyed. The story itself follows a stage performing magician whose career is drawing slowly to a close due to lack of interest by the public in his work. This film is rather low key and is certainly not for everyone, but is worth checking out. It was one of the three academy award nominations for Best Animated Film, though it did not win.
7. Legend of the Guardians : The Owls of Ga'Hoole
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Duration: 1 Hour, 37 Minutes
I once heard someone tell me that Zack Snyder should change his middle name from whatever it may be to "Graphic Sex and Violence." Zack "Graphic Sex and Violence" Snyder. For a man who made a career out of Dawn of the Dead, 300, and Watchmen, this sounded like a perfectly acceptable idea. So when this person, known for anything but his self-restraint, signed on to craft a movie based off of a series of children's books I was a little skeptical. More than that, I was curious. I haven't actually read any of the books, but I wanted to see what good old Zack would be able to come up with. The end result is something that reminded me, at times, of The Secret of NIMH; it's a movie that doesn't treat its audience like babies. The story is fairly dark, and somewhat mature -- at least as much as a story revolved around armored owls can be.
Directed by: Nathan Greno, Byron Howard
Duration: 1 Hour, 40 Minutes
Certainly we all remember a time when every egg laid by the golden geese at Disney was a winner. When considered distinct from Pixar, very few still hold Disney in such high regard due to the number of duds they've pushed out. Thankfully, in recent years this trend has begun to turn around. Disney's offering in 2010, Tangled, is based loosely on the story of Rapunzel and is far above the company's usual standards. One could draw comparisons between Tangled and movies from the Disney Renaissance such as Hercules, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid or Mulan; that is, in order to make an entertaining film, Disney ignores most of the actual story. In this case few should complain, as Tangled is very much watchable with a good blend of humor, action, and story. It's certainly a step in the right direction for a company that hasn't flexed its creative muscle in years.
5. Batman: Under the Red Hood
Directed by: Brandon Vietti
Duration: 1 Hour, 15 Minutes
I may be wrong here, but I believe Batman has had more outings in animated form than any other super hero. Unfortunately, aside from Mask of the Phantasm, most of The Bat's movies ended up being largely forgotten. 2010 marked the year that Gotham's knight was finally featured in another animation that was as good as his recent live action appearances. Under the Red Hood features one of the better-written storylines of Batman's career, and viewers may be surprised to see how far the envelope is pushed in terms of content. Under the Red Hood is a film that pulls very few punches, and as a result has received near universal acclaim from comic book fans. But even if you've never read a comic book in your life, you owe it to yourself to check this one out. There's more to this mystery than meets the eye.
4. How to Train Your Dragon
Directed by: Dean DeBlois, Chris Sanders
Duration: 1 Hour, 38 Minutes
Let's make an analogy between the two CGI giants in America. Pixar is like a sniper rifle, carefully aligning its shot, taking aim slowly, and then firing: one masterpiece after another. DreamWorks is like a machinegun: they fire off movies in rapid succession, and as a result they have a lower accuracy in terms of success. Am I becoming too abstract? The point that I'm making is that even though DreamWorks has a tendency to rush out movies that are really no good each year, their best works are capable of going toe-to-toe with Pixar's best. How to Train Your Dragon was one of the aforementioned best works. Nominated for Best Animated Film (losing to Toy Story 3), How to Train Your Dragon was received extremely well. The reasons that people like it so much are numerous. It's action packed and exciting, while at the same time charming and emotional. Hiccup's story of wanting to be something other than a boorish Viking brute, but also wanting to be accepted, resonated with viewers. Viewers also thought that the young dragon Hiccup befriends, Toothless, was adorable. The viewers were right on all accounts; How to Train Your Dragon is a must-see.
3. The Borrower Arriety
Directed by: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Duration: 1 Hour, 34 Minutes
Any time a movie is put out by the legendary Studio Ghibli, viewers know they will be in for a treat. Arriety is a take on the classic story of the Borrowers: tiny people who live under the floorboards of a house, and "borrow" things that no one is using. Though not directed by Hayao Miyazaki himself, the film bears a striking resemblance to his films, having been directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi who had previously worked as an artist on many of Miyazaki's films. Arriety is a fairly simple story, but one that is an absolute joy to watch. It's perhaps the most visually appealing movie on this list, and is not to be missed.
2. Toy Story 3
Directed by: Lee Unkrich
Duration: 1 Hour, 43 Minutes
Believe it or not, it's now been more than fifteen years since the original Toy Story was released in theaters. I remember being amazed by it as a young child; it was one of the movies that I nearly wore out the VHS tape of, due to repeated viewings. Today, I'm sure that there are people reading this article who are not old enough to have even seen a VHS tape. This is somewhat depressing, but it makes me realize more than ever, that despite the G rating, and despite the fact that all of the main characters are a bunch of toys, Toy Story 3's target audience was not children, it was people like myself: college age young adults who grew up with Buzz Lightyear, Woody, and the rest of the gang. With regards to nostalgia, Pixar hit every button and pulled every string perfectly. Make no mistake, the story is there and every bit of the film's massive $300 million dollar budget shows in its final product. What really makes the film special is that it is Pixar showing its complete mastery of manipulating human emotion. When I saw Toy Story 3 in the theater, I was thankful that I was wearing a pair of cheesy 3D glasses, because I almost cried. Toy Story 3 won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, and was also nominated for Best Picture, though it ultimately lost to The King's Speech.
1. The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya
Directed by: Tatsuya Ishihara, Yasuhiro Takemoto
Duration: 2 Hours, 43 Minutes
Unlike the previous seven films on this list, The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya can not be appreciated, even understood, without first watching the series to which it is a sequel to (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.) This, to me, is rather upsetting, because I know that not everyone is willing to make such an investment of their time. It needs to be said though: The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya is a near-perfect movie, and the investment would be well worth it. The plot is a complex one built around time travel, and is nearly impossible to accurately summarize. Clocking in at 2 hours and 43 minutes, Disappearance is just minutes shy of being the longest animated title of all time (that movie would be Clocks, by the way, according to Wikipedia.) Not a moment is wasted though, as every single minute and second is utilized to build towards the movie's ultimate finale. I had the privelage to watch this when it was screened at New York Anime Festival and Comic Con, and that is an experience I will cherish for a long time.