Top 10 animated movies of 2014
It’s safe to say that 2013 was not the best year for animation. Frozen may have been the best Disney movie in years (this century, in fact) but elsewhere there was little to get particularly excited about. With pack-leaders Pixar bumping their only 2014 release, The Good Dinosaur, to 2015 due to “story problems”, you could be forgiven for feeling this year might well go the same way. (It’s Pixar’s fault, incidentally, that this is a Top 9 rather than the Top 10 the title promises. Shout at them instead.)
You needn’t worry, however, as in recent years the best in animation has not come from Pixar but from elsewhere. This year will see three releases from DreamWorks Animation, only one of which is a sequel, a new stop-motion delight from LAIKA and a landmark film from Studio Ghibli. Sounds pretty promising to us…
#9 – The Lego Movie
There was a time when all Lego had to offer adulthood was sore feet and broken hoovers, but that all changed with the release of Lego Star Wars: The Video Game, a fiendishly addictive action-adventure title developed by Traveller’s Tales, and the first instalment in a series that would take in everything from Batman to Harry Potter. The little yellow men and women of Legoland are now set to take over the big screen, too, with The Lego Movie telling the story of Emmet, a mistaken Master Builder who must team up with Superman and Wonder Woman to save the world. Naturally, there will be a video game tie-in, and perhaps even some Lego, too.
#8 – Mr. Peabody & Sherman
The first film from DreamWorks Animation slated for release this year, Mr. Peabody & Sherman is based on a recurring segment from The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. Although relatively little known in the UK (you may have spotted homages to the characters in The Simpsons and/or Family Guy), the time-travel format has some real potential. There are a few solid laughs in the trailer — a Trojan voiced by Patrick Wharburton falls for his own wooden horseplay — but the biggest draw is ultimately DreamWorks Animation itself, which shows just how far the studio has come since the dark days of Shrek the Third.
#7 – Rio 2
While far from great, 2011’s Rio was by no means a bad stab at animation. Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway were perfectly serviceable as the two leads (and much less irritating than the Orange adverts had previously made them out to be), and in Jemaine Clement’s Nigel the filmmakers even found a pretty decent villain. Like Madagascar 2, the bulk of the sequel will not take place in the movie’s namesake, but will instead move the action to the Amazon where Blu, Jewel and family will stumble across Jewel’s long-lost parents. Pretty cut and dry, then — this is Blue Sky, after all — but it’s got to be better than another Ice Age movie.
#6 – How To Train Your Dragon 2
When 2010’s How To Train Your Dragon ended, audiences — and by audiences I of course mean me — were left wanting more. Much more. Toothless and Hiccup returned for a number of holiday specials and a television series on Cartoon Network, both of which only served to build excitement for the sequel, but otherwise all seemed relatively quiet on the viking front. A teaser trailer was released over the summer, showcasing some pretty sensational animation, while a full trailer released in December gave a few precious insights into the plot. Original director Dean DeBlois is back, as is Oscar-nominated composer John Powell and star Jay Baruchel, and there’s every indication it could be just as good as the first.
#5 – Planes: Fire & Rescue
We’re not dreading Planes: Fire & Rescue, but that’s probably because we never saw the original. By all accounts, 2013’s Planes was an inexcusable mess, somehow managing to be worse than both of Pixar’s Cars films, from which Planes was an unnecessary spin-off. It would be easy to write Fire & Rescue off, not least because of the worryingly quick turn-around between instalments (How To Train Your Dragon 2, by contrast, took around four years to develop). However, the animation looks perfectly adequate, and if Planes was as bad as people say then it’s difficult to imagine the sequel being any worse.
#4 – The Boxtrolls
No studio has a track record quite like LAIKA’s. The stop-motion studio has already delivered two modern classics with Coraline and ParaNorman, and there is nothing to suggest that The Boxtrolls will be any less funny, charming or captivating to behold. The story of an orphan raised by underground trash-collectors (think Wombles after some horrid nuclear accident), The Boxtrolls will see Egg endeavour to save his foster family from an evil exterminator. Whatever the mechanics of the story, however, the trailer suggests that the animation will be as lovingly crafted and meticulously designed as ever.
#2 – Big Hero 6
With Disney devouring every property under the sun, it was only a matter of time before one of its acquisition got the full Tinkerbell treatment. First up is Big Hero 6, which will adapt the adventures of the superhero team of the same name. Comprising the likes of prodigy Hiro Hamada, robot Baymax and secret agent Honey Lemon, the line-up certainly looks unconventional. Big Hero 6 might not be one of Marvel’s most famous properties, but that hasn’t stopped Guardians Of The Galaxy from winning fans in the lead-up to its release. The film sounds like some crazed combination of Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs and The Incredibles, and that sounds like a pretty appealing prospect to us.
#2 – Home
The third and final film to be released by DreamWorks Animation in 2014 (remember, that’s exactly three more than Pixar have planned), Home is an adaptation of Adam Rex’s children’s book The True Meaning Of Smekday. The story sounds rather by-the-numbers and the cast includes such uninspiring leads as Rihanna and Jennifer Lopez, but director Tim Johnson has set something of a precedent for pleasant surprises with the really rather underrated Over The Hedge, and we’d be lying if we said the involvement of The Big Bang Theory‘s Jim Parsons hadn’t somewhat piqued our interests.
#1 – The Wind Rises
Although released in Japan in 2013, Hayao Miyazaki directorial swansong won’t be seen by Western audiences until later this year…at the earliest. Studio Ghibli’s latest is based on a manga by Miyazaki himself (which was in turn loosely based on novelist Tatsuo Hori’s short story “The Wind Has Risen”). To complicate matters further, the film is also a fictionalised biography of Jiro Horikoshi, a renowned designed for Mitsubishi. I wouldn’t worry too much about the story, however, as the joy of Miyazaki’s work has always been the whimsy and childlike wonder with which his stories are told. Or, in the case of his last film, Ponyo, the truly mental soundtrack.