Kate Harrold shares her picks of the best animated films of the 2010s…
The past decade has been a breakthrough for animated film. Toy Story (1995) may have been the first feature-length computer animated film, but animation studios of the 2010s have gone on to break even more unimaginable feats. The genre seems to have done away with a default mainstream style as filmmakers experiment with CGI, traditional 2D, and stop-motion animation. In doing so, animation is escaping the constricting assumption that it is a genre for children as new styles appeal to new audiences.
I’ve always been fascinated by the magic of animation – from the days in which every single cell was hand-painted to the incredible photo-realism that we’ve seen in the last decade. This genre of filmmaking is one with endless possibilities and that is the beauty and power of animation. With so many films now competing to make their own revolutionary mark on the art-form, let’s take a look at the ten best animated films of the 2010s.
10. Frankenweenie (2012)
Frankenweenie is, director, Tim Burton’s fourth stop-motion feature. Based on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Frankenweenie follows the story of Victor as he resurrects his recently-deceased dog, Sparky. This film hasn’t had the same influence on pop-culture that Burton’s earlier The Nightmare Before Christmas (1994) had but in using Burton’s signature animation style, Frankenweenie looks unlike any other animated film this decade.
Only one of two films on this list to use stop-motion animation, Burton continues to brandish his own unique style by being one of very few directors to use animation to bring horror-genre visuals to life. Stop-motion’s irregular fluidity is the perfect vessel through which to do this. In an age when cinemagoers are accustomed to watching films in Imax and 3D, Frankenweenie‘s simple black and white colour palette shouldn’t be overlooked. Frankenweenie demonstrates Burton’s ability to create an engaging and macabre world out of some of the most simple filmmaking techniques.
9. Frozen 2 (2019)
As a sequel, it’s impossible for Frozen 2 to be the breakout hit that Frozen (2013) was. That being said, Frozen 2 earns its place on this list for impeccably demonstrating the very peak of CGI animation displayed in this decade. Frozen 2 follows Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, Sven, and Olaf as they journey to the enchanted forest to discover the source of the mysterious voice calling out to Elsa.
Frozen 2 is full of stunning visuals – discussed in my recent review. As Elsa’s powers grow in strength, so do the possibilities for how these can be shown in extraordinary sequences. Both of Elsa’s new ballads – ‘Into The Unknown’ and ‘Show Yourself’ – are perfect scenes to exemplify this. Frozen 2 isn’t breaking any boundaries, but it is the current pinnacle of CGI animation. As such, it’s a great insight into what we can expect from the decade ahead.
8. Song of the Sea (2014)
When Disney made the jump to CGI animation with Tangled (2010), 2D animation fell out of fashion. Song of the Sea is a film that was willing to bring 2D animation back – bringing with it a whole new lease of life. Directed by Tomm Moore, Song of the Sea follows the story of brother and sister, Ben and Saoirse. Ben discovers that Saoirse is in fact a Selkie who must help fellow faerie creatures escape from the goddess, Macha.
Song of the Sea advances animation by reverting back to techniques of times gone by. This film feels like a series of fantastical illustrations brought to life. You can see the craftsmanship in every watercolour background and it only adds to the mysticism of the plot. Song of the Sea earned great critical acclaim – earning an Academy Award nomination – but its limited release meant it underperformed at the box office. Song of the Sea is a gem of an animation – it deserves to be seen.
7. The Wind Rises (2013)
One of the greatest things about animation is that you can create any visual you want and so in most cases, animated films tend to be set in worlds far more magical than our own. That is the case in a lot of Studio Ghibli films but not in this one. Directed by the legendary Hayao Miyazaki, The Wind Rises is a fictionalised biopic about World War II aircraft designer, Jiro Horikoshi.
Originally due to be Miyazaki’s final masterpiece before retirement, The Wind Rises follows in the footsteps of Whisper of the Heart (1995) and From Up on Poppy Hill (2013), creating a poignant story set in our own world. The Wind Rises uses Studio Ghibli’s signature anime style – favouring tradition and familiarity over experimentation. This is the beauty of The Wind Rises. Studio Ghibli continues to bring anime film onto the world-stage and for this reason, The Wind Rises is a unique pick on this list.
6. Frozen (2013)
Ranking a few places higher than its sequel, Frozen could earn a place on this list for its pop-culture impact alone, but Frozen deserves more credit than that. Little did anyone know that this Disney Princess tale of two sisters – Anna and Elsa – would become the cultural behemoth it is. You’ll be hard pressed to find someone not even remotely familiar with Frozen.
Frozen 2 may upstage its predecessor in terms of quality of animation but that is only because the software has advanced in the past six years. Frozen demonstrated the best of the best upon its release in 2013 – the famous ‘Let It Go’ sequence is the perfect example of that. Alongside a great soundtrack and a story that is entertaining for adults and children alike, it’s no surprise that Frozen has maintained such longevity.
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