Top 5: Animated Films of 2016

This week’s Top 5 Friday Challenge was chosen by @fleafilms, give that page a follow! If you’d like to be the person who chooses next week’s category at gets a shoutout on this blog (as well as Facebook/Tumblr/Twitter/Instagram) comment your picks for this challenge on my Instagram page, under this post!

Since 2016 is over, we can now look back on the great (and not-so-great films) that have been released. Sure, many people say that 2016 was a disappointment, and while I have too, there are also a few genres that have done extremely well as far as reception and performance are concerned. One of those genres was animation, and in honor of that triumph, let’s count down our top five animated films of 2016! Without further adieu, let’s kick this list off:

5) Starting at the bottom of my list of favorites is WB’s competition to the other huge animated films this year with StorksThere are a bunch of trailers from last year that I didn’t like, but this one actually infuriated me. The marketing for this film was extremely bad, and seemed geared towards kids… and only kids. In this day and age, animated films are not kids films, but family films that parents will actually enjoy taking children to, but the trailers for this film did not boast intelligence in humor or story. However, I decided to see it anyways because I love animated films, and I was highly surprised- nay, impressedwith the film that I saw. I laughed often, had fun constantly, and even cried at the final montage… who knew?! Not even Pixar could get to me on any of those levels this year, which is why this film is on my list instead of Finding DoryWB’s follow-up to The Lego Movie is a successful one, and I can’t wait to see what their next original animated family film will be.

4) Netflix strikes again with another highly original and entirely great film which proves even further that you don’t have to go to the theater to see great and new content! The only thing I knew going into The Little Prince was that it was based on an old French book, and was getting rave reviews, but I didn’t have any idea what it was about or who was in it, even. Unbeknownst to me, this film would end up being absolutely beautiful, not only in the animation but in the story as well. If there’s one thing that 2016 taught me as a cinephile (besides don’t trust trailers or DC), it’s that stop-motion can be absolutely glorious; the story is animated with 3D CG, but the story within the story is told with stop-motion animated and was one of the most impressive aspects of the entire experience for me. Honestly, the stop-motion animation rivaled the 3D animation, but they went so well together and the juxtaposition of these two aesthetics was more of a compliment to the other and allowed for each of them to stand out more. I haven’t read the book, but from what I can tell, the voice-cast brought their respective characters to life very well, especially Paul Rudd who has such a youthful and innocent element to his voice, and you’ll have to see why that’s relevant by watching the film!

3) Zootopia marked Walt Disney Animation’s return after a year “off,” and my, was this one hell of a comeback. If Pixar doesn’t deliver, it seems now that you can always count on Disney instead. This film was a return to classic Disney, like The Jungle Book, Tarzan, Robin Hood, Treasure Planetetc that boasts the grandest of adventures and fun characters that are impossible not to love. With Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde leading the story, we have the smart and innocent bunny teaming up with the sarcastic and sly fox to solve a crime of a missing otter, and an epidemic that is sweeping Zootopia. On top of all of that, this movie also has an incredible amount of social commentary and racial undertones that are sure to go over kid’s heads but leaving adults scratching theirs while pondering what these themes mean. Also, how perfectly cast was Jason Bateman? There are absolutely no other people who could have filled that role and executed it as successfully as he did, bringing just the right about of wit, humor, and maturity that the fox needed. The rest of the voice cast is fantastic, as well, of course. Looking back at this film, the animation is always the first thing that comes to mind, probably because it’s some of the best animation in 3D CG history, and the film is worth a watch to see just how it looks alone.

2) Yet again, Walt Disney Animation shows us that they are the king (or queen) of animated movies today with MoanaMoana is their follow-up to Zootopia and a mighty one at that. Bringing us not only another official Disney Princess but a strong female lead character that can easily compete against the likes of Ellen Ripley, Sarah Connor or Leia Organa, Moana is a movie that absolutely anyone and everyone can enjoy. To save her home island, Moana is sent out to find the demigod Maui and return a magical stone to its rightful place before her family and the rest of her people die. Needless to say, adventure ensues with lovable characters and some of the catchiest songs in Disney history. Newcomer Auli’l Cravalho makes a great partner to Dwayne Johnson as they carry us through a magnificent journey about staying true to yourself yet pushing yourself to your highest potential, and becoming the best version of yourself to the people around you. It’s a classic Disney film at heart, with the expertise and style of any (great) contemporary blockbuster. It’s one for the ages… move over, Cinderella.

1) As mentioned a few paragraphs ago, 2016 taught me that stop-motion can be awe-strikingly beautiful, and this is the film that allowed me to see that truth. I’ve never been a fan of Laika because I never really gave them a chance; I’ve never given them a chance because their earliest films reminded me of Tim Burton, who I’m not a fan of (his style). Kubo and the Two Strings opened me up to a whole new world of entertainment, and what a great way to start out. This film is an incredibly original yet classic-mythology-styled fantasy film about a young boy on a journey to overcome evil and fight for his family. Stories like this have been told since the beginning of time, but this is one of the most breath-taking renditions, not just visually but also narratively. Delivering action, humor, an endearing plot and handfuls of surprises, Kubo easily takes my top spot as Best Animated Film of the Year, without a doubt or hesitation. And because of this, I gave Coraline and ParaNorman a try, and loved them. Maybe I’ll give The Boxtrolls another go, or even Tim Burton a 15th chance:)

Well, that’s all for my list, hop on over to my Instagram page to see what other people are talking about! Or comment here, what are your favorites? Any of mine that you agree or disagree with? Let me know! As always, I thank you for reading and hope to see you soon! Stay warm, Hoosiers.

Published by Blake Carson Schwarz

Indiana University graduate in Media and Creative Writing. I love to write my own stories as well as experience the work of others. On this site, I post reviews, essays, and other fun posts that I hope you have as much fun reading and I have writing. Please share any comments you have, I'd be happy to hear what you think! *Never a critic, always a fan*

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