2016 Year in Review: Best and Biggest Disappointments in Animated Films

Animated movies are still one of the most popular and well-received genres in film with their appeal seemingly open to all ages. This year saw a host of many diverse animation styles and stories made their way to theaters, some looking to take the art form in grand, new directions, but not all. Here are 8 great animated movies of 2016, and 5 that are disappointments.

The Best

Animated Films

8) Storks

What looks like a simple kids movie has a few surprises and while it overshoots its premise a few times, is still a colorful, funny film that has some real depth. Driven by some great voice work by Adam Sandberg, Katie Crown, and Jennifer Aniston, the funniest exchanges come from duo Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele as a pair of wolves. A nice twist on the classic tale of where babies come from, this is a solid entry that has something for all age audiences. Read more here.


Animates Films

7) Kung Fu Panda 3

In the third film of the series, once again the unlikely Dragon Warrior Po (Jack Black), a pudgy panda, must face off against his greatest enemy yet, this time a mystical adversary named Kai (J. K. Simmons). What could have been a cheap way to soak the franchise dry, is instead a logical and purposefully story that sees Po’s character arc move in all the right directions. Introducing his family to the mix, it adds a few interesting layers to the story that lifts this above what it might surely have been. An inspiring, well-animated film. Read more here.


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6) Batman: The Killing Joke

A film that reveals the origins of The Joker and his rise to power is essentially the story of Batgirl as well. It drew wide acclaim for its voice-acting, featuring Kevin Conway as Batman and Mark Hamill as Joker, both returning to the roles that have been become defined by their work. A somewhat controversial film in that it doesn’t quite follow the comic book source material and has a scene that suggest something far more sinister about the villain that had many calling foul, the movie remains a richly-animated story with a stunning second half. Read more here.


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5) Your Name

A Japanese anime film, this imaginative movie follows two high school students, a girl and a boy, one living in the country and one in the city, who swap bodies, but it’s much more than what you think. Beautifully animated with a lush score, the film touches deeply on dreams and hopes, love and loss, and while it is filled with the anime tropes of the genre, it is nonetheless, one of the best ever created, an earnest, gripping tale that wonderfully mixes reality with fantasy.


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4) The Red Turtle

An exquisitely visualized film about so much more than it seems, the story of a shipwrecked man deserted on a small island and the giant turtle that keeps him there is a challenging film to be sure, but a rewarding one nonetheless. Created in collaboration with the legendary Ghibli Studios, the completely dialogue-free film is a parable on life itself, a genuinely affecting experience that makes it one of the best of the year.


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3) Zootopia

Disney started the year out well with this clever and funny and often touching film that while maybe a bit obvious in its attempt to bring tolerance into the conversation, is nonetheless an energetic film with some fun characters and a terrific story. Following a bunny who joins the city police force (Ginnifer Goodwin), she soon uncovers a conspiracy that is about to upset a long-held balance between predator and prey. Socially relevant but also lots of fun, this is a well-written children’s movie that is a solid message for adults as well. Read more here.


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2) Kubo and the Two Strings

Just about any film from the animation team at Laika is bound to be a good one, but they outdid themselves this year with a supremely moving and visually stunningly experience that is as original and breath-taking anything you’ll see this year. It follows a special, magical boy who must battle an army of evil spirits with his companions to save his village . . . and a lot more. A rare, stop-motion animated movie, a cornerstone of the studio, this is a monumental achievement that didn’t get the audience it should have. Watch this today. Read more here.


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1) Moana

Sure, this seems like an easy pick, but in no uncertain terms, Disney has created a true timeless tale that far exceeds its relatively simple story. Following a girl who is drawn to the sea, she is the future chieftain of her people, called by the ocean herself to find the lost heart of a goodness and restore it with the help of a demigod who took it in the first place. With sensational voice work by Auli’i Cravalho and Dwayne Johnson, this is an empowering story that is gorgeously animated and filled with fitting music and songs. Truly, a step in the right direction. Read more here.


Biggest Disappointments

Then there were animated films that had great potential, and while a few were commercial hits, many fell far short of their expectations. These aren’t the worst of the year but the ones that had us hoping they’d be great.

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Finding Dory

The sequel to the enchanting Finding Nemo, this movie has been labeled “long awaited” but that’s debatable. Taking one of the more memorable characters from the original, Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), an adorable fish with short-term memory, and giving her a story all her own seems like a good idea, but turned out to be less so. Lacking the charm and heart of the first, yes, it was a huge box office hit, but the absurd ending and emotional manipulation left this one a disappointment. Read why here.


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Trolls

An eye-full to be sure, this peculiar story about the story of these popular spike-haired trolls is a well-voiced and sung film that is just too contrived and stuck in its premise to get it over the mark. I has a few laughs but far more fall flat and while the characters are fun to watch and there is plenty that has some charms, it comes up unbalanced and a little bland when it’s all over. Good for youngsters.


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The Secret Life Of Pets

The premise is a familiar one, and akin to the classic Toy Story, where once the humans have gone off for the day, pets have their own connected society. It’s clever and funny . . . for about fifteen minutes, and then veers off into another chase and rescue type movie that is surprisingly violent, going for laughs through punching rather than writing. The characters are undeniably cute and there are some real sharp moments in the start, but the lost potential for something great is well overshot. Read why here.


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Ice Age: Collision Course

This is a franchise that has exponentially declined in quality from the very first sequel. What started as a pleasant little film about tolerance and family has spiraled into a series of sight gages and preposterously illogical stories that are paper thin. Here, it goes so far over the top, it’s loses any and all sense of place and is hopefully the last we’ll see of these once fun characters.


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Sausage Party

No surprise here, though with the team behind it, this should have been a much better and far more clever film. Instead, it’s a stale, uninspired story that goes for sexual innuendo far too often and is one-note from frame one. Unfunny and cheap-looking, this is a huge misfire. Read why here.


There’s a few we didn’t get to this year and naturally, any list has its debatable picks, so what are some animated movies on your lists? 

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