When it comes time for the Academy to determine who it will nominate for Best Animated feature, we do not envy those who have to make the choice. 2013 was a banner year for animated films, with success arriving from the usual suspects, Disney and Pixar, as well as 20th Century Fox, Relativity Media, Sony and one truly special feature from Japan. Without further ado, here are Movie Fanatic’s Top 10 Animated Movies of 2013.
Planes was initially going to be a direct-to-home video release, and someone at Disney realized that the Cars spin-off had something truly special going for it. The message that even the smallest individual can achieve their dreams and make a difference is hardly new. Yet, in the hands of Disney, through the character of Dusty (Dane Cook), it felt fresh in how he embodied the dreams of so many in their desires to break free of the walls that society has confined them to.
Ryan Reynolds as a snail who dreams of racing in the Indy 500? Turbo also utilizes the same “you can do it” themes that made Planes so good, and Turbo also does so in a fresh framework of a story. I mean, of all the creatures to have embody the long climb to destiny, a snail with dreams of racing glory is about as perfect as it gets. Reynolds makes the transition to animation brilliantly, and the supporting cast (including Samuel L. Jackson, Ken Jeong and Paul Giamatti) is top notch. And the animation is glorious in its neon-tinged glory, capturing the world of those who have the need for speed and just can’t ignore it.
Epic is an animated film with a message that simultaneously doesn’t clobber kids over the head with its themes, yet says enough that parents can be thrilled with them viewing it again and again, as kids are known to do with animation titles they adore. The tiniest creatures in the forest are interconnected, and as decay pushes into the forest, they must fight to survive in a fight that is truly… Epic.
7. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
It’s hard to top an original animated film as treasured by fans as Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Perhaps in a stroke of creative luck, the first film’s directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord were too busy to do the follow-up. The Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 directors who stepped in had spent years working on the first film, and Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn took to the challenge and truly upped the ante in the sequel. The food is more threatening than ever, faster and menacing as true movie villains should be. It gives our hero Flint Lockwood all the more reason to dig deep to avoid a complete world takeover by the food “that lives” created by him in the original film.
6. The Croods
Nicolas Cage scores his best role in a decade as the patriarch of the last caveman family on Earth as the landscape is changing, both geographically and physiologically for humans. Ryan Reynolds is Guy, the first human of the modern era who comes upon our caveman family as earthquakes have taken them from their home. Cavewoman Emma Stone takes a liking to Guy, and papa Crood is none too happy. Like any good animation film should be, the laughs come quick, the action is feverish and the messages are subtle enough for kids to absorb, and parents to appreciate. We have a feeling that The Croods will be one that will be played often and frequently on home video machines for years to come.
5. Free Birds
One of the biggest movie surprises of 2013 was how absolutely awesome and fun Free Birds was to witness. Expectations were low for a movie about a couple of turkeys (Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson) who travel back in time in an effort to get turkey off the Thanksgiving dinner menu. Toss in Amy Poehler as a turkey they meet in the 1600s and a Braveheart-type battle to prevent Pilgrims from serving turkey to their Native American neighbors, and Free Birds is one fantastically fun thrill ride.
4. Monsters University
How do you do a sequel to the wildly popular Monsters, Inc? The answer is you don’t. Pixar went back in time to when Mike met Sully and showed how the kings of the Scarers became great at what they do. Monsters University is a college film, masked as a Disney-Pixar classic. Billy Crystal and John Goodman are better than ever and manage to capture their characters as newbies to the scaring world, along with fantastic debuts from Helen Mirren and Charlie Day, who is truly a monster!
3. Despicable Me 2
Despicable Me 2 has made over $800 million worldwide to qualify itself as the most profitable comedy (or animated films) of the year. That doesn’t necessarily equate to great filmmaking, but in this case it does. Steve Carell is back as Gru, and he has left his villainous world behind to raise the three little girls he adopted in Despicable Me. When a new global villain has arisen, a secret government agency recruits him (and his Minions) to use his knowledge to stop the evildoer in his (or her!) tracks. And more Minions are never a bad thing as the fan favorites from the first film get expanded roles… setting up a solo Minion movie that is coming soon.
2. The Wind Rises
Hayao Miyazaki’s historical fantasy The Wind Rises is not only one of the best animated movies of the year, but it also has to be considered for one of the best movies of the year, period. It is a rich story that is beautifully drawn, impeccably acted and scored and contains messages that will uplift audiences both young and old. It is, in a word, stunning.
There is no better movie musical this year -- and animated film, for that matter -- than Frozen. The Disney flick is also an instant classic from the legendary studio in its update on the Snow Queen fable. Kristen Bell shows she can sing with the best of them as Anna, the sister to the soon-to-be-queen Elsa (Idina Menzel).
Elsa has a power that turns everything she touches to ice and snow, and it comes out at the most inopportune of times… her coronation! She leaves her kingdom in a snowy curse and heads into the wilderness so she doesn’t hurt anyone anymore. Anna heads out after her, a sisterly adventure ensues, and with a snowman (Olaf!) who steals the movie by her side, it is pure Disney brilliance through and through.