Animation is a wonderful medium. There's a whole range of expression in animated faces and bodies that isn't available in real people, and when it's used in just the right way, it can make a movie fantastic. Many animated films have a problem with balancing between entertaining their naturally-attracted younger audience and engrossing the adults that tag along, but when that balance works, it creates one of those movies that you'll want to watch over and over.
2011 certainly had a fair share of animated movies, but there weren't many worth writing home about. Usually the Pixar movie of the year is worthy of some attention, but all we got in that department was Cars 2. Pixar disappointment aside, there were a handful of animated movies that really stood out. Check below the cut to see the nominees and our winner.
I had no idea what to expect from Rango at first. The trailers were absolutely absurd, and it was hard to tell if the movie would be oddly lacking or delightfully weird. Thankfully, the latter proved to be true. In a year full of fairly standard children's entertainment, Rango provided an oasis in a mostly deserted category. That's not to say that the runners-up weren't superb, and they're all worth watching.
Some may argue that motion capture is not real animation, but I'd have to disagree. The creepiest motion capture just takes the actor's movements and does nothing with them. When the technique is used as a base for something bigger, it can give the characters a more realistic feel without sacrificing the fun, cartoonish feel that animation can have. In the case of Rango, I didn't know motion capture was used at all until I was told after the fact. The movement felt natural but was still a lot of fun, and if animation isn't fun, what's the point?