2013 was a great year for film. Due to the lack of straight up blockbusters, other genres had to step up their game to present something interesting. That of course means even animated films, a genre that’s been heading more and more toward mediocrity in years past, have greatly increased in quality. Last year, you were more likely to enjoy the fact you were dragged by your kids to see any of the films you’ll find the list below.
My list of animated films may not surprise you, but each film has earned their spot here on the list for various reasons. To be fair I haven’t seen Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises yet, so I’m sure that film is so great, it’ll change any item on this list. So let’s call this list more tentative than definitive. That being said, I’ll defend each choice full-heartedly. So, let’s get on with it.
Here are my choices for the Top Five Animated Films of 2013.
Honorable Mentions: Turbo, Dragonball Z: Battle of Gods, Epic, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2, The Dark Knight Returns: Part Two, Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day
5. Despicable Me 2
I had expected to completely dislike Despicable Me 2. Although I loved Despicable Me‘s uniqueness (and found the Minions adorable), the way the Minions had been catapulted into full focus led me to believe Despicable Me 2 would be nothing but cheap gags and cuteness ploys. Thankfully, it only does that a little bit. This time it’s more focused on Gru’s well being and adulthood. Now that he’s a father, the sequel wonderfully finds someone for him to love outside of his maturing kids and increasingly mental Minions. And it works. It takes his caricature and humanizes him a little as it shows more aspects of his brokenness.
And even if you miss all of that, the Minions sing an adorable version of All-4-One’s “I Swear.”
4. The Croods
The Croods came completely out of nowhere. Once again, I walked in audibly going “UGHHHH WHYYYY” but I walked out feeling much better. The Croods was my animated highlight for a better amount of the year until the next three lists items came along, and for good reason. Nicolas Cage is an awesome caveman, and he even puts on this beatnik persona for a few seconds. It’s optimistic about the changing world, it’s heartfelt and charming, and damn is it one of the more gorgeous films out there. That prehistoric rainbow cat? Wonderful.
Read our review of The Croods here.
3. Monsters University
Pixar arguably isn’t the studio it used to be. We can’t hold it up to the high regard we used to anymore as it’s shown it can also be a studio that too is capable of shoddy sequels, well meaning misfires, and prequels. But at least it’s still very entertaining, and that’s more you can say about most animated studios. As a prequel, Monsters University fudges up some areas, but as an homage to college films? It’s perfect. From its snare drum filled soundtrack, to how adorable young Mike Wazowski is, to the message that hard work is just as important as an education. Mix all of it together, and you’ve got a great film
2. Wolf Children
I’m sad I almost completely missed out on the fantastic Wolf Children. Mamoru Hosoda (The Digimon Movie, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time)’s follow up to the beautifully animated Summer Wars, Wolf Children was a straight to home video release that I had written off as “one of those anime things” initially. Boy was I wrong. After some rumblings on Twitter, I decided to give it a look for myself. I’m glad I did.
Wolf Children takes the magical realism inherent in all anime, and blends it with a truly loving and grounded story. And its elegant 2D animation has to be seen for sure. There’s one scene where they all play in the snow that’s absolutely breathtaking, and it’s something I’ll remember for a while. It’s not the best animated film because of a few drawbacks with its pace management, but it’s better than a lot of mainline releases last year.
Come on, did you think I was going to put something else (then again, it was either this or Dragonball Z: Battle of Gods)? Me, the guy who’s been ranting and raving about how spectacular Frozen is for the past few weeks? It’s in no way hyperbolic when you hear people say it’s the best Disney animated film since The Lion King, Aladdin, or Beauty and the Beast. It truly is. Frozen is the culmination of several years of feminist progression too.
While Princess and the Frog, Tangled, and Brave presented strong willed female protagonists, Frozen takes it one step further by not making them strong for strong’s sake. They’re human. Everyone in Frozen is broken in some way, and naturally come to accept themselves before they begin loving others. The central relationship between Anna and her sister Elsa is gracefully handled, the goofy sidekick Olaf is more than advertisements give him credit for, the animation is so gratifying it makes a 2D-less future for Disney Animation seem okay, and that music? It’s the best Disney’s done in ages.
And really, that’s what it comes down to. Disney Animation simultaneously delivered their best film in ages and the best animated film of 2013. No question.
Read our review of Frozen here.
What are your favorite animated films of 2013? Do you agree or disagree with me? Leave a comment below or hit me up on Twitter! Stay tuned for the next two weeks for other “Best of” lists here on Flixist!