2014 was a pretty good year for animated films. But unlike the year before, which featured a huge Disney film with headlining women and lots of family friendly features, 2014 was a complete boy’s club. While there were a few small steps here and there (women in these films were characterized a bit better and given more autonomy), it’s nothing revolutionary. But despite the testosterone, animated films were pretty great last year (but I do hope for more varied voices in 2015).
2014 treated animation with the respect it deserves. Cartoons aren’t just for throwaway comedies (although some did try to squeeze through), and the five films here were the best examples of studios allowing animated films to explore different kinds of narrative opportunities. While the list won’t feature some of the smaller releases (because they haven’t released near me) like Song of the Sea and When Marnie Was There, I’m pretty confident that this list is set in my mind.
Here are my choices for the Top Five Animated Films of 2014.
Honorable Mentions: The Boxtrolls, Batman: Assault on Arkham, Penguins of Madagascar
5. Big Hero 6
When Disney bought out Marvel a few years ago, one of the more interesting projects to come out of that was Big Hero 6. A Disney animated take on a Marvel comic only two or three people have heard of? I was sold from day one. Streamlining some of the original comic’s funkier aspects, rightfully making Baymax adorable, and providing some great animation, Disney Animated Studios proved once again that they could provide another hit after Wreck-It Ralph and Frozen. I can’t wait to see what they churn out next.
Read our review of Big Hero 6 here.
4. The Lego Movie
Although Lego Movie was on the top of my list throughout most of the year, the more I thought about it, the more I didn’t like it as much. Everything was indeed awesome with its great cast, stunning mix of stop motion and CG, and pretty funny jokes. But the ending ended up rubbing me the wrong way. It’s one of those endings in which the ramifications of its message didn’t hit home until a few weeks ago. It’s got kind of a mean message, but it still deserves a place on my list. I still enjoyed the rest of it quite a bit. I hope the sequel can fix those problems.
Read our review of The Lego Movie here.
3. The Book of Life
The Book of Life was truly a light in the dark. A different, Spanish language voice that stood out from other homogeneous offerings. Bringing both negative and positive aspects of Mexican culture to the public forefront (although never truly doing anything with them, sadly), Book of Life is a savvy, entertaining, wonderfully musical good time. In fact, its tejano inspired arrangements of well known pop songs are some of my favorites from last year. I hope this is just the beginning of Latino voices breaking into the mainstream.
Read our review of The Book of Life here.
2. How to Train Your Dragon 2
How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a sequel done right. Expanding on the themes of the original without pandering to anyone, Dragon 2 was entirely confident in itself. It was amazing to see it unfold onscreen. Providing some of the best looking scenes in film last year, and with a great musical score to boot, Dragon 2 was one of the few films that made 3D viewing necessary. Its darker tone may have turned kids away, but those kids that stuck around realized there was a film here that captured all of the oddness that comes with becoming an adult and staking a claim in life. And this is a sequel! Based off a book! See, they’re not all terrible!
Read our review of How to Train Your Dragon 2 here.
1. Mr. Peabody & Sherman
Speaking of terrible sounding ideas, Mr. Peabody seemed doomed to fail. When Dreamworks bought the rights to Classic Media (which included classic cartoon properties like Rocky & Bullwinkle, Waldo, and Casper the Friendly Ghost) as part of an initiative to reboot all of these properties and make money, I was worried for the already in progress Peabody. Reboots already have the worst reputation, and Peabody is really special to me so the last thing I wanted was for the poor dog to be dragged through the mud. But thankfully that didn’t happen.
Smarter than most films without belittling children’s intelligence, Mr. Peabody & Sherman is a surprisingly emotional tale of father and son who’ve both felt the sting of loneliness. In a year of boy’s club films, it was so great to see one that wasn’t all about men doing men things. Mr. Peabody & Sherman is an ode to love, family, and trust. Also, it’s full of genuinely good edutainment.
Read our review of Mr. Peabody & Sherman here.
What are your favorite animated films of 2014? Agree or disagree? Leave a comment below or hit me up on Twitter! Stay tuned through the rest of the week for more “Best Of” lists!