Animated films have long represented a genre of classic film. However, these films are rarely given the credit they’re due when they release. The exception to this rule is Pixar Animation, which has delivered more Best Picture animated films than any other studio. Since Disney acquired Pixar, the animation studios have held a grip on the genre. Over the past two decades, numerous new animation studios have emerged.
Last weekend, Illumination Animation broke box office records with “The Secret Life of Pets.” A decade ago, Dreamworks and Aardman Animation companies teamed up to develop the Best Animated Feature Film winner “Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.” This week, animation studio GKIDS, responsible for “Song of the Sea” and “The Secret of Kells” is releasing its latest film, “Phantom Boy.” With that in mind, we’re wondering what your favorite non-Pixar/Disney animated films? I’ve included a few of my own to start us off. (Note: I excluded the Hayao Miyazaki films distributed by Disney).
1. The Lego Movie (2014)
Perhaps the most glaring omission by the Academy in the past decade, “The Lego Movie” surprised audiences. Despite being based on a toy, the film found creative ways to pay homage to one of the most popular brands in history. The film was funny, heartfelt, and unique in the best ways, even though the actual story was fairly commonplace. It was another hit from Phil Lord, and Chris Miller, who are quickly becoming two of the decades directors to watch.
2. ParaNorman (2012)
Horror/Comedies films like “Scream” and “Cabin in the Woods” remain extremely popular today. Building off that popularity, Laika delivered an excellent homage to B-movies in “ParaNorman.”The film is an excellent crossover of 80’s kidventure flicks like The Goonies and Gremlins, but also has some truly spooky scares. Zombies have never been funnier, and the Witch is actually very scary at times. The film is already on its way to becoming a Halloween classic for kids, teens, and adults.
3. The Iron Giant (1999)
Brad Bird taught us early in his career that he was a director to watch. His debut feature film, “The Iron Giant,” touches on McCarthyism, the Red Scare, and nuclear proliferation. Like “ParaNorman,” it is a love letter to classic Sci-Fi films and comic books of the 1950’s. It might also be the one of the best unlikely friendship movies of all time. I’ve already pre-ordered the Blu-Ray for September, and can’t wait to see the restoration.
4. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
There’s little doubt that Wes Anderson’s stop-motion film remains very popular today. For anyone looking to get into Anderson’s sense of style and humor, “Fantastic Mr. Fox” is the perfect primer. It also has one of the best voice casts of any animate film ever. George Clooney finds a way to keep his “Ocean’s 11” charisma with just his voice. Meryl Streep communicates as much pain and disappointment as Mrs. Fox as she has in any role. Even Bill Murray turns in an incredibly funny performance. The script is extremely funny and clever, and might be the best of any animated film to date.