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Best in Animation 2017: Animation Mentor Staff Picks

by | Dec 27, 2017


2017 has been…eventful to say the least. And that’s why we’re more grateful than ever for the wonder of animation to give us an escape from the day to day! As always, it was hard to choose our favorites from the past year, but without further ado—here they are!

Best Animated Feature Film

Directors: Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina
Studio: Pixar Animation Studios

With just about the best soundtrack in the history of soundtracks, Pixar’s 19th feature film Coco is a feast for the ears as well as the eyes. We’re obsessed with the songs, the beautiful sets, and especially the heart in this instant classic. And, of course, we all had a little something in our eye at the end. I’m not crying. You’re crying.

Despicable Me 3 – Illumination
Ferdinand – Blue Sky Studios

Best Live-Action Animation

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2
Director: James Gunn
Studios: Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Pictures

When we found out the Star-Lord was back for Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 we couldn’t wait! Luckily we weren’t disappointed—especially with Kurt Russell in the picture.

The opening scene starts off with some amazing and epic creature animation as the Guardians battle the mighty Abelisk. But let’s be real, Rocket and Baby Groot steal the show. The teams behind these two characters just knocked it out of the park. Their screen presence and emotional arc hold their own next to their live-action counterparts. Just all-around awesome.

War for the Planet of the Apes – Chernin Entertainment
Game of Thrones Season 6 – Warner Bros. Television

Best Animated Short Film

”Here’s the Plan”
Director: Fernanda Frick

“Here’s the Plan” is the lovely and heartwarming story of a couple of cupcake bakers who postpone their dream of owning their own bakery when money troubles hit hard. As they drift away from their dreams they drift away from each other—and there we are with something in our eye again…

This 18-minute short film from Chile has a unique and beautiful aesthetic described aptly by Cartoon Brew as reflecting “a broad range of visual references, from David OReilly’s shorts to the lighting techniques of Disney’s “Feast” and “Paperman” and the marriage sequence in Pixar’s Up.”

”Imaginary Friend Society: Feeling Sad” – Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation
“Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” – Walt Disney Animation Studios

Best Animated Character in a Feature Film – Hero

Coco – Pixar Animation Studios

It’s hard to find a hero with more spirit than Miguel, the young and talented musician in a family that hates and fears music. While he engages in a few age-appropriate shenanigans like hiding records and guitars up in a secret attic, he also shows surprising maturity and understanding at the pain his family has endured for generations—even if that empathy puts his dreams in jeopardy.

You can feel Miguel’s passion in the way that he moves when he plays guitar. You can see his eyes light up and the warmth of his spirit when he’s doing what he loves. The animation when he’s playing music is incredible—believability with the instruments plus dancing, acting, conveying emotion and story points. Pure artistry. The success of Coco’s narrative really depends on the audience’s admiration for Miguel, and this is one character who is really easy to love.

Gru – Despicable Me 3 – Illumination
Héctor – Coco – Pixar Animation Studios

Best Animated Character in a Feature Film – Villain

Balthazar Bratt
Despicable Me 3 – Illumination

I mean, if you can pull of a keytar WHILE being a supervillain, then you absolutely have our attention. Not to mention the shoulder pads. We also loved how much the animators pushed the poses on this Balthazar. It just works so well!

Balthazar Bratt was a child star in the 80s whose show gets canceled when he’s no longer the cute child star—so of course he turns to evil and dreams of world domination. Seems legit.

El Primero – Ferdinand – Blue Sky Studios
Francis Francis – The Boss Baby – DreamWorks Animation

Best Animated TV Series

Samurai Jack
Directors: Genndy Tartakovksy
Studios: Cartoon Network Studios

Obviously it was a big deal when we heard we were finally getting a Samurai Jack ending this year, and we weren’t disappointed! Visually stunning as ever, the better-late-than-never season 5 has grown up a bit and absolutely benefits from a more intense and mature narrative. While we’re glad to have a conclusion, we were sad (once again) to see Samurai Jack leave us.

Big Mouth – Netflix
Bob’s Burgers – 20th Century Fox.

Best Animated TV Commercial

Directors: John Kahrs
Studios: Broad Reach Pictures, Chromosphere, Lyft

Even though it can happen time and time again, it seems like you’re never ready for a commercial to make you cry. Such was the case with Lyft’s animated short “June,” which is all-the-more impressive because it’s a commercial that holds your attention for more than 7 minutes.

With a visual style that meets somewhere between Ezra Jack Keats’s “The Snowy Day” and Walt Disney’s ”Paperman”, “June” is a warm display of the power of community.

Speaking of, “June” is directed by the same John Kahrs who won an Oscar for ”Paperman” in 2013—so that’s why it looks familiar.

League of Legends: Legends Never Die – Passion Animation Studios
”The Greatest Gift” Sainsbury’s – Passion Animation Studios

Best Video Game Animation

Horizon Zero Dawn
Directors: Mathijs de Jonge
Studio: Guerilla Games

We cannot geek out enough about Horizon Zero Dawn. It’s got expertly-animated robot creatures, beautiful sets, and it’s all-around visually stunning. As a player, you’ll feel immediately immersed in this new world that feels heavy with significance and steeped in history—you’re instantly eager to start exploring and uncovering the mystery of your new surroundings.

Also the kickass combat system doesn’t hurt. The animators did an amazing job of conveying weight, action, and impact as you battle with these small to massive sized robots. It’s so easy to get caught up in the moment and forget you’re playing a game!

Bonus: We also love that you can check out the showreels of the individual animators who worked on this masterpiece, including three of our mega-talented alumni!

Peer Lemmers – Horizon Zero Dawn Showreel (Above)
Niek Neervens – Horizon Zero Dawn Showreel
Richard Oud – Horizon Zero Dawn Showreel

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy – Naughty Dog
Cuphead – StudioMDHR

And those are our favorites from 2017! Be sure to let us know your favorites in the comments—don’t be shy.

Check out our favorites from previous years too!
The Best of Animation 2016
The Best of Animation 2015

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