Another stellar year of animation has gone by and the Animation Mentor staff looked long and hard at the animation in the entertainment industry. We considered story, animation, and the overall entertainment value to come up with what we thought was the best animation of 2014. Check out our picks, be inspired, and make your New Year’s Resolution to be a kick-ass animator in 2015!
– The Animation Mentor Staff
Best Animated Feature Film
The LEGO® Movie
Directors and Story: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
Studios: Warner Bros. / Animal Logic
This was a tough race, but in the end the Animation Mentor staff picked The LEGO Movie as the best animated feature film of 2014. A unique twist to the traditional hero mythos of an unlikely hero, Emmett voiced by Chris Pratt, along with his mentor, Vitruvius, voiced by the gravitas king, Morgan Freeman, and his spunky love interest WyldeStyle, voiced by Elizabeth Banks – culminated into a hilarious, and refreshingly witty film that brought out the “inner child” in all of us. Kudos to Australia-based Animal Logic for the beautiful FX and animation that brought this film to life. In the end, “Everything is Awesome” for this little film that could.
Big Hero 6 – Disney
How to Train Your Dragon 2 – DreamWorks Animation
The Book of Life – Reel FX
The Boxtrolls – Laika
The Tale of Princess Kaguya – Studio Ghibli
Best Animation in a Live Action Film
Guardians of the Galaxy
Director: James Gunn
Writers: James Gunn, Nicole Perlma
Studios: Marvel Studios / Framestore / MPC
CGI is a necessary component in all major blockbuster films and animation is essential to bring the monsters, the mechs, and the super-human heroes to life. We were impressed by the digital work from Framestore (Rocket Racoon) and MPC (Groot) in the UK .
Not only did the film have dazzling FX but the story was more relatable to the audience than the typical Marvel fanfare. With the protagonist, Starlord, played by Chris Pratt and his ragtag team of four unlikely heroes, we rooted for the “underdog” and was pleasantly amused as the story unfolded. Fully CGI characters like Groot, voiced by Vin Diesel and Rocket Racoon, voiced by Bradley Cooper, were so well animated that it held our suspension of disbelief fully engaging us into a roller coaster ride of pure entertainment. Trust us, this will become a classic – prompting us to see it in multiple viewings for generations to come.
PS. The 80’s soundtrack is GENIUS.
Maleficent – Disney
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – Warner Bros.
The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies – WETA Digital
Transformers: Age of Extinction – Paramount
Best Animated Short Film
Director: Alan Holly
Studio: And Maps And Plans
Animation short films are rarely seen by the masses but it is a medium where we see animation at its greatest. Stories that depict life, loss, and love in a non-traditional way is something to admire and applaud for independent artists who want to tell their own story – their way.
We chose Coda, a nine-minute short film about a lost soul who drunkenly stumbles unto Dublin streets and death finds him showing him many things. Winner of best animated short film at SXSW and most creative short film at the Edinburgh Film Festival – Coda was recently long-listed for best animated short for the Oscars. Funded by the Irish FIlm Board, Director Alan Holly’s response to the positive international reception was:
“When you work on a short film like this for such a long time, you really just want as many people as possible to see it,” Alan said. “So it is wonderful to be getting such a positive international response, first at festivals and now to make the final ten films for the Academy Awards. In many ways CODA is quite an Irish story, and yet there are also a lot of very universal elements to the film as well, which I think international audiences really relate to. And then of course there are parts that are quite personal to me too, so yes, I really happy to see the film take off internationally.”
Source: The Irish Times
Duet – Glen Keane Productions/ATAP
Feast – Walt Disney Animation Studios
Me and My Moulton – Mikrofilm AS/National Film Board of Canada
Silent – Moonbot Studios
The Dam Keeper – Tonko House LLC
The Raven – Moonbot Studios
Best Animated Character/ Hero in Feature Film
How to Train Your Dragon 2
We’re going to go with Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon 2 as the best animated hero of 2014. A mix of a cat/dog and a ferocious dragon, Toothless captured our hearts and minds. We rooted for his unconditional loyalty, cried during his downfall, and cheered at his redemption. He doesn’t use words but the animators cleverly used poses, grunts, and expressions of animals that we are familiar with so that we instinctively “knew” how Toothless thought, felt, and reacted to the world around him. That is an achievement in itself. Read more from Animation Mentor alum, Dane Stogner, on his approach of how he animated Toothless.
Groot – Guardians of the Galaxy
Rocket Raccoon – Guardians of the Galaxy
Emmett – The LEGO Movie
Baymax – Big Hero 6
Boxtrolls – The Boxtrolls
Best Animated Character/ Villain in Feature Film
The LEGO Movie
A ruthless and diabolical villain in The LEGO Movie, Lord Business voiced by Will Ferrell, delights us with his over the top performance as the archetypal villain. His ultimate passion is to use the “Kraggle” and make Legos permanent made us laugh at the satirical nature of an evil CEO who lusts for control and world domination. Most of the villains we see in modern films have a redemption story and Lord Business has a unique one.
Archibald Snatcher – The Boxtrolls
Drago Bludvist – How to Train Your Dragon 2
Best TV Animation Series
Cartoon Network Studios
Animated TV shows are not just for kids anymore. More adults are gravitating towards animation as part of their prime time schedule as more adult themes are being introduced in animated TV shows like Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time. From creator Pendleton Ward, Adventure Time is one of the rare gems that can speak to both adults and children. With its comedic genius, and philosophical themes that test our moral compass, we can’t help but root for our heroes Finn and Jake as they fight evil, playing games, saving princesses, and exploring other worlds and dimensions.
Legend of Korra – Nickelodeon Animation Studio
Archer – FX Productions
Bob’s Burgers – Twentieth Century Fox Studios
The Simpsons – Gracie Films in association with Twentieth Century Fox Television
Best TV Commercial
Flight of Stories
Client: Imperial War Museums
Studio: Aardman Studios
Aardman Studios in the UK famous for Wallace and Gromit, created this commercial/short film for the Imperial War Museums in London to commemorate the First World War Centenary. It is a beautiful and poignant animation honoring soldiers that never came home from World War I but their stories live on through letters and journals. The animated quote marks depicted in the short are lost stories representing lost soldiers as they find their way home to London. Using a hybrid of concept art and Maya, the animators created a unique pastel palette of an era long lost but not forgotten.
Citizen M: “Swan Song” – PES Film/Stoopid Buddy Stoodios/RESET
LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham - Plastic Wax Studios
Best Animated Video Game
Child of Light
A beautiful poetic and lyrical 2D RPG based on the adventures of a young girl named Aurora, the young daughter of an Austrian duke. The game is about her quest to defeat the Queen of Night who stole the sun, the moon, and the stars in the fairy tale land of Lemuria so she can return to her beloved father. Inspired by 18th century art from John Bauer, Edmund Dulac, and Arthur Rackham, the folks at Ubisoft Montreal created a love song to the artistry of illustration, an enchanted timeless story, and that games are an art form to be respected.
Forza Horizon 2 – Microsoft Studios/Turn 10/Playground Games
Valiant Hearts: The Great War – Ubisoft Montpellier
That’s it folks! Hope you enjoyed our picks for 2014! Did we miss the mark? Comment below on what you thought was the best.