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The Best Animation of 2015: Animation Mentor Staff Picks

by | Jan 5, 2016

Say goodbye to 2015 and say hello to 2016! There were so many iconic entertainment moments in 2015 (um..Star Wars, anyone?) so it was tough to choose our favorite animation films, games, shorts, and characters of 2015. We pared it down to a small list so you can start the new year with some inspiration!

– The Animation Mentor Staff

An early behind the scenes of Inside Out

Best Animated Feature Film

Inside Out
Directors and Story: Pete Docter, Ronnie Del Carmen
Studios: Pixar Animation Studios

In a world filled with sequels, trilogies, and franchises we were so elated to see an original and brilliant film about characters who represent different emotions in a person’s head. Another poignant film from Pixar and we appreciate Pete Docter’s uncanny ability to bring universal emotional motifs into original characters and storytelling. With Docter’s Monsters Inc. and Up, we were not surprised that he was at the helm. In an unusual storytelling move there were no specific villains nor a specific hero but a web of complex nuances that make up the human psyche understood by people of all ages. We predict this film will sweep the award season and it took us for a “joy” ride and we were so “sad” to see it end.

The Peanuts Movie – Blue Sky Studios
Minions – Illumination Entertainment

A dinosaur ILM test for Jurassic World.

Best Animation in a Live Action Film

Jurassic World
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Writers: Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Colin Trevorrow, Derek Connolly
Studios: Industrial Light & Magic, et. al.

We were so excited to see the continuation of the Jurassic Park franchise and Jurassic World did not disappoint. Jurassic Park inspired future CGI filmmakers and artists all around the world and revisiting the velociraptors and T-Rex were like seeing old friends. The character development and animation of the velociraptors from friend to foe was AWESOME and Industrial Light & Magic really brought these guys to life. Like mentor Nicole Herr said, “Creatures are not dumb animals,” but are intelligent and emotional beings. We definitely saw that in our favorite velociraptor, Blue and T-Rex for the final epic battle scene.

Avengers: Age of Ultron – Industrial Light & Magic
The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies – WETA Digital

Sanjay Patel talks about his father who inspired him to make this short film

Best Animated Short Film

Sanjay’s Super Team
Director: Sanjay Patel
Studio: Pixar Animation Studios

As the world becomes smaller, we understand more about other cultures, this short film was a great depiction of a fusion of cultural identity. We loved how Sanjay Patel, long-time Pixar animator, embraced his Indian heritage and how the ancient Indian gods were truly super heroes in his eyes.

Best Animated Character/ Hero in Feature Film

The Good Dinosaur
Pixar Animation Studios

This one was a tough one. There were so many great characters but in the end, we really loved Spot from The Good Dinosaur. Unlike Mowgli from the Jungle Book, Spot was an interesting character choice to be a feral animal in the dichotomy of a human-animal relationship. In an atypical buddy-buddy movie, it was so great to see the role reversal from the animal to human relationship and how the affections for one another can be interchangeable. The animation of Spot is stellar, the emotions and movements read clearly- kudos to the Pixar animators for making him a character worth caring for.

Bob – Minions
Sadness – Inside Out
Oh – Home
Snoopy – The Peanuts Movie

Best Animated Character/ Villain in Feature Film

Scarlet Overkill
The Minions
Illumination Entertainment

The Despicable Me franchise and it’s off-shoot solo feature film of the minions was a delightful surprise especially the main villain, Scarlet Overkill. Before the minions met Gru, they searched for a new boss and found the emotionally unbalanced Scarlet Overkill. The hilarious villain-con sequence was surprisingly original and how being evil is a commodity in itself. Voiced by Sandra Bullock, Scarlet has some cool gadgets with her stylish dresses, her sweet yet lethal personality which make her a memorable villainess and a perfect foe to the cute little minions.

Vlad Dracula – Hotel Transylvania 2
Smek – Home
Bubbha – The Good Dinosaur

A preview of the pilot

Best TV Animation Series

Rick and Morty
Adult Swim

Debuting in 2014, Community showrunner Dan Harmon and animator Justin Roiland created a madcap buddy comedy of a mish mash of existential conundrums, absurd adventures, and wonky sci-fi tropes. It’s no accident that the main characters look like Doc and Marty from Back to the Future, Harmon was inspired by the film and created a “filthy” version of it, hence the birth of Rick and Morty. You can read more about it here.


 – FX Productions
Bob’s Burgers
 – Twentieth Century Fox Studios
The Simpsons
 – Gracie Films in association with Twentieth Century Fox Television

Coca-Cola "Man and Dog" :60 from Psyop on Vimeo.

Best TV Commercial

Man and Dog
Client: Coca-Cola
Studio: Psyop

Psyop created this 2D/3D hybrid commercial that would even make Don Draper from Mad Men smile. With a mix of classic Disney style (think 101 Dalmations) and a modern twist from the perspective of what man’s best friend. Psyop in collaboration with Duncan studios combined Photoshop, Maya, Nuke, and traditional 2D animation to create this spot. In the end, it didn’t feel like a commercial but a nice little vignette of the human/ pet relationship. You can read more about the concept and making of here.

Chex Party Mix: “Holiday Magic” – Stoopid Buddy Stoodios
Michelin Total Performance: “All the Performances In Every Tire” – Moonbot Studios
We Are All Farmers – Acme Filmworks

Best Animated Video Game

Pencil Test Studios

Of course we know that huge games like Fallout 4 and Batman: Arkham Knight came out in 2015. But this little gem was too hard to pass up. Done entirely in stop motion animation from the creators of Earthworm Jim and The Neverhood games, this point and click game takes you away from the traditional first person shoot ‘em up fanfare. Explore the fortress of Amikrog with space explorer, Tommynaut, and his intrepid blind alien dog Beak-Beak.

Evolve – 2K Games
Invisible, Inc. – Klei Entertainment Inc.

That’s it folks! Hope you enjoyed our picks for 2015! Did we miss the mark? Comment below on what you thought was the best.

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