Is 2016 the greatest year ever for animated movies? It’s entirely possible. A record 27 animated features were submitted for consideration for the 89th Academy Awards, and competition is tight at the Annie Awards, an annual ceremony celebrating animation.
The bigger studios had several strong movies making for stiff competition on Oscar night. Zootopia, Moana, Kubo and the Two Strings, Sing, and Finding Dory of course gained a lot of attention as films from their respective studios do. But beyond the critical darlings, there were several releases from the major studios that could have been award contenders in other years, like Kung Fu Panda 3, Trolls, and The Secret Life of Pets. While Angry Birds didn’t impress critic circles, it still made nearly $350 million at the box office and will receive a sequel.
The U.S. wasn’t the only nation offering great animation, as several foreign films have garnered acclaim. My Life as a Zucchini was a surprise Golden Globe nominee to many, Your Name has found itself considered a dark-horse Oscar contender, and Long Way North and April and the Extraordinary World were the recipients of praise as well.
Many films also took the art form in interesting directions. The Little Prince, adapted from the beloved book, used multiple animation techniques, The Red Turtle had no dialogue, Miss Hokusai was a biopic, and, of course, Sausage Party made the best case for adult-themed cartoons since South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut.
One can’t discount films that made use of animation, even if they weren’t animated films in the traditional sense — most of The Jungle Book was animation. Tower and Life, Animated were two documentaries that utilized it to great effect.
Of course, this isn’t the only year to have more than one standout. 2009 had Coraline, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Up, and The Princess and the Frog. 2001 debuted Monsters, Inc., Shrek, Spirited Away, and Jimmy Neutron. 1999 showcased Toy Story 2, The Iron Giant, and the aforementioned South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut.
Still, those years don’t capture the vastness of this year’s field. 2016 is the best year for animation ever … until maybe next year.
The top 50 movies of 2016 in 2 Minutes: