2009 in Review

It’s been awhile since I posted something on here. Animation has kept me pretty occupied, but some 4 months into 2010, I think it’s finally time I reveal my best animated features of 2009. 2009 was an outstanding year for animation. Seeing that there were 5 nominations for Best Animated Picture at the Oscars, and beyond that there were quality animated films this year that may have been considered in lesser years. Anyway before I get to the best, I wanna go over my ground rules for best of 2009:

  • I have to have seen the movie! (Secret of Kells, even though nominated for an academy award for best animated picture, is OUT! Just because I haven’t seen it! But I want to!)
  • If the animated movie was widely released in 2009, it counts! ($9.99 was made in 2008, but was widely released in 2009, so it’s in contention)
  • I (obviously) have to have enjoyed the movie. Technical merit counts (animation, sound, etc…) but its the sum of all parts, so if I’m not entertained for the duration, then you’re not making the list.

Without further delay, hit the jump to see the Best Animated Features of 2009…

Before we get to the best let’s look at 3 that missed the list, and then the WORST Animated feature of 2009.

Just Missed…

Princess and the Frog – I’ve seen it, just haven’t written about it yet. It’s a good movie, and it is 2D Disney!! which is a welcome return, but I think nostalgia helped the movie…

$9.99 – Thought provoking individual stories told through stop-motion, with a killer opening scene that grabs you. Definitely an adult themed animated movie! Too bad some of the stories fell flat…

Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs – In lesser years, this movie would’ve been nominated for Best Animated Picture. Too bad 2009 was stocked with good animated movies, Cloudy powered through its silly premise with great characters that were not cliched, but genuine.

The WORST Animated Feature of 2009

Battle For Terra – I know its mean to peg a film as the “worst” of the year, but Battle For Terra hit every cliche for a sci-fi flick. The characters and their designs were flat. The animation, and environment were good… in 2000… but for 2009, I don’t know. But there was something redeeming about the movie…

The Best Animated Features of 2009

Battle For Terra/ Avatar – You ARE reading this right! Battle For Terra is BOTH the WORST animated feature of the year and also the #5 BEST Animated Feature along with Avatar. I’ll explain. Even though Battle For Terra offered up bland animation, characters and tons of cliches, its strength, its one redeeming quality was its decision to show moral dilemmas on both sides of war. That war brings out ugliness in both sides, so hence its not always a cliched good vs. evil. Avatar fell into this trap. It also fell into the white man’s guilt cliche, but Avatar was so ground breaking in visuals (and yes Avatar IS an animated film) that it had to make the list. Use Battle For Terra‘s story (save for the tacked on happy ending) and use Avatar‘s visuals, then yes, that would be a movie that MAY have won best picture overall…

CoralineCoraline was the first animated feature I saw in 2009, and it definitely set the bar for the year. I was happy to see stop-motion come back and make an impact. The Neil Gaiman story coupled with Henry Selick, the director from The Nightmare Before Chistmas, Coraline was a movie filled with grit and darkness set to wonderfully gloomy fantasy world. Grit and darnkess are two qualities that animated features have stayed from the past couple of years. It was good to see a film without the cute cuddly characters.

Fantastic Mr. Fox – Way to go Wes Anderson! I loved the fact that he took on chance on something he’s never done before, and that is direct an animated feature. Like Coraline, Fantastic Mr. Fox did went the way of stop motion and did away with cute cuddly protagonists. What was left was an odd, yet satisfying animated film about a bothced heist. The highlights of the film was not the animation, but was the dialogue between all the characters, specifically George Clooney. George Clooney proves once again that he is great when it comes to those subtle nuanced acting performances. I actually think his voive performance in Mr. Fox coupled with Up In The Air, George Clooney should’ve won Best Actor this year. But I guess Jeff Bridges was good in Crazy Heart.

Ponyo – I think Ponyo deserved to at least be nominated for Best Animated Picture at the Oscars this year, but whatever. I think the big knock against Ponyo was that it wasn’t as epic as the last few Miyazaki films, that it was too kiddy. But in that respect, as a film made for kids, it stands head and shoulders above the other animated movies that came out in 2009 that tried to appeal to both kids and adults. Miyazaki knew what film he was making, and if you let yourself travel back to childhood, what Ponyo is is a magical fantasy with great muted pastels and watercolor backgrounds paired with a touching emotional story.

Up – This one was obvious. Even though I did think about placing Fantastic Mr. Fox up at this position, Up just had that Pixar touch that they’ve had with their last 3 films. What set’s Up apart from the animated films of 2009 was the way the emotion transferred over to the audience. I thought it would be tough to have an elderly character carry the protagonist role, but Up proved me wrong. Audiences around the world, including me, bought into the fact that Carl Frederickson could and would actually tie thousands of balloons to his house all for the love of his deceased wife Ellie, a ridiculous concept if done wrong. However, I knew instantly this was a special animated movie, when at one point, I could hear almost everyone in the movie theater sniffling. Emotional content done just right…

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