Animated Movies of 2016: A Late Assortment of Thoughts

Last week as I watched the credits for Miss Hokusai scroll to an end I couldn’t help but breathe a sigh of relief. A whole year and 17 movies later I had finally achieved my goal to watch *Every Animated Movie Released in 2016. I gave myself a challenge, worked my way to the finish line and it only took me until halfway through 2017 to get there.

So, What’s the Deal Here?

Let’s back up to the beginning a bit. At the start of 2016 I scrolled through the schedule on boxofficemojo.com and took a list of all the animated movies that would be set for release in that year. Once I had done that I took that list and entered them into a spreadsheet by date. No movie, no matter how wary I was of it, would be left out. I was keeping an open mind here and planned to leave no stone unturned.

In the end, this process left me with fourteen films. I would later add a few more movies as more and more release dates became concrete until I soon arrived at seventeen. Add to that the two direct-to-DVD movies I watched that year and I ended up with a grand total of nineteen movies on my spreadsheet.

You’ll notice that the opening paragraph says 17 movies. Well, I did end up not watching two of the movies from my list. You’ll also notice the asterisk I put next to the word “Every” up there. Coming up with this plan I did set a few guidelines to help me through this.

Such As?

1.) If a film was a sequel to a movie I had not watched I did not need to watch it this year. Movie studios have been putting emphasis on building franchises in recent years and the kid-friendly animation industry is no different.

This year the 3rd movie in Dreamworks’ Kung-Fu Panda series was released. I had not seen any of the movies in this series beforehand and after having tried before to get into the first Panda movie I decided it wasn’t really necessary to watch this 3rd entry. I was already committing myself to what for me would be quite an arduous undertaking and saw no point in trying to watch 2 extra movies just to get one more movie from my list done. So in the end I passed on watching Kung-Fu Panda 3.

2.) I would refrain from acquiring any of these movies in any less than legal way. If I was going to get this done I wanted to do it as lawfully as I possibly can. Of course without much money to partake in the increasingly expensive hobby of movie theater going, no subscription to any legal streaming services, and a sudden loss in resources for renting movies, I ended up relying heavily on my county’s library system to watch movies. In fact, I didn’t even start my first 2016 movie until halfway through the year because of this.

It wasn’t much of a setback except for in one regard: My library’s system does not allow for R-rated movies. In any normal year this wouldn’t be a problem but 2016 was the year the “adult” animated film Sausage Party came out. I don’t think I was missing out on much by not being able to watch this particular movie but it’s still annoying to have this kind of roadblock. Still, I wanted to stay legit so I decided that having to jump through hoops to watch one more film wasn’t worth it. And so, Sausage Party got the boot.

3.) I would limit myself to movies that received some kind of wide release in 2016. Every so often a movie would get a qualifying run at some festival or indie theater in an attempt to shore up an Oscar nomination. Well, I’m not a voting member of the Academy so none of that stuff would fly around here.

Take for example the anime movie Your Name which received a one week run from December 2nd to 8th, 2016 by its distributor Funimation to get Oscar-senpai to notice them – a decision that didn’t do them much good in the end. Now how was I, a girl with limited income in the Pacific Northwest, gonna get to LA just to watch this movie for my project? The answer of course was no way in hell. Instead I went with the – let’s just call it “wide” release of April 8, 2017 – and moved Your Name to my plans for this year. I ended up doing the same for The Red Turtle which is why you’ll find them on the spreadsheet for 2017 and not ‘16.

So, yeah, this wasn’t so much Every Animated Movie Released in 2016 as it was Every Animated Movie Released in the U.S. in 2016 So Long As It Wasn’t Some Kind of Festival Release or A Sequel or An R-rated Movie but does that sound as catchy to you? No, of course it doesn’t.

But I don’t want to dwell on the movies from 2016 that I didn’t watch when I can cheer about the number that I did watch. Seventeen movies in a year is far more than I would have every seen in any other year’s time. Considering that I watched, to my count, about 9 of the animated movies released in 2015 getting to 17 seemed an accomplishment I wouldn’t have thought possible.

That’s It For the Preamble

Now let’s get to the real nit and grit of this. What did I end up thinking about all these animated movies I saw? Well, first let me link you to spreadsheet I filled out for 2016.

Spreadsheet

I graded every movie that I watched out of a score of ten and ended up with an average score of 7. That sounds about right as most of the movies I watched didn’t blow the roof off the place. They weren’t all masterful works of art but in many cases were perfectly serviceable ways to waste an hour and a half.

Grading these started out as pretty easy but the more movies I watched the tougher applying the grades seemed to become. At some point I started making comparisons. X was a good movie but was it as good as movie Y? If I give one movie a ten what happens when I watch another movie I like even more than that one? Should I change the rating of the former or should I keep them at the same? Some of my ratings changed and some stayed the same.

But in the end numbers are numbers and thinking back to my time in math classes I’ve always been better at words so let’s have some fun.

Animated Movies of 2016 Superlatives

You know those yearbook things like Best Couple or Best Smile but with 2016 movies instead.

Worst Movie I Can’t Believe I Finished

Norm of the North

The worst movie I watched in 2016 was also by sheer unluck the first movie I watched for this project. Oh and let me tell you it was almost enough to make me wanna scrap the whole thing and forget about it. Of course, I wasn’t about to go down without a fight. After all, if this was the worst the industry had to offer me it would surely only get better from here.

Norm of the North is, quite literally, a straight-to-DVD animated movie that for reasons I have still yet to understand was redirected from its due-to-immediately-languish-in-obscurity-fate and released to theaters. Yeah, some executive at some point thought this movie worthy of being shown on a big screen and due to their stroke of brilliance I was forced by my own hand to watch.

Boy, am I sure glad I didn’t have to spend a cent to see this movie. By the end I wanted to gouge out my eyes with an ice cream scoop and take a bath in holy water. In fact, to describe just how much Norm of the North scarred me would be to relive an experience I would very much rather forget.

Trust me, it was bad. So, so bad. I’d tell you to see for yourself but I don’t want to subject any more people to this terror show than necessary. If you’re really intrigued about this mess I recommend the Animated Atrocities episode on it. They sum up the crap far better than I probably could.

If you need any more convincing let me sum everything up with this sentence: Rob Schneider is a polar bear. Look at that man’s filmography and tell me what the last decent movie is that can boast Starring Rob Schneider on its cover. Guess what, there aren’t any. Okay, yeah, I remember liking The Hot Chick when I was younger and sure, I laughed at Grown-Ups but the point is Starring Rob Schneider isn’t exactly a glowing recommendation on anything. I just wish Norm of the North could’ve stayed the South Park joke it was born to be.

Worst Movie I Stopped Halfway Through

The Wild Life

The Wild Life, or Robinson Crusoe as it is known in its country of origin, has the glorious stamp of being the only movie in this project that I could not bring myself to finish. Yeah, I could stomach Rob Schneider the talking polar bear and yet not this. It’s possible that having subjected myself to one abomination of a movie my tolerance for crap took a dip because its the only explanation I can give for why I finished that hot mess but not the hot mess that is The Wild Life.

But hey I did have the good sense to rate it higher than Norm of the North.

I have not read the book Robinson Crusoe but I’m sure its much better than this movie’s “told through the eyes of the animals” approach. I’m sure there’s also a chance that in this movie’s original language there lives a film of better script quality than the one I had seen.

Unfortunately, I only speak one language so I can only give you my viewpoint on the English dub which quite frankly sucks. This isn’t helped by David Howard Thornton’s role as our main character Tuesday, whose voice comes off as a bad impression of Jesse Eisenberg’s character from the Rio movies. Rio isn’t a masterpiece but its a decent movie and miles away from The Wild Life.

The rest of the cast is mostly staffed with voice actors who have worked much better jobs in the business of anime dubbing. I can’t fault these actors working in a niche industry for grabbing at whatever fills the bank account but that’s not gonna stop me from wondering what the hell they were thinking.

The most egregious crime of this move? Getting that song “The Wild Life” stuck in my head. Thanks for nothing.

Biggest Disappointment

Ice Age Collision Course

It’s good to have heroes, right? People to look up to and give us guidelines for how we want to live our life. Still, sometimes we set our heroes on pedestals and get disappointed when they fail to meet our high expectations.

By this point is there anyone expecting great things from Collision Course, the 5th movie in Blue Sky Studio’s flagship franchise? I mean, having taken on dinosaurs and now heading in to space, most people would assume this series has run out of steam and is grasping at ways to stay relevant. Surely there’s no one around who’ll watch a 5th Ice Age movie and expect to come out of it thinking, “Wow, that sure was a great movie!”

Here’s the part where I start to raise my hand and then quickly put it down when I notice no one else is moving a muscle.

I know there are some people who might laugh at me (and a few of them are probably assholes) but for the past couple years I have held the films of the Ice Age franchise in high regard. Where else would I go to indulge my id in themes of loyalty and found family? I guess there’s probably a lot of options out there but the heart wants what it wants. I could sit here for days writing about my thoughts and feelings surrounding these films and I’d still probably have only written half of what I would need to say. I saw each new Ice Age film as an improvement on the last not just in quality of animation but also in its writing and its depth of characters.

I even turned this into a little event, having myself a marathon of all four films and even its Christmas special before embarking on this new journey with my favorite prehistoric family.

The Wild Life was bad. Norm of the North was hella bad. But I had no expectations for those movies. I had no criteria for how their quality might be and no other movie from their studios to really judge them on.

Ice Age Collision Course was different. Here was a franchise I loved created by an animation studio that I also loved. This movie should have been a shoo-in for my top 5 movies of the year and yet it ended up as one of my worst. What happened?

I think the story just wasn’t here for this one and when the story’s not there inevitably your characters are bound to fail as well. A tireless “father who doesn’t like the man his daughter is marrying” cliché, an underdeveloped love story, and a shoving one of your best characters into a hanging on by a thread plot was of no help.

Of the top of my head I can think of two plot directions that would have made for a far more satisfying movie. One of them was already thrown around creatively where the Ice Age characters get defrosted in the 21st century. Or even better how about finally reuniting our characters with baby Roshan from the first movie?

Shame this will most likely end up our last and final Ice Age movie as it closes things out on a low note in all areas. I can barely even stomach the thought of buying this movie to join my Ice Age collection. I would much as soon rather forget it exists.

Best Movie I Watched This Year

The Little Prince

I fell in love with The Little Prince since the first frame. This little CG meets stop-motion animated film warmed my heart, broke my heart, and healed my heart all at the same time. I’ve cried at movies before. This usually happens at the end of the movie and typically during a climatic moment that tugs at my heartstrings. So consider it high praise when I say no other film before this one have I had to stop a movie in the middle of the story because I was crying too hard to absorb anything else.

If I had to guess it took me about five or six minutes to rein my tears in. Then when I started the movie back up again, I just ended up crying more! By the end of the movie I was so emotionally exhausted but in all the best kind of ways.

The Little Prince was originally planned for a theatrical release by Paramount before getting unceremoniously dropped and then saved by Netflix streaming. I don’t know Paramount’s reasons for dropping The Little Prince but I’m grateful for Netflix’s quick thinking. It’s a shame at the same time though for without all the promo a theatrical release might have garnered it feels like this movie was mostly forgotten about by the general populace. If it weren’t for me doing this project I might have missed out on what ended up as one of my favorite movies of possibly ever.

And I can’t lend my thoughts here end without mentioning the movie’s amazing soundtrack. I cheered so loud when The Little Prince won its Annie Award for Outstanding Achievement, Music in an Animated Feature Production that my mother looked at me like I’d lost my mind. A big hand to Hans Zimmer, Richard Harvey, and singer Camille for their great work on this one.

Runner Up

Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders

Yeah, my second best animated movie of 2016 is direct-to-DVD. Yeah, it’s a reunion of the still-living and/or working 1960s Batman cast. Yeah, maybe I’m cheating just a bit by including it. Yeah, I don’t care. This movie was the greatest thing ever in the history of anything.

Exaggerating? Maybe but if you’re a fan of the 1966 Batman live action series starring Adam West like I am than this is probably the best Batman related media released in the year 2016 you will ever watch. Return of the Caped Crusaders is like a beautifully written love letter to the series and its fans.

Ask me who my favorite Catwoman actor is and I’ll say with no hesitation: Julie Newmar. Eartha Kitt is amazing and I’ve had a crush on Anne Hathaway since The Princess Diaries days but Julie Newmar is the definitive for me.

I’ve been a BatCat shipper for a while now and no version hits me quite as hard as Adam West/Julie Newmar. I lived for their episodes and this movie was like a dream come true for me.

It’s tough to write about this movie in light of Adam West’s recent death. If you’re looking for a way to honor his life I suggest you add this movie in to the mix. It’s just like watching an episode straight out of the sixties but feature length and animated. The animation is direct-to-DVD quality sure but it more than excels in every other regard.

Best Movie I Forgot I Watched

Ratchet & Clank

For someone rather young I can have a pretty piss poor memory. I often forget things walking from one room to the next. My bad memory is part of why I spreadsheeted my experience because if not for the fact that I check marked and rated the movie I might have forgotten that I had even watched Ratchet & Clank. But I must have watched it and even liked it a bit because I gave it a slightly better grade than my average.

In fact, I’m not sure how much of this movie I would be able to describe to anyone. I know its based off a video game. I know it stars some kind of mongoose looking thing (I think) and a malfunctioning robot. I know there’s space travel involved. I know part of the plot involves Ratchet discovering one his heroes is kind of a fraud. I know Bella Thorne voices a character and . . .

Yeah, that’s about where I run out of memory regarding this movie. I can’t really tell you much more except that I do recall enjoying it and that’s without even having played the game the movie is an adaption of.

Oh yeah I also remember that it took my library a real long time to get Ratchet and Clank out to me. It must have been on order for like two months after its release. I guess I’m not the only person who kind of forgot this one’s existence.

This movie’s gonna be like a phantom haunting my mind. Well, at least if I ever come across this movie again I might be able to watch it with a fresh mind and maybe I’ll actually remember some of it next time.

Honorable Mentions

Let’s talk a little about the rest of the movies I rated higher than my average seven.

The only other direct-to-DVD movie I watched this year was Justice League vs. Teen Titans. I hadn’t watched any of the other animated movies in this specific DC animated universe but I was able to follow along pretty well. I grew up on the animated Teen Titans series from the 2000s so it was a bit weird watching this version.

I can see why many would like Kubo and the Two Strings but I was left feeling a little colder than others on this one. It’s a beautiful film but, like the other Laika films I’ve watched besides Coraline, the third act of the movie sort of dropped the ball.

Though I’m pretty good at keeping track of anime from season to season, movies can kind of slip by me. I almost wouldn’t have watched Miss Hokusai if it weren’t for a last minute acquisition by the library. I’m glad I did because this movie was a pretty good choice for my project to finish on.

I don’t know what I was expecting from Trolls but Care Bear fanfiction wasn’t exactly number one. This isn’t a mark against the movie. I love Care Bears. Add to that a nice color scheme and some entertaining music and I was pleasantly surprised by this one.

Another one for differing opinions. I was pretty impressed by Zootopia but the friend I watched the movie with had a less glowing review. I don’t really blame them. After a few setbacks due to the shift from2D to 3D animation, Disney has their formula down to a tee and some people need that extra mile to really grab them. Was it deserving of the Oscar? No, but expecting better from the academy is a pipe dream at this point. Regardless, I felt like this was the strongest of Disney’s two movies from 2016.

Speaking of the Disney formula, their second release of the year Moana also got high marks from me. Disney’s made some movement on the diversity point and even if its still lacking compared to their heavily white back catalog I’ll give them some props for continuing to try. Moana herself was a refreshing character to see and next to The Little Prince I’d say this movie had some of the best music to offer.

The only movie I watched in theaters was Finding Dory and though I would have liked to see more I was glad I was at least able to get this one in. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen Finding Nemo. I know some people feel like this one wasn’t as good as it predecessor but I personally loved it just as much.

Some Closing Thoughts

Now that my last movie of 2016 has been watched and I’ve said most of what I wanted to get off my chest regarding this project of mine, I’ve started to grow a little sad. Once I finish typing everything up I truly will be done.

I started this project with the intention of keeping an open mind towards the movies I watched no matter how unappetizing they looked. Yeah, I subjected myself to the torture of stuff like Norm but I also ended up being surprised by some too. Still, even the seemingly unbearable ended up teaching me something even if, as the case would be with Ice Age, the lesson was a hard one to learn.

Most importantly, I had a lot of fun and I opened my horizons a bit which is the best I could have asked for.

So, What Next?

Well, I’ve finished 2016 so of course there’s only one thing left to do. Start 2017! You can see my list of movies for this year in the same spreadsheet I linked up top. It has more detail than 2016 since I’m coming into this year with more experience. I already got a couple movies for 2017 sitting on the table and plan to dig into them shortly.

Occasionally after watching a movie I would voice a few thoughts on my twitter. I’ll continue to do that but I’m also considering using this blog to write about the movies that really strike up some kind of conversation in me. It’s not something I’m committed to but it might be a fun thing to do every once in a while.

I guess I’ve dragged this out for as long as I possibly could. Thanks for reading all the way down to the end. Have any animated movies from 2016 you enjoyed? Feel free to share them with me here!

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