2016 was a great year for animated films and as an aficionado I found it difficult to make a list of my favourites. So after much thought, this is a list of the five best animated films of 2016, let me know if you agree or if you think I missed out on anything:
5. Jungle Book
At number five is Jungle Book which I know is a live action-CGI so is that technically an animated film? Well it’s half an animated film so I’ve put it on the list.
I really don’t understand the concept of recreating an old film and don’t think it should be done. However, the new Jungle Book changed my mind, it is an amazing adaptation.
It is darker than the original animated film, the scenes with Shere Khan are especially spine-chilling. It doesn’t have that unnatural feel that live action-CGI films sometimes have. In fact the film itself is beautiful, blurring our perception of what is real and what is animated.
Disney knows how to create a successful musical, especially with a princess. Of course it has evolved its princesses over time and Moana is their latest offering.
I loved that the movie was set in Polynesian culture, opening up the stories that other cultures have to offer. It also featured an ethnically diverse Disney princess, who is strong, tough and brave, something that is rare and yet so important since young girls need to see that all princesses aren’t blonde with impossibly thin waists who wear silvery blue ball gowns all the time.
Moana becomes the hero and takes the reins of her own adventure, pushing Maui, a strong male demigod into second place, creating an impressive female role model. It is definitely a step in the right direction.
Speaking of strong female characters, Disney did well this year by bringing us Zootopia. Zootopia’s main character also battles with discrimination in her chosen profession. Something that is very real in the world today. But this is just a small part of Zootopia.
It is a great crime fiction-adventure film set in a world of anthropomorphic animals. It has a remarkable cast of characters and it is a delight to watch each of them. I mean the Shrew crime boss, the chubby Cheetah receptionist, a popstar Gazelle, those little Hamster bankers —you can’t help but fall in love with this movie.
2. Kubo and the Two Strings
Let me just say that I would have liked this movie to tie for first place but then it wouldn’t be a list would it?
Laika has been making charming and extraordinary stop-motion animation films which have been successfully competing with larger studios. Kubo and the Two Strings is their best work and undeniably the most advanced stop-motion animation film ever, it is technical wizardry at its finest.
Set in ancient Japan, Kubo is the story of a young boy with magical abilities who sets off on an adventure with some unlikely companions. Kubo is unlike anything you have ever seen, it is a simple story with unique visuals that are stunning and awe-inspiring in a way that no film from major studios could possibly be. Kubo is in a league of its own.
1. Your Name
Your Name (Kimi no na wa) is a Japanese anime film. That is perhaps its easiest description because it is anything but simple.
The movie (which I watched with English subtitles) starts off as a body-swap story of two teenagers, Mitsuha and Taki. Mitsuha is a high school girl living in a small hill-town, longing to escape to the more exciting metropolis of Tokyo. Taki is a shy teenage boy living in Tokyo with whom Mitsuha begins to swap bodies. Despite their initial struggle, Mitsuha and Taki begin to fall in love through this unique bond that they share. However one day, the swapping suddenly stops, leaving the characters heartbroken.
The rest of the movie is how the star-crossed lovers must race against time and a mysterious astronomical phenomenon to find each other. This is a romance, fantasy, mythology, time travel, body-swap, disaster film all rolled into one but unlike any other that you have ever seen.
The themes of yearning, dreaming, love, friendship, space, distance and time are explored with such a high level of elegance and refinement that they make director Makato Shinkai the undeniable king of anime today. Take for instance how the characters can physically never be together but they are connected through technology, the subtlety with which that aspect explores our own modern disconnected yet connected lives is astounding.
Shinkai’s mastery lies in the ability to create realistic situations and explore real feelings but with a fantasy backdrop. The movie is a tribute to the fact that Shinkai isn’t just good at anime but that he is a master director no matter what the medium. Each scene, each view and character position, everything has meaning and is perfection.
Your Name is also visually stunning, each frame is a masterpiece, leaving you in a state of wonderment. It does what many films today, animated or otherwise, fail to do – balance a beautiful story and visual effects.
Your Name isn’t just the best film of this year, it is a timeless classic.