This was, by all accounts, an absolutely miserable year for animated films. The major animated features were mostly drab, uninspired affairs that promoted products more than anything else (let us introduce you to “The Emoji Movie“) And while there were a number of smaller animated features that attracted attention, none of them were crossover sensations and, once they left specialty screens, became increasingly difficult to track down.
2018 looks like it’ll be an uptick, both in terms of quality and variety of what is being released (with new features from major players like Aardman, Pixar, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Sony, Animal Logic and Illumination) alongside intriguing independent productions like Toho’s first “Godzilla” anime (premiering on Netflix soon) and “Isle of Dogs.” These are movies that have a commercial and artistic edge, helmed by some of the most talented filmmakers in the industry (like Brad Bird, Genndy Tartakovsky, Rich Moore and Wes Anderson).
But as we look back on 2017, instead of focusing solely on cinema this time around, we decided to encompass short films, television series, and movies. Because there was a ton of great animation this year, but most of it wasn’t on the big screen.
Click here for our full coverage of the best of 2017, including The Worst Films Of The Year, Best TV, Best Scores & Soundtracks, Best Cinematography, Posters, Trailers, Horror, Action Sequences, our Best Films Of The Year, Underrated and Overrated Films of the Year, Breakout Talents, and the 100 Most Anticipated Films Of 2018.
12. “Loving Vincent”
“Loving Vincent” is a splendid, dreamy marvel. Entirely hand-painted by over 100 animators, as the credits are understandably proud to note at the top, it’s not only a lovingly crafted film in every imaginable sense (as the title doth suggest), but it’s also gently and sometimes unexpectedly moving in its execution. Not nearly as innovative in its storytelling as it is in its revolutionary, impeccably created designs, “Loving Vincent” is, nevertheless, a quietly passionate, resoundingly dedicated character study exploring the tragic, isolated life of a misunderstood artist — Vincent Van Gogh — and a tremendously invigorated tribute and celebration of his legacy. It’s also an impossible film to look away from. Like a memersizing painting hung carefully in a decadent museum, if you are so unfortunate as to not give it your full gaze, you’ll surely miss out on all its radiant, evergreen splendor. Directors Dorta Kobiela and Hugh Welchman (both of whom wrote the screenplay alongside Jacek Dehnel) spent six years painstakingly leading their team of exceptionally talented artists to create over 60,000 paintings for this proud feature — a feat of nearly unimaginable patience, effort, expertise, careful attention and fine craftsmanship. The results, however, are expectedly extraordinary and intensely gratifying. Guided gorgeously by another remarkable original score by Clint Mansell, “Loving Vincent” sways you with its magnificent visuals. It might not be the year’s very best animated film, but it’s certainly one of its most animated films, and we’re in awe of its raw, heartfelt, and beautiful wonder. — Will Ashton
11. “The Lego Batman Movie”
The best superhero movies of the year were the ones that decided to rip the pages out of the rulebook. “Logan” saw Wolverine get older and play for a more mature audience with a deathly serious take on the character, while on the other side of the spectrum, Taika Waititi took the piss out of Thor in “Thor: Ragnarok.” But kicking things off for the past twelve months was “The Lego Batman Movie.” While DC’s very straight-laced live action universe is struggling, the team behind the latest ‘Lego’ showed that what the franchise needs is perhaps some air. Riffing on the qualities that define the big screen Dark Knight as we’ve known him, while still retaining his essence (even while moving with all the blockiness of a Lego figurine) “The Lego Batman Movie” was sardonic and sarcastic, yet bursting with color (again, something the live action companions could take note of), while rolling along with a breezy adventure. The film proved what you can do with a property once you stop treating it like a sacred object. In fact, nothing was sacred in “The Lego Batman Movie” and that’s the whole, delightful point. — Kevin Jagernauth
10. “Trollhunters” (Season 2)
The truth is that “Stranger Things” isn’t the most Amblin-y show on Netflix, it’s Guillermo del Toro‘s charming animated series “Trollhunters.” Ahead of the show’s second season, which just started streaming in December, del Toro announced an expanded, interconnected series of shows that would include “Trollhunters” but blossom outward, to include other mythological realms. And while this would normally be the series’ creative death-knell, it actually deepened the central “Trollhunters” mystery while also assuaging fears that the show would wear out its welcome. A tale of suburban monster-hunters, the show has shown a startling capacity for character development and moral shading (particularly when it comes to the trolls’ nasty habit of baby-snatching) and everything took on an even more bittersweet tenor since Anton Yelchin, who voices the heroic Jim, recorded all of season two’s dialogue before his untimely passing in 2016. (Adding to the fun this season was Mark Hamill, who played a main character’s villainous twin.) Del Toro, who is riding the high of his breathtaking “The Shape of Water,” was able to combine his love of classic fairy tales and Arthurian legend more seamlessly in the second season, giving the entire enterprise more weight and nuance.
9. “My Entire High School Sinking Into The Sea”
It’s such an exciting time to be a fan of animation, with plenty to choose from, whether you’re into something mainstream like “The Lego Batman Movie,” or more esoteric, international affairs like “The Red Turtle” or the aforementioned “Your Name.” And a real gem this year has been a lo-fi American indie, “My Entire High School Sinking Into The Sea.” A first feature from graphic novelist Dash Shaw, it’s a sort of disaster movie/John Hughes hybrid, set in a heightened universe and executed with a distinctive, handmade style, and featuring a killer voice cast including Jason Schwartzman, Reggie Watts, Maya Rudolph, Lena Dunham, Susan Sarandon and John Cameron Mitchell. It doesn’t 100% work, but its ambition, sharp writing, swift pace, dry wit and original imagery makes it one of the most striking animated movies we’ve seen in some time. — Oli Lyttelton