Hello, Spongey here.
We’re almost done with this crazy project, my friends. We are also starting 2019 right with a year that is sure to make up for 2013 being weak. I remember this being an interesting year and even before diving in, I know it is.
For one, Pixar bowed out for first the time in awhile, which gave other studios some more spotlight. Don’t worry guys, you’ll be back with a vengeance next year. This year is also notable for having a fair few smaller movies with limited releases, and I had to decide which ones were big enough for me to cover.
But anyway, onto the awards. The Oscars nominated Big Hero 6, Boxtrolls, How to Train your Dragon 2, Song of the Sea, and The Tale of Princess Kaguya. A generally solid bunch and BH6 won which I’m honestly still a tad upset about. Aside from a certain toy based movie being left out, them going with it does kind of show a bias which usually doesn’t bug me here but with how even more beloved a couple of the others are, it does stick out.
Ah well, it’s not like they matter too much. The Golden Globes made up for it by including LEGO Movie and giving it to Dragon 2. The Annies nominated all of the above, along with Bill Plympton’s “Cheatin'”. Dragon 2 won here too, so the Oscars stand out even more here.
But Awards aside, this year had some crazy surprises so let’s dig in and see which ones stood as good ones.
This, is Ranking the Animated Films of 2014
Jack and the Cuckoo Clock Heart: Not quite a big enough release for me to cover, but it looks fine
Mune Guardian of the Moon: Some french movie that does look kind of neat
Scooby Doo Frankencreepy: https://spongey444.wordpress.com/2014/10/15/scooby-doo-frankencreepy/
The Pirate Fairy: https://spongey444.wordpress.com/2015/03/04/the-pirate-fairy/
The Swan Princess 5: https://spongey444.wordpress.com/2018/08/24/the-swan-princess-a-royal-family-tale/
The Seventh Dwarf: I only remember this one for the Mr. Coat video on it, which basically became a touching tribute to co-director Harald Sieperman. Also Peyton List is this, neat.
Not the biggest list, but ah well. Onto the proper movies!
Legends of Oz Dorothy’s Return:
Yeah, no surprise here. As I said in my review, this take on Oz was pretty uninspired and lacked much magic. Or good writing for that matter. This could have worked but it ended up being just annoying to me. I don’t usually go hard on these sort of things but this got me with how dull itwas.
It’s far from the worst, but it as still pretty weak.
The Nut Job:
I think I’ve said what I need to about this movie. It’s a creative premise done in a fairly weak way that isn’t that funny or interesting. But it has funny moments and decent animation, and it s overall totally just forgettable and harmless.
To this day, I don;t know why certain people got so up in arms about it. It’s not very good, but it’s nothing truly awful either. There is that “mean spirited” complaint (which needs to die btw) but at least Surly’s nature is intentional and personally that aspect isn’t nearly as bad as in some other movies.
But hey, they at least fixed some of this in the sequel…which was still hated on for…reasons. Oh whatever. At least we’ll have Psy. Yeah, that’s still stupid.
Planes Fire and Rescue:
Another one I covered well enough. It improves on the first one with some nice moments, but is mostly just a dull re-hash. The only thing to mention that is the show I say is a Cops parody was actually a CHiPs spoof.
I only mention this screw up to say that yes, that one clip was indeed better than the actual CHiPs movie. That is all.
Postman Pat The Movie:
This is one of the limited releases I wasn’t sure if I should include or not. Eventually I figured it was big enough and the result was…something.
Full Disclosure: I didn’t grow up with this show so I knew very little going on, but I could tell what they got right and wrong. It was a bit better than I expected at points given the kind of movie it is. Its heart is in the right place with a fine message and some nice moments with Pat.
They also try to include some clever humor and some of it did work, like the video the villain shows for a reason I’ll get into. Also, when we see a newspaper we see that the story was written by “Nicole Dubuc” which is a nice shoutout to the movies actual writer, who is usually better than this btw.
On the flip side, there’s some dated things like a Simon Cowell parody. But then there’s the plot which involves someone making Postman Pat robots which he eventually wants to use to take over the world. …Yeah, I’m just gonna assume the show never had an of that.
It’s just so odd and it is clear they didn’t know how to fill this out. The whole thing with him getting famous is cliche but could work fine on its own. There’s also this other guy who I think is trying to kill Pat, which is also weird.
Almost as weird as the Dalek cameo. Did I mention David Tennant is in this as well?
Eventually the movie gets rather dull and odd, with an overlong climax and dance party ending. And while the animation and art style is decent enough, I can see why this was a limited release as there’s nothing here that warrants it being a theatrical release.
There is some okay stuff in here, but a fair bit of is over complicated and just weird for a Postman Pat movie. It didn’t quite bug me enough to be called bad or meh, but it’s not likely to please many people due to the weird plot and such.
Not to bad for kids and it has some clever humor, but overall this isn’t worth delivering.
(Side note: At one point Pat gets a movie deal and according to one article we see, one of the potential directors is “Bay” .Now THAT, I would watch)
I talked a bit about this in my 2014 review retrospective, but now’s the time to actually give this movie a fair review. I wasn’t fond of it the first time but now I wanted to give it a chance, as I was hoping to like it. That didn’t quite happen, but it’s not a huge bust either. It’s just…well you can see right there.
The first movie managed to make up for a weak story with strong energy, which I just didn’t quite feel as much here. Taking place in just the Amazon might have played a part, but maybe if the writing was stronger this would be less of an issue.
I wouldn’t say there’s a ton going on, so much as the movie seems to get a bit distracted at times. Alongside Blu and Jewel finding Jewel’s father, we have Nigel trying to get revenge, while Will i Am auditions animals for a thing, and also loggers are here too. Sometimes I’ll forget about some of these as the movie does too.
I appreciate some of the main story like how Jewell’s Dad’s distrust of Blu is more of a slide rather than him flat out hating Blu from the start. But there’s also this sexy male bird he sort of competes with but not really. Also, Jewel’s Dad trusting him again is a bit rushed.
While I don’t find the logger’s part of the lot preachy per say (I think it serves to show that some humans can indeed be bad, even if not all are. Plus it is a real thing that happens in the Amazon so it makes sense as a conflict) but the head logger guy is super over the top and it kind of takes away from the realism compared to the human bad guy in the first one.
Speaking of bad guys, Nigel is weirdly ineffectual here. He isn’t even that involved in the climax until they remembered to throw him in. But to be fair, he’s still as amazing as ever with his rendition of I Will Survive being an all time classic. Gabbi is also a fun character thanks to her animation and Kristen Chenoweth’s voice work.
The songs about on par with the first one with Poisonous Love of course being the highlight. And the animation is even better with the right colors, lighting and even some decent cinematography at times.
Rio 2 is a bit better than some other animated sequels of it;s kind with it at least trying to add some interesting stuff with the same solid songs and great animation, along with a new enjoyable additions. But it ends up trying a bit too hard some aspects of the main story as weak,and it gets distracted with side elements that don’t always mix well with the main story.
It’s okay I guess, but the first movie simply did a better job of overcoming it’s narrative shortcomings with more energy and a tighter script. It’s certainly better than the Ice 4 and 5 but I personally think Ice Age 2 and 3 are better and more enjoyable Blue Sky sequels.
(Side note, Kate Miccuci voices the babysitter in the opening. Of course. Also, the fact that I failed to mention the kids tells you everything you need to know about how I feel about them)
Penguins of Madagascar:
Here’s one I can skip due to covering in a movie battle. But yeah, it doesn’t top its first 10 minutes or so but it is still a fun time with good cartoon-y animation and decent humor. It could have been better (and honestly i like the TV series more) but it is a solid attempt to give these side characters a full feature.
That is all.
The Book of Life:
Reel FX returns with the help of El Tigre creator Jorge R. Guiterrez to bring us a huge upgrade compared to their debut. I wouldn’t call this a classic or anything, but it is fun.
It’s another movie where the basic story drags it down, as it is mostly just a love triangle and honestly I wasn’t too invested in a fair bit of that. There’s also the dad who wants Manolo to do a thing he doesn’t want to do, yawn.
I think the next movie on here did a better job of getting more its slightly weak sstory, but this was still good despite that. My other problem is they perhaps a tried a bit too hard to make Maria a “Strong Independent Woman” eve tough I still generally like her.
But even with all that, I still liked most of the characters enough, and there’s some nice bits of heart here. La Muerte and Xibalbia as easily the highlight due to their fun chemistry, and the scenes in their realm in general is where the film as it it’s most enjoyable.
The scenes outside of there aren’t quite as good but that whole section is lively and creative enough to make up for it. I like the old legend nature of the story, as it excuses a few of the cliche and it is also why I don’t mind the wraparound segments.
(Speaking of them,this is the 3rd animated film of this year after LEGO and Rainbow Rocks to mention Taco Tuesday. Huh)
And of course there’s the animation. It has a really unique style to with the wooden puppet-y designs as well as the look of the land of the remembered. The visuals offer tons of creativity, and even the El Tigre art style pops up at times. Along with a neat El Tigre if you’re looking for it.
So even when the story is lacking, the creativity in the animation can make up for it. And that’s really all I can about this one. The basic story is very been there done that, but the director’s passion is felt through the whole thing.
There’s enough heart, amusing moments and great animation to make this a fun time even if it’s not one that sticks with me a ton compared to other movies. I really wish Reel FX would make another movie, besides just doing the animation of other people’s movies like Rock Dog, they proved with this movie they can really bring it.
But before then, I can enjoy this fun little flick. And he, I got through this without bringing up Coco. …Damn it!
Lakia returns with their weakest offering, tat still manages to be pretty enjoyable. Honestly, the flaws come due to the nature of the story they picked rather than it having any really big issues.
The story is a typical Tarzen-ish tale with a boy being raised by something non human, in this case it’s the titular creatures. He befriends an upper class girl who shows him the human world and her father is not a very attentive one.
Also their relationship isn’t quite as developed as it should have been. But they still manage to make this an enjoyable take on this story, despite a few dull spots. Eggs is a likable enough lead and The Boxtrolls are pretty cute, but it’s the villain Archibald Snatcher who steals the show.
Ben Kingskley gives a really fun performance but even on a writing level he works. The reason he’s doing all this is to give in with the “White Hats” and their whole cheese tasting hing. He’s full on allergic to cheese but he goes about doing this anyway.
Frankly, the White Hats are the real villains as they shut out anyone who isn’t like them and cause Snatcher to do what he does. It’s not exactly new or subtle commentary but it is smart and works for the greater message that you don’t have to be what the world wants you to be and all that.
The henchmen are also fun even if their running gag of them wondering if they’re the good guys gets a bit old. Love their mid credits scene though.
Beyond that, the animation and production design are top notch with creative designs these huge sets that they’ve created. Much like other studios, Lakia will always impress with the visuals even with the script is lacking in places.
The Boxtrolls doesn’t do anything too new but they make up for it with impressive animation, a great villain, and some charming characters. I enjoyed this a bit more on re-watch now that I knew what I was getting into.
Still not their best work, but it is worth a watch for some solid family entertainment.
Mr. Peabody and Sherman:
You might recall the dark time I reviewed the live action Jay War movies like George of the Jungle. I thought they were actually pretty good and this can be added to the pile of good takes on classic source materiel. While it’s not one of Dreamworks best or anything, I do have a soft spot for it.
Right away they captured the feel of the original cartoon pretty well with Mr. Peabody’s personality (and puns) and all that. The leads are portrayed well with them having a nice relationship. It’s the heart of the making and it works as they go into how they care about each other, as well having fun interactions when they go back in time.
The idea of people not finding dogs fit to adopt humans is a tad odd but I think it works in the context of the story and there is some decent drama they get out of it, even if some of it is rather cliche. The humor is pretty good with some of the historical figures being highlights, like Patrick Warburton. Man, he really is in everything.
Speaking of voice actors, while the celebs like Ty Burell are good, I gotta give Max Charles (aka Harvey Beaks) major credit too for being really good and natural as Sherman. This kid is really good and I hope he gets all the roles.
Side note, I appreciate this movie for briefly reuniting Ariel Winter and Zach Callison. I’m also amused that the very same scene has Peabody calling her a “precious princess”.
That makes for a good transition to bringing up Penny, who brings the movie down for most people. I n general I think she works fine as she ends up serving a fine purpose to the drama but I will admit she gets useless near the end as they just forget about her. The romance is also fairly pointless, but I don’t find her too annoying at least.
There’s a few things like that which are thrown in since they are expected for family films, but aside from those things this movie is solid. The animation is of course quite good, bringing the design to 3D pretty well and all that. It’s typical good CGI animation but it is still good.
This movie respects the cartoon decently enough and adds in a good father/son relationship along with good humor and voice acting. It does exactly what it needs to do and is a fun experience all around. It’s not a great feat or anything but it’s fun and a slightly underrated as far as recent-ish Dreamworks movies go.
Oh, and it juggles the time travel “logic” with the story and humor decently well, which is a nice bonus. Take that, Free Birds!
(I suppose Boxtrolls is more consistent this hit slightly higher highs for me so yeah)
Big Hero 6:
And for the last time we have a Disney one I can skip due to covering it in the link above. I wasn’t sure to where to put this one has it does have serious flaws but it also has a lot that I really enjoy. It appeals more to me than our next two but also has more flaws.
So there you go. Either way, it’s a solid movie with plenty to enjoy, even if it isn’t anything amazing. (The series is worth checking out, by the way. It mixes everything a tad better at times, and is pretty fun)
The Wind Rises:
It’s Gihbli time, with Miazaki’s kind of sort of but not really swan song. This one is different as it is’s a fictionalized bio pic of aircraft designer Jiro Horikoshi. One thing you gotta know about me is that I tend to find most bio pics, even the more acclaimed ones, simply pretty good. I tend to appreciate them more than I really like them.
That does apply to this one, as it can be a bit dry and long. Its two hour and does feel it, mostly in the mid section as opposed to the 3rd act. There are minor actual complaints, like how some of the dialogue between him and his love interest being a bit wonky, and while Joseph Gorden Levit is generally fine, sometimes he can be a bit stiff.
But otherwise, one is solid. This is a fairly romanticized take on this kind of story but it does generally work with some effective moments like the dream sequences. I did care about Jiro here as he doesn’t like his plans being used for war and we see how much he cares about his work.
The romance ends up taking up a lot of this but even that was sweet enough to work. There’s some lovely moments here that elevate beyond a typical example of this sort of thing, as corny as it can be. The animation naturally helps but the music is also really strong and makes a lot of these scenes even more effective.
It has some of the usual pitfalls of a bio-pic as well as some small issues, but this still ends up being a pretty solid film that mostly got me invested in this story with some effective scenes, elevated by strong animation and music.
Not totally in love but I can still appreciate it due to what it gets right. If it sounds interesting, I’d say check it.
(Also, Young Jiro gives out 2nd Zach Calison role for this year. Neat)
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya:
Ghibli film #2, Two Gibhli’s in a row, with this one being a bit more unique to say the least. This is a time where I try hard to justify it being where it is as you may think it should be lower based on what I have to say, but hear me out.
The biggest problem with this movie is that it is two hours and my god does it feel it. Hell,, it felt even longer. This is mostly felt in the mid section where it gets into other stuff that isn’t connected too much to the bigger story.
So many bits drag and there really was no reason for this to be as long as it is. The story isn’t especially complicated in general so it feels like they did it for the sake of it. That’s sad because a lot of this is really effective.
The start with the man raising the bamboo princess is super charming as we see her grow up. It’s interesting to see her grow up and go through certain hard ships and there;s some really effective and powerful moments.
Especially the ending. There’s a twist and it leads to an ending that’s a bit of a downer and it works quite well. Just like Wind Rises, there’s some good use of music that really elevates this as well.
There’s also the sketch-y art style which can be uncanny at times but is mostly really striking. There’s some great stuff in here so it sucks that it ended up shooting itself in the foot a tad with how padded it can get.
I have loved long films before though, so I do think some parts do genuinely not really add too much, like the whole thing with the suitors needing to get her these items. But with that said, it is a pretty good movie with plenty to like.
It has charm, heart, a striking art style and some really beautiful moments all over the place. If it wasjust a bit shorter/tighter in quite a few places, it could have been a classic for me. But it’s cool if it is for all 100% of these guys on RT.
Which I guess puts on the same footing as Paddington 2, nice.
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya will either be a masterpiece of merely a pretty good movie, but either way it is still pretty memorable and interesting in the least. Check it out to see where you fall.
Song of the Sea:
Finally time to finish up the Cartoon Saloon movies with their 2nd effort, and my personal favorite. This one of the movies that I was looked forward to seeing when I started this and man did it end up being as good as I wanted to be.
For the first half I was enjoying it but I figured it would just simply be pretty good. The simplistic nature of just this girl finding out she’s this sea person (a “Slikie” as they call them) was preventing it from reaching greater heights, even if it was more even than Secret of Kells.
But as it went along, we find out more about what is going in and man does it get interesting. At the start we see that Saoirse and Ben’s Mom left them early on and they’re stuck with and a jerk-y grandmother.
When we find out more about all this, it gets deeper and more interesting. Ben (who started off pretty douchey) starts bonding with Saoirse slowly grows as a person, which ended up being earned which impressed me given how he acted before.
The entire 3rd act really pulls this film through. It hits some emotional highs and ends in the perfect way. Certain element aren’t the most original or can seem a bit rushed but by the end it all comes together really well.
The way they wrap this up makes for any of the minor flaws it had before. Even a few of the slightly rushed moments like this one characters change of heart, still works given the circumstances and what they were doing.
And just like their other movies, the animation and atmosphere are strong. The style is a bit smoother than in Kells which works quite well, and the music really add a a relaxing and solid vibe that is enjoyable to get lost in.
While it did start with a couple drawbacks, this ended up being a strong film. Song of the Sea is just beautiful with it’s visuals, atmosphere and story that gets more interesting and emotional as it goes on.
If someone lie me could get won over despite some potential weak-ness, than it must be doing something really right. All 3 of their films have been solid but this stood out as their best one.
Definitely another indie gem worth a look.
How to Train Your Dragon 2:
This is another big one I’ve been itching to re-watch to see how it holds up. And yeah, it held up quite well. I actually saw this in theaters but for some reason I never talked about it, but now here’s my chance.
Dispute losing Chris sanders, they managed to keep a lot of what I praised about the first movie intact and then some. They still do a great job of making yo feel the characters and understanding why they do what they do. There’s still strong interactions, both the funny and emotional ones.
This world is still a great one, with a strong sense of community, even if there is less of that as it is set outside of Berk for most of it. The story is pushed further as Hiccup meets his mother (it’s been 4 years, not a spoiler anymore) and they explore more of their relationship with dragons.
Admittedly, the whole thing with there being no real bad dragons is a bit idealized but it still works in the context of the story. While we’re on minor flaws, some of the supporting cast is sidelined and the pacing isn’t quite as tight as the first film.
But there’s some good moments with them and it’s still a good length, without being too long in the grand scheme of things. All the high points plus those are able to make up for some nitpicks like that. These movies have a atmosphere to them that makes them really appealing to me.
The interactions, the stunning animation, and John Powell’s music really makes these movies so enjoyable and engaging to experience. There’s a lot of moments were they just let you soak things in, and there’s plenty of strong emotional moments.
The villain manages to be genuinely threatening (mostly due to Djimon Honsou’s performance), and while they give him a backstory, they don’t redeem him. Hell, Hiccup keeps trying to reach out to him but he refuses as he is still set in his ways. Just like Panda 2, that is so refreshing to see.
Hiccup’s arc of wanting to be a good chief is a strong way, especially wit how the ending plays into it. Oh boy, the ending. Without spoiling anything, they do something very few major animated films do and it really works. The emotional moments hit hard here and the ending is the biggest example of that.
So while the first movie was tighter in a few places, this sequel still does a great job of keeping the quality intact. The themes are explored further, Hiccup grows nicely, and there’s still some strong emotion along the top notch music and visuals.
I want to finally watch the TV Show just to see more of this world I don’t quite want the upcoming 3rd one to totally be the end of it for me. But yeah bring on that 3rd one, as these films are great so far.
But even with the great-ness of that one, my favorite animated film of 2014 is…
The LEGO Movie:
Yeah, I hate to be obvious but whatever. Dragon 2 came a bit close but this not only y had less nitpick-y issues but also gave me even more joy. For once I think my older review holds up fine (minus the mention of Jake…) so I won’t say too much.
Especially since you know why this movie is as good as it is. It’s incredibly creative, very much, has tons of re-watchable and celebrates creativity and has a great twist that explains the nature of everything going on.
It’s another one I’ve grown to like even more as time goes on. It’s exactly my kind of movie, having some deep stuff while still just being plain FUN. If you want to ignore the deeper stuff, you can just enjoy all the madcap fun.
They easily could have not realized the creative potential with this idea and just made another kids movie but instead we got this endlessly fun family film. So yeah, it does basically everything right as far as I’m concerned.
Can’t wait for the sequel but for now, we have my favorite animated film of 2014.
And those were my favorite animated films of 2014. Yeah, this was an improvement over 2013. The weaker ones were a bit better and we had plenty of strong entries. The top 2 alone make this year a a good one but some quite strong indie gems plus a some fun Disney/Dreamworks entries rounded things out nicely.
We had a solid variety especially as far as styles go. These movies managed to be better than expected in some ways, with my favorite being a big example. As far as this decade goes, the top few put this on the upper end for me, even with some of the flaws in a few of these.
Overall, 2014 was pretty solid and really shook things after the letdown that was 2013. I don’t wanna diss that year to much as it had movies I enjoyed, but my 3rd favorite of this year was better than my favorite of that year. Yep.
It’s weird that a year without Pixar ended up being solid but there we go. With that, we have one to go. Next time we finish this epic project with 2015, I year don’t quite know what to expect from despite recalling many films from it.
Either way, join me then to wrap this all up.