The last 12 months have been fantastic for animated films, not only on the production side (where studios continue to rake in the dough), but also for fans of the genre, as 2016 brought a host of quality features. That’s left parents the world over rejoicing; animated stories tend to have a long shelf-life both in theaters and at home.
I know many parents who have had to watch and rewatch Kung Fu Panda or other cartoon staples about a thousand times. It’s that kind of longevity that studios hope for when they put their animated masterpieces together. They not only want to please the little kidlets, they also want to attract the parents and make the charm last for at least the first 56 of the 1,000 viewings. Getting the parents on board leads to increased sales on merch and even bigger box-office numbers when the inevitable sequel comes out.
While everyone has come to expect some gaudy numbers for animated films, some of 2016’s offerings surprised even the most optimistic projections. Disney’s instant classic Zootopia raked in over a billion dollars worldwide. As if Disney needed the money this year.
To no one’s surprise, Pixar’s Finding Dory – a sequel to the mega-popular Finding Nemo – was the number one animated feature, slightly outperforming Judy Hopps and the rest of the Zootopia crew. That goes to show you that people will respond to a sequel even if it’s 13 years in the making.
Not every animated feature fared as well, of course. Kubo and the Two Strings did surprisingly poorly in regards to making cashola, which is sad considering that Laika Studios has created some of the best stop-motion animated films we have ever seen on screen and received deserving Oscar nods. Kubo was one of the best films of the year and hopefully, people figure that out in time. Was it the best-animated feature of 2016?
Join me as I count down my top six of the year and then predict which upcoming flicks will dominate the 2017 box-office. (Also, don’t forget to check out my other Best-of-2016 lists: Comic Book Adaptations, Horror Movies, Electronic Dance Music, and Heavy Metal.)
The list below is largely based on my personal tastes and biases, but I also kept box-office dollars and critical response in mind.
I was going to put Moana on the list, but to be honest, I wasn’t head over heels about another cookie-cutter Disney musical as I was about this R-rated animated feature. Disney Princesses can take a back seat to what was one of the best stoner films of 2016. Anytime you get Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Michael Cera, Jonah Hill, James Franco, Bill Hader, Danny McBride, Paul Rudd, and Edward Norton together, you know you’re about to get something interesting and profound. For all of the offside and disgusting humor this film provided, it also had a bit of heart and a message. I think.
Social commentary aside, this is just a fun little-animated flick that makes my list because I’m easily amused, I guess.
The Little Prince is the first-ever adaptation of the classic novel of the same name. Like Kubo, it was an underrated film that didn’t do very well at the box-office. Paramount didn’t even put it on the big-screen in the US. (Luckily Netflix came in to save it. )
In the story, a little girl goes on a magical journey into her own imagination where she discovers the importance of human connection and things that can only be seen by the heart. The animation is top notch and the great cast – Rachel McAdams, Jeff Bridges, James Franco, Paul Rudd and so many more – adds to the quality. It’s well worth a watch and is very deserving on this year’s best-of list.
People forget that this came out in 2016. But it did and it was awesome! It’s very rare that a trilogy of any kind delivers on all three films, but the Kung Fu Panda franchise appears to be in good hands. Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, and David Cross all return to voice their individual characters; add Bryan Cranston and J.K. Simmons to the party and the results lead to another funny and heartfelt film that could be the best of the trilogy.
Thirteen years after Pixar’s Finding Nemo, we get another adventure under the sea with Marlin, Nemo, and Dory. This time the film focuses on the little Blue Tang with short-term memory loss as she heads into the deep to find her parents. This film was visually gorgeous and, although it didn’t have that same magic as the first film, it remains a solid stand-alone movie. Not to mention it was also the highest-grossing animated feature of all time. Besides all of that, how cute was baby Dory?
Kubo and the Two Strings is probably the best film Laika have ever made. That’s saying something, since the studio seems to put out a new critically acclaimed animated feature every year. Sure, it bombed at the box-office but more and more people are discovering it at home and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. This film takes place in a mythical ancient Japan, where a kindhearted Kubo teams up with Monkey and Beetle as they run from gods and monsters. It has a fantastic cast with the voices of Art Parkinson, Matthew McConaughey, and Charlize Theron. Look for this one to get nominated for many awards.
Zootopia was easily my favorite animated feature of the year. Not many people were predicting it would do over a billion dollars before it came out. Sure, you can chalk-up some of that to the power of the name “Disney,” but the film really took off through word of mouth and critical response. Like the other movies on this list, it had a great voice cast which included Jason Bateman, Ginnifer Goodwin, Idris Elba, and more. It told a poignant story in a fun way that directly correlates with the racial tensions going on throughout the world.
When you recognize that animated films pulled in around six billion dollars combined at the box-office, you know that the genre still has a pretty big market share. Not every animated film hit its projections, but for every Kubo, there was a movie that surpassed monetary expectations, like Trolls which surprisingly raked in $329 million. Even the latest, tired Ice Age flick made over $400 million, largely due to how popular the franchise is overseas (which accounted for 85-percent of its money).
Predicting box-office numbers isn’t an exact science. Are there films that will hit a billion dollars in 2017? Despicable Me 3 might come close. After that, it seems like we might be coming back to earth next year, unless we get another Zootopia-like surprise.
Pixar has a new animated film called Coco, but it hasn’t really been getting the typical Disney marketing push; it is set to open on Thanksgiving weekend between Thor: Ragnarok and Star Wars – Episode VIII. Disney will probably spend a good chunk of its money promoting those two properties. Will Coco be another Moana (which also opened on Thanksgiving weekend in 2016) or will it be another (rare) Pixar failure like The Good Dinosaur?
Cars 3 is another interesting film that could do better than what I’m predicting. Given how poorly Cars 2 was received by critics and fans, I’m comfortable with my fairly conservative $500 million estimate. But never underestimate the power of the child and their love for cars and trucks.
Feature Photo Credit: Laika Studios
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