I regrettably did not watch enough animated features this year. Not sure if was a lack of options or I just didn’t seek them out as often as I normally do. Attacking such a vast array of films (and total number) does leave some categories lacking, and unfortunately animated films took the largest hit in 2022. I’m sure excluding anime entirely and zero desire to sit through another Minions film doesn’t help, either.
There’s probably a lot of marque animated releases I just didn’t get to, so I”m fully expecting a lot of “why wasn’t SUCH AND SUCH ON YOUR LIST” comments. But I can only list what I actually saw, so here are the 10 best animated films we watched in 2022.
10. Strange World
A victim of bad marketing and faux outrage (which has becoming a rather tiresome theme these days) additionally paired with a crowed box office all but tanked “Strange World.” It kind of came and went into obscurity, and landed on Disney+ in one of the shortest theater to streaming of 2022. But while “Strange World” isn’t a best for the powerhouse, it’s not nearly as bad as the box office performance would have you believe. It has its flaws, sure, and its ambition gets in the way of its heart. But while it can get a little messy at times, it’s enjoyable enough to be a solid family adventure outing. The characters come just shy of being fully compelling, and while I’m not one to give participation trophies for attempted filmmaking, but “Strange World” does get a small pass for what it’s trying to do, and gets far more right than it does wrong.
9. Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood
I’m gonna be honest, this one didn’t grab me as much as it did many others. I even debated including it on the best of list, as “Apollo 10 1/2” never really seemed to captivate me as much as some of the others. But I have to give it credit for its unique animation style and period piece framework, all of which tell a touching tale of growing up in the late 60s. It is a perfect time capsule, and balances its childlike embellishments and fond childhood memories of the space age really well. I still don’t think it’s as good as its praise, but it is certainly good enough and engaging enough to land on the best animated films of 2022. If anything, “Apollo 10 1/2” wins for uniqueness and originality, something we all say we crave but rarely reward. Plus, Jack Black doing his best “Wonder Years” Daniel Stern narration is worth the price of admission.
8. Mad God
I don’t think anyone watched this movie and figured it all out on the first try. “Mad God” is a visual nightmare of hellish animation, and its themes are as vague as the plot. More of a visual vignette than an actual narrative, “Mad God” is a lot to take in all at once, and definitely requires some additional reading after its conclusion. At first, I wasn’t really sure what to even do with this….thing. But the longer I’ve sat with it, the more its uniqueness and bizarre visually stying grows into something I can’t shake in a positive way. I don’t know that I can recommend it to many people, but I’d be remised if I didn’t include it in the best of animation list. It may be bursting with creativity and macabre, and doesn’t entirely function as a film all of the time, but “Mad God” is an unforgettable movie watching experience, and for who its for delivers quite the punch.
7. The Bad Guys
Another one that got overshadowed and overlooked by a lack of strong marketing and a crowded box office, “The Bad Guys” felt like it came and went without a peep. Which is a bummer, because it’s really, really good. Predicable and formulaic, it still manages to be wildly entertaining and charming, delivering on everything you would want from an ensemble animated feature. I was pleasantly surprised with how good “The Bad Guys” ends up being, and though it doesn’t necessarily add anything new to the genre it operates it, but gets more than enough right to be a solid entry nonetheless. “The Bad Guys” is way more fun than you may have initially thought, and worth firing up with the whole family. Or, ya know, even if you’re just a fan of animated films.
6. Turning Red
These next few films on the list are largely interchangeable on any given day. I actually find it rather challenging to give it accurate placement, because these last few are truly magical and all of have things I adored. Hell, some of these could even make the case for best film of the year OUTSIDE of their category. “Turning Red” is up there as one of the best, one that is up there with some of the best Pixar has to offer. Once again, faux outrage strikes again and completely derailed the true discourse we should’ve been having all year long. Which is simply that “Turning Red” is delightful. A wonderful exploration of generational trauma and an engaging coming of age story, it perfectly captures its 90s era setting and tugs at the heartstrings of family dynamics. I really loved this one, and I will now make it a point to ignore any and all outrage when it comes to these movies. It’s all bullshit created by people who can’t define “woke” and parents who can’t believe they have to actually talk to their kids about life. So it’s best to tune it all out because “Turning Red” is easily one of the best animated films of the year.
5. Chip’N Dale: Rescue Rangers
Ya I don’t have much to say about this one except how much I loved it. “Chip’N Dale: Rescue Rangers” is nostalgia cash grab done right, one that clearly has a love for its source material and the craft of animation as a whole. Packed with gut busting comedy and series easter eggs, “Rescue Rangers” is simply a delight, and a clever reimagining of the classic television series. Its obvious nostalgia fueled cash grab filled me with hesitation at first, but I am so glad I didn’t ignore the high praise it received from those who got to it first. “Chip’N Dale Rescue Rangers” is just good, through and through, and one of my favorite animated films of the year.
4. The Sea Beast
Easily one of the surprisingly enjoyable films on the list, “The Sea Beast” is a hidden gem that more people should see. it is criminally underrated, and you’re missing out if you continue to let this on fly under the radar. Not only is it a delightful adventure story that’s like “Pirates of the Caribbean” (the good parts from the only good one) meets “How to Train Your Dragon,” and both combine so well you’re left shocked no one attempted this kind of mash up before. In addition, “Sea Beast” has some of the most stunning and dazzling animation of any animated film this year. I was genuinely not prepared for how much I would enjoy “The Sea Beast,” but it instantly shot to the top of my list after I watched it. Don’t skip this one, you guys. It is a true unsung hero of animation, and one that deserved way more push from Netflix.
3. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish
I enjoy the original “Shrek” as much as the next person, but I’ve never really been all that fond of the expanded universe. I know “Shrek 2” has its diehards, but frankly none of the sequels or spinoffs really work for me. That is, until I watched “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish,” which is easily one of the best in the entire series (“Shrek” included”) and shockingly has more on its mind that most if not all of the aforementioned animated films. Chock full of laughs, heart, and purpose, paired with its new and stellar animation style, “Last Wish” is an adult themed movie posing as a children’s adventure story. It has one of the best villains I’ve seen all year, and manages to ask questions about living for the moment, the meaning of life, and yes, even wrestling with your own mortality. With an unmatched voice cast and solid, purposeful script, “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is better than it has any business being, and though it had a very late year end release, managed to instantly shoot to the very top of my best of list.
2. Marcel the Shell With Shoes On
You just won’t find a more emotionally striking film than “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On.” This is one of those animated/live action films that could easily make the top 10 of ALL films in the entire year. I wasn’t familiar with the web series (only by proxy) so whatever fandom the film was banking on wasn’t needed for me to adore “Marcel.” Hell, I don’t really even care for Jenny Slate as an actress, but her voice work as the titular character here is stellar. It is just a deeply effective, emotional ride of connection, community, and family. “Marcel” is impossible not to fall in love with, and is just a wonderful story that explores so many different aspects of the human condition is delightfully charming ways. Word of advice: don’t watch “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” while on a plane in a window seat. No one needs to see you ugly cry on a flight with nowhere to go and compose yourself. Trust me, I speak from personal experience.
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
I don’t use this word very often, as I try to limit superlatives lauded onto films, but “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” is a masterpiece. A near flawless piece of reimagining and cinema, with some of the most seamless, visually stunning stop motion animation I’ve seen so far. I don’t even like the story of Pinocchio. Even as I kid, it was one of my least favorite Disney tales. But what GDT does here is something truly special, digging deep into the heart of the story and extrapolating meaning from often ignored or misguided surface level interpretations. No, GDT’s version has something to say. Not just about Pinocchio or animation, but about the need for connection, the struggles of grief and loss, war ravaged countrysides and morality. “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” is simply marvelous, and an absolute must see. You can read my full review here.
So there are some of my favorite animated films I watched this year. What were some of yours?