TOP 10: Non-Pixar Animated Films of the Decade

I finally caught up with Rango this weekend and thought it was swell—a really funny, engaging family movie and a successful throwback to the westerns of old. I started thinking where it would rank on my list of favorite animated films in recent memory and realized that list has been totally monopolized by Pixar. So a new list was born to give some other great films a chance to be recognized, remembered, and discussed. Below are by 10 favorite non-Pixar animated films (since 1995, when Pixar released its first film, Toy Story).

10.) Happy Feet
I wish Happy Feet took a different path in its final third because it could have been something truly special. The film starts out as strongly as anything on this list. The musical sequences are great fun, and the action scenes are very well-choreographed. There are some major narrative missteps, in my opinion, as the film goes on, but they don’t take too much away from the overall success of the picture. They just prevent it from entering the upper echelon of this countdown.

9.) Antz
I haven’t seen this one in a while, but I remember being 11 and the only one of my friends who liked this film better than its nemesis, A Bug’s Life. Repeat viewings have shown me that there was much wisdom and knowledge in young John.

8.) Rango
The new kid on the block, as far as this countdown is concerned. My review pretty much sums it up, but yeah, it’s excellent.

7.) The Iron Giant
Young or old, I don’t care who you are, I challenge you to watch this film and not tear up a little. Brad Bird is perhaps one of our finest directors, and he hasn’t even transitioned to live-action yet. The Iron Giant is where we discovered his talent, and he puts on quite an emotional and engaging show.

6.) The Simpsons Movie
I’m not a die-hard Simpsons fan. I find it mildly amusing but haven’t watched the show in years. Their foray onto the big screen? Laugh-out-loud hilarious. I was in stitches for much of this movie. Easily the straight-up funniest animated film I’ve ever seen.

5.) Mary and Max
Probably the most obscure film on the list, this one floored me when I caught it a few months ago. Like many films on this list, it has a visual style that is its own. Yet it’s the friendship between two oddballs, miles and years apart, that makes this film as special as it is.

4.) How to Train Your Dragon
It’s a shame this one hit theaters the same year Toy Story 3 did because it easily could have won Best Animated Feature in any other year. It’s a tremendously charming film about discovery and overcoming one’s fears, as well as a rousing adventure tale. Let’s just hope Dreamworks doesn’t ruin its legacy with some poorly conceived sequels…

3.) Shrek
…which brings me to Shrek, the highest grossing animated series in history. The first, like Rango, brilliantly sends up its genre (fairy tales) while simultaneously telling a great fairy tale itself. And the humor stands up incredibly well on repeat viewings. Unfortunately, its legend has been tarnished somewhat by Shrek overkill. The first sequel is decent enough. The second and third were ill-conceived from the outset—failures in pretty much every way imaginable.

2.) The Princess and the Frog
I don’t think we’ll ever see a year for animation as good as 2009. Three entries on this list, as well as a top-tier Pixar film (Up), and a few other quality endeavors (Coraline, 9, A Christmas Carol). The Princess and the Frog is one of the best films of any kind of that year and somehow only the third best animated film. Crazy. Anyway, this one earns such a high spot on the list for making hand-drawn, 2-D animation cool again. Its colors aren’t as vivid as other movies’. Its worlds aren’t as developed. But it has heart and soul bursting from every inch of film.

1.) Fantastic Mr. Fox
The only film on the list that I’d give four stars. This one actually beat Up on my 2009 countdown, and I stand by that decision. While Up eventually devolves into a traditional action adventure, there’s nothing traditional about Wes Anderson’s amazing rendition of Roald Dahl’s beloved children’s novel. It’s odd and all kinds of goofy, but it hooks you with ease thanks to the incessant charm of the screenplay, the hilarious cast of characters, the great voice work that brings said characters to life, and most importantly, the vibrant world in which it all goes down. A triumph on every level that I can’t recommend highly enough.

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