2010 was, in retrospect, a better-than-average year for the animation genre. Though there were certainly a few clunkers – Megamind, anyone? – 2010 saw the release of masterworks from all three of the major animation studios (Pixar, Disney, and DreamWorks Animation). Disney, in particular, deserves credit for finally entering the computer-animated realm with a film that stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the best that the genre has to offer. Here, then, are the five best animated films of 2010:
It almost feels anticlimactic to name a Pixar film as the best animated movie of 2010, given that the studio is responsible for many of the most memorable animated releases of the past several years (including 1995’s Toy Story, 2003’s Finding Nemo, and 2009’s Up). But there was simply no other animated film released in 2010 that’s as entertaining, moving, funny, and engrossing as Toy Story 3, as filmmaker Lee Unkrich wraps up the saga of Woody, Buzz, and all the rest of Andy’s toys in a manner that’s as surprising as it is satisfying. (And Pixar continues their tradition of peppering their movies with almost astonishingly mature elements, with the jaw-dropping and now infamous incinerator sequence certainly the best example of this.)
Despite the fact that Disney essentially invented the animated film genre in 1937 with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the studio has been overshadowed by its competitors in recent years due to a string of entertaining yet forgettable efforts (including 2005’s Chicken Little and 2008’s Bolt). For the first time since 1994’s The Lion King, however, Disney has emerged with an animated film that instantly joins the ranks of the genre’s very best releases – as Tangled puts an inventive and charming spin on the old Rapunzel fairy tale. The film’s gorgeous animation is merely the tip of the iceberg in terms of its many, many pleasures, and it’s certainly difficult to envision Disney topping this one in terms of entertainment value anytime soon.
For the first time since 2001’s Shrek, DreamWorks Animation has crafted a film that’s just a hair’s breath away from achieving Pixar levels of quality. How to Train Your Dragon is an engrossing and frequently moving story about the friendship between a young Viking and a fearsome dragon, with the movie’s sweeping sensibilities reflected in everything from its eye-popping visuals to its exciting action sequences to its larger-than-life score. The tear-jerking finale is just about perfect, while the bond between protagonists Toothless and Hiccup is ultimately far more touching than one might have expected.
After 2007’s underwhelming Shrek the Third, the Shrek series appeared to have officially run out of steam. With Shrek Forever After, however, the filmmakers brilliantly revived the decaying franchise by employing a time-travelling storyline that breathed new life into familiar characters like Shrek (Mike Myers), Donkey (Eddie Murphy), and Fiona (Cameron Diaz). Shrek Forever After is often as funny and irreverent as the 2001 original, with the frequently hilarious back-and-forth banter between Shrek and Donkey alone justifying the movie’s existence. If this indeed does mark the end of the Shrek saga, it’s a relief to know that everyone’s favorite ogre is going out on a high note.
2010 saw the release of two movies featuring supervillains as their heroes, Megamind and Despicable Me, with the latter emerging as the clear winner over what is one of the worst movies of the year. Armed with Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud’s off-kilter, consistently captivating animation style, Despicable Me managed to overcome a slightly underwhelming opening half hour to become a surprisingly engrossing crowd-pleaser. Steve Carell’s hilarious voice work as protagonist Gru plays a key role in cementing the film’s success, with the genuinely heartwarming relationship between his character and three adorable orphan girls ensuring that Despicable Me can be quite touching in parts.