While some may consider animation to be “kids stuff” the genre has become so much more than that with each passing year showcasing a fine mix of simple escapism film and those with a little more to say. Animated movies are personally among my favorite genres because they require more than just performing. The environments, stories and characters all tend to be more colorful and creative than almost any other genre out there. Some have called the 2010s a renaissance for the genre as this past decade has seen some truly iconic works come to light. While 2019 wasn’t the strongest year for animation, comprised mostly of sequels, it was still a fun twelve months that gave us colorful stories and engaging narratives to help keep the kid in all of us alive. So, as 2019 comes to a close it’s time to take a look at those animated features that helped define the last year and see which ones stood out. These are my picks for the Top 10 Animated Films of 2019.
As with all of my Best of 2019 lists I had to have seen and reviewed these movies for them to be considered. For many of these films they also fit into other genres I’ve been covering over the past week, but I saved all animated features for consideration here to keep things simple. So, if you’ve been following my previous countdowns and wondered where your favorite animated feature might be this is the list where you could find it.
Animation did not have a very wide selection of films for 2019, but even still there are some notable features like “The Addams Family”, “Dragon Ball Super: Broly” and “Klaus” that I was unable to see and thus won’t be represented on this list. As always, I want to know from you what your favorite animated film of 2019 was so let me know in the comments below. Let’s go!!!!
10. “The Angry Birds Movie 2”
We really didn’t NEED an “Angry Birds” sequel but the original proved to be so popular we did, in fact, get a second entry in the franchise in 2019. Featuring the same voice cast returning for another go as well as a few new additions, “The Angry Birds Movie 2” sees the birds and the pigs team up to take on a new threat to both their worlds. Overall, I kind of felt this film was pretty pointless but I can’t lie, it does have its entertaining qualities. While I called it a “fascinatingly mediocre animated sequel” in my review I also said “the filmmakers took a property with very limited possibilities and at least did SOMETHING fun with it even if that fun is derived from cliché and dated material and storytelling.” I will say the animation was colorful and fun and Sony Pictures Animation did their best with what they had to work with so it’s hard for me to fault them for that.
9. “The Secret Life of Pets 2”
Illumination had an off year in 2019 with the sequel to one of their biggest hits falling quite short of expectations. “The Secret Life of Pets 2” wasn’t a big hit at the box office, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t at least fun to watch. Focusing on several different narratives featuring the popular characters from the previous movie, “The Secret Life of Pets 2” struggles to find its focus and is not as good as its predecessor, but still serves as a harmless waste of time for kids and pet lovers alike. In my review I said “It does enough to satisfy where it needs to and I’ve seen a lot worse from more relevant franchises than what we get here.” At this point “The Secret Life of Pets” feels like a franchise better built for a television show, and as this film proves there is potential for each character to have their own focus and story, but in spite of this film’s lack of success a third film is supposedly on the way for 2020. Let’s hope it’s just a little bit better.
8. “Spies in Disguise”
The final animated feature released this decade, “Spies in Disguise” looks to be entering and leaving with a whimper but I think it deserves more attention. The first release from Blue Sky Studios after their acquisition by Disney as a Fox property, “Spies in Disguise” focuses on a tech genius who helps a spy on the run hide in plain sight by turning him into a pigeon. It’s a goofy premise that actually works thanks to the voice cast, fun animation and story even if the villain left a lot to be desired especially for a spy thriller. In my review I called the film a “harmless waste of time with enough to offer to keep adults engaged while children appreciate the colorful atmosphere, fun voice work and script and entertaining, if derivative, story.” It might not be the most memorable animated picture of 2019, but it’s still one definitely worth checking out.
7. “Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus”
The “Invader Zim” franchise has one of the most dedicated fanbases of any Nickelodeon show in history and with today’s obsession with nostalgia it’s no surprise the series got a proper continuation in the form of a Netflix movie in 2019. “Enter the Florpus” is just as weird and quirky as you’d expect an “Invader Zim” film to be as the titular alien returns with a new plan to take over Earth once and for all eventually involving a deadly dimension known as the Florpus. Recapturing the charm of the show along with its iconic animation (including some updates to the style) “Enter the Florpus” is a fun trip down memory lane for longtime fans and a somber reminder of the show’s lost potential due to its early cancellation. In my review I called it “a satisfying continuation of a long-lost gem of a cartoon” and one that “finally gives us what we’ve waited years to see, the ultimate episode of one of the greatest science fiction cartoons of all time.” Let’s hope Nick’s new partnership with Netflix continues to churn out quality programming like this in the future.
For whatever reason bigfoot and the abominable snowman have become popular subjects of animated features over the past few years. We got two such movies in 2019 including DreamWorks “Abominable” which focuses on a young girl’s attempt to help a Yeti get back home and, in the process, embark on a personal journey to come to terms with her grief over the loss of her father. This film is downright charming in almost every way and features great atmosphere and fun, colorful backdrops that keep you glued to the screen even when the adventure slows to a halt. The story is packed with plenty of heart and in my review I called is a “solid if imperfect” film and said “what it lacks in originality it makes up for in substance, even if it settles for playing it more on the safe side than taking chances it clearly sought to explore.” I really did enjoy this movie and highly recommend it..
5. “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part”
Warner Bros. looks like they’re going all-in on their LEGO themed franchises and in 2019 fans got the hotly anticipated second film in the main series, “The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part”. Focusing once again on LEGO figure Emmet as a new threat casts a shadow over Bricksburg, “The LEGO Movie 2” sees Emmet struggle with the fine line between being a mature adult and maintaining his child-like wonder, an important concept for the young target audience to understand especially for modern times. It also makes daring observations about first impressions which, again, is a relevant theme for our world when it comes to diversity and stereotypes. In my review I commended the movie as “an awesome viewing experience that speaks to the child in us all as well as the cynical adults we think we have to be.” If that’s not enough to convince you to give it a chance, then I’m not sure how else I could sell it to you.
4. “Missing Link”
The other animated feature to focus on the legendary creatures of bigfoot and the yeti in 2019 was “Missing Link”. I have a soft spot for Laika, the studio behind this stop motion film, because of how committed they are to their craft and “Missing Link” is no exception utilizing figures and molded backdrops versus drawings and CGI to get the job done. Sure, they use CGI sometimes, but in the end the final product feels more raw and eye catching all the same. While in hindsight I did find the story incorporated into this film to be less satisfying the second time around, “Missing Link’s” exploration of a bigfoot’s attempt to connect with his yeti brethren with the help of a struggling explorer is still as fun and engaging as any movie could be in 2019. In my review I called it “one of Laika’s brightest and best features to date showcasing just how far this style has come and how visually appealing the animation remains to this day.” It’s far from the best animated movie of the year, but if you’re looking for something a little different from the CGI stylings most movies on this list embrace this is a nice quality change of approach.
3. “Frozen 2”
The first “Frozen” was one of the most successful movies of all time, an undeniable instant classic that no one thought could be topped. However, I’ll admit the 2019 sequel was a bit more fun and interesting for me personally to the point where I implied it was maybe even an improvement on the first time in my review. I said “Frozen II” “tries to tell its own story while remembering the little things that made the original so popular” as it explores Elsa, Anna and company traveling to a neighboring isolated kingdom to end a curse that threatens both kingdoms. The soundtrack is a satisfying follow-up to the previous film, the characters are just as fun and some even get more chances to shine, and the story is filled with heart and a few relevant and timeless themes to teach kids new lessons while also still feeling very Disney. It will be argued forever which of the two “Frozen” movies are superior but for my money Disney successfully upped the ante with this long-awaited sequel of its most defining movie of the 2010s.
2. “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World”
While Pixar and Disney have certainly dominated the decade it’s important to remember that DreamWorks actually owns one of the best and most emotionally satisfying animated franchises of the 2010s. Over the last ten years (literally the first film came out in 2010) the “How to Train Your Dragon” series has become the defining property for the studio and is one of the few to churn out THREE consecutive excellent movies with the supposed final film, “The Hidden World”, being an absolute gem in 2019. While it does have its faults, “The Hidden World’s” colorful atmosphere, emotionally charged story and satisfying action helped it cap off one of the best trilogies of the last decade on a high note. In my review I even stated that “I’m hoping this truly is the final chapter because, as this film so fittingly teaches us, all good things must come to an end and as sad as that might be greater adventures await on the horizon, but we’ll always have great memories of the past to tide us over.” Personally, this was one film in 2019 that I was truly looking forward to and thankfully it didn’t disappoint.
1. “Toy Story 4”
Leave it to Pixar to take one of the most “did we really need this” sequels in recent memory and turn it into one of the best films of 2019. There were many who felt “Toy Story 4” was a superfluous sequel seeing as the third film helped cap off the story just fine. However once again Pixar proved us wrong as even though we didn’t ask for it “Toy Story 4” proved to be another astounding addition to one of the best animated franchises in history. “Toy Story 4” is more like “Woody: The Movie” as it focuses on the cowboy’s personal journey to find his place in a post-Andy existence. As a result we get a fun adventure featuring absolutely astounding animation and a whole lot of heart teaching us lessons about how our place in the world is ever changing. I called the film an “incredible achievement” in my review and complimented the story saying “seeing Woody undergo such a personal journey in a new stage of his life sends a powerful message to fans young and old that no matter what crossroads life brings you there’s always new adventures to be found along the way.” With all that said though I do hope this is the end for this franchise as “Toy Story 4” provides a definite exclamation point worth respecting.