2016 has been a stellar year for animated films and the power of myth almost dominates my top five picks. Moana comes close to making the list, but a part of me is troubled because Disney North America retired Lilo & Stitch. While everybody’s favourite trouble-maker is still loved in Japan with new material in the past years, to see Disney West’s foray into Polynesian culture being replaced with a new product has always bothered me.
When awards season comes, there’s close to 25 films to consider. Hopefully, from my list, I will get to see my favourite get the gold, and I begin with my number one pick.
To read my full review, please click on the title.
(Studio Ghibli, Arte, Belvision Studios, Prima Linea Productions, CN4 Productions)
I’m really hoping for this film to win. The main reason is that it breaks against the stereotypes found in most narratives. Instead of a hero’s journey, it’s a lament and look at the life and times of a survivor living on a deserted island. Although there is a sense that he might one day get rescued, to watch him try to survive is at the core of this product.
At first, the turtle he encounters is vicious towards him, but as the events unfold, they forge a bond that’s not to be forgotten. I cried at the end, and I will not say why for those who have not seen this movie yet.
Not every film has to be computer animated, and by the technical merits of how sophisticated the stop-motion is and have digital effects added on top should earn this movie top marks.
I loved how the myths of Japan are brought to life in this film, and the story is not without its tearful moments too. In a story about a boy learning about his lineage, he discovers there’s more about him than he discovers there’s more about him than he realizes. Is he a demi-god or not? The tale does not say, because the magic he can summon while playing the shamisen (a lute) may well save both he and the village.
Very rarely will I find a sequel that’s nearly superior to the original. The sequel beautifully gives the title character, Dory (a very forgetful blue tang fish), a story of her own in her quest to find her parents. Nemo and Marlin have a bit part
Nemo and Marlin have a bit part in the story in order to fulfil the “Finding” part of the title, but the tale is all about her discovering her past. If there’s ever a film to succeed about how to deal with mental illness, I have to say this product is it! I firmly believe Dory has Attention Deficit Disorder and to see how the people who are her friends accept her for what she is makes for a good message to all.
(Sacrebleu Productions, France 3)
This Dutch-French product has a warm charm of its own because it evokes a forlorn conclusion that’s to be expected in a young girl’s journey to find her grandfather. He’s an Arctic explorer.
Anyone who knows the history of the early days of searching for a passage to find the North Pole can easily figure out how this movie will go. It does not stop me from loving the cinematography in capture the cold wastelands and the warmth to be discovered later, as Sacha comes out stronger, and saves the day.
(Beijing Weiyingshidai Culture & Media, Hengdian Chinese Film Production Co., October Animation Studio, Shandong Film and Television Production Center)
While I do not expect the Monkey King will make an impact, I include this title because Chinese films do not often get a fair shake in the west. Although I do not keep up with every import (live-action included) that’s brought over, I find this animated feature honours the spirit of the legend. Monkey is an egotistical anti-hero, and to see him come around because of a mortal kid (especially when you have seen it in its native tongue) comes through as far more emotional than the dubbed counterpart.