After the success of toy storythe trend of computer-animated films slowly made its way to mainstream audiences throughout the 2000s, and the release of The princess and the Frog in 2009 marked Disney’s last 2D animated film. This meant big changes in the 2010s. Major studios entered the new decade with much more advanced software than in the 2000s, ditching the disconcerting unfinished look with higher quality renders, marking the 2010s as a era of bustling triumph.
Almost everyone remembers the cultural impact of Disney, Frozen (2013) being a notable example. But Disney wasn’t the only studio to release culturally impactful and innovative animated films. Some of the most beloved animated films came out in the 2010s, and praise is also earned for those not created by Disney, including some with traditional animation styles.
2010 – How to Train Your Dragon
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Co-directed by Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, the directors of Lilo and Stitch (2002), How to train your dragon follows gentle Hiccup, son of the leader of the Vikings, as he feels the pressure to prove his worth by slaying a dragon only to befriend one. Created by DreamWorks, this film became the first of a successful trilogy.
With high ratings, this film continues to be acclaimed more than a decade later. Many who watched it as children fondly remember the film and consider it one of the greatest animated films of all time. The score has also become culturally significant, with the theme song coming back into fashion on social media several years after its release.
2011 – Rango
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rango is directed by Gore Verbinski and has been published by Paramount. This animated film follows a lost chameleon named Rango, voiced by prolific actor Johnny Depp, who finds himself in the town of Dirt and becomes the sheriff.
The animation was beautifully done, with textures and composition that hold up even after a decade. The film received critical and audience acclaim and received numerous accolades, winning the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. This is notable because only a handful of non-Disney animated films have received this Oscar.
2012 – Hotel Transylvania
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Directed by Genndy Tartakovsky, Hotel Transylvania had a collection of notable actors voicing the characters, including Adam Sandler as Dracula and Selena Gomez voicing her daughter Mavis. In it, Dracula hosts a beautiful hotel where the monsters can relax and have a safe vacation, but his reputation is threatened when a human wanders there.
The film was a hit, exceeding box office expectations and would go on to become a four-movie franchise. Although reviews were mixed, especially among the sequels, kids loved the movie and it’s certainly a standout image that many will remember from their childhood.
2013 – The Wind Rises
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A Studio Ghibli production, The wind picks up was directed by Hayao Miyazaki and was his last film before retiring the same year (however, he would come out of retirement to direct a film slated for release later in the 2020s). It is a fictionalized account of Jiro Horikoshi in his development of an aircraft that would eventually be used by Japan during World War II.
Nominated for the Oscar for Best Animated Feature as well as dozens of other awards, this film was well received by critics. Although not one of Ghibli’s most popular animations, the stills from the film have become culturally significant and are remembered well by many.
2014 – How to Train Your Dragon 2
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Just four years after the release of its predecessor, How to Train Your Dragon 2directed by Dean DeBlois, brought Hiccup back to the big screen to take on an army of dragon trappers and their leader Drago.
While this sequel wasn’t as successful as the franchise’s premiere, the movie was still a huge hit. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature to high praise from critics and audiences alike.
2015 – Anomalisa
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Directed by Charlie Kaufman, the author behind Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)and Duke Johnson, Anomalised is a surreal stop motion story by Michael Stone who sees everyone’s face as exactly the same until he meets a woman named Lisa who looks different from everyone else.
This movie was a revolution with 3D printed puppets designed to mimic realism in the appearance of real people, which is directly opposed to classic stop motion movies like Coraline (2009) and The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), which are inspired by extremely stylized designs. It also defied animation stereotypes by successfully catering to mature audiences, earning an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature.
2016 – Your name.
Rent on Apple TV
This Japanese production directed by Makoto Shinkai follows students Mitsuha and Taki who don’t know each other but begin to randomly wake up in each other’s bodies. With gorgeous animation, a remarkable soundtrack, and a solid script, the film became an artistic triumph.
The film was a huge hit in Japan, becoming one of the highest-grossing films in Japan at the time.. But the film was not only a national success, but also an international success, topping the American charts.
2017 – The Lego Batman Movie
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2017 The Lego Batman Movie, directed by Chris McKay, was a cinematic masterpiece with incredible fan reception. The film is a unique take on the Batman franchise with a comedic spin on the classic hero. In this animated film, Batman learns to work as a team to defeat the Joker.
The Lego Movie (2014)had been such a hit that many were nervous to follow it with The Lego Batman Movie, but fans were pleasantly surprised when the film turned out to be unique. A hit with audiences, the film wasn’t just a comedic triumph, as critics also praised the film’s cinematic merit.
2018 – Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
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Not only the most popular movie of 2018, but also the most popular animated movie of all 2010s, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was co-directed by Rodney Rothman, Peter Ramsey and Bob Persichetti. It follows newly-Spider-Man Miles Morales as he discovers the Multiverse when Kingpin’s Supercollider lures alternate versions of Spider-Man into his reality.
It revolutionized hybrid animation. Movies had taken advantage of 3D elements in 2D animation since the late 1900s, primarily to facilitate the animation of large, complicated objects that would take too much effort to animate by hand. But this film took advantage of the meritorious qualities of both styles of animation, with 3D animated characters and 2D effects to mimic a cartoon style. It won 40 awards, including the Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature, receiving accolades as one of the best superhero films.
2019 – Klaus
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Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) may have revolutionized hybrid animation, but it wasn’t the only film to experiment with mixed forms of animation. Klaus, directed by Sergio Pablos, is a 2D animated Christmas film following a spoiled postman named Jesper who is sent to the dark village of Smeerensburg with the impossible task of establishing a post office where everyone hates each other, only to help spawn the legend of Santa Claus.
Or Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse used 2D elements on a 3D foundation, Klaus completely overturned the preconceptions in animation circles that 3D is a structural element and 2D an additional design tool. A technological triumph, Klaus used 2D animation with a new 3D lighting engine, where the technology needed to learn how to light a 2D image as if it were 3D. A beautiful and innovative animation, Klaus was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and received critical and audience acclaim.
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