VIDEO: The Best and Worst Animated Films of 2013

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The Animated Heroine counts down the best and worst of the last year… finally! Just like last year’s list, she alternates between the three best and the three worst animated films, and also looks at movies that might be strong contenders for this list in 2014!

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  • Muthsarah

    That gun looks HUUUUUUGE!!! Dredd’s didn’t look that big.

    How would Frozen have placed had it come out in 2012? Paranorman was the big winner that year, yes?

    • TheAnimatedHeroine

      I think I would have probably put it at the number 2 spot. I still like ParaNorman better.

  • Moppet

    How delusional am I for hoping we get a version of Walking With Dinosaurs, on DVD, that axes the voice acting?

    Like the list. Can’t disagree with it. I might have been kinder to the Croods, but oh well, taste is taste.

    • TheAnimatedHeroine

      I doubt it but who knows…it’s not like the voice acting helped them out in any way. I had a hard time finding a showing when I went to see it and It was only two weeks after the film came out. At this point I don’t think they would have anything to lose by making a version without the bad voice acting.

      • Muthsarah

        Do you think they did anything to the rest of the movie when they dubbed it over? Like re-edit the film at all? Was it a last minute thing brought up after dumb test screeners complained they couldn’t follow the byzantine plot…about dinosaurs…walking? Un-dubbing a movie should be as easy as dubbing it. Cheaper too.

        • TheAnimatedHeroine

          You’d think so, but I guess the whole reason they did it was to appeal to kids. It’s really distracting though…the voice acting doesn’t match up with the movie AT ALL.

  • Thomas Stockel

    Thanks for the list. Between you and Joey I always feel like I have a good handle on what’s going on with modern animation.

    • TheAnimatedHeroine

      🙂

  • When I’m viewing top ten lists in the future I’ll be able to tell the 2013 ones immediately because they all start with ‘Wow, this was a shit year’. I’m not really an animation guy myself and the only animated film I saw last year was Frozen, which made my top 5 in the end (although that is rather faint praise). I’m still not sure where the idea for MU came from, though. Who thinks University and immediately imagines PG shenanigans?

  • filmguy450

    What is with the love for “Frozen”? Good songs aside, it’s full of plotholes, opens with a good 3 or so minute song that literally has jack and squat to do with anything else in the movie (the song is catchy though), keeps vacillating between Elsa being good or bad (this movie has some serious story issues), and fails to build up to much as the ‘twist’ involving who turns out to be the bad guy is over so quickly it’s sad (plus it doesn’t make sense given an earlier song).

    Not terrible, but “Brave” is the more subversive take on the traditional DIsney-princess mold (without any sort of love interests, beeotches!!) and “Tangled” is the vastly more interesting adventure tale (the ideas of the villain being the mom, etc.). “Frozen” is mostly quite a few steps back for Disney, so I don’t get it. For the record, I liked to loved all but one song.

    • Muthsarah

      “…opens with a good 3 or so minute song that literally has jack and squat to do with anything else in the movie”

      Not every song has to be deeply linked with the plot. Most comedic songs in Disney movies, for instance, are just there to be songs to lighten up the mood between plot developments. It’s a musical. Musicals do this all the time. Might as well complain about everyone knowing all the words and intricate choreography ahead-of-time.

      “…keep vacillating between Elsa being good or bad”

      Elsa is never depicted as being bad. Frightened, guilt-ridden, oblivious, and sad, yes, but never “bad”.

      “[something about the bad guy]”

      So what if it didn’t telegraph that? A good mystery will drop hints for second viewings, but save the reveal for the climax. An obvious twist half the audience saw coming wouldn’t go over well either.

      “doesn’t make sense given an earlier song”

      Which one? The one….hell…

      MAJOR SPOILERS ARE MAJOR SPOILERS

      .
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      …between Anna and Hans? Why wouldn’t that make sense? Dude was manipulating her by playing up the “love-song-at-first-sight” crap.

      Having a love interest remaining at the end doesn’t make Frozen less subversive or more derivative, as even Brave had that element as a major plot point; each movie just went in its own direction with it – Brave minimized it (if not ran away from it) by having Merida reject the whole concept from the start and have them never make it terribly plot-relevant after the ten-minute mark, while Frozen dangled two traditional romantic subplots in front of the audience for over an hour and left them with one rather untraditional one. Note that Elsa – a likeable, pretty young princess – ended up with nobody (and everyone was fine with that), not even a possible somebody for later. Even Merida left the door open that she was gonna pick one of the guys eventually, for the sake of the kingdom or tradition or her parents or whatever.

      I get that you didn’t care too much for it, but to wonder what the rest of us saw? A great-looking, humorous musical is what we saw. I note you say you liked all the songs, and you didn’t say you hated the comedy. That puts it in good stead already. And I think it had less-glaring plot holes than most Disney/Pixar/anyone else movies. Brave’s main plot twist in particular was clumsily forced AND telegraphed way in advance (Merida’s wish was worded in a way no sober person would word a request) , and Tangled had EVERYTHING telegraphed from the start, so I, for my part, don’t understand why you’re giving those a pass. What does Merida’s mother turning into a bear have to do with Merida not wanting to be pushed into marriage?

      • filmguy450

        In “Brave” the marriage thing is a sidenote to the real story, which is that of a mother and daughter that can’t see eye to eye on anything, nor can they see their similarities (you admit as much), so I don’t understand your last question, at all.

        More importantly, I call complete BS on your statement that “Brave” ‘s main plot twist was telegraphed way in advance. You are either psychic, read a review which give it away, or are simply playing devil’s advocate. Whichever one it may be, the whole bear thing was very well hidden (and if you mean the queen becoming more bear like, and how to stop it, that’s not really the main twist of the plot, so much as the aftermath and resolution thereof. If that is what you meant, I can get how/ why you saw that coming). Finally, for “Brave” you have no way of knowing whom she’d choose, and when, so therefore your conjuncture is pointless and sad, just because you are trying to up your ante for defending “Frozen”.

        Now with the “Brave” bit out of the way, allow me to A) apologize for not making my opinions/ issues as clear as a intended; I will attempt to do better in this reply, B) make sure that you are aware that I didn’t despise this movie. Olaf was funny, and I did like the songs (save for one).

        On a more personal note, with the exception of either “Cars” movies, I can’t think of any plot holes in any Pixar movies. If you feel I am just not remembering certain things, please do share.

        After the “Let It Go” bit, and some rounds with Kristoff and Anna, they get to the ice castle. In which, Elsa makes it quite clear to Anna that she is completely okay with this new side of her, and doesn’t need her sister looking out for her, or if you’d like to phrase it in a different way, Elsa doesn’t need nor does she want Anna to help her out. She is okay with this new side of herself. Since Anna is ostensibly our protagonist, and she’s now at odds with Elsa, this does in fact set up Elsa to be a bad guy. That would have been far more engaging than the very rough characterization we get for Elsa in my opinion; that rough characterization comes from my issues above and the movie never really deciding how they want her to act, and while “Let It Go” is the stand out song from the movie, the sequence in which it’s sung is the worst. A bunch of medium close-ups, with just a few flourishes for the magic use, just an hour (at absolute best) of running away. The removal of her glove and cape during the song being her big turning point (character wise) is goofy as hell. Had they done a quick montage, something akin to:
        Start of song, she’s hiding in a cave, or beneath a tree, or some such. Thus her lines about isolation could have more weight.

        All the while, she’s doing very small magic-y things: making a bed and a pillow from the snow and ice. Things like that.

        Next day, she’s on to bigger things ie- making Olaf, mounds similar to those in the beginning of the movie (a nice way to bring everything round together).

        That second night, she’s on to the ice stairs and castle. This is just a quick idea of how to make that sequence more impactful and help drive Elsa’s characterization. I just find out impossible to buy into how quickly she can just use her repressed powers so quickly, and am seriously disappointed in how bland the sequence is. The filmmakers did a similar thing earlier in the film to great effect with “Build A Snowman” (I saw the movie once, so I might have the name of the song wrong, but I believe you’ll know what I am discussing).

        As it stands, in “Frozen” there’s no moment of wondrous visual storytelling, as there is in “Tangled” (‘See The Light’) or “Beauty And The Beast” (‘Tale Old As Time’). It’s clearly striving for such things, but it never gets there for me, not by a longshot.

        I am all for there being just a fun song like ‘Human Again’ (“Beauty And The Beast”) or ‘I Just Want To Be King’ (“The Lion King”). Both songs are fun, catchy songs, but you could loose both (technical ‘Human Again’ was) and you wouldn’t change characterizations or plot at all really. But those songs come only after such important things as story and characters have been established. Starting off a story (any story in any medium) with workers’ whom will never be seen or discussed again, and have exactly zero impact on the plot is such a stupid baffling thing to do. I just don’t get why this inexplicable, ‘big lipped alligator moment’ is how this movie starts. You wouldn’t start “Mary Poppins” with a man lost in the jungle hoping he can find his ship and get back home just to back to London, and have everything play out the exact same way, and that lost man never being brought up again at all. That makes no sense, and for me, the opening to “Frozen” is just as useless.

        I don’t want the twist telegraphed or an obvious twist, that’s a sign of poor and simple story structure. I wanted actual tension to arise from it though. Hans goes to tell everyone that Anna is dead, and then almost immediately, it’s discovered he’s a lying dick. Why couldn’t this be played up a bit more, and add some much needed dramatic tension to the proceedings? That’s my issue; I am quite okay with how the reveal is handled, in the scene it’s played out during. My issue with the ‘first love’ song, is that with the reveal, it doesn’t work anymore. Either Hans is the greatest improv master the universe over, or the script got rewritten twice over and nobody checked for constant characters (this is what my money is on). Because in that song, Hans had to keep lying and lying, I am amazed that he never slipped up and said something to disengage Anna from the conversation. It doesn’t work for me, at all (the song is quite good and catchy though).

        As for the actual ending, with the ‘ultimate act of love’ (or however they phrased it), I am 100% on board with that. It was surprising, smart, and worked very well to convey how Anna had grown over the course of the movie.

        For me, while “Tangled” ‘s plot wasn’t as ambitious (although it’s villain is amazing) it has the better adventure narrative, being a more well rounded and engaging picture in regards to balancing songs, action, mystery, etc. and “Brave” had the more interesting and notable subversions of the typical Disney-princess fare (this is brought up because so many of the critics and my film buff friends keep spewing off about how interesting and engaging “Frozen” was in regards to it’s Disney princess origins, whereas “Brave”, while it has it’s defenders was merely might with a mighty, “It’s perfectly okay and nothing more” and it’s subversions were hardly brought up, which is a very annoying double standard in my opinion).

        I went into “Frozen” crazy, super excited based on trailers, my love of Disney movies, and the great reviews. I walked with an okay movie, that needed at least one more rewrite (for the characterizations) and a more assured visual style (in terms of directing, not in terms of the impressive animation, level and detail thereof included). So I ask again, what did people see in it? What am I missing that makes it so great?

        • Muthsarah

          0. Just a big plot issue I threw in during an edit, because I forgot to include it. Since brevity had gone out the window long before. (EDIT: Not a “big plot issue, actually, just a reaction-thing to you making a big deal out of it not having….whatever. I noticed it after-the-fact, so I edited it in.)

          1. “More importantly, I call complete BS on your statement that “Brave” ‘s
          main plot twist was telegraphed way in advance. You are either psychic,
          read a review which give it away, or are simply playing devil’s
          advocate.”

          a. Mordu the Bear is introduced as a significant character, then set aside…for later.
          b. Merida’s father has a grudge with Mordu, the Bear. That’s his whole “thing”. So more bear.
          c. Merida goes to a witch and asks her to help her mother “change”. But says nothing more specific than that.

          Gee, I wonder what sort of “change” we’re gonna see. FWIW, I DID know ahead-of-time, as I didn’t see the movie in theatres. But I did notice how incredibly clumsily Merida’s wish was worded. Incredibly clumsy and half-arsed. Seriously, re-writing this scene would have gone a long way to making the “shocking twist” actually somewhat shocking.

          2. All the young men/boys were depicted as being unappealing (two of them didn’t even care themselves, and I’m not sure the one with the peaty face did either), and Merida makes it clear from the start that she doesn’t wanna be forced into marriage, with her mother being the one who’s pushing her. It was clear Merida was going to choose “none of the above” and end the movie with a happier family relationship and no husband/fiance.

          3. “Since Anna is ostensibly our protagonist, and she’s now at odds with Elsa, this does in fact set up Elsa to be a bad guy.”

          First: Big difference between “antagonist” and “bad guy”. To me, Elsa is neither. Anna’s the protagonist, since she’s the one we’re following throughout 90% of the story, but Elsa is a victim. She’s actually closer to the damsel-in-distress than she is to the villain. She’s the one Anna is questing for (and Erindale, but that’s secondary, emotionally) and the one Anna’s being pursuing since the accident as children. Think about it, there’s not a lot of daylight between this and a “wishing for the girl I’ve been dreaming of since forever once upon a time” kind of fairy tale.

          Second: In EVERY scene where Anna isn’t present, Elsa is faced with a REAL bad guy. The assassins and the hunting party. Hans in the prison cell. Elsa is the story’s secondary protagonist (for the record, Kristoff is a sidekick). She makes the biggest inner journey of the story, and she’s the one we’re following whenever Anna isn’t on-screen. She’s not even the “immoral” character – she flees town when her tragic secret is revealed, she freezes the city accidentally, and becomes guilt-ridden and terrified when Anna tells her what she had (inadvertently) done.

          Third: She gets a happy ending. In a Disney film.

          She’s not in any way, shape, or form “the bad guy”, nor does the film set her up to be (it could have, had it not already set her up as a tragic figure who only avoids Anna out of fear for her safety). She’s not even really an antagonist. There are only two scenes where the two of them are directly at odds with one another – the reveal of the engagement, and the scene at the Ice Castle. The rest of the movie is Anna just trying to find her, or Anna and Kristoff trying to find a cure. The movie doesn’t really have a pure antagonist, just one hinted at as an obvious red herring, and the real one for the final act. Hell, the snow monster was as much an antagonist in the film as anyone.

          4. Have nothing to say regarding your take on how “Let it Go” was done. That’s pure taste. Sure, it wasn’t necessary for them to do it the way they did it, but I don’t see how the way they chose was in any way detrimental. It’s one big number, done in something similar to real time. It’s stagey, certainly, but we saw Elsa’s room during “Do You Wanna Build a Snowman”, so we know it was ice-encrusted. Elsa didn’t take solitude THAT well, and after her parents’ death (and Anna constantly talking to her through the door – maybe an inch from the ice), I’m not surprised that her encloistering was free of stress and fear. Plenty of opportunity for her powers to manifest in strange ways. Yeah, creating a palace out of nothing was a bit…grand. But, again, how does that compare with physics-breaking choreography and such. Musical numbers tend to get more allowances. Nothing wrong with them wanting to condense a lot of stuff into one musical number. Also, unless they wanted to keep Erindale under snow for a long, long time (doable, sure), how to explain how Elsa (a woman who never left her castle) got up the mountain so quickly, while Anna and Kristoff (mountain man) took several days? Unless it didn’t take either of them such a long time.

          5. I thought it was beautiful from the very first shot through the ice to the parting of the fog over the lake. But I’m partial to anything wintery and/or inclement.

          6. “[more about the first song]”

          It’s about setting up an atmosphere. Introducing the audience to the film’s predominantly wintery setting (which we don’t see for the next…20 minutes or so, barring one snowball fight in a ballroom), and setting up Kristoff for later, so he doesn’t just wander in at the gift shop/sauna (EDIT: forgot about him and the trolls as a baby. Well…his motivation for helping Anna was to save his career as an ice fisherman…might as well set him up as an ice fisherman). Still, it’s the musical’s version of an operatic overture – set the scene. Eh, it’s fine, I guess, if you NEVER like it when ANYONE does this, but lots of musicals open with side characters/the chorus singing a song about a time, or a place, or a theme. It is something that is done. And a “Big-Lipped Alligator Moment” is something that comes out of nowhere and never has any bearing on the plot again, as opposed to something that leads off a movie, establishes a visual style, and introduces a character who will be the protagonist’s main traveling companion and eventual love interest later.

          7. “Why couldn’t this be played up a bit more, and add some much needed dramatic tension to the proceedings?”

          Hans is revealed to be a dick before he announces Anna’s “death”, and nobody else finds out about it until the very, very end. And then he immediately headed off to arrange Elsa’s death before anyone else could do anything about it. The reveal itself was very well done, with no foreshadowing (which, again, is good, as it places us in the same oblivious position as Anna – it’s always a pain when we know something huge the protagonist doesn’t), and I liked that they didn’t wait for it to lose its impact, but kept the story going.

          (EDIT: (EDIT: see how often I edit?) Sure, there was easily more they coulda done with Hans. Had the screenwriters given me a re-write, I’da changed some things. But less-than-perfect isn’t bad. Overall, I think what they did with Hans was magnificent. Just not EVERYTHING I’da done with him. Which…sounds dirty. But my version of the movie would been longer and darker than this one, and whatever. Just…I know what it’s like to see a movie and wanna scream “WHY DIDN’T YOU DO MORE WITH [X]?!”. Not worth it. Judge it on its own, judge it in comparison to other films. Don’t judge it in comparison to what might have been. Not worth it.)

          As for the song, yes, he’s good. But she’s an easy mark, desperate and painfully naive. She’s a child, spoon-fed the same fairy tales we as the audience are used to seeing from Disney. She’s the audience’s surrogate – even if we accept her as a naive fairy-tale princess, we’re used to following these kinds of stories (emotionally) from their perspective. She’s very, very alone, and feels rejected by her sister. She’s a teenager still, but a little dim even for a teenager, given her isolation. Part of the satire – the film is implying that the other Disney princesses (or even the more impressionable in the audience) could have been taken in by a smooth con artist like Hans. He had to have played it perfect, because to Anna, he WAS perfect. It’d be harder to fool the audience than to fool the heroine, so he had to be that much better. And he still fooled us, because we assumed that Anna’s brand of naivitee would prove true, as it always does in these kinds of movies. (EDIT: Hell, until the reveal, I assumed he was gonna end up with Elsa, after the true-love’s-shallowest-kiss proved false and after Anna had established a deeper (not difficult) infatuation with Kristoff. So the movie fooled me twice.)

          As for improv, again, it’s a song. Everyone knows the words, nobody misses a step.

          8. “Tangled” looked fantastic, and I really liked all the vocal performances, but I didn’t care for the songs (personal tastes, Broadway > Pop), and the plot gave away way too much too early. We knew from the start that Rapunzel’s mother was the villain, we knew…..Flynn???…was a “scoundel with a heart of gold”, we knew they’d fall in love, we knew she’d end up with her parents again, we knew the villain would either die (and by falling from a high place, of all things!) or be imprisoned. And every bit of that came to pass. Because it’s a predictable fairy tale, where the only surprises are in the jokes. Mostly.

          I maintain that Brave was not subversive. To be “subversive”, you have to seem like you’re towing the line, while secretly, SECRETLY, undermining it. Brave made it a point to run away from the expectations early. Fine. But that’s not being subversive, that’s bucking a trend. That’s rebelling. “Frozen”, however, is of the sort that you’ll never be able to look at a traditional Disney fairy tale structure without always wondering….can I trust this (stock) character? Is “true love’s first kiss” only a romantic/sexual thing? Brave isn’t going to make anyone second-guess what they see in the future. That’s the power of subversion.