Out of all the categories in Oscars, I personally feel the most positive about Best Animated Race. Well, the recent change regarding “all Academy members will vote for the nominees instead of Animation branch” is silly, which is another topic altogether so I won’t delve into it this time, but more than any other categories, and more than any Animated Season Awards, the committees do expand their view to champion films that are outside of the US, and pick films based on the merits of quality itself instead of big names big campaigns. Pixar still dominates the category and they still ignore many worthy anime films, which hurts. As for the 2019 race, I’m quite happy with the nominees with each film has its merits to be there. The only surprise is HTTYD edges out Frozen 2 but consider how HTTYD is always a strong franchise, and this 3rd film closes off that franchise on a conclusive note, I have no complaints whatsoever. Next one, we delve one more time to 2019 releases before we head to more theme-specific, or region-specific animated movies. Enjoy for now.
Toy Story 4 (2019)
On one hand, Toy Story 4 is another sequel done right by Pixar. It has many great qualities going for it. The animation looks better than ever (it’s neat to see how Pixar’s production has evolved through this franchise alone), it has a great character arc for Woody where he finally lets go of being a toy and leads a new life, and the film re-establishes a strong, positive role model in the form Bo Peep. On the other hand, I still can’t help but feel that this one doesn’t top Top Story 3 in terms of closure, thus I feel less enthusiastic about it than any film from the franchise. In addition to that, apart from Woody and Bo Peep who carry the film, Forky’s character arc is a bit saggy (it deals with him considering himself as trash instead of toy and never really does anything else with that) and many old faces, most notably Jessie has little room to make an impact. I guess I’m in the minority in this but I still think Toy Story saga is perfect as a trilogy.
(3 / 4)
How to Train Your Dragon 3: The Hidden World (2019)
If I have to pick the most significant animated franchise of this decade, it’s undoubtedly HTTYD. The first film starts off at the beginning of the decade and it was solid enough that it could rival any Pixar-movie, then a spin-off series comes afterwards and two more movies (in a typical move of DreamWorks Animation company to milk the most out of its cash cows), the final chapter is released at the tail end of 00’s to signify the end of this popular franchise. Just like Toy Story 4, the Hidden World also realizes that the best way to end it most satisfying is to let them main characters grow apart, each pursuing their own happiness. It’s not the only thing going in The Hidden World, however. I quite like the villain this time, and to see Toothless finds his soulmate and acts all clumsily is such a joy. This film also concerns Hiccup’s growth, mostly about his relationship to Toothless and his worthiness as the new leader. In the end, it works. It’s thrilling and emotionally satisfying, but one where I don’t think will be considered as classic or anything. It’s still a neat film to close off this mega franchise, though.
(2 / 4)
Missing Link (2019)
Laika, just like Aardman Animation or Cartoon Salon, is such a reliable studio that every output they make I am sure that I will enjoy it nonetheless. Missing Link meets that expectation, but comes right after the great-Kubo it feels like a modest success more than a breakout hit. In fact, it’s such a shame to see that Missing Link is a massive box office bomb, earning only $26 mil out of its $100 mil budget. How about the film itself? It has a solid story at heart, with the lead cast having solid chemistry together and overall Missing Link has witty dialogues. The stop motion production is smooth and highly-detailed and the character designs are above-average. For a film about adventure, Missing Link cares more about the characters having fun times than the quest itself, and that makes the film enjoyable from start to finish. I do have an issue with Lionel Frost’s character to his “friend” Mr Link, though. The show passes off his “racist” remarks as jokes, and we eventually get to the point where he considers him as friend, and thus, Frost has a massive growth in his character arc, right? I don’t think so. The fact that he regards Mr Link as his companion doesn’t necessarily solve the issues where he feels superior to other “Missing Link” beings. In addition, the villain side leans towards one-sided evil, there’s a clear black and white here. While Missing Link might not be at the same level of Laika’s greats Kubo or Coraline, it’s still witty enough and enjoyable enough to be better than most animated releases out there.