NY Film Critics Didn’t Like a Single Animated Film This Year

The New York Film Critics Circle, which I can only presume is a circle of film critics from New York, has announced their picks for the best films of the year. This year, they chose not to hand out an award for best animated feature. It’s the first time they’ve withheld the honor since initiating the category in 2000, which is a bold (and arguably unwarranted) rebuke of this year’s crop of animated features. Then again, the group isn’t afraid to take risks and consistently acknowledges worthy animated films. The winners of their best animated feature category over the last four years have been Persepolis, WALL-E, Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Illusionist. Compare that to the Academy, whose membership has handed the Oscar to Pixar for the past four years in a row.

Meanwhile, the mysterious National Board of Review of Motion Pictures, which is comprised of “a select group of knowledgeable film enthusiasts, filmmakers, academics, and student,” also announced the winners of their film awards, and they chose ILM’s Rango as their best animated feature. It’s notable in that they’d given the animated feature award to Pixar for the last five years in a row. When the National Board of Review can’t bring themselves to pat Pixar on the back, you know the Oscar race is wide open.


  • http://www.yam-mag.com amy

    I kind of not mind Rango, but I didn’t love it. I haven’t seen one single animated film this year that has floored me like in previous… I still got a list of foreign animated films to go though…

  • http://toonradio.net Robert

    Since there were no great animated films this year, I am not surprised. There were a lot of great efforts, but none really reached their full potential.

  • Josey

    …did they see Rango?

  • http://www.michaelspornanimation.com/splog/ Michael Sporn

    All of the films I’ve seen to date (which has not yet included Rango or any of the 2D features) have all been about running in place with lots of loud noise and NO character development. They have ALL been hard to sit through, never mind find one I like.

  • eldodo

    Yikes.
    It’s true though, this year’s been a total flatline in comparison with 2010, and specially 2009. Rango may win, but there’s gonna be an unspoken yet pretty obvious “BY DEFAULT” clause to the victory.

  • Martyn

    I absolutely adored Rango, but i’m starting to feel like i’m in the minority, a least amongst animation types. My non-animation friends, however, almost universally love it.

    Oh well, no biggie, I can talk to myself about it if need be, I was only telling myself the other day how i’ve got some very insightful observations to make about films. I then agreed with me and laughed approvingly to my-selves.

    • eldodo

      Rango is pretty unique, a rare quality this year, but I think it makes a huge and very noticeable point in fabricating that uniqueness.

      Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s perfectly all right to go for cult, but carefully engineered nonchalance is essential to lampshade effort when genuine personality is not available. It’s a skill, and a valuable one I really respect. And Rango just doesn’t manage to pull it off as often as it should; the result is unfocused and at points awkwardly desperate. It’s a decent and enjoyable film, but not a great one, and awards should go to great films, not to the only one that showed up.

    • E. Nygma

      I thought Rango was great and very unique. It wasn’t flawless but definitly killed everything else i’ve seen this year from bigger studios. Pixar’s was a flop, Blue Sky’s was horribly typical and dreamworks is usually just idiotic. I like Kung Fu Panda 2, but let’s end anything to do with Shrek…it is getting pretty tired.

      I was overall very dissapointed with the american animated films this year. They were mostly so predictable and unimaginative.

      I think Brave will be good next year, but come on let’s start getting some imagination back into animated films. So many of these studios are just resting on their laurels.

  • snip2354

    It’s interesting how each year turns out to have a definite streak of animated films. I remember that 2006 was a year when we got about twice as many domestically-released sub-par animated films, half of which were produced by start-up studios that today, no longer exist!

  • Smudge

    I think they need to broaden their horizons a little and visit the Ottawa or Waterloo festivals. There were some pretty solid feature films shown this year, like “Fimfarum 3″ and “The Princess and the Pilot” (and “Chico and Rita”, tho that one was produced in 2010). There’s a lot of great feature length animated films out there, you just have to search for them since they rarely get picked up by the mainline North American theater chains (or a lot of the smaller independent ones for that matter).

  • Captain Hollywood

    I kind of wish they would have applied that philosophy to the list of live action films of this year as well.

  • Lib

    This is not surprising. This year was horrendous. I’m assuming small or foreign films like Wrinkles weren’t considered, so that leaves us with pretty much only one promising major animated feature this year: Tintin.

  • http://www.spungella.com Jean-Denis Haas

    Horrendous? Panda 2 was horrendous? Puss’n Boots? Rango? There are still a few I haven’t seen and others that I found horrendous, but to dismiss every movie and the whole year as horrendous is a bit much, no?
    My pick is Puss’n Boots so far, but I missed out on a lot of other movies.
    And Tintin is closer to “horrendous” than “promising” as a whole (but incredibly impressive from a technical point of view). The pacing and camera work was absolutely horrible and the ridiculous set pieces just killed it for me. It felt like Transformers 2.

    • Andrew Kaiko

      Winnie-the-Pooh was horrendous?!?!

    • Lib

      Yes, there were some exceptions, like the Winnie the Pooh film. But like I said, I wouldn’t consider that something huge. Speaking strictly of the big movies this year, I think it wasn’t a good year.

      And let’s be honest here, another reason why this year feels weak, as short-sighted as it may sound, is because of its lack of a Ghibli film or good Pixar movie. Those two studios are the only big names that almost always deliver quality products in a sense like people such as Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg or David Fincher may do it for live action. Films like Kung Fu Panda? Sure, they are alright, but not a truly brilliant example of filmmaking like, say, Wall E was.

      ‘Horrendous’ was just a dramatization on my part, but so it is comparing Tintin to Transformers I believe. I haven’t seen it yet, but the trailers alone look better than all the animated movies I’ve seen this year so far. And I was one of the skeptics about the whole motion capture thing back in the day.

      • http://www.spungella.com Jean-Denis Haas

        Actually, it wasn’t a dramatization. The camera work and pacing in Tintin was horrendous to me, just like in Transformers 2. It feels like no one told Spielberg “STOP!”. It’s like a kid in a candy store. But the comparison ends there.
        But then again, I didn’t think Wall-E was a brilliant example of filmmaking either, mainly because of its conventional second half. But you’re right, Wall-E was WAY better than Tintin.

        At the end of the day, like Chuck R. below here says, by what standards is X better than Y? All this is just my personal opinion. Everybody around me at work really liked Tintin.

      • Bora

        You are ridiculous to like Wall-E over Tintin. That’s all I got to say.

      • http://www.spungella.com Jean-Denis Haas

        I can live with that.

  • http://chuckrekow.blogspot.com/ Chuck R.

    Awarding The Illusionist over Toy Story 3 and How to Train Your Dragon may have been an imaginative choice, but by what standards Is The Illusionist a better film than the other two?

    I thought it was a small step backward for Chomet in every way: story, character development, imagination and art. “How to Train your Dragon” certainly had it’s share of stock characters, but the character animation was brilliant, the character and set designs were gorgeous and it had something relevant to say about the wars we are fighting in the Middle East today —much more so than Persepolis, which was a politically-minded coming-of-age film set during the Iranian Revolution that never bothered to mention Ayatollah Khomeini.

    • http://jelly-brains.blogspot.com Christina Skyles

      But Persepolis was much more of a coming-of-age film than a political film. Sure, it took place during the Iranian Revolution, but it was more about Marjane than what was going on in the country. Why does it matter that Khomeini wasn’t mentioned?

      • Dan

        I also thought a large reason Persepolis was animated was to get away from politics. The purpose of the more simple and black white illustrations was to highlight the universal qualities of being young and growing up, to look past the politics and surface differences and see that people are people no matter where they are.

  • Rob T.

    I think most of the big-studio animated features set a fairly high standard when considered simply as bread-and-butter entertainment, maybe higher than the average live-action film this year. But there’s not one so far that stands with this year’s best live-action films–with Midnight in Paris or The Tree of Life or Beginners or 50/50 or The Help or even Rise of the Planet of the Apes–as potential “best movie of the year” candidates. So maybe 2011 hasn’t been a “horrendous” year for theatrical animation, but definitely a “meh” year.

  • Skeptical

    Looking at the past awards handed out by the New York Film Critics Circle, it’s clear they work hard to keep their non-Hollywood cred. They’re crowd followers who don’t want to think of themselves as crowd followers. My bet is that most of them consider animation a ‘kiddie’ medium, and only bother to see animated features if they look sufficiently offbeat or adult. I wouldn’t be surprised if most of them didn’t even see half of the animated features released this year.

    Their awards have followed a definite logic:
    Award the animation prize to any live-action director with indie cred who ventures into animation (‘Waking Life,’ ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox,’ ‘Happy Feet’). Otherwise, give it to Chomet. If neither of the above, give it to Miyazaki. If no Miyazaki, give to to any animated film with political or ecological overtones, with extra points for how far away the production studio is from Los Angeles. Sequels and anything by DreamWorks, Disney, or Blue Sky (and Pixar with one exception) need not apply.

    I’m not sure why they didn’t give it to ‘Rango’ this year. Maybe they hate Verbinsik for always making mainstream, artistically empty live action films.

    • http://rubikunsreviews.livejournal.com Rubi-kun

      Two exceptions: Incredibles was awarded as well as Wall-E.

      • Skeptical

        Actually, no. Look at the decision tree I listed. The year ‘The Incredibles’ and ‘WALL-E’ won there were no live-action-indie-director directed animated films, no Chomet, no Miyazaki, no prominent indie animated films with ecological or political messages. ‘WALL-E’ had a significant ecological theme itself, and referenced live-action films from the past, flattering the NYFCC members.

  • Slinky Dog

    These guys must have missed “Winnie the Pooh” and “Rango”.

  • http://chuckrekow.blogspot.com/ Chuck R.

    I agree, Christina, that it was a coming-of-age film more than a political film, and I guess that’s why I’m a bit critical. Teenage flicks don’t generally win awards or accolades by critics. (or maybe “Pretty In Pink” won an Oscar and I just forgot.) The movie got a lot of good press because of it’s political backdrop, and after seeing it, I was disappointed in the lack of insight the movie offered. To be fair, I think the writer was honest in telling her story and honest about her lack of interest in the politics of the time, but unfortunately, that left an honest indie film about buying punk records and barfing. There was a bit of backstory about the revolution, and true to form, it blamed America for Iran’s political problems, but (if I recall correctly) stopped short of mentioning Carter’s involvement and the hostage crisis. I guess my point is: if all you have in your bio is a coming-of-age film (we all have one), then don’t sell it as something deeper.

    Few critics bothered to mention it, but I think HTTYD was pretty spot-on about wars and alliances in the 21st century. There are some monsters that you cannot reason with or even coexist with, but if you look very hard to see the humanity in some of your foes, you can often find common ground.

  • Ethan

    They call them circles for a reason.

    I saw two great animated films this year which I loved, plus three fairly good ones. I could argue for hours and hours about the merit of any of them.

    A very good tactic in marketing and lobbying is “If I can’t win, I need to make sure nobody wins”. One year it’s boycotting, the other year it’s convincing that everything sucks anyway.

  • Andrew Kieswetter

    There were some good animated movies this year. I really liked Kung Fu Panda 2,Rango,and Rio. I wonder if Arrietty had been released in the US this year that the New York Film Critics Circle would have liked it?

  • http://www.mikescottanimation.com Mike Scott

    Hmm…I think this little doodle I drew on my arm is deserving of an Oscar. Seriously though – I don’t think I even watched one animated film this entire year. They all…seem the same? I’d go for a Ghibli film probably, still wanna watch ‘Ponyo’ at some stage.

  • http://www.olivier-vuil.com Olivier Vuil

    This is clearly not a serious decision in front of movies like Rango and Kung Fu Panda 2.

  • kenneth

    You know Rango is going to win all the big animated awards, not cuz it was good (which is highly debatable) but because it has enough “man” power, which is the living driving force of cartoons these days.

    And just my two cents worth: the Oscars should nominate Ghibli films. Let me remind you that in 2009, Ponyo was not even nominated.

  • http://kicreativestudio.blogspot.com/ Ki Innis

    Don’t give a @*&@ what they think.

    Winnie The Pooh was awesome and a pleasant surprise.

    The most satisfying animated film to come from Disney Animation in a long time far as I’m concerned.

  • Laura

    While I agree that many of the animated films that were released this year weren’t that great, there’s no reason not to pick one. It’s a shame that these people who worked so hard just get a “screw you”.

  • Bonny

    Such Snubs!!!
    Should also apply to all the other films the awarded

  • Diana

    The Oscar race is definitely in for a shake-up with only sequels and spin-offs coming out of Pixar and Dreamworks, but this is the Academy here. They’ve become quite predictable, especially in the feature-length animation category.

    What it’ll come down to is the two big directors who took the plunge into animation: Verbinski vs. Spielberg. Verbinski took the bigger plunge in making a fully-animated film and he executed it brilliantly, but Spielberg’s made a case for the artistic merit of performance capture, and it would be most interesting if the Academy supported it by giving the Oscar to Tintin.

    What I don’t get is what the NY Film Critics’ problem is though. Seriously? No decision? This year gave us huge variety, and they picked NOTHING?! What are they good for?!

    • http://austin-buell.deviantart.com Austin

      Critics are good for nothing in many cases,especially ones who haven’t dabbled in the format or really know it.

      The Oscars ad Academy Awards are trash anyways. Like they actually do anything meaningful for anything other than trying to keep the status quo.