Animation Roundup 2022

2022 has been a great year for film, cinema’s have boomed thanks to the huge release of Top Gun: Maverick, Jurassic World: Dominion and closing the year with Avatar: The Way of Water. But, despite the exciting live action films that have graced the silver screen, I think it’s time we celebrated the explosion of animated films we have been gifted this year. From the return to the Toy Story universe in Disney/Pixar’s Lightyear to the gruesome battle between teddy bears and unicorns in Unicorn Wars, I’m going to delve into some of the animated highlights of the year. 

If you can, I ask you to cast your minds back to the start of the year. We’d just seen Disney’s Encanto take home the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, which came as no surprise to anyone. In an Oscar’s first, Danish animated documentary Flee was awarded Best Feature Length Documentary at the Academy Awards and The Windshield Wiper from Spanish filmmaker Alberto Mieglo wins best animated short. After the celebrations of the 94th Academy Awards we waved goodbye to the animated films of the last 12 months and looked forward to 2022 and what it had in store.

Disney/Pixar were straight off the mark with the release of their highly anticipated coming of age animation about a young teenage girl Meilin who reaches a stage in her adolescence and finds herself turning…ahem…red. Turning Red is up there with my favourite animated films of the year and celebrates everything great, and at times not so great, about being a teenage girl. With the addition of boy band 4-Town and her awkward best friends, it resonated with audiences of all ages and thanks to its stunning CG animation (what else would we expect from Pixar?) Turning Red should be celebrated. 

Turning Red was Pixar’s first outing of 2022, followed just a few months later with Lightyear which was Pixar’s first cinema release since before the COVID pandemic. Lightyear tells the origin story of the beloved Toy Story hero Buzz Lightyear, this time round voiced by the perfectly cast Chris Evans and supported by a gabble of other well known voices. From the likes of Taika Waititi, Kiki Palmer and James Brolin as fan favourite Zurg. Lightyear is great fun, and with the addition of the fun robot cat sidekick SOX, despite slightly lacking the whimsy and nostalgia of the Toy Story series, still managed to capture our hearts.

The end of 2022 has seen the release of Disney’s Strange World, which despite its weak marketing, is absolutely stunning. The adventurous tale of Searcher (voiced by Jake Gyllenhaal) who goes on a rescue mission to save their home with the companionship of his son, wife and three legged dog. Meeting bonkers creatures and fantastical surroundings along the way, Strange World is bright, colourful and vastly enjoyable to watch. Quirky in all the right places with a wonderfully original story that pulls it all together, Strange World is making its way to Disney+ by the end of the year and I highly recommend giving it a watch.

From one major streaming platform to another, Netflix have also had their share of animation releases this year. Apollo 10 ½ : A Space Age Childhood was released in April this year and tells the coming of age story loosely based on the childhood experience of writer/director Richard Linklater. Supported by its stunning visuals and ambitious animation style, Apollo 10 ½ is favourite for an Oscar nomination at this year’s Academy Awards. 

The Sea Beast was also released on Netflix this year and sits as the third biggest Netflix film of the year. The stunning tale of an outcast sea creature who is victim to hunting, only until a bond is formed between it and a young stowaway. The animation is bold and beautiful and, quite frankly, deserved a cinema release. Hopefully in the future, Netflix decides to get their original animations on the big screen. 

With the Christmas season upon us, Netflix have jumped on the bandwagon of retelling the classic Charles Dickens novel, A Christmas Carol in the new animated musical Scrooge: A Christmas Carol. The animation technique of sharp angles and block colours could be considered intelligently creative, however, at times it comes across as lazy and over-stimulated. However, thanks to the musical soundtrack, the voice acting is fantastic. Luke Evans as Scrooge, with his bellowing tones, was a brilliant choice and brings a depth to the ever familiar role. 

2022 was a treat for stop motion animation fans, Henry Selick (director of the stop motion giants The Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline) made his long awaited return to the medium in the shape of Wendell & Wild, a stop motion animation horror adventure from writers Keegan Micheal Key and Jordan Peele. Released in time for Halloween, Wendell & Wild bares the same spooky, gothic fantasy style as Selicks previous works whilst incorporating a modern twist with relevant music styles, fashion and character design. 

Jumping back to Disney+, the summer of 2022 was jam packed with fun family friendly films, and Disney+ was the place to be for some of the best of them. May 20th saw the release of Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers, a rollocking comedy following the parallel lives of the now retired Chip and Dale after their successful career on TV’s favourite show, The Rescue Rangers. From comic con appearances to reality TV gigs, this part animation/part live action comedy is an absolute blast for all ages.
For the slightly more mature audiences (in age, not sense of humour!), Disney+ released The Bob’s Burgers Movie. A musical animation spin-off of the hugely popular adult animation series, The Bob’s Burgers Movie was loved by critics and fans alike and is looking likely to pick up some nominations in this year’s awards season. 

Although Disney and Netflix dominate the animation circuit year after year, that’s not to say there isn’t room for independent animation studios to make their mark. Irish animation company Cartoon Saloon, who have previously graced audiences with the likes of Wolf Walkers, Songs of the Sea and The Breadwinner, returned this year with their family fantasy My Fathers Dragon. After receiving positive reviews from the London Film Festival, My Fathers Dragon made its way to Netflix in November and is a hidden gem. Beautiful animation, teamed with a stellar voice cast and the whimsy that Cartoon Saloon always brings to their projects makes this fantasy adventure film one to watch. 

Spanish animation studio Abano Productions also brought their most recent project to the London Film Festival. Much less a family favourite, and more a dark adult comedy, Unicorn Wars is a brutal interpretation of the misfortune of war and the battle between…ahem…teddy bears and unicorns. Full of crass humour and gory visuals, Unicorn Wars definitely won’t be for everyone, but is ambitious and should be celebrated for that alone. 

Also released on Netflix this year was Studio Colorido’s Drifting Home from Japanese filmmaker Hiroyasu Ishida. Drifting Home follows a group of school children who find themselves floating in the middle of the ocean on top of a block of flats, between friendship dynamics and coming of age dilemmas, the group must navigate themselves back to land whilst working together as a team to find food and supplies. Powerful, emotional and visually stunning Drifting Home should not be overlooked. 

Saving the best for last, I am finishing my Animation roundup with the hugely anticipated and thus critically acclaimed stop motion animation from Guillermo Del Toro. Pinocchio had its world premiere at the London Film Festival in October and has gone on to receive rave reviews and Oscar predictions since its global Netflix release in December. Del Toro has teased about bringing the story of Pinocchio to life in his own dark fantasy style for some years now and the end result didn’t disappoint. The animation is intricate and beautiful, the changes to the original fairytale are dark and powerful and the voice cast is flawless. Bursting with passion and style, GDT’s Pinocchio is favourite to wipe the board on animation awards this season and rightly so. A huge achievement from everyone involved, and as always with Del Toro’s work, I can’t wait to see what he does next. 

And there we have it, 17 films, multiple animation styles and a shed load of voice acting talent, we have the 2022 round up of animated feature lengths. Bring on 2023.

(Special shout out to A24’s Marcel The Shell With Shoes On which I have already seen but is scheduled for major release in February so will undoubtedly make the list next year!). 

Happy New Year everyone. 

Animation Roundup 2022

Avengers Endgame: Questions answered

Please be warned, as the spoiler embargo has now been lifted, I won’t be holding back. So if you’re yet to see the film and don’t want any of the major plot points completely ruined, turn back now.

Anyone who knows anything about the entertainment world has heard of Avengers, Marvel, Iron Man, Spider-Man or Captain America, right? And judging by the box office takings, most of those people have now been to see the latest and final instalment of the current MCU, Avengers Endgame. This week has seen the blockbuster take over $2 billion dollars putting it, quite comfortably, in second place amid the highest grossing films of all time. All it needs is roughly another $0.2 billion and it will over take Avatar and simply make it number 1.

I feel a bit like this film is all I’ve spoken about for the last few weeks, Avengers Infinity War was a big enough blow to get over but nothing could have prepared me for the Endgame. Everyone I know that has seen it has had different opinions about the plot (mostly being that they loved it and cried like a baby, or was that just me?) but more than anything this film, albeit the end of a cinematic era, seems to have presented the world with endless questions.

Now, given that I obviously don’t work for Marvel, nor have I read ALL the comics (disclaimer; I have read some of them so don’t get judgey on me) the answers to the below questions are just my opinions and theories. I just wanted to answer the questions for fun and if I have any facts wrong please just tell me or bugger off.

Question number 1:

Where is Gamora now?

I think it’s safe to say we’re all excited for the inevitable ‘Asguardians of the Galaxy’ film, especially now James Gunn is back on board. The scene featuring said Asguardians at the end of Endgame heavily implies the upcoming Guardians sequel will feature Peter Quill‘s hunt for Gamora.

My biggest question regarding this predicted storyline has been; but is Gamora even still alive?
Think about it, right, in the original time line (the one that existed before they started jumping around in time) Gamora was thrown over the edge of Mount Vormir in Infinity War to her impending doom allowing Thanos to receive the Soul Stone.  So she’s dead in that timeline which gets rid of that version of her completely from this equation, because as Clint says in Endgame there is no coming back from Vormir. But then she comes back into the new present in Endgame when Nebula and Roadie go back to 2014 Morag. She is then on Thanos‘ ship when he uses the Pym Particles to come back to 2023 (the new present).
Time passes, Avengers have assembled, Tony and Peter are reunited and Gamora is somewhere in amongst the fallen Avengers HQ building with two different Nebulas.
Long story short, Tony gets the infinity stones, snaps his fingers and much like at the end of Infinity War, Thanos and his crew dust into nothingness – the Avengers have won.
But where is Gamora now? My original theory was that she had dusted too, because she was still working for Thanos up until this point but has her allegiance changed? We do see her in the kick-ass “girl power” moment when all the women of the MCU fight together but has her allegiance completely changed? Also doesn’t it completely depend on the exact wording of Tony‘s thoughts when he snapped his fingers?

My theory is she is still alive, because it’ll make for a good story in Asguardians of the Galaxy but where the F is she? Because she wasn’t anywhere to be seen after the battle and she wasn’t at Tony‘s funeral. And if she had completely switched allegiance to be on the “good” side then wouldn’t she have stuck with the only familiar face and ended up on the Milano with NebulaSo actually maybe my theory is that she is dead.

Obviously we’re not going to find out until the next volume of Guardians is released what has really happened to Gamora but it’s fun to guess isn’t it?

Ok that was quite a lengthy answer so now lets try a couple of easier ones.

As established, yes, Tony Stark dies at the end of Endgame and no, we were not emotionally prepared for it. But if that wasn’t sad enough, the icing on the cake was Tony’s funeral scene, from the heartbreaking video message stored inside Tony’s Iron Man helmet to the adorable conversation between Morgan and Happy, Tony’s funeral will go down as one of the saddest scenes in MCU history. 

During the funeral we see a beautiful panning shot of all the surviving characters; we see Steve Rogers, Peter Parker, Dr Strange, Bucky and Sam, the Barton’s, all the Guardians and many, many more and at the end of the scene we see Nick Fury finally make his appearance.

Amongst all these much beloved characters we see an unfamiliar face, and of course the question on most peoples minds when they came out of the cinema was “who was that random teenager at Tony’s funeral?”.


Question number 2

Who was that random teenager at Tony’s funeral?

It’s a simple answer, the teenager at Tony’s funeral is Harley Keener, the young boy from Iron Man 3. Not only did Harley come back to bid a final farewell to Tony but Marvel also managed to get the same actor, Ty Simpkins, back for the scene.

Question number 2a

Who was missing from the funeral?

This is just my opinion but I wanted to get it in there, I think Agent Coulson should have been at Tony’s funeral. We all know he didn’t die in Avengers Assemble because he is a prominent character in Agents of Shield and he loved Tony and all the Avengers so why he wasn’t at the funeral is beyond me. They could get Harley Keener in there but they couldn’t have just stood Coulson next to Maria Hill? Shame.

Question number 3

Where was Katherine Langford?

As some of you may remember there was a big casting announcement made shortly before the films release featuring 13 Reasons Why star Katherine Langford. Her character was never revealed and a lot of people speculated that she would be coming in to play the teenage version of Cassie, Scott Lang‘s daughter. But, once Emma Fuhrmann was announced for that role, speculation began again.

It turns out Katherine Langford was cast as an older version of Tony and Peppers daughter Morgan. In the original draft of the script there was an extra scene after Tony snaps his fingers with the nano-tech infinity gauntlet, not dissimilar to the scene in Infinity War where Thanos faces young Gamora – “at what cost”. The scene was going to feature an emotional scene between Tony and Morgan where he explains why he did what he did. Joe and Anthony Russo recently said in an interview that the reason this was taken out was because it seemed too nostalgic and took the attention away from the loss of all the Avengers in losing Tony as apposed to the loss Tony was feeling with loosing Morgan.
I personally think it was a smart move to take this scene out, it would have become too complex as we hadn’t already been introduced to the older version of Morgan and it might have fallen a bit flat, which is why the corresponding scene in Infinity War worked so well as we already knew young Gamora. Also – why would you want to take that character away from the incomparable Lexi Rabe who played Morgan with such honesty? She was perfect.

Question number 4

Disclosure: this is not actually a question and more just something I wanted to talk about

Thors “Dad bod”

One of the biggest talking points of the entire film (which shocks me because the film has so many more amazing things we could be talking about) is how the directors decided to dramatically change Thor’s appearance.
We find Thor suffering in silence, after his failed attempt to defeat Thanos back in Infinity War, in a small seaside town (believed to be located in Scotland) with his friends Korg and Meek. He has gained weight and completely neglected his appearance. It’s a shame to see him like this, but for a lot of people it has become far too big of a deal. He is clearly suffering with PTSD or similar, he’s struggling to admit that he has failed because all his life he was told that he had to be the best, be the strongest, be a god.
People seem to have a problem with this character development, whether it’s because he’s now less appealing to look at or because he’s become a comedic element to the film.

I happen to disagree (shocking!) yes they have used him as a slight comic relief to all the intense drama going on throughout the film, but for me it just proves you don’t need to have a six-pack to still be a hero. I know it sounds cheesy but he’s still the hero he always was and due to this breakdown he was able to go out and achieve, his pain and suffering as his motivation. Mental health is important to talk about and the fact that the Russo brothers managed to include it in this film on more than one occasion is an achievement worth celebrating.

I like Thor’s Dad bod.

Question number 5

Was Black Widows death justified? 

There’s been a bit of debate about whether or not Natasha Romanoff was the right character to be killed off in the middle of the film. It’s a brutal scene on the planet of Vormir, where one has to sacrifice something they love above all else in order to retrieve the Soul Stone. This is the moment in Infinity War when Thanos sacrificed Gamora in exchange for the stone.
Hawkeye and Widow are sent back in time to retrieve the stone before Thanos has a chance, little do they know what task lies ahead.

Red Skull now inhabits Vormir and when they arrive he explains what needs to happen. After a short, but intense, discussion about what they should do Clint makes the decision to sacrifice himself so Natasha can take the stone back and they can stop Thanos.
In a beautiful sequence of ‘who beats who’ Natasha ends up being the one to make the ultimate sacrifice in her brutal and untimely death.

Clint goes back to the Avengers HQ in present time with the Soul Stone in tow and breaks down when the rest of the team ask where Natasha is.

So, was Natasha the right character to die? 

Although it was very sad, and I may be a tad bias as Hawkeye is my favourite character, I think it was right for the film. There was no way all of the original six were going to survive and losing Natasha had a huge emotional impact on the rest of the team. We all know how close a friendship she had with Clint and his family but she was also close with Steve and Bruce, if Clint had been the one to die we wouldn’t have had as much emotion impact from the rest of the team, it wouldn’t have meant as much to them or the audience.

Although she didn’t get a conventional funeral, there is a beautiful moment at the lake when the 5 remaining original Avengers get a chance to mourn and discuss what had happened. There’s tensions in the air around whether or not they can go back and stop it from happening but it also gives each of the characters a moment of mourning.

Her death was painful to watch and heartbreaking but I believe it gave them all the last burst of motivation they needed to achieve what needed to be achieved.

And on that note, that’s it, my top 5 questions answered!

I know it’s not on everyones mind anymore (especially as Game of Thrones is now coming to an end) but it was everything I could have asked for and more and I am still thinking about it. I wouldn’t change anything about it for the world and I want to thank the Russo brothers for achieving what they did. 

Now I’m off to watch it for the sixth time…

Avengers Endgame: Questions answered