Even though I am a visual artist, I tend to not watch too many animated films. I really love a good one, I just have a tendency to be wary because, though there is a lot of good animation out there, there is also a lot of reeaally mediocre (okay, sometimes just bad) animation out there... and when it comes to character design and overall animation style in animated features, my taste tends to run hot or cold. I am either instantly attracted to it, or I am really not. I LOVE it or, I just really DON'T. And the thing about animated features is that the visuals need to come first. The story itself can knock your socks off, but if the delivery system- the animation and character design and development- is not there, I'm not sticking around for the story. That said, it does seem as if every animated film that I have embraced in the past ten or so years also has great story and character developent behind it. As for the mediocre animated flicks I have seen trailers for, I really can't speak for those-I really do avoid them if I can't get behind the art!
Anyway, all this build-up... Today, we spent time with our friends and their lovely (and oh so smart!) three year old daughter. Of course, they have every cool new animated feature on DVD that has come out in the past few years. There is so many I have missed, and I got schooled in a couple that I have been missing! I highly recommend these based on seeing most of each of them today...
Secret of The Kells
WOW. This animated feature is simply breathtaking, in every way. The patterns, the design, the depth in the atmosphere... it is just all around amazing. I could just stare at this film, pay no attention to the story, and be perfectly happy. To be honest, It actually was challenging to follow the story while playing with a three year old and also being blown away by the artwork at the same time, as it whooshed by on the screen. But my friends say that the story is also very good too. It was Oscar-nominated as well, so as amazing as the animation is, I am sure the story also had a hand in that. I also love that the work feels so inspired by classic animation styles as well as by graphic design. Yet it truly feels like all of these influences and inspirations and have been utilized to take the art of animation into a brand new medium. It just feels completely evolved. And totally original.
If you have ever seen the animated television show Samurai Jack, which had a really stark, boldly crafted design style, the aesthetic of The Secret fo The Kells is in the same Encyclopedia set but feels like a later, more advanced book in the set.
A good Secret Of The Kells review (with more art stills)
Kung Fu Panda
This one might be more of a surprise due to its commercial nature, but what a fun movie and fun story! But the biggest happy surprise for me of Kung Fu Panda was the quality of both the animation in general but also the quality and artistry in the character design. I did not see the full film but I loved what I did see and am now eager to see it in its entirety as well as the sequel which will be released April 2011.
What are some of your favorite animated features of the last few years?