The Secret Life of Pets dir. Chris Renaud & Yarrow Cheney (Illumination, 2016) This animated furball comedy is probably better without foreknowledge. While anticipation may have been built, much actual impact was lost through having the film cut up and organ farmed for a relentless onslaught of trailers in the months leading up to release.
Rango dir. Gore Verbinski (2011) A surprisingly cohesive animated comedy. Johnny Depp is peerless as a chameleon who, stranded in the Mojave Desert, survives his introduction to the Wild West by impersonating (blending in by way of chutzpah and bravado!) a tough hombre by name of Rango.
Monsters, Inc. dir. Pete Docter (2001) John Goodman and Billy Crystal are perfectly cast and animated as portal-hopping monsters whose night-scaring elicits the screams needed to power Monstropolis. The status quo turns to sweet crumble when their rival’s scheming brings a three-year-old human (presumed deadly) into their world.
Ice Age: Collision Course dir. Mike Thurmeier & Galen T. Chu (2016) Film five of the Ice Age franchise offers more of the same: beautifully animated and very funny in parts, but with an ever-expanding cast that ipso facto demands a scattershot apportioning of screen time (and thus precludes any thought of serious undertones).
Zootopia dir. Byron Howard & Rich Moore (2016) Although it could never live up to its sloths-at-the-DMV trailer, Zootopia still hops along nicely as a prejudice-themed comedy murder mystery wherein circumstances necessitate the city’s first rabbit police officer (Ginnifer Goodwin) teaming up with a small-time con artist fox (Jason Bateman).
Cosmic Scrat-tastrophe dir. Michael Thurmeier & Galen Chu (2015) Scrat the squirrel has always been a highlight of the Ice Age franchise. In this five-minute film — a curtain raiser that threatens to steal the show from The Peanuts Movie — Scrat manages to activate a spacecraft and blast off beyond the stratosphere.
Snoopy and Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie dir. Steve Martino (2015) As a comic strip, Peanuts ran for fifty years and was never bettered. The film’s 3D animation cannot compete with the vibrancy of Schulz’s stills, yet does succeed as a nostalgia piece capturing the greatly beloved world of perennial also-ran Charlie Brown.
Monsters vs. Aliens dir. Conrad Vernon & Rob Letterman (2009) Monsters vs Aliens is an animated comedy with a surplus of incidental humour but a concomitant deficit of cohesive, character-driven plot. The jokes are funny enough but the heroine’s journey of discovery is no more compelling than a walk to the shops.
Inside Out dir. Pete Docter (Disney/Pixar, 2015) Cleverly conceived, coherently executed, emotionally and intellectually mature, Inside Out is (arguably) the first animation in recent memory to be pitched more at parents than their children. Actor Richard Kind and the creators deserve an award for their portrayal of Bing Bong.