- Inside Out (2015)
The winner of the Academy Award in the category of the Best Animated Picture of 2015, “Inside Out” is a film about a little girl who moves with her parents from suburban Minnesota to San Francisco. The movie is a little masterpiece, and it is a great injustice it was not nominated for an Academy Award in the general category. The main brilliance of the movie is its originality and intelligence – it teaches young children about psychology: the movie is divided into the “real world” and the “world inside the mind” of a person. There are different emotions that govern the decision-making processes: joy, sadness, anger, fear and disgust, each represented by an “entity”, as well as other processes such as short-term and long-term memories, personality-building, dream processes, etc. The movie is laugh-out-aloud funny, extremely entertaining, and flawless in its execution and content, even though very young kids may fail to grasp the meaning of everything that is going on. Overall, “Inside Out” is an instant classic, and, easily, one of best animated films I have ever seen. 10/10
- April and the Extraordinary World (2016)
“April and the Extraordinary World” is a French-Belgian-Canadian animated film co-directed by Christian Desmares (animator behind “Corto Maltese in Siberia” (2002) and “Persepolis” (2007)) and Franck Ekinci. It tells of a teenage girl, April (voiced by Marion Cotillard in a French version), who, together with her talking cat Darwin and her grandfather Pops, is looking for her long-lost scientist parents. The year is 1941, and it is an alternate reality: there are no scientists left who could have made the “progress”, such as electricity, possible. The world is “stuck” in a steam age, and the city’s scientists have been “witch-hunted” for decades. However, the final act of the film may be too brutal and “over-the top”, and the relationship between April and her love interest is reminding too much of that found in “Anastasia” (1997). Sometimes reminding in its setting and ideas of Schuiten & Peeters’s comic Brüsel, sometimes reminiscing of some Tintin adventure, the movie is a great one overall: clever and very imaginative, full of exciting adventure. 9/10
 For example, both pairs of characters in the films search for the heroine’s lost parentage and have a dispute resulting in April/Anastasia mistrusting her friend, as the latter worked for the “enemy”’s side and abused her trust. They make up in the end.
3. Zootopia (2016)
“Zootopia” or “Zootropolis” is an animated film by Byron Howard (director of “Tangled” (2010)), Rich Moore and Jared Bush about a rabbit Judy who leaves her small village to travel and work as a policewoman in Zootopia, a utopian city where all the mammals, both herbivorous and carnivorous animals, live in peace and harmony side by side. However, Judy, being the first rabbit on the job, finds it difficult to fit into her new job, and her encounter with Nick, a sly fox, makes her first assignment even harder as she sets to solve the mystery of disappearing mammals in the city. Playing on familiar stereotypes and sending a strong message of “do not judge a book by its cover”, “Zootopia” delivers a real family fun: they are very funny moments, nice music (some of it delivered by Shakira), stunning visuals, memorable, instantly lovable characters (e.g. Flash, a sloth), and an engrossing, engaging plot. 10/10
4. The Illusionist (2010)
“The Illusionist” is an animated film directed by Sylvain Chomet, the genius behind “The Triplets of Belleville” (2003). Set in 1959, “The Illusionist”’s main character is Mr. Tatischeff, a magician, who realises that the demand for his trade has died out in major cities, and who is forced to move to small villages to scrape a living. However, the magician then meets a young girl, whom he adopts and for whom he is forced to rethink his old ways of gaining money. This virtually silent animation is so full of warmth and affection it becomes one of the most touching animations one could hope to see. Nearly every scene is a moving portrayal of the goodness of a human heart as we see Mr. Tatischeff caring for a young orphaned girl Alice. There is a cultural as well as a historic interest to the story as well: through the streets of London, Paris and Edinburgh, we move further to encounter the forgotten corners of Scotland, while at the same time following the ups-and-downs that are usually involved in a magician’s trade. In sum, “The Illusionist” is a little gem in the sea of animation; it is an emotionally moving, beautifully hand-drawn and an unforgettable movie. 10/10
5. The Little Prince (2015)
Directed by Mark Osborne, and based on an Antoine de Saint-Exupéry book “The Little Prince”, the movie tells of a young girl who distracts herself from arduous studies by striking a friendship with her older neighbour. He, in turn, introduces her to the story of the little prince. Originally premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, the movie has a few unclear moments, but overall it is a touching and faithful to the book animation whose voice cast includes such names as Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams, Paul Rudd, Benicio del Toro, Marion Cotillard, Albert Brooks and James Franco. The movie’s wonderfully-crafted animation, which includes both a stop-motion and computer graphics, adds to the general beauty of the cinematography, making “The Little Prince” a real “must-see”. 9/10
6. Song of the Sea (2014)
Directed by Tomm Moore (“The Secret of Kells” (2009)), “Song of the Sea” is about a brother and sister (Ben and Saoirse) who sets out on an adventure to save the world of spirits. Saoirse inherits from her mother the ability to transform into a seal, and Ben is having difficulties connecting with his sister due to a past traumatic event. There is so much more to this animated film than first meets the eye: there is an exploration of a brother-sister relationship, but also a lot of knowledge imparted on the Irish and Scottish folklore. For example, Ben tells his little sister of Mac Lir, a giant turned into a stone by his mother Macha, both based on a sea god/goddesses. There is a lot of parallel to be drawn here with Miyazaki’s work, especially with “My Neighbour Totoro” (1989) and “Spirited Away” (2001), but “Song of the Sea” still stands on its own: its imaginative elements are unique and its narrative structure, although as calm, feels different. Overall, deeply rooted in mythology, the film is visually beautiful with a solid, engaging narrative and magical elements. Highly recommended. 10/10
7. From Up on Poppy Hill (2012)
Coming from the Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli, “From Up on Poppy Hill” is set in Yokohama, Japan in 1963, and tells of a growing attraction between Umi (voiced by Sarah Bolger) and Shun (voiced by the late Anton Yelchin), two high school students, who see their town being transformed in the preparation for the Olympics 1964. Nostalgia for the past and the apprehension of the future is at the very core of the film. As one reviewer put it: “at its heart, [the movie is about] the battle between old and new, traditional ways and what stands for progress.” The movie is surely not on par with other Studio Ghibli classics, and may lack the depth of character portrayal and interaction of the previous Studio Ghibli films, but it is very sweet, atmospheric and nostalgic, boasting a very beautifully drawn animation and a strong message. 9/10
8. Toy Story 3 (2010)
“Toy Story 3” is the third instalment in the “Toy Story” series, the previous two animated films came out in 1995 and 1999 respectively. “Toy Story 3”, which bagged an Academy Award in the category of the Best Animated Picture of the year, takes place when Andy is already much older and prepares to depart for college. At that time, his toys are mistakenly delivered to a day centre where their adventure begins, and we are introduced to a whole lot new and interesting characters, such as Lotso, Ken, Chuckles, Mr. Pricklepants, etc. The movie is a delight to watch, amusing with a well thought-out plot and an unforgettable finale. It is a great animation: adventurous and exciting, a perfect sequel “come-back”. 10/10
9. The Secret World of Arrietty (2012)
Another animation from the Studio Ghibli, “The Secret World of Arrietty” is based on the novel “The Borrowers” written by Mary Norton, and is about a four-inch tall family Clock who lives in a house of humans. The Clock family lives by borrowing certain items in the house from the “big” people. However, when the young human boy discovers the young girl of the Clock family, and the secret bond is developed between the two, the Clock family’s quite and predictable life routine changes for good. “The Secret World of Arrietty” is the kind of a movie which will be enjoyed by the whole family, and though it lacks racy adult themes or thought-provoking and complicated elements, its sweetness and gorgeous animation will not leave its audience unmoved or uninvolved. 9/10
10. Le Magasin des Suicides (2012)
“Le Magasin des Suicides” is the most controversial entry on my list for which I can be criticised. This is an animation from Patrice Leconte, a French director behind such movies as “The Widow of Saint-Pierre” (2000) and “The Hairdresser’s Husband” (1990). Based on a graphic comic by Jean Teulé, “Le Magasin des Suicides” tells of a gloomy family of four, Tuvache, living in a depressing metropolis. The odd and unhappy family runs a thriving business: a suicide shop, where one can buy all sorts of equipment to commit their suicide with success (or their money back!), and things run well for the family until the time another family member is born – a cheerful and always happy boy. This animation is basically all about dark humour and sarcasm. Although the plot is unexciting and without good linear development with average musical numbers, there are great things about this movie: its “off-the-wall” bleak premise and animation are refreshingly different, humour is very dark, but morbidly funny, and the ending is memorable and upbeat. The movie is not for everyone, but it is worth your attention, since some people may find true delight in its shockingly brave punchlines. 8/10
 The movie is full of amusingly horrifying sayings such as “If you failed in life, succeed in death”, one of the ad tag, and “Life is like a plate of diarrhea, served with a good Bordeaux”, a psychiatrist’s quote.
These films are in no particular order. I am yet to see “Kubo & the Two Strings” (2016) and “Sausage Party” (2016), and other honorable mentions include “Winnie the Pooh” (2011) & “When Marnie Was There” (2015).