2021 Year in Review: Best Animated Film

This was a great and diverse year for films, and we saw that in the animated features and shorts presented, too. I saw a number of them and below are the five animated features that I liked best from 2021. The list appears in ascending order and, where possible, I listed where you can stream them.

5. Luca (Disney+): I didn’t love the story for this film but it was OK. What stood out to me was the beautifully crafted world created here. The stunning visuals mixed with a decent story was enough to make this a fun viewing experience.

4. Ron’s Gone Wrong (Disney+, HBO Max): This little animated tale didn’t draw as much fanfare as others, but it’s a solid adventure. It’s a story that speaks to anyone who’s ever felt like a bit of an outsider. I enjoyed it quite a bit.

3. Raya and the Last Dragon (Disney+): This was one of the earliest features released in 2021 and still one of the best. I loved the creativity of the tale, and I enjoyed the lead character voiced by Kelly Marie Tran. If you missed it, make sure you get a chance to go seek it out!

2. Encanto (Theaters, Disney+): This delightful tale came out around Thanksgiving and dropped for viewers on Disney+ on Christmas Eve. This is another one where I loved the beautiful world created, but I was also drawn into the beautiful narrative and the story. The music here—from Lin-Manuel Miranda—is also great. This was a blast to see in theaters and it would be my favorite of the year, were it not for…

1. Sing 2 (Theaters): I am not a big U2 fan, but this film might single-handedly have changed that for me. This is the rare follow up that surpasses the original. The worlds created were beautiful and creative, the music was incredible and the story hooks you. But what helps it stand out for me—and is one of the reasons I have it in my Top 10 for the year—is the emotional response it generates. I simply loved this film; it was one of the best theater experiences of the year and was easily my favorite animated tale.

Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.

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