2019 was the year of the Yeti in animation, and this utterly charming and sweet-natured adventure from DreamWorks Animation isn’t even the best 2019 to feature the hairy beasts. The story — which follows a Chinese teenager and her friends’ journey to help a Yeti return to his family — doesn’t stray far from the beaten path when it comes to movies of this ilk, but it’s beautifully animated and engaging all the same. Abominable soars during its most visually stunning and imaginative sequences, like when the characters ascend up to the mountains on clouds shaped like Koi fish, to name one example. The film also deals with the theme of loss in a way that’s safe for kids, but it still adds some emotional weight to the film.
The mammoth success of Frozen set lofty standards for the sequel, but I’d argue that part two lived up to expectations then some. And I’m not just talking about the film’s success at the box office, either. Frozen 2 is more ambitious and mature than its predecessor, with a storyline that adds more depth to this universe, while also respecting the fascinating Norse mythology that inspired it. Fans of all things magical and fantastical should find plenty to love here, and while the story adheres to familiar fairytale beats, it’s still a pleasant adventure with a positive message. Furthermore, the film isn’t afraid to address some thought-provoking issues pertaining to colonialism and the environment, albeit in a child-friendly manner.
One Piece: Stampede
One Piece has been a popular anime franchise since 1999, but even the uninitiated viewers will be able to find something to enjoy should they decide to jump in with Stampede. While the movie was released to mark the franchise’s 20th anniversary — and features many fan favorite characters and Easter eggs — the story is non-canon and completely standalone. The seafaring tale revolves around a pirate festival, in which Luffy and the Straw Hats crew must compete against buccaneers from all over the oceans, who have gathered to claim some hidden treasure. Stampede is nonstop chaos that’s both exhausting and entertaining, and while it’s hard to keep up with everything that’s going on, the film’s jaw-dropping color palettes and fun action sequences makes for a lively viewing experience. Think Mad Max: Fury Road, only with anime pirates.
A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon
The Shaun the Sheep movies are a prime example of how to bring characters predominantly associated with television to the big screen. Aardman’s films involving the titular character and his farmland friends are bona fide adventures that boast plenty of ambition and scope, and A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon is a testament to the studio’s tendency to surprise audiences that might be expecting more of the same with each passing entry. In this one, the gang encounters a visitor from another planet, and they must protect their new friend from being captured by a shady organization. Farmageddon is a kids’ movie first and foremost, but it’s also full of references to classic sci-fi — from Doctor Who to E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial — which makes it fun for sophisticated nerds, too. The sheer craft of Aardman’s claymation animation work alone warrants the film’s inclusion on this list, but the artistry is complemented with entertaining visual gags and a story that contains plenty of heart.
Ruben Brandt, Collector
Milorad Krstic’s offbeat heist caper is quite flawed from a storytelling perspective, but not in a way that’s detrimental to the movie overall. The movie tries to do something different with the genre which, when coupled with its impressive visual qualities, makes for a fascinating viewing experience. The story follows a psychotherapist whose nightmares are tormented by fine works of art, which leads to him recruiting some of his clients to help him rob them. The film’s heist plotting leaves a lot to be desired, but the abstract animation gives it a dreamlike quality that’s utterly captivating, making the minor flaws easy to forgive.