Have a Nice Day

Worst to Best Animated Films of 2018 Part 1

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this editorial/list!)

Well, it’s 2019, and it’s time to talk about the Worst to Best of 2018’s animation line-up. Overall, 2018 was a vastly superior year for animation, as it wasn’t just a few good major releases and a ton of great indie/foreign releases like 2017. 2018 was a year full of surprises, and, for the first time in a while, the number of really bad movies felt shorter, and not as bad as other years like 2011, 2017, or were as bad as the worst of 2016. It also proved to be one of the few down years for Disney and Pixar, as a Sony Pictures Animated film took home the most awards, and rightfully so. Anyway, the rules for this list are the same. They had to have come out in 2018, and were in the running for the 2018 Oscars and Annie Awards. No straight-to-DVD films, unless they are of some major importance in the animation pop culture realm. Like usual, I will also be including the animated Netflix films, because unlike most animation lists, I actually saw every animated film released in the US and in the running for the Oscars. So then, let’s get started!

43. Duck Duck Goose

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While Netflix’s upcoming animated feature line-up sounds incredible, Duck Duck Goose was by far the worst animated feature I saw last year. It was obvious that after multiple delays, it was shoved onto Netflix with no fanfare. It’s not a great looking film, the writing wasn’t anything note-worthy, characters were wildly inconsistent in personalities, and it was really gutsy to think that it had a chance in being in theaters. I felt badly for the studio that made it, because now it’s going to be labeled as another example of a studio wanting to dump a film that won’t do well, and give it to Netflix. I liked Jim Gaffigan in it, but that’s because he’s Jim Gaffigan. Outside of that, there is no real reason to go see this flick.

42. Gnome Alone

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I was wondering where I should put this one, because it’s just as bad as Duck Duck Goose, but Gnome Alone feels more cohesive and consistent in terms of tone, writing, and animation quality. It’s another film that was in limbo, because the original distributor was probably on its deathbed, and while there a few decent ideas that could have made this mildly more amusing than other films on this list, they don’t go far with it, and it’s another film that has a decent cast, but you will not find any info on them talking about it at all. At least, I couldn’t find anything. It’s fairly generic and pretty forgettable. Hopefully, Netflix picks and chooses what they release in the future, so they don’t end up with tripe that no one will be talking or caring about after it’s released on their service.

41. Happy Family

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Yeah, the entire bottom part of this list will be including many of the “was released in theaters, but no one cares” animated films of 2018, and Happy Family is one of them. It could have been an interesting flick about a family that ends up getting turned into the monsters they are dressed up as, but they didn’t take advantage of it in any of the correct ways. The characters are unlikable, the animation is dated and not theatrical quality at all, and the story gets a bit bonkers as it goes on. I hate that a lot of talented actors were attached to this, because this film does nothing for their careers. Maybe a more talented group of filmmakers could have made this better, but there is a reason no one remembers this came out last year.

40. Son of Big Foot

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The direct-to-video animation market had a dry spell last year, with no real major clunkers reaching theaters, but this carryover from 2017 was the only major animated direct-to-video film that was getting any kind of talk. It’s an absurd idea that’s not handled well, more animation that’s not entirely impressive, and a story that doesn’t really take advantage of how insane the premise sounds. It comes off like no one knew how ridiculous this setting was and played it entirely straight. The only major reason to watch this movie is to get a few friends together and grab a few beers to have a night full of laughs. Yeah, that’s not really a positive endorsement.

39. Netflix’s Godzilla Trilogy

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At first, I was going to make them take individual spots on the list, but they only work as one big movie, and they all are terrible. Clunky CGI, a boring drawn-out story, too much focus put on the humans, not enough monsters and giant monster action, and it had the wrong writer to craft a story that was worthy of Godzilla. I know some people love these three films, but I really can’t stand them. To me, this trilogy showed everything that was bad about both anime and the king of monsters. I already reviewed it, so you can check the review out on my website, but I would rather watch giant monsters duke it out Pacific Rim-style next time than what we got with this trilogy.

38. Sherlock Gnomes

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The real reason why this film is up this “high” on the list is because while the marketing for this film was awful, the two leads from the previous film were side characters in their own sequel, and the story as a whole is clunky and soulless, I could understand actually watching this film again. Honestly, it turned into a “better” movie because of how bad the marketing was, and how those jokes were only there in the trailer. There are a few solid performances, like Depp’s Sherlock, and the 2D animated sequences were easily the best part of the film. Sadly, outside of Elton John, no one really cared or wanted this movie to be made. Luckily, Sherlock Gnomes won’t be Paramount’s biggest animation blunder this decade, which, as of writing this, goes to Wonder Park.

37. Scooby Doo & Batman: The Brave and the Bold

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I don’t really talk about Scooby Doo on this site, but it’s mostly that I am avoiding the mountain of direct-to-video and the mediocre live-action films. I had to talk about this one as it combines the Scooby gang with the iteration of Batman that combined action and comedy. While I was amused and entertained somewhat, I felt like this film didn’t really know how to balance it out. It couldn’t focus enough on either the Batman or the Scooby Doo element to make either part feel cohesive. It felt more like an average episode of either show. Still, it had a few decent moments and some good voice performances. Check it out if you want, but you aren’t missing much if you don’t. At least it’s not that Tom & Jerry and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory film.

36. Have a Nice Day

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Ah, yes, the Chinese “animated” film that caused a stir at Annecy 2017, and then was quickly forgotten. It’s a shame too, because I was very intrigued by the dialogue and the characters. It had some great dark comedy bits, and while the animation was limited, you could still feel the tension during certain scenes. I do wish this had more animation to it, and the ending didn’t just happen abruptly with no real conclusion, but it’s an interesting film nonetheless.

35. Fireworks

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Yeah, I was sad to put a GKids release this low on the list. Fireworks is not a good movie, and it’s fine if you like it, but for me, it’s up there as one of GKids biggest distribution disappointments. The characters were unlikable, the side male characters were creeps, and the premise and animation weren’t fully up to par. It’s interesting when you find out that this was an adaptation of a live-action television drama episode of a series called If, but that’s the only interesting thing about it. They could have easily taken this premise to much bigger heights with the whole rewinding time mechanic, but it comes off like this was only greenlit because Your Name was a hit. Maybe someday, another studio will find more to do with this idea, but for me, Fireworks is low on my priority of GKids purchases.

34. The Wolf House

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While I still found this film to be sort of boring and overly-long at 75 minutes, The Wolf House is way more interesting when you find out about the context in which this film takes place. This includes a compound that was founded by a German who escaped Germany and fled to Chile, to avoid pedophile charges, and the compound was full of monstrous acts of child sexual abuse, abuse towards it members, and so on. Yeah, that’s not entirely clear when you first see it. If you look at this with its own slow-burn horror film style, it’s surprisingly atmospheric, with an entire house being used with painting and stop-motion animation. It’s quite a technical achievement. Still, even for its short runtime, it seems fairly long, and most of the context will be lost on people who aren’t aware of this subject and history. It’s an interesting film if you can find it, but I don’t know how many will dig it.

My Two Cents on the Animation Submissions for the 2019 Oscars.

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this editorial!)

Recently, the animation submission for the upcoming Oscars/award season has been revealed. There are 25 animated features competing for those five sacred spots. While I was too late in doing a first half of 2018 look-back at animation, I think I’ll pretty much combine it with this editorial. 2018 has been an incredible year for animation, both big and small. This was definitely a step up from 2017, where outside of Coco, Captain Underpants, and LEGO Batman, the big-budget releases were either okay or hugely mediocre. It was like they got all of the filler titles put into 2017, so the better-made projects could all be in 2018. The indie side of things has also been incredible. While I am disappointed that some of my favorite films from the Animation is Film Festival are not a part of this submission list, the indie scene was still fantastic. So, like last year, I’m going to categorize each of the films that have 100%, 75% 50%, 25%, or 0% on getting one of those five sacred spots through the hopes that they earned it because of their quality, and not because of a big For Your Consideration campaign. Let’s get started.

The films that have a 100% chance

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Isle of Dogs: Wes Anderson is a darling of the award scene, and if you doubt that, you will need to see the how many awards The Grand Budapest Hotel won (I love that movie). Plus, it’s a unique stop-motion animated feature and it did pretty good business when it was in its limited release run before hitting wide release.

Ralph Breaks the Internet: While some may say the original is better, I find the sequel to Wreck it Ralph to be even better. I think it handled its concept extremely well, it was funny, charming, touching, and overall, was another home run from the major Disney animation front. I find that it’s going to age better as an animated feature than the other big Disney/Pixar film out now.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse: Before I saw this film, I was excited, but hesitant about it getting any award chance. However, as the nominations started to stack up, and I finally saw the film, yeah, it was incredible. It’s easily the best US-made animated feature of 2018, and it would be surprising if the Academy turned this film down. Like I said though, its multiple award nominations will definitely help get it nominated for an Oscar.

Mirai: If GKids had a potential film this year, it would be Mirai. They are marketing like it’s a Ghibli film, it’s been getting the biggest festival push, it’s gotten rave reviews from critics who have seen it, and its story and setting can be universally approachable to any voter in the academy. Or at the very least, it should be, because the Academy has some kind of issue against Japanese non-Ghibli movies, but I digress.

Ruben Brandt Collector: Sony Pictures Classics might not pick up as many animated features as GKids or Shout! Factory, but they pick out unique films that stand out among the rest, and you would have to be blind to not see the unique and visually stunning Ruben Brandt Collector. Along with its surreal art style, it’s a more mature animated feature, and the Academy would look really good if they chose something that was unique and different. Plus, Sony Pictures Classics is a favorite among the voters.

The films that have a 75% chance

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Lu Over the Wall: before I knew GKids picked up Mirai, this was the film I was going to place my entire bet on which GKids film was going to get the Oscar love. While it might fall apart in the third act, and normal viewers will compare it a lot to Ghibli’s Ponyo or Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Lu Over the Wall is still a fantastic film with a unique art style, and likable characters. It’s more approachable to non-foreign animation viewers than Masaaki Yuasa’s other option in this race.

Tito and the Birds: A foreign animated feature with a grunge art style that sticks out, and is about a world that is infested with a virus that is caused by fear and paranoia? Yeah, this is an ideal film that could be very approachable to Oscar voters. It’s stylish, but also has a message. It gets a bit of that nostalgia with a lot of the inspiration for this great film being from 80s adventure films like The Goonies. It’s a topical film that has themes that can be timeless of how we should stand together against the fear-mongering individuals.

Incredibles 2: While the critical reception of the film is starting to die down as people realize that the film is good, but still not Pixar’s best and wasn’t worth the wait, the first film in the series did win an Oscar, and the Academy does love its safe bets, but we will have to see. The Academy also doesn’t like nominating Pixar sequels that aren’t Toy Story.

The Night is Short, Walk on Girl: I’m more hopeful about this movie, because it’s an adult animated feature, but it’s not adult in the sense of a stoner comedy, but adult in its themes, visuals, and humor. It’s a wild ride, but it’s probably a bit too experimental and zany for individuals who are looking for more “safe” features.

Maquia: When the Promised Flowers Bloom: I think it would be smart for the voters to look into this one to give an animated theatrical feature by a female director a chance, because it’s easily one of the most endearing and personally touching films of 2018. It’s one of the few films this year that has made me cry, and it has a unique and intensely intimate story about motherhood. I think the only thing that might hurt this film’s chances is that it’s a non-Ghibli Japanese feature, and the designs are not its greatest strengths.

The films that have a 50% chance

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Liz and the Blue Bird: On one hand, the Academy has a huge bias against Japanese animation that isn’t made from Ghibli. On the other hand, the Academy sure does love its small-scale character-driven dramas. It’s a smaller-scale film that might turn people off who want to see more epic-scale adventures or stories, but Liz and the Blue Bird is one of the best character-focused stories of 2018, but I don’t know if it fully has a chance.

Early Man: I would love to see Aardman get a nomination, simply because Early Man is a pretty good movie. However, I do think what will hurt it ultimately is that the film is too simple, and it just got buried under Black Panther. It doesn’t help that Lionsgate’s company Summit Entertainment didn’t really do well at marketing the film or releasing it during a proper period of time. It just sucks that this film will get overlooked, but it’s also a film I feel like that kneecaps itself for being award-worthy. We will have to see.

MFKZ: I probably should put this on the 25% chance, but it’s a film that could make for an interesting choice, because it’s basically They Live (the John Carpenter horror movie) mixed with French/Japanese animation. It’s a thrill ride of over-the-top action, characters, and the Academy is always looking for something different that stands out. They might as well go with the one that stands out the most.

Smallfoot: While surviving pretty well in the top 10 box office films of September and through October, Smallfoot simply didn’t make a lasting impression. It’s a shame, because Smallfoot might be one of the biggest animated surprises of 2018. It might have a few jokes that fall flat, but it has a story that kept me and many others invested.

The films that have a 25% chance

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Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation: While this might be the best film of the series with the most consistent visuals, story, characters, and laughs, no one really talks about the film anymore, and its popularity came and went fast. Plus, the others haven’t had a chance in Hades of getting nominated, and that’s no different here. Maybe it had a chance if it was released last year, but sadly, it has very little here.

On Happiness Road: While I am aware of this movie, it’s still going through its festival run, and I haven’t heard of a US distributor for it yet. It was at the Annecy 2018 film festival, but this film has no presence in the US, even though it does look great. Maybe its positive reviews will give it some clout, but it has very little chance in the award show circuit.

Teen Titans Go to the Movies: I like this movie, but it’s a film based on a TV show. It has very little chance in getting any kind of buzz. It’s also worth noting that it’s also another superhero movie. If a superhero film this year is going to get some kind of major award, it’s Black Panther.

Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero: I can sum up why this film has very little chance. It’s the biggest animated failure of 2018. At the very least, the other big animated flops like Early Man and Sherlock Gnomes made back their main budgets. When you can’t even muster $5 mil of a $25 mil budget, then that’s saying something. It might have its setting to boast about, but let’s not kid ourselves here. I don’t think anyone truly cared, or even knew about this film.

The films that have a 0% chance

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Ana and Bruno: While I know Ana and Bruno is a big deal in Mexican animation as it’s the most expensive animated feature from that part of the world, but outside of the animation scene, do people even know about this flick? It has slightly higher than average ratings, but who is distributing this film? I’m sorry, but this is one of the most obscure animated films in the submissions. It also has some less than stellar animation. It unfortunately has no chance.

Have a Nice Day: The only noteworthy element of this film is the controversy it caused last year for getting removed by China’s government for no real reason. It also has some interesting story beats, but with the very limited animation, and its fairly clunky story, there is no way this film has a chance. Plus, no one really knows about it.

Fireworks: I still stand that this is GKids’ worst outing in a while. The story is terrible, it wastes so any opportunities, because it needed to stick to the original story of the TV show episode it’s based on, and it’s not even the best looking animated feature from Japan this year. It’s a shame that the reviews were pretty much spot-on with this one. If you like it, that’s fine, but it has no chance when Mirai is the superior flick.

Sherlock Gnomes: I’m sorry to all of the people who worked hard on this film, but this has no chance! It was widely panned by critics and audiences, bombed at the box office, and is one of the few films I think I can safely say had no reason to exist. No one was asking for a sequel to a film no one cared about.

Dr. Seuss’s The Grinch: The Grinch might be making money, but that’s all it’s going to do. Illumination got lucky with Despicable Me 2 getting an Oscar nomination, but they haven’t been getting much award love since. No one will be talking about this Grinch until next Christmas, when people are reminded that Illumination made another one. Just because you made a lot of cash, doesn’t mean you will rake in the awards.

Tall Tales: I’m going to sound like a broken record, but it was very hard to find information about this movie, and it has no real presence in the US animation scene. It doesn’t even have any presence in the overall animation scene. When no one has any opinion or knowledge of your film, how are you going to expect an Oscar nomination?

The Laws of the Universe Part 1: The very first film in this series was submitted back a couple of years ago, but since no one I know talks about either that or this film, it has no chance. I know Elevenarts is finally putting their films on DVD, but when I haven’t been able to see either film because of limited screenings, then that’s a problem. It’s also going to have to beat out the other amazing anime titles of this year, and it simply won’t.

 

There you go! These are my predictions of which films have a chance, and what films have no chance in making it onto the list. Hopefully the Academy will get over their hatred for non-US animated features, but we will have to see how long that lasts.

121: Have a Nice Day

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated and live-action films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

For the last two years, I have seen China start to put their foot down, and really compete with animation. While not a great movie, The Monkey King: Hero is Back was a competent action-adventure flick that raked in millions. Big Fish & Begonia, a decade old 2D-animated film is getting positive reviews, and is coming out this year thanks to Funimation and Shout! Factory.  In general, it’s good to see that they want to put a lot of effort into their future projects, and not just coax by on cheap-animated schlock. Another animated film that I was looking forward to coming out in the states was Have a Nice Day. Directed by Liu Jian, Have a Nice Day made waves in the news when it was pulled from the Annecy Film Festival last year by the Chinese government. This caused a huge controversial backlash toward the country, because not only was China the guest country at the festival, but it was also considered a move of censorship by the country. While it was winning awards around the festival circuit, is Have a Nice Day worth the hype and controversy? Well, kind of. Let’s dive in.

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Have a Nice Day is a dark comedy with a mix of social commentary revolving around a cab driver who robs someone of $150 grand in US currency to help his girlfriend in South Korea with her plastic surgery.  Unfortunately for him, that money belonged to a mob boss, and it then turns into this mad dash between multiple characters to get that money from one another.

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Let’s talk about the most standout aspect of Have a Nice Day, the animation. Now, usually, I consider animation to be moving drawn pictures, or CGI models moving around. Have a Nice Day really stretches the terms of animation. A lot of the films are in still frames with mouths staying open when they talk. There is some movement, but it’s more like an underground motion comic. I can perfectly understand why this might turn people off. It all looks fine, but it’s as if you took still frames, and took inspiration from the animation philosophy from Adult Swim’s early days. I can understand if this was done on a shoe-string budget, and there wasn’t enough left over for the animation, but this will definitely put people off.  I know I have given the country flack for its bad animation, and while this one was probably more due to artistic decisions or budget limitations, it’s almost not an animated film. I know that sounds sort of gate-keeping to not call it animation, but once you see the trailer for this film, it’s understandable.

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So, since the animation is hugely kneecapped, what does this film have to counter-balance for the lack of animation? Thankfully, the best aspect of the movie is the dialogue. While you are definitely looking at a bunch of still frames, the dialogue between characters is interesting. It has a few solid jokes thrown in from time to time that are legit funny. It’s also interesting to see a bunch of the characters, major and minor, talk about money, and how China looks at money. Maybe that’s why it was pulled from the festival, but I personally found nothing offensive about this film, but I’m a white guy from Texas, so what do I know? It reminds me of The Rabbi’s Cat, since that film also had some odd animation, but you were kept invested with the film’s dialogue. The film also has a build-up to an immensely funny punchline at the end, but I won’t spoil it here.

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While I did find admiration that this was a mostly one-man job, I think my favorite aspect of the sound design was the music. Yes, there is one really random musical sequence in the film, but my favorite bit of music was the opening song by The Shanghai Restoration Project. It had a nice jazzy blues feel that fit over the decrepit and broken side of China. If anyone is curious, the track is called Dark Horse. While the animation was fairly, um, still, I found the acting to be pretty solid. I won’t say I remember one person being better than the other, but the chemistry between everyone felt cohesive. It was interesting to see how the acting would gel with the limited animation, and I was not all that distracted by it. Then again, I knew going in that this film would live and die by its dialogue and character interaction.

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Now then, let’s talk about the downsides. The animation is going to split people so hard down the middle. On one hand, it’s a style, and the director worked within his limitations of budget and time, while using more artistic liberties with what can be considered “animation”. On the other hand, it feels pointless to make this an animated film, because of how limiting the animation is. Sure, you can get the gestures and movements from the simple frames, but at the same time, it’s really pushing the definition of animation. It’s definitely going to distract a lot of people, and whether this was a purposeful decision or not, I did find myself at points being pulled out of the experience. While I love the entire punchline to the film at the end, it is a grind to get there. It’s not a very long movie, but it takes its time slow-burning its way to the finish line. It also does that thing where it cuts off at the end, leaving the ending to be up in the air in terms of what exactly happened after the big climatic sequence. I mean, sure, you can pick up what might have happened, but I think the film would have worked better with more closure. Then again, I know this technique is popular among many filmmakers like Tarantino, so your mileage may vary with the ending.

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While I was definitely happy to have a Movie Pass for this film, I’m still very glad I went out and supported it. It’s good to support original films and smaller creators if their films are showing in theaters in your area. I’m happy to see Chinese animation get ambitious with their goals with the medium, and while Have a Nice Day doesn’t check off all the boxes, it’s a way more important and interesting movie that’s out right now than 50 Shades Freed and that pointless Death Wish remake. If you can find a way to watch it, I would definitely recommend checking it out. Just look up the trailer for the film first to see if you might be into it. Well, let’s continue the support of animated films from overseas and look at the Annie Award-winning and Oscar-nominated The Breadwinner. Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed the review, and I will see you all next time.

Rating: Rent It!