With the upcoming release of Lightyear, I thought it’d be fun to rank my favorite non-Disney animated films. In doing this, I realized that there’s not many of those that I love, so this is a very interesting ranking. With that said, here are my top ten favorite non-Disney animated movies.
10. Despicable Me 2
I don't really love any of the Despicable Me movies, but the second one is my favorite. It introduces Lucy, who acts as a nice foil to Gru and adds a minimal amount of emotion to this franchise. Steve Carell is as funny as ever. The minions are really fun in here. The villain is memorable. I may be in the minority here, but I think Despicable Me 2 outdoes the original Despicable Me.
9. Horton Hears a Who!
Easily the best of the modern Dr. Seuss adaptations, Horton Hears a Who! benefits greatly from Jim Carrey and Steve Carell as the respective voices of Horton and the Mayor. It feels like a true adaptation of the book. It has the heart, the wackiness, and the cleverness of Dr. Seuss's writing. The animation isn't fantastic, but besides that, I think this is a really fun movie.
8. The LEGO Movie
The LEGO Movie is what happens when you take a gimmick and make it great. The idea of a movie made out of LEGOs is a terrible one...until you give it a great script with a meta-edge, wonderful voice talent, and extremely likable characters. The LEGO Movie is this weird mix of fantasy action, superheroes, and psychological sci-fi, like The Matrix. It's a strange movie, but somehow, it works.
7. The Mitchells vs. the Machines
The Mitchells vs. the Machines is a beautifully animated, perfectly written family movie. it starts off as this simple film about a dysfunctional family that learns how to work together by battling the robot apocalypse. That is an utterly insane concept...but it works entirely. The characters are all likable and interesting in their own way. The emotions are heavy. But it also manages to just be really fun and funny. It has one of the best finales in an animated movie, where every single moment is just a satisfying payoff. This is a really fun movie that I think is criminally underrated.
6. The Simpsons Movie
The Simpsons Movie is hilarious. I think that it's consistently funnier than the show itself. It does feel like a longer episode of The Simpsons...but if that's the case, this is one of the funniest episodes of the show. It ups all of the craziness and the satire that's present in the series and makes you laugh constantly throughout. It balances all of the characters in the ways you want. It has a ridiculous plot that could only be on The Simpsons. This feels like peak-Simpsons humor. It's great.
5. The LEGO Batman Movie
The LEGO Batman Movie takes everything that worked about The LEGO Movie and applies it to the Dark Knight. It's hilarious, but it also strangely works as a character study of Bruce Wayne. Will Arnett's Batman is actually one of the better takes on the character. The storytelling does sometimes take a backseat for cameos galore, but it works. It's fun to see the Joker enter the Phantom Zone and meet Voldemort and Sauron. This movie is bizarre and nuts, but it also has heart and tells a great Batman story.
I don't really like Illumination, but I find Sing to be shockingly great. I don't know why, but the concept of the movie really works for me. Buster Moon is a great protagonist, and he's backed by an ensemble of characters that end up having great arcs. The film balances all of its storylines and characters really well. A lot of non-Disney animated movies are really chaotic, packed with pop music, loud characters, and fart jokes, but Sing doesn't do that. I think it's the most Disney-feeling non-Disney movie, and I love it for that.
3. Kubo and the Two Strings
If you wanna talk about films that aren't ridiculously loud and over-the-top, Kubo and the Two Strings should be in that conversation. I would argue that this is not a kid's movie. Kids can watch it, but this is legitimate, serious fantasy. It goes dark. And I love it for that. It's an epic adventure tale that has stakes and intensity. It borrows from films such as The Seven Samurai and other high fantasy epics. The stop-motion animation that Laika is so amazing with is just gorgeous. I love this movie. If you have not seen it, I highly recommend.
2. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
In an era packed with superhero movies, Spider-Verse manages to stand out. I remember when this movie was about to come out. It had no buzz. Nobody thought it was going to be good. And then it wowed audiences. It was the first movie to bring the multiverse craze into movies. But, beyond that, it gives us a great Spider-Man movie. Miles Morales is an incredible protagonist that I can't wait to see more of, and his arc in this movie is just fantastic. The animation is jaw-dropping. The story is nuts, but also has an emotional resonance that other superhero movies fail to capture. This movie is just so unique and so good. I can't say anything about it that hasn't already been said.
I would say Coraline is better than most Disney movies. I think it's probably one of my five favorite animated movies of all time. It's damn near perfect. The animation is absolutely incredible. But what really works is the story. It starts off as this wondrous fantastical adventure that slowly turns into a true horror film. And I absolutely adore that. The Other Mother is one of the scariest villains of all time. And I love how they use her character. There are just so many things that this movie absolutely nails. The tone and vibe are perfect, the characters are great, the animation is beautiful. I have to check out more Laika movies, because the two that I've watched are both amazing. But I adore Coraline, and I think it's easily the best non-Disney animated movie.