Friday, February 24, 2017


Welcome to our special OSCAR WEEK SERIES of reviews. This series will go through the seven categories in which an award is given based on the entire film (rather than any one constituent element). This sixth review in the series will go through the ANIMATED FEATURE FILM nominees.


Kubo and the Two Strings is a stop motion animated feature from LAIKA. The film, directed by Travis Knight, follows a young boy with magical powers named Kubo who is on the run from and being attacked by his Grandfather and Aunts and must get the help of a monkey and a beetle to help him complete an epic quest to defeat his external foes as well as his inner demons. This film struck a real chord with me on an emotional level. Oh, and it’s the most stunning film I saw in 2016.

To call Kubo and the Two Strings beautiful would be underselling it. How they made this film is mind boggling and if you want great visual spectacle this is it. It also had extremely strong performances across the board. All of this is technical, however. The thing that moved me about Kubo and the Two Strings was the story and the deep themes of grief, family, and moving on. I was just astonished by what saw and what it made me feel. That experience is one you don’t always get in films and I most certainly did in this film. This is a film I will come back for many years to come and is an instant classic.

Ryan’s Score: 10/10

Check out James’ review here.


Moana is the latest 3D animated film in Disney’s princess line (although the film doesn’t want you to call her a princess). Directed by animation giants Ron Clements and John Musker this film follows the story of a young girl who is the daughter of the chief of a Pacific Island tribe who is drawn to exploration on the sea. She is forced on an adventure to save her island from rot due to mystical things going on with their deities which gets Moana mixed up with a self-important demigod named Maui on an adventure.

I think Moana is definitively the most standard film amongst this year’s animated feature nominees. It is mostly well animated, has great music, and great voice performances. There isn’t anything in this that was particularly unique, however. There are many classic Disney tropes throughout this film and I really just left it saying “that was fine.” It’s not bad by any means, it’s just not special which is the standard in a year as stacked with great animated content as 2016 was. Definitely worth watching though. Lead performer Auli’i Cravalho is going places, she is really excellent. The soundtrack is also worth every penny.

Ryan’s Score: 7/10

Check out James’ review here.


The Red Turtle is a hand-drawn animated feature that was a co-production with The Wild Bunch and the world acclaimed Studio Ghibli. The film is directed by Dutch director MichaĆ«l Dudok de Wit and tells the story of a nameless man on a deserted island who in his efforts to escape is terrorized by a mysterious red turtle. I thought this was an extremely interesting and artful film but also one that didn’t really hook me or connect emotionally.

The Red Turtle is certainly a beautifully animated film. The Ghibli style is present and, though this isn’t their most beautiful film, it is incredibly good looking where most frames in the film could be on any gallery wall. I also thought that the musical pairing worked really well with this film. With basically no dialogue, the sound effects and music are essential to the success of The Red Turtle and I think those generally work. The issue I alluded to is that I didn’t connect with it and I’m still not entirely sure what it’s trying to say. I have a good idea (that I can’t get into here) but there are still a lot of questions in my mind about it. It’s hard to put my thumb on exactly what this film didn’t do for me but I think that is a viewer by viewer assessment. Overall, I thought this was a fine animated film but definitively more of an art piece than anything else.

Ryan’s Score: 7/10


Zootopia is a 3D animated film from Disney. The film is directed by Byron Howard and Rich Moore and tells the story of a bunny named Judy Hopps who becomes a police officer in Zootopia and gets drawn into a case of animals nefariously disappearing and predators going savage. This is a delightful film with a good message for children about racism.

I remember seeing Zootopia fairly early in the year and I shocked by just how good it was. It was funny, charming, emotional, and took on some surprisingly heavy subjects. I didn’t have any idea that it would an illusion to racism or the problems surrounding racism and I was consistently surprised how mature it was tackling this concept and getting it across in a way I think kids will connect with. Yes, there are issues if you dig in like an adult, but for its audience this is a really wonderful message movie. On top of the story, it is well performed and stunningly well animated. I was massively impressed by this film and the only negative thing I would say is that it gets a little over-referential to a fault. It started to feel goofy and got too far away from the central story of our heroes we fell in love with. Definitely a must see though.

Ryan’s Score: 8.5/10

Check out Bailey’s review here.

My Life as a Zucchini was, unfortunately, unavailable for review.

Ryan’s Pick: Kubo and the Two Strings
Ryan’s Prediction: Zootopia
GoldDerby Experts Prediction: Zootopia

Thank you for checking out this article. Be sure to check back with us over the course of the lead up to the 89th Academy Awards!

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