Kung-Fu, Lizards & Dracula: Favourite CGI Animated Films

I love animation as a medium, in all forms. This list is the flipside to my favourite Anime films list from a few weeks ago. While there’s been a bit of grumbling about Computer Animated films in recent years (Disney “same face” syndrome), it’s a constantly evolving and improving field and frankly quite impressive to see how far it’s come since titles like the first Toy Story. A common thread you’ll find with all my favorites is how stylized they are—creating unique worlds not possible with live-action.

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

Spider-Man falls downwards into the city, but the angle is reversed, so it appears he is falling upwards

Universally acclaimed for a reason, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is the definitive comic book movie. Period. Every frame is a work of art, with bright vibrant colors and eye-catching sound-effect bubbles and gradients. You could pause at any moment and hang the screenshot up on your wall. I don’t even believe you need to know much about Spider-Man to enjoy this, though it does help when it comes to the villains who show up. It’s not often I see a film in theatres more than once, but when we left Into The Spider-Verse for the first time my SO and I were already planning round 2.

Hotel Transylvania

The mummy, a werewolf woman and man, the invisible man, Frankenstein, the bridge of Frankenstein and Dracula stand together

Genndy Tartakovsky’s cartoons were certainly a huge part of my childhood. Dexter’s Lab and Samurai Jack are both charming and have a trademark style to them, which I’m happy to say was translated well to CGI. The way Dracula and the other classic monsters move and speak in Hotel Translyvania is expressive as hell, smooth and flowy, and wonderfully over-the-top. The story of Dracula’s daughter falling in love with a surfer dude is quite cute as well. While it has 2 sequels (and a 4th in development), I still think the first film is the best of the trio.


Rango and Beans stare at each other

A decade has passed since Rango released and I think it deserves some more love. Johnny Depp hams it up as the titular lizard as he makes his way through a wild-west style town and helps figure out a plot involving the local water supply. What I love about the film is it isn’t afraid to have ugly and unique designs. Rango himself has a cute crick in his neck, the townsfolk have moles, splotches and are covered in dirt. Everyone looks worn-down and ragged, exactly as they would be in the climate! It’s got tons of references to other movies which fits in well as Rango is desperate to be somebody himself. There’s an all-star voice cast with Isla Fisher, Ned Beatty, Alfred Molina, and Bill Nighy, among others.


Ellie and Carl smile and look at themselves in a mirror

I’m not a huge fan of more recent Pixar films, but I’ll always have a special place in my heart for Up. The grumpy old man, Carl, rediscovering how to have fun and enjoy life, as well as the memorable visual of his adorable flying house sticks with me to this day. I still remember, during the wonderfully executed sequence of Carl and Ellie’s life, from childhood to Ellie’s passing, my brother turned to me and said “I didn’t know this was going to be so sad!” Meanwhile, I was sobbing. Thankfully things get a bit more light-hearted from there.

Kung-Fu Panda 2

Po the panda talks to his father the goose


Even though I said above that the first Hotel Translyvania is the best one, that’s not always the case with sequels. I believe Kung-Fu Panda 2 takes the story to new heights and outdoes the previous one in terms of animation and story. Po the panda learning what happened to the rest of his species and learning inner peace is honestly pretty inspiring, while Gary Oldman as an evil white peacock is beautiful and terrifying! The trilogy of films tells a great overall story and I’d definitely say go for all of them if you feel up to it.

Pokémon: Detective Pikachu

Pikachu stands in the middle of a road looking sad

I fully admit I was not looking forward to this before it released. I love Pokémon. The worry of this film being bad, especially with the track record for bad video-game movie adaptations completely took over my mind. When the trailers and eventually early reviews for it started to come out I became hopeful. We ended up seeing it opening night and I cried, so you can say I changed my mind!

To see the love and care that went into animating each Pokémon, and how detailed the world itself is with advertisements, businesses, and background elements brought me so much joy. Generally, I find “real life” Pokémon are overly detailed and gross looking but they didn’t go too far here. The story was pretty good and Ryan Reynolds is always hilarious, he does a great job as the talking Pikachu. Considering this film is finally on Canadian Netflix…I think it’s time for a rewatch.

The idea that one style of animation is better or worse than another should be put to rest. The years that go into these films, whether animated traditionally frame-by-frame or with computers, should be commended. I feel very lucky that we have so many talented people creating these gorgeous worlds!

Written by Lor Gislason

Lor is the resident Indie Game Outreach Expert (patent pending) of 25YL Gaming who will talk your ear off about Wholesome games and Roguelites.

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