12. Big Hero 6 (2014)
A teenage genius grieving the sudden loss of his older brother inherits an inflatable nurse robot and teams up with fellow gifted youngsters to stop a costumed supervillain.
Big Hero 6 is a colourful sci-fi/superhero team romp adapting an obscure Marvel title that deals with grief and sibling relationships with maturity in addition to offering impressive action and one of the most lovable characters in animation, inflatable robot Baymax.
You can feel almost overwhelmed by the colour and spectacle at times, and there’s probably one too many training montages, but you’d have to be particularly determined to not feel anything in the emotionally-charged latter stages of the film.
Laika, Ghibli and Cartoon Saloon were all beaten to the punch by Disney this year… again.
Recommended for you: Laika Animated Movies Ranked
11. Rango (2011)
A daydreaming chameleon ejected from his comfortable life as a pet finds his way to a frontier town with a water shortage where he pretends to be a hardened outlaw hero.
This is Chinatown-meets-Shane but with rather frightening anthropomorphised desert animals including omniscient owl mariachis. Rango is a stunningly detailed, atmospheric and compelling animated Western adventure. Your mileage on the humour will depend in large part on your tolerance for Johnny Depp’s go-to weirdo routine, but the energy, the playful approach to genre conventions, and director Gore Verbinski’s obvious film literacy carries it through.
It was refreshing to see such a clearly passion-fuelled animation from Paramount and Nickelodeon recognised by the Academy, the first since Happy Feet not to come from Disney or Pixar.
10. Soul (2020)
A struggling jazz musician gets his big break before suddenly dying and being forced to evaluate his life choices in readiness for the afterlife. He then attempts to return to his body on Earth.
One of Pixar’s more mature efforts, exploring passion, purpose and the meaning of everything we live through via the prism of African-American racial identity and the mediums of music and expressionist (bordering on surrealist) animation.
The film is notable for its wide range of characters brought to life in different animation styles in its weirdly wonderful version of purgatory, as well as having the first black male protagonist in a Pixar film.
Ireland-based animators Cartoon Saloon released their fourth feature, Wolfwalkers and earned their fourth Oscar nomination this year (always the bridesmaid).
9. Toy Story 3 (2010)
With their owner Andy all grown up and heading to college, Woody and his toy friends face an uncertain future until they make it to the seemingly idyllic Sunnyside Daycare Centre.
Toy Story 3 is a wonderful capping of Pixar’s first franchise, giving every character satisfying resolutions to their arcs and taking the story to some daring, heartbreaking places; providing ample opportunity for adults who grew up with these characters to ugly-cry.
The final incinerator set piece is one of the most effective and affecting on film, never mind animation, and you’d be hard-pressed to think of another concluding chapter (until the post-script Toy Story 4) that feels this singular and complete.
French animation auteur Sylvian Chomet received his second Oscar nomination this year for Jacques Tati tribute The Illusionist, but it’s really hard to begrudge Pixar’s win for this masterpiece.