Stop Motion Animated Feature Oscar Nominees Ranked

6. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio (2022)

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio Review

In this latest adaptation of Carlo Collodi’s 1883 novel “The Adventures of Pinocchio”, the masterful director Guillermo del Toro delivers the most moving and relevant retelling of the story to date, which took home the BAFTA for Best Animated Film.

Geppetto (David Bradley) is a woodcarver rendered distraught by the sudden death of his young son, Carlo (Gregory Mann), when a World War I bomb drops on their small Italian village. In a drunken rage, he builds a rough wooden puppet to replace Carlo and wishes him to come to life. In the morning, the puppet wakes as Pinocchio (also Mann) and embarks out into the world under the guidance of Sebastian J. Cricket (Ewan McGregor). As del Toro told Anthony Breznican at Vanity Fair, the story is about a child who’s ‘thrown into the world’ and must learn about life on his own. For the director, ‘The virtue Pinocchio has is to disobey. At a time when everybody else behaves as a puppet—he doesn’t.’

This film betrays a unique self-reflexivity by telling this story in stop motion with actual puppets that come to life. Set in Fascist Italy where everyone is expected to obey authority, the story draws parallels between the human characters and the cheerful, innocent puppet learning to follow his own moral compass. Based on illustrations by Gris Grimly, the character design reimagines Pinocchio as earthier, imperfect, and less cutesy, but he has real playfulness and heart. The emotional weight of the film is bolstered by recurring themes of religion and pacifism throughout del Toro’s oeuvre, and you might even shed a tear by the end.

5. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

Fantastic Mr. Fox Review

From acclaimed director Wes Anderson, this homespun and exciting film stamps the auteur’s signature narrative and visual style on a Roald Dahl story with a light-hearted, yet deeply moving focus.

Mr. Fox (George Clooney) and his wife Felicity (Meryl Streep) are successful bird thieves, but when they’re caught in a farmer’s trap, she reveals she’s pregnant and they decide to settle down. Years later, now a newspaper columnist, Mr. Fox wants to pull one final heist on the three most vicious farmers in the area, Boggis (Robin Hurlstone), Bunce (Hugo Guinness), and Bean (Michael Gambon). The middle-aged fox must protect his family and woodland community when the farmers seek revenge. The film also features many of Anderson’s usual players, including Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, Owen Wilson, and Adrien Brody.

Fantastic Mr. Fox is a shining example of the best of Anderson’s unique style. His masterful mise-en-scène creates a bright, cheerful, and colourful backdrop to the witty and heartfelt performances by stars Clooney and Streep. Mr. Fox undergoes organic character growth as he learns to put his family and community before his own interests. Despite the auteur’s characteristic symmetry and detachment, he brings a humanity to these inanimate puppets to tell a truly universal story about legacy, individuality, community, and gratitude for what you have.

4. Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

Laika boasts some of its finest, most beautiful animation in this sweeping story that tackles loss and heartache with maturity, honesty, and warmth.

In feudal Japan, an adventurous boy named Kubo (Art Parkinson) is skilled with controlling origami figures with his magical shamisen, a Japanese stringed instrument. With the help of Monkey (Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Matthew McConaughey), he must complete three quests and battle his evil aunts (Rooney Mara) and his grandfather, the Moon King (Ralph Fiennes), who broke up his family and stole his left eye as a baby.

The film has received wide acclaim for its stop motion craftsmanship and its seamless integration of CGI support in the background. The puppet design is particularly noteworthy due to its beautiful use of textiles and intricately detailed natural materials like leaves, branches, and feathers. Despite a disappointing box office performance, Kubo and the Two Strings was praised for its mature treatment of memory, storytelling, loss, and family, balanced with genuine hopefulness and joy. However, like Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs, director and Laika CEO Travis Knight’s Kubo and the Two Strings has been criticized for cultural appropriation and whitewashing the voice cast that is noticeably lacking in Japanese talent.

Recommended for you: Laika Animated Movies Ranked

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