10 Perfectly Average Animated Movies That Are Worth A Watch
- With the Oscar nominees for Best Animated Feature Film representing the very best in the genre for the 95th Academy Awards, it’s hard to find any discussion about animation outside the usual praise for Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish and Turning Red. Fans looking for entertaining (but not quite groundbreaking) animated movies will be glad to know that they have plenty to choose from.
Since the release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937, the world of animated films has exploded. Many animated movies have gone on to become some of the most financially successful and critically acclaimed films of all time and push the art form to new limits. However, their heights can overshadow other films released at the same time.
The general discourse surrounding media these days leans towards extremes. Many people are quick to label a product as either amazing or awful, with little room in-between. This makes it more important to acknowledge the average: these films didn’t set out to change the world, just entertain and tell a good story.
Updated on February 3rd, 2023, by Hannah Saab:
With the Oscar nominees for Best Animated Feature Film representing the very best in the genre for the 95th Academy Awards, it’s hard to find any discussion about animation outside the usual praise for Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish and Turning Red. Fans looking for entertaining (but not quite groundbreaking) animated movies will be glad to know that they have plenty to choose from.
1 ‘We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story’ (1993)
Based on Hudson Talbott‘s children’s book, three dinosaurs and one pterosaur are brought to the modern day by a time traveler from the future, who grants them sentience one of the best cartoon movies of the 90s. They end up lost in New York City and befriend two kids named Louie and Cecilia. As they navigate the city, they also encounter the time traveler’s evil brother.
While the plot can be a little all over the place, We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story offers plenty of fun moments and characters. Despite its colorful animation and cartoony designs for the prehistoric animals, the film isn’t afraid to dip into dark territory, especially in the climax. The voice cast is also wonderful, including John Goodman, Yeardley Smith, Martin Short and even celebrities like Walter Cronkite and Julia Child.
2 ‘The Swan Princess’ (1994)
When Princess Odette is born to King William, he and his friend, Queen Uberta, agree to betroth their children to unite their kingdom. Unfortunately, Uberta’s son, Derek, offends Odette, and she and her father depart for home. Before Derek can make amends, an evil sorcerer kills William and turns Odette into a swan in a bid to force her to marry him.
Director Richard Rich got his start working at Disney, and it shows in The Swan Princess. The plot is very formulaic to Disney’s animated musicals during their Renaissance, but this isn’t a bad thing if you’re a fan of that formula. The characters are all likable, the songs are memorable enough, and the animation is beautiful, especially during the transformation sequences.
3 ‘Osmosis Jones’ (2001)
Frank DeTorre is a single father who copes with the death of his wife by overeating. Inside his body, a white blood cell named Osmosis Jones works with his fellow immune system to protect the City of Frank from foreign pathogens. But when Frank’s lifestyle brings in a deadly germ named Thrax, Jones is forced to team up with a cold pill named Drix.
Osmosis Jones combines buddy-buddy cop clichés with inventive visuals and plenty of body and health-related jokes. The result is a fun movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously while retaining a message about personal health that kids can understand. The film bombed on release, but inspire a cartoon series called Ozzy and Drix.
4 ‘Cars’ (2005)
Up-and-coming rooky Lightning McQueen is in the running to be the youngest winner of the coveted Piston Cup. On the way to his next race, he falls out of his trailer and ends up damaging the road leading to a town in the middle of nowhere. Now McQueen has to repair the road before he’ll be allowed to leave, though some time away from the fame and fortune might do him good.
Cars has Pixar’s typical beautiful animation and heart, and the racing scenes look beautiful. While the story doesn’t deviate very far from your typical hot-shot who needs to learn humility tale, it’s supported by some strong vocal performances and memorable characters. It also boasts one of Pixar’s best climaxes.
5 ‘Happy Feet’ (2006)
Mumble is an emperor penguin born with a love for tap dancing. This ostracizes him from his colony, which relies on singing to choose a mate. It does win him the friendship of five adelie penguins who encourage Mumble’s talents, and help him discover evidence of human fishing that threatens the penguin’s food supplies.
Happy Feet‘s CGI can be a little jarring, especially when the emperor penguins move their beaks, and the use of popular music can be a little distracting. However, the film makes up for this with its wonderful storytelling, which touches on themes of self-belief, religious dogma and encroachment. The cast is also fantastic, including big names like Elijah Wood, Hugh Jackman and Robin Williams.
6 ‘Alpha and Omega’ (2010)
Richard Rich is back to produce the story of Humphrey and Kate, two wolves from different social spheres within their pack. As an alpha, Kate is expected to marry the wolf of a rival pack, while Humphrey tries to keep everyone happy as an Omega jokester. Unfortunately, they’re both captured by conservationists and taken far away from home, which threatens war between the two packs.
Alpha and Omega doesn’t try to be anything more than what it is: a cute story about forbidden love vs responsibility. Still, it has some fun characters, and the design of the wolves is cute and expressive. The film spawned a franchise of direct-to-DVD sequels, which Rich directed.
7 ‘Epic’ (2013)
Seventeen-year-old Mary Katherine goes to live with her eccentric scientist father, who has devoted his life to proving the existence of tiny faeries called leafmen. She ends up meeting their dying queen, who uses the last of her magic to shrink M.K down to her size and gifts her a magic seed pod. In order for her to return to normal size, M.K will have to take the pod to a forest wizard while avoiding the evil king Mandrake, who wants to corrupt it.
Epic certainly lives up to its name in terms of its art style, which perfectly captures the beauty and dread of a magical forest. It also has a beautiful orchestral score by Danny Elfman that makes great use of violins to give the film a folktale tone. The story is nothing to write home about, but it has a good flow and heartfelt center.
8 ‘Turbo’ (2013)
A garden snail named Turbo is the protagonist who spends his nights watching old racing videos and dreaming that one day he’ll be able to race alongside the greats. Unfortunately, his daydreaming and eagerness to prove his speed gets him and his older brother fired from their job in a tomato garden. Things turn around, however, when an accident grants Turbo the qualities of a racecar.
While not of the same quality as DreamWorks’ giants like Shrek, Kung Fu Panda or How to Train Your Dragon, Turbo has plenty of charm. Along with telling a classic underdog story, the film also explores the relationship between siblings with Turbo and his brother, and two brothers who run a taco stand that help Turbo achieve his dream. There’s also a wonderful gaggle of side characters, including a wacky snail voiced by Samuel L. Jackson.
9 ‘The Book of Life’ (2014)
On the day of the dead, two gods notice two boys vying for the mayor’s daughter and decide to wager on which will succeed. One of them, Manolo, wishes to become a musician, despite his father’s assistance that he must be a bullfighter. The other, Joaquin, wishes to be a great hero like his father, thanks to a medal of immortality granted to him by his god.
The story in The Book of Life is a nice tale about following your dreams told through gorgeous animation and wonderful depictions of Mexican culture. The characters are a lot of fun and very diverse, but the show-stealer is the god Xibalba. Voiced by Ron Perlman, who voiced villains in Teen Titans and Adventure Time, he is a trickster god who has little faith in humanity and is willing to do anything to win.
10 ‘Luck’ (2022)
Sam Greenfield is a young woman who seems doomed to perpetual bad luck. This changes when she finds a lucky penny dropped by a black cat, which grants her incredible luck. She ends up losing it, and in trying to get another, discovers that the cat talks and works for a secret organization that creates good and bad luck.
Luck is the first film released by Skydance Animation and was heavily marketed thanks to John Lasseter serving as a producer. Its story is as bog-standard as a human going into a magical world where everything is run like a bureaucracy can be, but it still has creative moments. This is especially true when they travel to the realm of bad luck, which helps show that sometimes when bad things happen, they can lead to new possibilities.