Are we in a golden age of animation? To start, Pixar just keeps getting better and better; critics almost unanimously voted WALL-E the best picture of 2008 -- not just the best animated film, but the best film. And their new Up has racked up nearly equal praise. So far two of the best films I've seen in 2009 are animated features, Henry Selick's Coraline and Nina Paley's Sita Sings the Blues. Coraline was filmed in stop-motion 3D, and Sita was mostly hand-drawn with some computer assist. Filmmakers seem to have perfected 3D this year, not only in live-action features, but in animated features like Coraline, Monsters vs. Aliens, Battle for Terra and Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs.
Computer animation, which recently looked like it was going to take over for good, has now simply become one of the many tools an animator can use: Disney has gone back to hand-drawn this year with the upcoming The Princess and the Frog, and Hayao Miyazaki's hand-drawn Ponyo is also opening Stateside soon. And best of all, some animated features are being aimed at grown-ups, such as Sita Sings the Blues and Tatia Rosenthal's terrific $9.99. In recent years, even the Oscar-nominated short films have been released to theaters as a collection. And there are still at least half-a-dozen more big films coming out by the end of the year (including 9, Astro Boy, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, etc.) That's a large selection, with a remarkable amount of variety and quality. The question I have to ask myself, however is, what would Disney think? Back in 1940, when he released Fantasia, he clearly envisioned something higher and more profound for this beloved art form that he helped to pioneer. Have we reached that zenith this year, or do we still have a ways to go? What, dear readers, are your thoughts on the animated movies of 2009?