ByAllanah Faherty, writer at
Senior staff writer | Twitter: @allanahfaherty | Email: [email protected]
Allanah Faherty

With more and more studios entering the game, 2016 was a bumper year for captivating, beautiful and original animated film. Although not every animated film is destined to become a classic, 2016 seemed to provide more than the usual amount of films that will be beloved for generations to come.

Take a look below to check out the best animated movies of 2016 (in order of release) to see what you might have missed over this outstanding year in the animation world:

Kung Fu Panda 3


Release date: 29 January, 2016

Another wonderful installment of the Kung Fu Panda franchise arrived in 2016, with the long awaited Kung Fu Panda 3. Many of the original voice cast line up returned for Po's latest adventure — including Jack Black, Angelina Jolie and Lucy Lui — with the addition of big named such as Bryan Cranston, J.K. Simmons and Kate Hudson as well. Take a look at the synopsis:

Jack Black returns as the voice of lovable martial-artist panda Po in the third adventure in this animated series. Po reunites with his long-lost father Li (Bryan Cranston), and the pair travel to a secret panda sanctuary. There, they must work together to defeat a new enemy: a powerful yak (J.K. Simmons) who grows stronger by stealing the life force of other warriors.


Judy [Walt Disney Animation Studios]
Judy [Walt Disney Animation Studios]

Release date: 4 March, 2016

Pixar brought us anthropomorphic toys back in 1995 with Toy Story, but in 2016 Disney introduced us to a world of anthropomorphic mammals in Zootopia! The story of hardworking, idealistic bunny cop, Judy Hopps and sly con-artist fox, Nick Wilde was hard not to love, and became another instant win for Disney. Check out the plot:

In a city inhabited by anthropomorphic animals who have abandoned traditional predator/prey roles in favor of civilized coexistence, uptight rabbit police officer Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin) is forced to work with charismatic fox con artist Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) to crack a major case involving the mysterious disappearance of some carnivorous citizens. But when a few of the missing critters reappear, having reverted to pre-enlightenment savagery, it exposes existing anti-carnivore prejudice among the city's herbivores that threatens to damage the fabric of their diverse metropolis.

Read more about Zootopia:

Finding Dory

Release date: 17 June, 2016

It was a sequel 12 years in the making, but Finding Dory was absolutely worth it. The first in a long line up of sequels from Pixar, this adorable movie once again took us under the sea to catch up with familiar characters, though this time it was Dory's turn to be in the spotlight. After bringing in over $1 billion at the box office, Finding Dory is the highest grossing film of 2016, proving that sometimes good things come to those who wait. Here's the synopsis:

In this sequel to Pixar's 2003 smash hit Finding Nemo, lovable, amnesiac blue tang Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres) decides to go off in search of her long-lost parents. With the help of young clown fish Nemo (Hayden Rolence) and his dad Marlin (Albert Brooks), Dory heads for California and the Monterey Marine Life Institute, evading predators along the way as she hopes to find a place she can call home.

Read more about Finding Dory:

The Secret Life of Pets

The pets of Secret Life of Pets [Illumination]
The pets of Secret Life of Pets [Illumination]

Release date: 8 July 2016

Ever wondered what your pet does all day when you're at work or school? Well that's exactly the question The Secret Life of Pets set about answering through the adorable characters Max, Duke and Gidget. The film, which was voiced by the likes of Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, Ellie Kemper and Jenny Slate, captured the attention of the young and young at heart when it debuted, and a sequel is already in the works for 2018. Take a peek at the storyline below:

This animated comedy from Illumination Entertainment asks the question: what do our pets do all day when we're not home? For the critters living in a Manhattan apartment building, the answer is: whatever they want! A terrier named Max (voice of Louis C.K.) regularly invites his friends to hang out at his place while his owner (Ellie Kemper) is gone, but his quiet life is upended when said owner also takes in Duke (Eric Stonestreet), a stray mutt whom Max instantly dislikes. Their feud eventually causes both of them to get lost in New York City, and as they work together to find their way home, they cross paths with a vicious bunny (Kevin Hart) who plans to lead a group of abandoned pets on a mission of revenge against humanity.

Read more about The Secret Life of Pets:

Sausage Party

Sausage Party [Columbia Pictures]
Sausage Party [Columbia Pictures]

Release date: 12 August, 2016

While animation has generally been the domain of family-friendly films, in 2016 Sausage Party proved that sometimes animation is the perfect genre for a raunchy story as well! The brain child of comedians Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, Sausage Party (the first CGI-animated American film to be rated R!) was made on a shoestring budget but made good at the box office, grossing more than $140 million. Check out the plot:

A happy-go-lucky sausage (voiced by Seth Rogen) and his supermarket buddies including a hot dog bun (Kristen Wiig), a bagel (Edward Norton), a sausage (Michael Cera) and a taco (Salma Hayek) learn about the horror that awaits them when humans bring them home to chow down. Despite the hostility they get from other supermarket items unwilling to have their faith in a post-checkout afterlife deflated, they embark on an existential adventure to escape from their edible fate.

Kubo and the Two Strings

Kubo and the Two Strings [Laika]
Kubo and the Two Strings [Laika]

Release date: 19 August, 2016

Heartfelt, unique and genre-defying, Kubo and the Two Strings was one of the biggest surprises of the year. The stop motion animation film was a product of the small fish in the animation pond, Laika animation studio. Small though it may be, Kubo and the Two Strings has won over hearts of audiences and critics alike - watch out for this one in award season. Here's the synopsis:

After accidentally summoning an ancient spirit, a young Japanese boy named Kubo (voiced by Art Parkinson) is separated from his mother and embarks on a journey to discover the truth about his missing father. Along the way, he befriends the kindhearted Monkey (Charlize Theron) and the clumsy Beetle (Matthew McConaughey) as he fends off the vengeful Moon King (Ralph Fiennes) and two evil twin sisters (Rooney Mara) with his shamisen, a magical stringed instrument.

Read more about Kubo and the Two Strings:

Your Name

Makoto Shinkai's Your Name [CoMix Wave Films]
Makoto Shinkai's Your Name [CoMix Wave Films]

Release date: 27 August, 2016 (Japan)

Upon release in Japan, Makoto Shinkai's Your Name immediately shot to the top of the box office, and has since brought in over $172 million world wide. Not only did the film have an incredibly sweet story, but it also provided some real competition for Studio Ghibli's Hayao Miyazaki, who has dominated the Japanese anime market for years. While english audiences initially had to settle for the subtitled version of the film, an english voice cast has since been assembled and had a limited release. Read the synopsis for Your Name here:

Set one month after a comet has fallen for the first time in a thousand years in Japan. Mitsuha, a high school girl living in the countryside, wants to live in the city because she is tired of life in the country. Then, there's Taki. He's a high school student living in Tokyo with his friends while working as a part-timer at an Italian restaurant. He also has a strong interest in fine arts involving architecture. One day, Mitsuha dreams of herself as a young man. On the other hand, Taki also has a dream where he is a female student attending high school in the countryside. What's the secret behind their dreams?

Read more about Your Name:

My Life as a Zucchini (also known as Ma vie de Courgette)

Release date: 19 October, 2016

This beautiful French-Swiss stop motion film might have flown under the radar of most, but after scooping a handful of awards and nominations it has caught the attention of a wider audience. Currently the film is only available for english speaking audiences willing to read subtitles, but in 2017 will be dubbed in English with a voice cast including Will Forte, Nick Offerman, Ellen Page and Amy Sedaris. Take a look at the plot:

After the death of his mother, a shy young boy (voiced by Gaspard Schlatter) is sent to live at an orphanage. There, he falls in love with a fellow orphan and begins to move past his grief.

Read more about My Life as a Zucchini:


Cute-as-a-button Trolls [DreamWorks Animation]
Cute-as-a-button Trolls [DreamWorks Animation]

Release date: 4 November, 2016

DreamWork's had a great year in 2016 and capped it all off with the adorable Trolls, a film based on the popular toy of the 80s and 90s. With its bright colors, peppy musical numbers and all-star voice cast — including Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Zooey Deschanel, Russell Brand and Gwen Stefani — Trolls had something for everyone. Check out the film plot:

From the creators of Shrek comes DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls, a smart, funny, and irreverent comedy about the search for happiness, and just how far some will go to get it. This hilarious film transports audiences to a colorful, wondrous world populated by the overly optimistic Trolls, with a constant dance in their step and a song on their lips, and the comically pessimistic Bergens, who are only happy when they have trolls in their stomachs.

After the Bergens invade Troll Village, Poppy (Kendrick), the happiest Troll ever born, and the overly-cautious curmudgeonly Branch (Timberlake) set off on a journey to rescue her friends. Together, this mismatched duo embark on a rescue mission full of adventure and mishaps – trying to tolerate each other long enough to get the job done.

Read more about Trolls:


Disney's Moana [Walt Disney Studios]
Disney's Moana [Walt Disney Studios]

Release date: 22 November, 2016

Not only did Disney's add a brand new princess to the lineup, but this animated adventure film will also introduce viewers to the wonderful world of the Pacific, immersing audiences in a whole new culture. With actors such as Dwayne Johnson, Jemaine Clement and newcomer Auli'i Cravalho lending their voices to the film, Moana became an instant Disney classic upon release. Read the synopsis:

An adventurous teenager sails out on a daring mission to save her people. During her journey, Moana meets the once-mighty demigod Maui, who guides her in her quest to become a master way-finder. Together they sail across the open ocean on an action-packed voyage, encountering enormous monsters and impossible odds. Along the way, Moana fulfills the ancient quest of her ancestors and discovers the one thing she always sought: her own identity.

Read more about Moana:


Animated musical, Sing [Illumination]
Animated musical, Sing [Illumination]

Release date: 21 December, 2016

After being founded just nine years ago, Illumination Entertainment has absolutely smashed the animated film market with hits such as Despicable Me, Minions and The Secret Life of Pets. The studios last film for 2016 was the charming musical . Not only does Sing have a star-studded cast, including Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Taron Egerton and Scarlett Johanson, but it also has a super sweet plot. Check out the synopsis here:

Dapper Koala Buster Moon presides over a once-grand theater that has fallen on hard times. An eternal optimist, and a bit of a scoundrel, he loves his theater above all and will do anything to preserve it. Facing the crumbling of his life's ambition, he takes one final chance to restore his fading jewel to its former glory by producing the world's greatest singing competition. Five contestants emerge: a mouse, a timid elephant, a pig, a gorilla and a punk-rock porcupine.

Read more about Sing below:


What was your favorite animated movie of 2016?


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