KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS (Travis Knight, Arianne Sutner)
Entirely bad-ass. A visual stunner like Laika's previous three, but this time with a more strongly developed narrative for those jaw-dropping images to prop up. Pulls no punches with its frequent intensity, judges moments of levity well, and builds its internal mythology with confident ease. If you must blink, do it before the film starts. You won't want to miss a single frame.
MOANA (John Musker, Ron Clements, Osnat Shurer)
Though far from the studio's best, here's to another respectable entry in Disney's storied library of animated fairy tales. It atones for a somewhat uneven pace and clumsy character arcs with a soundtrack full of goodies and vibrant character animation. Legendary vets Clements & Musker have clearly not lost a step in the transition to CG, 'cause this movie of theirs is so pretty!
THE RED TURTLE (Michael Dudok de Wit, Toshio Suzuki)
A gorgeously rendered blend of magic realism and pantomime about a stranded shipwreck survivor finding fulfillment and family on a lonely island. The colour choices in every scene are utter perfection, and it's surprising just how much is communicated through its limited facial animation. While it may have worked better as a short film, a feature that looks this good is worth every minute.
ZOOTOPIA (Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Clark Spencer)
While its narrative formula feels conspicuously compartmentalized as it hops predictably from Key Scene #1 to Key Scene #2 and so forth, this is still a movie of many charms. The world building is rich (wish they had spent even more time exploring those areas, actually), the animation is superb, and the script is chock-a-city-block full of droll visual and verbal gags.