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Stop-Motion Is the Best Form of Animation, Says the Tomatometer

We crunched the numbers and discovered that Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs is just the latest film to show stop-motion reigns supreme over computer-generated animation

by | March 22, 2018 | Comments

(Photo by © TM & copyright Fox Searchlight, ©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

Is one form of animation better than the others? Our cartoon-loving hearts say no — we love everything equally — but the Tomatometer says yes.

The currently huge 93% Tomatometer score for Wes Anderson’s latest stop-motion feature, Isle of Dogs, which opens in limited release this week, is exceptional but not surprising. Expectations have been high ever since the project was announced, both because of Anderson’s directorial pedigree (six of his eight movies are Certified Fresh), and because of the quality of stop-motion animated films that have hit the theaters since his “cussingly” great Fantastic Mr. Fox landed in 2009.

Since that film’s release, 14 stop-motion movies have received wide releases in the U.S., and 10 have been nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards. Those 14 stop-motion flicks have an outstanding Tomatometer average of 89.5%. So, stop-motion movies are great — but are they better than other animated movies?

When looking at the full spread of 119 animated movies released between Fantastic Mr. Fox in 2009 and Isle of Dogs about 10 years later, it becomes clear that while stop-motion movies are less lucrative and less frequent (on average, fewer than 2 are released each year), they have a much higher Tomatometer average than the more numerous computer-animated movies (62%). Stop-motion films have also been — ever so slightly — better received during that time than their hand-drawn counterparts (88.7%).

Stop-motion: 89.5%  |  Hand-drawn: 88.7%  |  Computer-animated: 62%

Of, course, all of these averages are pretty solid — and each is Fresh. As a group, animated movies fare very well. The 119 animated films released during the period we’re looking at (including stop-motion, computer-animated, and hand-drawn) have, as a whole, a more-than-respectable Tomatometer average of 70%. That’s no surprise, given the meticulous care and planning — and the time — it takes to make an animated movie. Here are the 10 best of the lot released between Fantastic Mr. Fox in 2009 and Isle of Dogs this week.

10. Your Name: 97%
9. Coco: 97%
8. My Life as a Zucchini: 98%
7. Inside Out: 98%
6. How to Train Your Dragon: 98%
5. Zootopia: 98%
4. Shaun the Sheep Movie: 99%
3. Toy Story 3: 99%
2. Song of the Sea: 99%
1. The Tale of the Princess Kaguya: 100%

*If the movies have the same Tomatometer rating, the movie with the highest Audience Score was ranked higher.


Computer Animated Films: The Moneymakers

(Photo by © Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

Number of Films Released (since Fantastic Mr. Fox): 85
Tomatometer Average: 62%
Top Five: Coco (97%) | Inside Out (98%) | How to Train Your Dragon (98%) | Zootopia (98%) | Toy Story 3 (99%)

Considering that, on average, more than nine CG (computer graphics) animated films received wide-releases each year, it’s impressive that the average Tomatometer score is as high as 62%. The more shots you take, the more you will miss, and despite the lower average Tomatometer, computer-animated movies bring in much larger box office numbers than stop-motion or hand-drawn flicks (Pixar movies average $333 million domestically). Plus, you’ll notice that the cream of this crop features some of the best films made over the last 10 years. Also, CG movies have been on a role at the Academy Awards, winning the Best Animated Picture Oscar every year since 1995, when stop-motion feature Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were Rabbit took the prize.

Conclusion: The Fresh films outweigh the Rotten (49 to 36), and CG brings in the moolah. Also, Incredibles 2 is going to be amazing.


Hand-Drawn Films: A Fine Foreign Touch

(Photo by © 2014 - Gkids)

Number of Films Released: 20
Tomatometer Average: 88.7%
Top Five: Boy and the World (95%) | Ernest & Celestine (97%) | Your Name (97%) | Song of the Sea (99%) | The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (100%)

With Disney’s last hand-drawn film being 2011’s Winnie the Pooh (91%), the majority of this type of animation in the last 10 years has come from industry giants Studio Ghibli in Japan (The Wind Rises, Ponyo, The Secret World of Arriety, When Marnie Was There) and Ireland’s Cartoon Saloon (The Secret of Kells, Song of the Sea, The Breadwinner). The latter is on quite a roll: Cartoon Saloon’s three animated features have all been nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards and boast an average 94.6% Tomatometer score.

Conclusion: Hand-drawn cinema is in good hands with Studio Ghibli and Cartoon Saloon.


Stop-Motion Films: Bow to Your Clay Kings

(Photo by © Focus Features )

Number of Films Released: 14
Tomatometer Average: 89.5%
Top Five: Fantastic Mr. Fox (93%) | Mary and Max (95%) | Kubo & The Two Strings (97%) | My Life as a Zucchini (98%) | Shaun the Sheep Movie (99%)

Stop-motion studios like the U.K.’s Aardman Animations and Laika Studios in Portland, Ore., are showing they can match global animation giants like Studio Ghibli and Pixar when it comes to unique stories that transport us. The two studios’ releases over the last decade, such as Coraline, The Boxtrolls, Shaun the Sheep Movie and Early Man, are labors of love — labor being a keyword. Warehouses are filled with massive sets, thousands of clay figurines are crafted, and months and months are spent to create mere seconds of footage. Outside of those two stop-motion powerhouses, auteur directors like Anderson, Tim Burton (Frankenweenie), and Charlie Kaufman (Anomalisa) have found their own success in this form — each has picked up a Best Animated Feature nomination over the last 10 years for their stop-motion projects.

Conclusion: Stop-motion takes the patience of a saint, but the results can be heavenly.

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