Best animated films of 2012

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Counting down to our Year in Review issue, we present our picks in a variety of genres, wrapping up on December 27 with the year's worst movies.

This time tomorrow: the year's best human-interest documentary.

Its Such a Beautiful Day
  • It's Such a Beautiful Day
It’s Such a Beautiful Day Don Hertzfeldt’s completed trilogy—collecting his shorts Everything Will Be OK (2006), I Am So Proud of You (2008), and It’s Such a Beautiful Day (2011)—made its Chicago premiere at Music Box this year, and it easily ranks among the best animation features of the new century. Stick-figure drawings, live-action footage, and psychedelic optical effects combine to tell the story of a meek everyman whose life-threatening illness brings him face to face with eternity. The voice-over narration, a first for Hertzfeldt, lays bare the aching emotion and philosophical yearning behind his gruesome, pitch-black humor. —J.R. Jones

The Pirates! Band of Misfits
  • The Pirates! Band of Misfits
The Pirates! Band of Misfits I didn’t catch very many animated films this year—stuff like ParaNorman and The Secret World of Arrietty somehow flew right past me, despite my desire to see them—but I found this 3-D stop-motion adventure from Aardman Animations quite charming. It doesn’t quite match the heights of their Wallace and Gromit films, but the same brand of absurdist humor, highlighted by the handcrafted style of the animation, is wholly present. The voice cast features some real talent, too—David Tennant, best known for his stint playing Dr. Who on the BBC, is great as Charles Darwin. —Drew Hunt

The Secret World of Arrietty
  • The Secret World of Arrietty
The Secret World of Arrietty In film after film, Japan’s Studio Ghibli has created a world all its own and, in some ways, better than ours. Not only does every bit of flora seem vibrantly alive, but the characters regularly exhibit the sort of patience and compassion we all aspire to. However utopian in outlook, the Ghibli films are rife with dramatic incident. Perhaps the most astonishing thing about Arrietty (a 2010 feature that opened here in February) is how Hayao Miyazaki’s script imagined so many suspenseful situations without leaving a peaceful family home. —Ben Sachs

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