Netflix’s venture into original animated movies has been relatively short, spanning around five years, yet remarkably successful. The studio has garnered recognition, including an Academy Award win and several nominations in the Best Animated Feature category.
Collaborating with esteemed directors and artists from major studios like Disney, Aardman Animations, and Cartoon Saloon, Netflix’s animated films have gained prominence in the industry.
Here are my top five picks for the best Netflix Original animated movies:
5. The Willoughbys
Based on Lois Lowry’s children’s novel, “The Willoughbys” offers a refreshing twist on traditional kids’ adventure stories. The Willoughby children—Time, Jane, Barnaby A, and Barnaby B—crave a normal family life, but their self-absorbed parents leave no love for them.
Convinced they’d be better off raising themselves, they scheme to send their parents on a dangerous vacation. When their parents disappear, the siblings and their new nanny embark on a high-flying adventure, discovering the true meaning of family.
Directed by Kris Pearn, Cory Evans, and Rob Lodermeier, the film’s lush animation from Bron Studios and Foreshadow Films, along with standout voice work from renowned actors like Will Forte, Maya Rudolph, and Ricky Gervais, make it a delightful watch. With a blend of dark humor and family-friendly elements, “The Willoughbys” stands out as an imaginative tale akin to Roald Dahl’s work.
4. The Magician’s Elephant
Based on Kate DiCamillo’s novel, “The Magician’s Elephant” presents an endearing and heartwarming story. The film follows the orphaned boy Peter, who lost his mother and sister during the Great Foreign War. Guided by a fortune teller’s cryptic advice to “follow the elephant,” Peter embarks on a journey of wish fulfillment, marked by impossible tasks and layered storytelling.
The animation, courtesy of Animal Logic, and direction by Wendy Rogers contribute to the film’s charm. Notably, the voice cast, including Natasia Demetriou, Noah Jupe, and Mandy Patinkin, adds depth and emotion to the characters.
“The Magician’s Elephant” weaves a tale of hope, belief in the impossible, and memorable characters, setting it apart as a standout Netflix Original Animation.
3. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
Directed by Guillermo del Toro, this adaptation of the classic tale features a unique and dark interpretation. Set in a small Italian village during Mussolini’s rule, the film intertwines the story of Pinocchio with the themes of religious ideology, wartime impact, and grief.
Del Toro’s gothic claymation-style animation brings a bold and immersive visual experience. The film’s voice cast, including Ewan McGregor, Tilda Swinton, and Christoph Waltz, adds depth to the characters and their interactions. The film’s exploration of dark themes and its stunning animation make it a noteworthy addition to Netflix’s animated lineup.
“Klaus” reimagines the Santa Claus story, focusing on themes of altruism, community, and heart. Directed by Sergio Pablos and Carlos Martinez Lopez, the film showcases an inventive and believable spin on the legendary figure.
The story follows Jesper, the postal academy’s worst student, who is sent to a frozen island and discovers Klaus, a mysterious carpenter who crafts handmade toys. The film’s animation style, combining hand-drawn elements with modern rendering, elevates the narrative.
With a talented voice cast including Jason Schwartzman, J.K. Simmons, and Rashida Jones, “Klaus” offers heartwarming moments and meaningful messages, making it a perfect addition to holiday movie rotations.
1. The Mitchells vs. The Machines
Produced by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller and directed by Michael Rianda and Jeff Rowe, “The Mitchells vs. The Machines” is an animated gem. Blending chaos and wit, the film tells the story of the quirky Mitchell family amidst a robot uprising.
Through various animation styles, including sock puppets and heart motifs, the film immerses viewers in a unique and relatable world. With exceptional voice acting, including Abbi Jacobson, Maya Rudolph, and Olivia Colman, the film’s characters come to life.
“The Mitchells vs. The Machines” offers a truly remarkable experience, combining humor, heart, and an inventive visual journey.
Netflix’s animated journey may be relatively young, but its offerings have proven to be impactful, earning a place among the best-animated movies of all time. From imaginative twists on classic tales to unique storytelling techniques, these films showcase the studio’s commitment to excellence in animation.