10 Animated Movies Turning 23 in 2023
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10 Animated Movies Turning 23 in 2023

Aug 19, 2023

As expectations shifted from 2D to 3D, let's take a look at what was happening in the world of animation in 2000, 23 years ago.

2023 looks to be an incredible year for animated movies. After several delays, audiences will finally get to see the long-awaited Super Mario Bros. as well as the sequels to the Academy Award-winning Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Aardman's Chicken Run. There will also be Elemental from the ever-reliable Disney Pixar studio, as well as a brand-new movie entitled Migration from Illumination, the studio responsible for the Despicable Me/Minions franchise. Possibly the most exciting project (and maybe the biggest gamble due to the current generations’ expectations when it comes to animation) is Disney's 100th anniversary film Wish. It will see Disney combining traditional 2D animation techniques with cutting edge CGI technology in a brand-new fairy-tale adventure.

If we were to get in a time machine and head back 23 years to the year 2000, it would have been a very different landscape when it comes to animated movies, with things not looking so optimistic for the genre. After riding a huge wave of success in the 90s with its Renaissance Era, Disney looked to be running out of ideas, creatively, and was heading into a slump it would take a decade to recover from. Elsewhere, some of the most ambitious animated projects with the largest budgets attached ended as some of the decade's biggest box office bombs (as outlined by Looper). This was, in part, due to a shift in expectations from audiences who were now demanding their animations to be entirely computer generated thanks to the recent success of Shrek and Pixar. Unfortunately, some of the larger projects had begun development several years prior and had failed to predict or adapt accordingly to this shift.

Whilst not all bad, there were definitely some highs and lows for the genre, and, below, we take a look back at 10 of the most noteworthy animated movies released in 2000.

A Danish hidden gem, Help! I'm a Fish! follows three children and the adventures they embark on after being turned into a fish by a mad scientist. Full of heart and beautifully animated using traditional 2D methods, reminiscent of Disney in its prime, the movie was released in the U.S. with an English-speaking cast, which included a young Aaron Paul and legendary British actors Terry Jones (of Monty Python fame) and the late Alan Rickman.

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Dinosaur is a movie that seems to have seems to have disappeared into the realms of the forgotten when it comes to Disney's vast and impressive catalog, but, believe it or not, it was actually the highest-grossing animated movie of 2000. Admittedly, competition was fairly limited this year, and it still had the power and might of Disney behind it. While the computer-generated animation is truly jaw-dropping in its beauty for its time and was an indicator of the great things to come from Disney in the future, the movie suffered from a generic and forgettable plot and fairly one-dimension characters.

During the 90s, the Nickelodeon cartoon series The Rugrats was one of the most beloved and popular animated shows on air. Its appeal stems from its concept of experiencing life through the eyes of a group of toddlers and how everyday activities can seem like huge adventures to them. Its popularity was exemplified by the release of 1998's The Rugrats Movie, which went on to gross over $140 million at the box office. By 2000, the show's popularity had already peaked and producers were under pressure to repeat the success of its predecessor. As a result, audiences were treated to a more character-driven and thought-out story in Rugrats in Paris: The Movie, which, while not quite reaching the same financial highs, was still a box office hit and was better received by critics, proving there was certainly still life in the series yet.

The turn of the century was a strange time for animated movies and for Disney in particular. It had found huge success with its run of traditionally animated movies in the early and mid-90s, including Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King, but expectations were changing. This was proven in the success it later experienced with its computer-generated collaborations with Pixar, which included Toy Story, Toy Story 2, and A Bug's Life. At this time of change, Walt Disney Animation Studios was trying its hand at both types of animation, but not really fully committing to either. Dinosaur was its CGI output, with The Emperor's New Groove being its 2D release. While Dinosaur scored higher at the box office (perhaps a representation of these shifting expectations), The Emperor's New Groove has certainly better stood the test of time and has since garnered a devoted following among Disney fans — and for good reason. The Emperor's New Groove is full of well-developed characters and clever meta comedy aimed at adults and children alike.

As the shift from 2D to 3D animation was in full swing, Titan AE, with its mammoth budget, successfully managed to blend the two to create what is undeniably a visual masterpiece. Unfortunately, what it had in visual flair it lacked in originality with a plot that has been described as sci-fi cut-and-paste. Even its star-studded voice cast, including Matt Damon, Bill Pullman, John Leguizamo, Drew Barrymore, and Ron Perlman were not enough to save this sci-fi from becoming one of the biggest flops of the last 20 years (as per Polygon), making only $36.8 million against a budget rumored to have been close to $90 million.

By the year 2000, Disney had already long been in the habit of releasing direct-to-video sequels of its biggest hits, including multiples for The Lion King, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast. It was only a matter of time before its 1989 Academy Award-winning The Little Mermaid would fall victim to this practice. Without being too unfair, these sequels are not intended to create the same impact as the originals and are given far smaller budgets, time, and resources; they do often provide a fun escape for those willing to see past the comparison. The Little Mermaid 2: Return to the Sea is much the same, but is particularly investing in that, in addition to the familiar faces of Ariel, Sebastian, and Flounder, it introduces a new character to the mix in the form of Melody, Ariel's young daughter, which marks one of the rare occasions in which the studio has ever spent any time with a child of a Disney Princess. Despite the expected negative feedback from critics, many were impressed by her emotional relationship with Ariel, character growth, likability, and Tara Charendoff's voice performance.

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Titan AE wasn't the only high budget animated flop of 2000 (per Screen Rant): elsewhere, DreamWorks Animation Studios put a staggering $95 million into its 2D project The Road to El Dorado. The movie follows a hapless duo, who, upon finding discovering the lost City Of Gold, El Dorado, are proclaimed gods by a greedy priest who looks to gain control of the city for himself. Looking poised for success with a strong voice cast including Kevin Kline and Kenneth Branagh, and the music scored by the legendary Hans Zimmer, with John Powell and additional songs written by Elton John and Tim Rice — the duo behind the music of The Lion King — the movie failed to pull in the numbers it needed and was unable to recuperate its costs at the box office. Much of the film's failing could be blamed on the shift towards 3D CGI animation, and despite mixed reviews from critics at the time, the movie has since been reappraised by many and developed a strong following in the decades that followed.

While last year's Lightyear proclaimed to be the origin story to Toy Story's Buzz Lightyear (or at least the toy he is based on), many forget that something similar was done 23 years ago in the straight-to-video movie: Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins. A by-the-numbers sci-fi adventure flick, it explores Buzz Lightyear's life as a space cadet. And while it does retain the beloved tones of Tim Allen as the lead character, and provided fairly fun 70 minutes of intergalactic escapism, the animation style came across as cheap and unpleasant on the eye, especially compared to the ground-breaking animation used in Toy Story. It later led to a television series, Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, a format in which it seemed more suited.

For a certain generation, the Digimon virtual pets, along with the Tamagotchi, were utterly ubiquitous across school playgrounds for a few years in the late 90s. It wasn't long before the big wigs, recognizing its potential, expanding the brand into everything from lunch boxes and clothing to television shows and video games. As 2000 arrived, the inevitable big screen movie was released. To those unfamiliar with the digital creatures, the plot is hard to summarize in such a short space, but it basically revolves around a group of cyber connected kids and their Digimon, who are tasked to stop a new Digimon as it begins consuming data at such a rapid rate, it threatens to put an end to all global digital communications. Whilst marketed as an original movie, Digimon: The Movie was, in fact, just made up of footage taken from three short films that had already been previously released in Japan. As a result, the movie's tone, pacing, and plotline all suffered, and the film received mixed to poor reviews and middling box office results.

DreamWorks teamed up with the creators of Wallace and Gromit to create this laugh-out-loud stop-motion masterpiece loosely based on the iconic 1963 movie The Great Escape…except with chickens. In fairly lackluster year for animation, one movie stands out above the rest: Chicken Run sees Mel Gibson voice Rocky, an uber cool American circus rooster who crash-lands on the coop and subsequently agrees to help the imprisoned chickens escape. Universally acclaimed, Chicken Run's meticulous attention to detail, clever humor, and thought-provoking plot makes it not only one of DreamWorks' best titles, but one of the best animated movies of all time. Fans will also be excited to hear that after what seemed a lifetime, a sequel is scheduled for release later this year.

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MOVIEWEB VIDEO OF THE DAY SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT Help! I'm a Fish! Dinosaur Rugrats in Paris: The Movie The Emperor's New Groove Titan AE The Little Mermaid 2: Return to the Sea The Road to El Dorado Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins Digimon: The Movie Chicken Run