In an increasingly globalizing century, international studios like Studio Ghibli have become household names beyond their home countries, and the West is becoming more open to foreign cinema with films like Parasite (2019) not only receiving numerous nominations and accolades, but also the attention of global audiences.
Disney animations like Frozen (2013), and Big Hero 6 (2014) topped the popularity charts of the 2010s, but many popular animations were international contributions. Shrouded by the legacy of domestic contributions, many animated films that were popular at the time of release have been overlooked. These international animations of the 2010s: the most popular international animation of that year, deserve to be remembered and appreciated again.
2010- The Secret World of Arrietty
This anime, produced by Studio Ghibli and directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, was an animated adaptation of the English novel The Borrowers, authored by Mary Norton. This animation follows the story of the tiny Clock family who lives secretly in the house of an ordinary family and borrows their belongings to construct their own home until fourteen-year-old Arrietty is discovered by a human boy.
This gorgeous movie was released in 2010, was the highest-grossing Japanese film of the year, and proved to be so popular that Walt Disney Pictures would pick it up to produce the English dub.
2011- From Up on Poppy Hill
This Studio Ghibli production was directed by Goro Miyazaki and was based on the manga of the same name by Tetsurō Sayama and Chizuru Takahashi. The animation tells the story of young student Umi who befriends a boy named Shun who together work to clean up the school’s clubhouse and fight to keep the clubhouse from being demolished for redevelopment.
This film is so popular it ranked higher than the 2011 productions of Gnomeo and Juliet, Winnie the Pooh, and Puss in Boots. The beautiful animation implemented subtle historical elements into the foundation of the film, providing an authentic nostalgic quality.
2012- Wolf Children
This Japanese production was directed by Mamoru Hosoda. Wolf Children follows 13 years in the life of Hana as she falls in love with a werewolf in college and has two children with him. When he dies unexpectedly, Hana must raise the two half-wolf children alone.
This animation ranks as Hosoda’s most popular film to date, but he’s also directed the gorgeous productions of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006), and Belle (2021), which are both laudable animations in their own right.
2013- The Wind Rises
This gorgeous Studio Ghibli production was directed by renowned filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki based on the novel of the same name written by Tatsuo Hori in 1937 and also the life of Japanese engineer Jiro Horikoshi. This fictionalized history is a heartbreaking story of the passionate and loving Jiro who produces the aircraft that Japan ends up using in World War II.
This film ended up being the 3rd most popular animation of the year, succeeded only by Frozen and Monsters University. Delving into the heartbreaking bittersweet realities of human love and war, the animation explored universal themes. The Wind Rises was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature as well as numerous other awards.
2014- When Marnie Was There
This film, based on Joan G. Robinson’s novel of the same name and produced by Studio Ghibli was directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi. When Marnie Was There follows a young girl named Anna who is sent to live with relatives and discovers an abandoned mansion. While exploring the mansion, Anna meets and befriends a girl named Marnie.
This heartbreaking film designated the Irish production Song of the Sea (2014) to the 2nd most popular international animation of the year and was itself the 4th most popular animation of the year behind Big Hero 6, The Lego Movie, and How to Train Your Dragon 2.
2015- The Little Prince
Although entirely spoken in English, this animated adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s French classic The Little Prince, was actually a French production directed by Mark Osborne, the director of Kung Fu Panda (2008). It tells two stories: one of a little girl stifled by a controlling mother who finds solace in her neighbor, and second, the tale that the neighbor tells her of when he met the Little Prince.
With a combination of 3D animation and stop motion to differentiate the two stories, the innovative stylistic qualities of the animation are gorgeous. The film won many awards and was picked up by Netflix for American distribution.
2016- Your Name.
This Japanese production was directed by Makoto Shinkai, a prolific director responsible for remarkable films like Weathering With You (2019) and 5 Centimeters Per Second (2007). This animation follows the lives of Mitsuha and Taki who inexplicably begin to switch bodies randomly.
The animation broke box office records and won several awards. It was so popular that it was set to receive a live-action adaptation by Paramount but is up in the air after director Lee Isaac Chung left the production.
2017- Loving Vincent
This innovative handpainted animation was produced in Poland and co-directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman. Each frame was handpainted in oil paints by a team of artists, mimicking the style of Vincent Van Gogh in this animated adaptation of his life.
Praised for the stylistic innovation of a handpainted film, Loving Vincent was nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature and won accolades of international renown. This film was the 3rd most popular animated film of the year, only surpassed by Coco, and The Lego Batman Movie.
This Japanese animation was directed by Mamoru Hosoda, the same director responsible for Wolf Children (2012). Mirai follows a four-year-old boy, Kun, who struggles with the birth of his younger sister. In the garden of his house, he encounters magical circumstances that allow him to travel through time, and in his adventures, shift his perspective on his sister.
This film became the first non-Studio Ghibli anime to be nominated for the Academy Awards. Mirai was more popular than the 2018 experimental Chilean production The Wolf House and the Japanese anime I Want to Eat Your Pancreas.
Klaus was the first-ever film produced by the SPA Studios, an animation studio founded by Sergio Pablos, the director of the film. Although the animation is in English, it is a Spanish production. Klaus is an innovative 2D animation that utilizes 3D lighting software for a gorgeous rendering. Distributed by Netflix, Klaus is an animated Christmas movie centered around Jesper, an entitled and lazy postman who is sent to Smeerensburg to establish a successful post office in a village where none before have succeeded.
The refreshing spin on the origin of Santa Claus as well as the revolutionary animation engine had Klaus nominated for over a dozen awards. The film was nominated for seven Annie Awards and won every single one. It even surpassed the popularity of Makoto Shinkai’s anime Weathering With You (2019).
NEXT: The Most Popular Animated Movie Every Year of the 2000s According to Letterboxd
How Thor: Love & Thunder Is Different From Ragnarok Explained By Director
About The Author