A look at animation in the 2010s


Last updated on July 11th, 2023

The 2010s have seen plenty of strong examples of animation, including TV, movies, and online. As it’s the end of the decade, it’s time to look back on how animation’s fared.

Note I’ve covered some of the same points previously, but thought it still merited a post. Also note that I’m mostly focusing on Western animation.

Major animation highlights and trends in the 2010s

Major trends

Gravity Falls cast
“Gravity Falls.” (Disney)

A few of the major trends this decade include:

  • The influence of “Adventure Time” on animation. A lot of TV cartoons adapted a similar animation art style (dubbed “thin-line animation” on TV Tropes): characters with rounded limbs; simplified, flat character designs; and Japanese anime influences.
  • The popularity of comedy/adventure cartoons, from “Gravity Falls” to “Steven Universe.”
  • A deviation from established “house” styles for even long-running cartoons. The Disney Channel Mickey Mouse shorts and the 2010s “DuckTales” revamp are a few examples.
  • A lot of reboots/revivals of older cartoons, from the aforementioned “DuckTales” to “Dangermouse” to “She-Ra.”
  • An increasing number of gay and lesbian characters appearing in animation, particularly children’s cartoons.
  • The rise of streaming services and YouTube have led to a boom in outlets for TV animation.

Major highlights

Highlights and key moments of the decade include:

  • Seth MacFarlane hosting the Oscars in 2013, the first time an animation industry veteran did so.
  • The end of the last remaining Saturday morning cartoon programming on a major US commercial broadcast network (2014).
  • The Hub’s rebranding as Discovery Family (2014).
  • Boomerang’s relaunch in a bid to make it more appealing (2015).
  • Sprout’s rebranding to Universal Kids (2017).
  • The death of June Foray (2017).
  • Increasing attention paid to combating sexual harassment sees several prominent animation industry figures come under fire or terminated by studios (Chris Savino, John Kricfalusi, etc.) (late 2010s).
  • “The Simpsons” finally eclipses “Gunsmoke” as the longest-running scripted primetime American TV series (2018).
  • A rise in streaming services specializing in animation, such as Boomerang and Disney+ (mid-to-late 2010s).

TV animation stayed fairly strong this decade, even in spite of the shift to streaming services. Cable TV in 2010s gave rise to popular shows like “Bob’s Burgers,” “Adventure Time,” “Regular Show,” “Steven Universe,” “Gravity Falls,” and others.

Streaming media became firmly established this decade, with said services offering their own popular animated programming. Netflix’s “BoJack Horseman” is a prominent example.

Finally, the movies have seen a large number of animated sequels sequels in this decade—the decade began and ended with “Toy Story” sequels. However, we’ve also gotten some innovative animated films, such as “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.”

The most popular animated movies

By box office

Despicable Me 3 poster
“Despicable Me 3.” (Illumination)

Based on worldwide box office (and not adjusting for inflation) as of December 22, 2019, the most popular animated movies of the 2010s are:

  1. The Lion King (2019 remake) ($1.66 billion)
  2. Frozen (Disney) ($1.27 billion)
  3. Incredibles 2 (Disney/Pixar) ($1.24 billion)
  4. Minions (Illumination) ($1.16 billion)
  5. Toy Story 4 (Disney/Pixar) ($1.07 billion)
  6. Toy Story 3 (Disney/Pixar) ($1.07 billion)
  7. Frozen II (Disney) ($1.05 billion)
  8. Zootopia (Disney) ($1.04 billion)
  9. Despicable Me 3 (Illumination) ($1.03 billion)
  10. Finding Dory (Disney/Pixar) ($1.03 billion)

Note “The Lion King” remake wasn’t on the list I pulled this data from. However, since it is an animated film (just rendered with a heavy emphasis on photorealism), I’ve added it to this list.

The above films are also the top grossing animated films of all time (not adjusting for inflation). Though that’s thanks to the inflated box offices (and ticket prices) of modern movies.

Not surprisingly, eight of the 10 entries are from Disney. The only non-Disney entries are from Illumination, for “Despicable Me 3” and “Minions.”

By Academy Award winners

“Zootopia.” (Disney)

The winners of the Best Animated Feature Academy Award are as follows:

  • 2010: Toy Story 3
  • 2011: Rango
  • 2012: Brave
  • 2013: Frozen
  • 2014: Big Hero 6
  • 2015: Inside Out
  • 2016: Zootopia
  • 2017: Coco
  • 2018: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Aside from “Rango” and “Spider-Verse,” all the winning films are Disney-related.

Favorite animated films of the 2010s

My favorite animated films from this decade include:

  • How to Train Your Dragon
  • Wreck-It Ralph
  • Mr. Peabody and Sherman
  • The Lego Movie
  • Zootopia
  • The Lego Batman Movie
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Favorite animated TV shows of the 2010s

Some of my favorite animated TV shows originating during this decade include:

  • Regular Show
  • Wild Kratts
  • Gravity Falls
  • Mickey Mouse shorts (2013-present)
  • Steven Universe
  • Nature Cat
  • Puffin Rock
  • DC Super Hero Girls
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power
  • Molly of Denali

Admit for both TV shows and movies, there’s a list of material I haven’t gotten around to watching yet (such as “Coco” or “BoJack Horseman”), so the above lists could change.

Image from “She-Ra and the Princesses of Power.” (DreamWorks/Netflix)

Anthony Dean

Anthony Dean is the owner of Diverse Tech Geek and Diverse Media Notes.

View all posts by Anthony Dean →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *