2016: The year animation ruled
Toons among this year's top Hollywood blockbusters, dominating box offices in the US and around the world
Animated features occupy a special place in my heart.
They tell such vivid stories, are a sight to behold and, most importantly, make me feel young.
And I can't be the only adult feeling that way, judging from the way toons have been dominating box offices in the US and around the world, with 2016 being a banner year of sorts for the genre.
Apart from the superheroes of Captain America: Civil War, 2-D critters have wielded the upper hand over this year's Hollywood blockbusters.
Finding Dory raked in US$480 million (S$653 million) in the US and is still the reigning champ at this year's US box office to date. It has grossed more than US$931 million worldwide.
Zootopia is slightly behind, with US$341 million in the US, but it has earned over US$1 billion globally.
In comparison, Captain America: Civil War made more than US$1.2 billion worldwide.
The Secret Life Of Pets is also proving to be a strong competitor, having already established its foothold in the US with US$353 million, overtaking Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice's US$330 million.
And it is poised to bring in more money as it opens in more countries.
The animal-centric animation, which opens here tomorrow, explores what pets in Manhattan get up to after their owners go to work.
The story follows spoilt terrier Max (Louis C.K.), who is determined to make life miserable for Duke (Eric Stonestreet), a shaggy mongrel that Max's owner Katie (Ellie Kemper) just adopted, simply because Max refuses to share Katie's affections.
However, when the pair are mistakenly captured by Animal Control, they have to learn to rely on each other in order to get home to Katie.
Chris Renaud, the co-director of The Secret Life Of Pets, told Variety that its success so far is "extremely satisfying and gratifying".
Moreover, animated films don't need to be loved by critics to do well as their built-in audience will make them commercial hits.
Just look at Ice Age: Collision Course and The Angry Birds Movie.
There are a few more offerings on the horizon - Storks (opening Sept 22), Trolls (Nov 10) and Moana (Nov 24) - and more records may be broken.
So what powers do these toons have over Batman, Superman, Deadpool, X-Men and even franchise instalments like Star Trek Beyond, Independence Day: Resurgence and Jason Bourne?
Cartoons have been around since the mid 1800s and we can thank Mr Walt Disney for popularising them in the 1930s. But it was Pixar that really changed the game and introduced the world to digital animation 21 years ago with 1995's Toy Story.
Hollywood has not looked back since.
Although they are aimed mainly at children, the best animated flicks allow adults to relate to the themes and jokes too.
We grew up with cartoons, then we get to enjoy them with our children, and subsequently, our children's children. Naturally, animated features will never go out of date.
UNIQUE PERSPECTIVE, WIDE APPEAL
We go to the movies to be entertained and to revel in the world of make believe.
The Secret Life Of Pets imagines what our dogs, cats, bunnies and guinea pigs do behind our backs and teaches us about acceptance.
Zootopia gave us a new metropolis where animals rule the Earth and predators and prey live in harmony.
Kung Fu Panda 3 took us to a magical hidden panda village in China.
Ice Age: Collision Course
And through the mammoths of Ice Age: Collision Course and the trouble-making squirrel Scrat, we learnt about asteroid attacks.
All these are welcome alternatives to the overwhelming assault of good versus evil movies, no thanks to the barrage of comic-book flicks.
It helps that the animations released this year, apart from The Angry Birds Movie, are really well-made and high-quality, bringing much joy and many heartfelt moments.
Zootopia achieved a 98 per cent "certified fresh" or approval rating on movie review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes.
Finding Dory received 94 per cent, Kung Fu Panda 3 had 87 per cent and The Secret Life Of Pets 74 per cent.
Finding Dory, in particular, struck a chord with parents on how the blue tang's parents never gave up hope in finding her.
The Secret Life Of Pets will have you laughing at the crazy antics of Snowball the rabbit, yet you will feel for his predicament as an abandoned pet.
According to Mr Shawn Robbins, the senior analyst at Boxoffice.com, 2016 is "proving to be one of the most top-heavy, family-focused years in recent memory," he told CNNMoney.
"Family films are picking up where sequels dropped the ball this year."
Furthermore, the world we live in is getting darker. With constant news of war, terrorism and economic downturn, why do we need so many films to remind us of more doom and gloom?
Don't we wish to have something to cuddle when times are bad?
Kung Fu Panda 3
Wouldn't it be great if we have the lovable pot-bellied Po from Kung Fu Panda 3 to give us a big bear hug?
The characters in The Secret Life Of Pets lift their owners' spirits after a long day at work. And the toons offer us an escape from reality, even if it's just for 120 minutes.
For now, we really don't need to see city after city getting blown up.
BY THE NUMBERS
The the top animated hits at the worldwide box office in 2016 (as of Aug 31)
US$1 billion (S$1.36 billion)
THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS
KUNG FU PANDA 3
ICE AGE: COLLISION COURSE
THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE