The tabletop gaming community has seen a lot of Disney this year. Which makes sense, since it is the company's 100th anniversary. But while the release of Lorcana has stormed the card game part of our community, there have been a number of interesting releases in terms of board games as well. My favorite of those has been one that takes you away from Disney's usual fantasies and fairy tales and into the writer's room: Animated.
The Story of Animated
The players’ role in Animated is that of a Disney animator, battling against both studio deadlines and their films’ own villains, who have come to life to stop their defeat being immortalized. If you succeed, you’ll have had a hand in creating some of the most iconic movies in American culture. If you fail, well, you’ll probably be fired.
To complete your movies, you’ll need to make use of a variety of tools. Paint and ink, music, artistic cells, and even a little bit of magic. It may seem intimidating, but don’t worry – you have the help of your fellow animators, and of your movies’ heroes, who are more than willing to help once their ink has dried.
The Gameplay of Animated
Animated is a cooperative game, where each player uses the same set of rules to work on their own movie, but is able to discuss strategies and use their own unique ‘Sound’ ability to help themselves and other players at the same time. The ultimate goal is to have all players complete their movies by filling in the movie background tiles, paying paint to place characters on the background, and then use their powers, paint, and animation cards to defeat their villain.
Each round, players choose one action from five cards that are arranged on a numbered sliding-scale: Animation, Paint and Ink, Sound, Background, and Magic. Each choice allows them to do something (drawing cards, collecting paint tokens, place background tiles, etc.), in an amount corresponding to the number that it’s currently associated with. Once used, that card is placed at the bottom of the scale, and the other cards move up, making the action less useful for other players until it can be moved up again. If there are Calamity Cards in play, you’ll want to make sure that you complete whatever requirement you need to discard them, like using a certain numbered action or discarding a resource.
Then comes the villain’s turn. The deadline moves up, and the villain activates their special powers once for each Calamity Card that is still on the board. These powers will advance the deadline further, force players to discard resources, and generally impede the players.
The players and the villains go back and forth for 13 rounds, or until all the movies are completed.
Luck vs. Strategy
While Animated does employ a little bit of luck, it’s almost entirely strategy. While you might occasionally draw a Calamity Card that you aren’t prepared for at the most inopportune moment, even the amount of Calamity Cards that you draw are limited by the challenge level and number of players. Beyond that and drawing Animation Cards, there are no other luck mechanics and randomization – Animated is all about working together and solving the challenge with help from your fellow players.
Number of Players
Anywhere from 2 to 4 players can join into a game of Animated. It does have more variety and complexity as you add more players, but even with the minimum number, you maintain a fun and interesting experience.
While you could theoretically add a 5th player, since there are 5 movies to choose from, I wouldn’t recommend it. That many players would require drawing too many Calamity Cards, not enough resources, and complexity beyond what this game is meant to include.
The Atmosphere of Animated
Surprisingly for a Disney game, Animated isn’t trying to immerse you in the world of its movies and their magic. Instead, it actively seeks to break that illusion, and bring the players into a (much more gamified and simplified) version of the creation process. To that extent it does do a good job of immersing the players with fun tokens, art, and even transparent cards which look like animation cells.
The main aspect of Animated’s design seems to be nostalgia, using classic movies rather than more modern or more frequently marketed films.
Animated’s History and Availability
Animated was released in June 2023 by Funko games, coinciding with Disney’s new card game Lorcana and various other celebrations for the company’s 100th anniversary, to a great deal of popularity and acclaim. Not only is it popular among Disney fans, but it even received a nomination for a Toy of the Year Award. It probably received some boost from association with Funko (the company which releases Funko Pop figurines, and various toys and board games utilizing the figures), without overfamiliarity with the brand, since it doesn’t use the iconic Funko Pop body shape or art style.
You can buy Animated from your local game store, or from larger stores and websites like Walmart, Target, and Amazon. It goes for around $35 to $40.
Our Personal Thoughts on Animated
I was surprised by just how good of a game Animated is. Generally, Disney games tend to be reskinned tie-in versions of already established games, meant to serve as merchandise for whichever movie they’re marketing at the moment. Instead, Animated is a fun cooperative game that seems to have real affection for classic animation as an art form and an industry. The mechanics are good, the art is nostalgic (it uses art straight from the movies, not redesigned versions of beloved characters), and the combination of both fantasy and reality in the conceit is pretty amusing.
My only real complaint is that I would have liked to see them use less popular movies like The Black Cauldron, Robin Hood, or Treasure Planet. But I can admit that’s mainly because I always want to see more of Disney’s underappreciated films, and this would have been a perfect opportunity.
If you’re a fan of Disney films, or of animation in general, you’ll love this game. And if you’re looking for a great way to introduce your family, or just your kids, to more complex, cooperative board games, this is a great game to start with.
Have you played Animated? What did you think? Did we leave out anything important about it? Let us know in the comments below!