One of the most anticipated 3D movies of 2014 saw Disney tell the Sleeping Beauty tale from the perspective of the villain, Maleficent. With one eye on the success of ABC's post-modern Once Upon A Time, and with Angelina Jolie in the leading role, this epic live action fantasy looked at the events that hardened Maleficent's heart and drove her to curse young Princess Aurora.
The heavyweights of VFX, including MPC, Digital Domain and The Senate, created some spectacular visuals to bring this stunning fairytale world to life. But it was the brilliant use of motion capture that most impressed us, propelling the film to number three in our all-time list of the 7 marvels of motion capture.
No list of top 3D movies would be complete without at least a couple of nods to Marvel, whose comic-book adaptations have dominated the box office throughout the decade. And this year saw the welcome return of Captain America (Chris Evans) as he battled a new threat from old history: the Soviet agent known as the Winter Soldier.
As ever, the all-American hero from the 1940s came packaged for a 21st century audience, with some spectacular set-pieces and explosive effects. Read our interview with Monty Granito, supervisor at leading previz Proof, to find out how they were originally conceived, here.
Talking of Marvel, Guardians of the Galaxy had many a hardcore comic-fan in a flurry, with 2014's eponymous movie being the first time the story has come to the big screen. The rest of us were a little nonplussed... until the opening bars of a 10CC song in the very first frame drew a collective "Okay. This is going to be GOOD." (And without adding any more spoilers, it was. Go see it.)
Directed and written by James Gunn, the entertainingly silly sci-fi adventure was packed full of acting talent, with Zoe Saldana, Chris Pine, Bradley Cooper and Benicio Del Toro in the cast. But it was the two CG characters – a genetically spliced racoon and a talking tree, voiced by Vin Diesel – who really stole the show.
Of course, it took a bevy of brilliant VFX firms conjured up some astonishing visuals to bring it all together. To learn how they did so, check out some of the early previs artwork by Proof Inc here and read our interview with Framestore here.
09. Rio 2
The 2014 sequel to the surprise hit of 2011 saw Blu and Jewel fleeing Rio with their three children in two, bound for the wild jungles of the Amazon.
Brazilian director Carlos Saldanha and a team of top animators, led by Blue Sky Studios' senior animator Joseph Antonuccio, kept up the high standards set by the original. With great performances from Anne Hathaway and Jesse Eisenberg, it all added up to a colourful concoction of comical set-pieces that kept the whole family happy.
Back in 2011, the idea of reviving the 1970s Planet of the Apes franchise seemed to many to be scraping the bottom of the nostalgia barrel. Then came Rise of the Planet of the Apes, one of the smartest and most engaging reboots of the decade so far - and one that benefitted hugely from the advances in motion capture techniques developed by Andy Serkis's Imaginarium Studios.
This year's sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, tells the story of the early stages of a clash for survival between humans and apes after an apocalyptic virus has devastated the world's population. Directed by Matt Reeves, it's currently storming cinemas around the world thanks to its thoughtful script, engaging characters and wonderfully convincing army of CG apes.
What movies did we miss? Let us know your favourites in the comments box below!