Earlier in the year, I talked about how 2014 would not only be a better year for animation than this year, but also just a great one in general. The best one since the bursting-with-goodness 2010...
Things have changed since then, with some big changes taking place recently. It seems like 2015 is now going to be that great year (and such a big year for blockbusters and must-see movies in general), but 2014 is not without merit. Many potentially fine films are opening that year: How To Train Your Dragon 2, The BoxTrolls, Book of Life, Big Hero 6. The likes of Mr. Peabody & Sherman and Home also sound good, there's some of the usual (Rio 2), and then some potentially poor by-the-books stuff (The Nut Job).
It's just that the year was kind of gutted, mostly because of Pixar's The Good Dinosaur's migration to the autumn 2015 spot and Sony Animation's Popeye going to the TBD pit. Minions was pushed to 2015, Disney's long-gestating Phineas and Ferb film went from a potential 2014 release to an undecided one. Losing the Pixar film did a good number on the year, losing Popeye, for me, was also disappointing. Minions? I'm okay with that film moving, and I hope the Phineas and Ferb film finds a date soon. (Show co-creator Jeff "Swampy" Marsh says it's just "on hold".)
Anyways, what does 2015 have to offer?
The Big Studio Offerings
For starters, the Emeryville crew will release two original films...
Many people are disheartened that Pixar doesn't have a film ready for release next year, but the good thing is, two films in one year will more than make up for it... Two original films...
Of course, we all know that The Good Dinosaur (opening November 25, 2015) ran into some major problems. The director had to be removed, the producer left the project and things seemed to going haywire at Pixar. But instead of hastily getting it ready for next May, Pixar opted to delay the film to the autumn of 2015 so they can not only get a new director but also fix the problems that they have with it. With more than two years to do that, we may actually get an excellent film in the end.
Pete Docter's Inside Out remains in the summer 2015 spot - June 19th to be exact. Sequel Finding Dory originally had The Good Dinosaur's current release date, but now that's been moved to make way for the recouping dinosaur film. People may say the studio is on the decline, but what would be a better "comeback" than two back-to-back great, original, non-sequel films? These two films don't sound like what we've seen before: A world where dinosaurs don't go extinct and what goes on inside your mind? Pure Pixar...
Pixar has made 2015 a much bigger year than it was for animation.
DreamWorks has three projects ready for 2015. The Penguins of Madagascar (opening March 27, 2015) is probably the least interesting of the trio for me, since it's really just a cash grab though a full-length Penguins film could deliver a lot of fun. I just hope that it's a one-time thing, because I really can't see the Penguins being part of a big, enthralling story. It's pretty much a franchise film in my eyes, but since Madagascar 3 was marked improvement over the first two, anything is possible.
B.O.O.: Bureau of Otherworldly Operations (opening June 5, 2015) should be another good original story, one that suggests a more spooky atmosphere than the other DreamWorks films. Maybe it won't be some giddy, goofy comedy about ghosts... But rather something better. Horror is so well done in animation, and recent examples like ParaNorman prove that... But B.O.O. is probably just going to be a comedy "for fun" kind of film, but it's possible that it may dip into some darker waters. Kung Fu Panda 2 wasn't afraid to do so, then again Guillermo del Toro was working on that film.
Kung Fu Panda 3 is the one I'm really anticipating, given the quality of the second film and how much potential it has. I'm sure DreamWorks will make it a grand finale, unless a second trilogy is a go. With how big the sequel was in scope in comparison to the original will ensure that this will be even bigger, and hopefully it's a little darker much like how the second film. Raise the stakes, develop Po more and even give the Furious Five some major development (something I felt was kind of lacking in the second film), balance the humor and drama, and you'll have a fine third entry. I think DreamWorks can do it.
Of course, with DreamWorks, something could change. Their schedule is always shuffling and changing, so I wouldn't be surprised if one of these films ended up in 2016 with a 2016 film ending up in 2015. You never know, but for now, that's a decent trio of films.
But the other big studios don't have much to offer in my eyes.
Blue Sky's Peanuts? Pass for now, because I fear they'll go the Chipmunks/Smurfs route with it, only spitting on the beloved creations of Charles Schulz. Paramount Animation enters the ring with SpongeBob SquarePants 2 and Monster Trucks. Neither one really piques my interest, because another SpongeBob film seems too safe and the other one (for now) sounds like a commercial for a toyline, though Chris Wedge is directing the latter. I'll be surprised if Monster Trucks ends up sounding like something cool. Illumination's got Minions, I'm not really interested in that one either, or most of their upcoming films in general. Sony Animation? The Smurfs 3 and Hotel Transylvania 2. *yawn*
Walt Disney Animation Studios is sitting out for the year, as 2014's Big Hero 6 will be followed by Zootopia in March 2016.
Warner Bros. Animation may or may not have Storks ready for 2015, their second film from their revived feature animation studio. To be directed by former Pixarian Doug Sweetland, it sounds like it has potential, but very little is known about it. Will it make it to 2015?
It's also likely that DisneyToon will make a third Planes for a summer 2015 release. Ugh...
Most of 2015's most exciting animation releases, for me, are the ones from the smaller studios and the ones that aren't the big guns.
Aardman returns - with a stop-motion film no less - with Shaun the Sheep. Aardman's never made a poor quality film, even Flushed Away managed to be good despite the DreamWorks meddling. Their last film The Pirates! Band of Misfits was an irreverent, overlooked treat. Arthur Christmas was also very good, a fine Christmas film and a fine film overall. Shaun the Sheep should be another charmer from the studio, plus it'll probably be silent for the most part. Another plus!
Sony wants the Ratchet and Clank movie out in 2015, and that has so much potential being based on the long-running video game series. (Personally, I'd like to see someone make a Jak and Daxter animated film!) They'll get away with a lot too since the games aren't exactly family-friendly. Again, we need more adult-oriented animation like this. Other than that, so much potential lies in this because the games do call for an animated feature adaptation. It should do what several live action films based on video games have failed to do, and then some.
If Reel FX Creative Studios has a "one-film-a-year" plan, then Beasts of Burden should be out in 2015 as well. Based on the graphic novel of the same name, it'll be very different and not like your usual animated fare. More animated horror, and one that'll certainly not be for all ages! Their 2014 offering, Book of Life, also sounds very fresh and exciting. Reel FX plans to take some big risks for their future endeavors, and I like that.
Paul McCartney recently announced an animated feature based on a children's book he wrote with two others: High in the Clouds. That's expected to be released in 2015, and since Paul is no stranger to animation, this ought to be great. And of course, different and original. A lot of the animation that Paul has been involved with in his post-Beatles career is fresh, unique and exciting to 21st century eyes. Imagine a whole film based around his ideas and music? Just... Awesome...
The Adventures of Tintin's sequel should also arrive in 2015 as well, since Peter Jackson will be done with The Hobbit by late 2014. One can hope, right? The first film was a solid fine action film that was rooted in classic Spielberg escapism and it was also definitely more on the adult-oriented side. Thankfully it did recoup its costs with its big overseas grosses. I'm all for another round of good old-fashioned action-adventure fun, but of course another round of the hilarious Captain Haddock and various hijinks.
Then we have Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg's R-rated comedy Sausage Party, which could either open up the door for more theatrical adult-oriented animation or it will only inspire suits to invest in similarly raunch fare that sets adult animation back 15 years. Either way, the film itself sounds like it could be weirdly hilarious and perhaps a send-up of Pixar's approach to filmmaking. This Is The End was rip-roaringly hilarious and fresh, this ought to be as well.
Now this last film is a possibility... Henry Selick's The Shadow King was canned by Disney when it was halfway done, and LAIKA sadly rejected the half-complete stop motion film. It was acquired by K5 International earlier in the year, and it doesn't seem like it'll come out in 2014 (The BoxTrolls and Book of Life occupy the ideal spots for this film). Maybe 2015, perhaps?
Since a lot of these films don't have release dates, it's possible that not all of them will debut in 2015, but it seems likely that they will at the moment.
So... In 2015, we'll be getting some good/great stuff along with some competent and unexciting stuff from the big studios - the usual. It looks like the smaller studios will rule the creative roost, but will their efforts pay off at the box office? I sure hope so! Last year gave us three rather unconventional stop-motion films, this year will give us more than three eclectic films.
Do you think 2015 will be that big year for animation? Does it excite you? What films are you looking forward to?
Sound off below!