Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Twenty Fourteen

And so in a matter of hours, a new year comes… Another batch of assorted animated entertainments will be making the waves from the cold January to the equally cold December. Our big studios, minus three, are ready to roll their work to the cinemas.

Disney Animation will take us to the action-packed streets of San Fransokyo in their first Marvel film, Big Hero 6. DreamWorks will take us back in time with two classic characters that were seen on the small screens in the late 1950s with Mr. Peabody & Sherman, revisit Berk for more fiery action with How To Train Your Dragon 2 and then introduce us to the alien Boov of distant planet Smekland in Home. Blue Sky will head on over to the Amazon with their fun feathered friends for Rio 2.

Pixar, Illumination and Sony Pictures Animation don't have any trips to take us on in 2014. Pixar pushed their prehistoric epic The Good Dinosaur back to late 2015, Sony Animation shuffled Genndy Tartakovsky's cool-sounding take on Popeye to the "to be determined" section of their slate, Illumination moved the Minions to summer 2015.

It's a shame in some ways, but given many circumstances, it's easy for me to swallow. Again, I'm used to waiting for Pixar films and I know that the "one a year" thing may be detrimental to the development of their productions. I'd rather them take their time than rush out a film, so we don't get a not-so-great film and hear more doomsday naysayers crying. Minions does not really intrigue me, so I could care less that it's been moved. (I'm more interested in Illumination's upcoming original film that they have slated for 2016!) Sony has two films I am not interested in coming in 2015; The Smurfs 3 and Hotel Transylvania 2.

Thankfully, others will be there to fill the void.

Reel FX, makers of Free Birds, are going to do a complete 180 from their goofy turkey movie and give us the potentially awesome The Book of Life. A fantasy-adventure about a young man who must face his fears while traveling through three fantasy worlds that's told through a plethora of songs, it's said to be unlike any computer animated film we've seen over the years. Warner Bros. finally makes a return to feature animation after years of duds, bad decisions and one-trick ponies, thanks to the hilarious-looking The Lego Movie, which offers a lot of promise thanks to its fun trailers, the fact that Phil Lord and Chris Miller are directing and the fact that it's… Well… Lego! Then LAIKA also comes to save the day with another stop-motion masterpiece in the making, The BoxTrolls, which will plunge us into a Victorian setting and take us to a world beneath ours, a world full of quirky little trolls.

We also have the North American releases of Hayao Miyazaki's swan song The Wind Rises and the French traditionally-animated charmer Ernest & Celestine arriving soon. Hopefully these two films are modestly successful, and help motivate studios to invest in unique smaller-scale animation and animation from all around the world.

No Pixar? No Sony? No Illumination? No problem. We have others to make up for that, and they'll return in 2015. Other than these mainstream releases, there's The Nut Job, which looks derivative as hell. Planes: Fire & Rescue, I can do without. Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return? Eh.

That's only the theatrical front… Hopefully a majority of the films have good writing and character work, and are at least unique. Of course, this passing year is teaching a lesson. Diversity wins, and you need to give audiences something new if you want to get ahead. Copying Pixar or Disney or the family-friendly formula can only get you so far, so hopefully a good amount of people take note!

Television animation should more or less be the same; Cartoon Network will probably continue investing in weird, surreal shows while Nickelodeon will continue to try following in their footsteps. Disney seems to be on-and-off with television animation, but they'll keep their successful entries going whilst trying to launch new ones. Maybe we'll see more Wander Over Yanders next year, and see them do well. Adult Swim will give us the usual that they've been giving us for nearly a decade, Fox will continue with Seth McFarlane derivatives and "throw 'em against the wall and see if they stick" experiments. Netflix and other venues will expand television animation, as DreamWorks' TV unit already jumped in with their Turbo F.A.S.T. and tons of other content that'll soon arrive.

Pixar will still be around throughout the year. Even though they don't have a feature film for the big screen coming, they'll have a short film out in Party Central, a Monsters University-based film that oddly doesn't have a release date for some reason. Another Toy Story television special is definitely coming, it was announced back in 2012 that a second special would show up sometime around springtime 2014. An Easter special, perhaps? Or will we wait till late 2014 and end up getting a Christmas special? In addition to these productions, we'll see more Toy Story Toons and Cars Toons.

But of course, what was going on this year - with more independent animation slowly rising and things like Kickstarter helping projects get off the ground - should make this year even better. Glen Keane's Motorola project should be out, too. We'll see a lot of unique things make the waves as well, alongside the big stuff.

I think this year will be a pretty good one. What do you think? Does what 2014 have in store excite you? Or are you disappointed? Sound off below!

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