Sunday, February 9, 2014
Let's forget for a minute that Warner Bros. made a big splash in the animation world and are likely to follow up that success with a string of consecutive hits. Let's forget for a minute that an animated family feature grossed an amazing $69 million… In February no less! Let's forget for a minute that The Lego Movie turned out to be good, and not an unmitigated disaster that audiences and critics alike are loving.
The really good news is, as Steve Hulett pointed out, three… Count 'em… Three animated features are in the domestic top ten.
It's funny how last summer, the press was quick to ask questions like "Is there an animation curse?", "Is there an animation glut?", "Are there too many animated films these days?" No to all three of course. As I, and many others who know a thing or two about animation, have said several times over: People don't go to see bad-looking animated movies. As Hulett stresses quite frequently, "It's the content, not the format."
This weekend only proves that what he's been saying, and what we all say, is correct. Animation isn't some freak success thing, it isn't 1983 anymore, many people have warmed up to the medium and have realized that it can deliver stories that are just as legitimately good as the ones in live action films. I mean, Up and Toy Story 3 got Best Picture nominations and lots of animated films normally get good critical reception. Just look at this movie! 96% on Rotten Tomatoes!
Usually, when a new animated feature came out, the one that was playing for a month or two before it would see a pretty good-sized dip. Frozen wasn't bashed by bricks this weekend, it only dipped 22%… That's just incredible. A big animated movie opens, is in 3D no less and is highly anticipated… Yet the film that's been playing for nearly three months didn't get hit hard. Frozen is now 2013's highest grossing animated film, and it's sure to pass a stalling Despicable Me 2 worldwide in a matter of weeks. Who knows where it will end up at the end of its run…
The third animated film that's in the top 10 is The Nut Job. Despite the fact that it got terrible reviews, it's hanging on. I guess it's a go-to for kids and families if they couldn't get into The Lego Movie or Frozen, though it did get hit a little bit. Thing is, the film wasn't really trailblazing to begin with so it wasn't going to slip. But still, it's in the Top 10. Three animated films in the Top 10! Last time this happened was last summer, and even then people were still saying "Glut!"
This tells me something… It may be a crazy prediction, but…
Animation will truly dominate starting this week. Animated features are going to become more and more commonplace as more studios ramp up production. Warner Bros., having fumbled with animation too many times to name over the course of twenty-five years (from The Thief and the Cobbler to Happy Feet) has finally got a game plan and Paramount Animation leaps in head-first in 2015. Other small studios are starting, The Nut Job's creators have an "Animation Lab" firing up. The big studios will continue to release features, DreamWorks is sticking to the 3-a-year thing while other studios are starting to ready 2 films for each calendar year.
There will be no glut of animated features, there will be no saturation to the point of collapse.
However, I think that there could be a glut of animated "family-friendly" pictures. If every animated release in a calendar year is family-friendly, the good ones will of course succeed while the bad ones fail. Audiences clearly want more from animation, and last year's string of underperformers more than proved that to me. Right now, it is time to experiment. Someone needs to put out another Rango, a fairly popular film that will change the mainstream animation game as we know it and show audiences that there are multiple kinds of stories to tell through animation. Will it be a film released this year? Will the Oscars give The Wind Rises and Ernest & Celestine a boost? Will LAIKA finally have a big box office hit in The BoxTrolls? Or will it pull a ParaNorman and underperform? Will Reel FX's The Book of Life, a very likely candidate, make a splash? Will one of the biggies make a film that's wildly experimental and different from the norm? Maybe Disney's Big Hero 6 will be just that, who knows.
All I can say is… It's time to open a new door.