Fall brings either downright bad animated films or hidden gems. Considering three of these films will be distributed by Disney, the odds are better on the gems in 2012. Just this prospect alone is an improvement on the family offerings in the fall of recent years. Although “Puss in Boots” and “Dolphin Tale” won over audiences and many critics last year, they didn’t have this kind of buzz.
No live-action family offerings this season, but it shouldn’t matter too much with four animated films out in two and a half months time.
Directed by Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich
Written by Andrew Stanton, Bob Peterson and David Reynolds
Starring: (voices) Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Alexander Gould
Summary: When his son is snatched up by a boat and taken to Sydney, Marlon the clown fish embarks on an adventure to find him and bring him home.
The Word: After re-releasing “The Lion King” and “Beauty & the Beast” in the last year, Disney finally turns to its Pixar repertoire and brings this beloved film back to the big screen.
My Thoughts: “Finding Nemo” is really the perfect choice for a Pixar film to be retrofitted with 3D thanks to the underwater landscapes (that sounds weirdly oxymoronic, doesn’t it?) Just as “The Lion King” had a successful run this fall, expect similar success for “Finding Nemo.”
Directed by Genndy Tartakovsky
Written by Peter Baynham and Robert Smigel (screenplay), Todd Durham, Dan and Kevin Hageman (story)
Starring: (voices) Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Selena Gomez, Andy Samberg
Summary: Dracula (Sandler) is the owner/operator of the Hotel Transylvania, where all your favorite creepies go to take a load off and avoid humans. When he invites some of biggest names in spook-dom (Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein, Mummy, the Invisible Man) to celebrate his daughter Mavis’ (Gomez) birthday, a human (Samberg) stumbles upon the resort and causes a ruckus.
The Word: Sony Pictures Animation has been a little slow in developing into a studio that can compete with DreamWorks, Pixar and even Fox’s Blue Sky Studios. Although films “Surf’s Up” and “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” have been successful critically and to an extent at the box office, and collaborations with Aardman Animations has resulted in some quality products, “Transylvania” seems the most “mainstream.” Cartoon Network’s Genndy Tartakovsky (“Dexter’s Laboratory,” “Samurai Jack”) directs.
My Thoughts: The premise isn’t bad, at least by DreamWorks Animation standards (certainly not Pixar), but the trailers feature a story that’s been told hundreds of times before with an overprotective parent and the humor seems less inclusive of adults, which is something the other three family films out this fall will not need to worry about.
Directed by Tim Burton
Written by John August (screenplay), Tim Burton (story and short film), Leonard Ripps
Starring: (voices) Charlie Tahan, Catherine O’Hara, Winona Ryder, Martin Landau
Summary: When young Victor Frankenstien loses his pet dog and best friend, Sparky, he uses some crazy science to bring him back from the dead, but when word gets out it causes the whole village to be up in arms and some other kids at school try to repeat the experiment to disastrous results.
The Word: “Frankenweenie” originates from Burton’s 1984 short film of the same name. His Tim Burton Animation Co. (which also made “Corpse Bride”) with the backing of Disney brings the old idea back from the dead for feature-length treatment. The voice cast includes a lot of Burton’s favorite and best collaborations, (sans Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, if you can believe it) including Landau (“Ed Wood”), Ryder (“Edward Scissorhands”) and O’Hara (“Beetlejuice”).
My Thoughts: Nothing wrong with Burton going back to his comfort zone where we know he can be successful, especially after “Alice and Wonderland” and “Dark Shadows” being mediocre (minus the billion the former made). We don’t get treated to black and white anything these days and a family friendly gothic horror film sounds like a good excuse to change that.
Directed by Rich Moore
Written by Jennifer Lee, Phil Johnston
Starring: (voices) John C. Reilly, Jack McBrayer, Sarah Silverman, Jane Lynch
Summary: Wreck-It Ralph (Reilly) is the Donkey Kong-like bad guy in an arcade game called Fix-It Felix Jr. when one day he has an existential crisis about being a bad guy and leaves his post at his game. He travels the digital arcade-osphere in a journey of self-discovery in which he hopes to finally become the hero.
The Word: Disney’s non-Pixar CGI animation arm, which most recently put out the hit fairy tale “Tangled” and before that “Bolt,” presents this nice little homage to the world of video and arcade games with this one, which should help broaden its appeal. Rich Moore (“Futurama”) directs the script from first-timer Jennifer Lee and Phil Johnston (“Cedar Rapids,” which starred Reilly). The trailer features a number of game references, so hunting for Easter eggs in this film alone should be a blast.
My Thoughts: It hasn’t come out yet, but “Wreck-It Ralph” might already be the most successful “video game adaptation” ever made. The trailer cameos featuring Bowser, Zangief from “Street Fighter” and so many more has me a little giddy, as does the premise, which promises something akin to “Toy Story” but with video game characters. And don’t overlook that there are just two screenwriters and both have limited experience; in this case and the case of most animated efforts from big studios, that’s usually a very good thing.