Dr. Toon: Summer 2010
This show will be targeted toward young children, and my concerns go beyond the usual mega-marketing-to-kids issues. This show ignores the fact that the league has a very dark side. For all its might, the NFL has serious problems, and all kids will see is a highly positive, greatly sanitized version of the sport, the league and the NFL brand. The greater the degree of idealization, the greater the possible disillusionment when there is no football in 2011, the Michael Vicks of the league exercise paranormal stupidity or a kid's favorite player ditches town for free-agent riches, leaving the poor tyke with an expensive, outdated jersey.
Part III: 4 + 3(D) = Million$
Oh, the rush of 3-D spectaculars this summer! Towering IMAX theaters playing to full houses, an audience sporting the latest in cinematic eyewear, animation mavens turning nifty tricks until every protruding pixel has been milked to maximum effect. Happily, the efforts have largely paid off and we have, to date four critical and domestic box office champs since March. All of them happen to be in 3-D, if you want to see them in that format. Shrek Forever After admittedly showed signs that the franchise had lost steam, so DreamWorks wisely made this the last sequel. Still, the film was not a bad coda to the series, and at last glance was headed toward the $240 million mark. DreamWorks had an earlier spring hit with How to Train Your Dragon, an exceptional animated treat that raked in $217 million and already has a sequel in the works for 2013.
Now…does this fantastic four owe part of their success to 3-D, or are they just great films that would have succeeded in traditional style? The 3-D experience, which has now spread to home television, has never been as prominent in entertainment, even though it has existed for decades. While the neo-novelty of depth in films is generally an enhancement, this summer's crop of winners would likely have done just as well on a flat plane. Story and characterization make animated films live, not images viewed through a pair of chromatic glasses, and these four films have these qualities in abundance. Some critics aver that the recent spate of 3-D films represents a passing phase, while others have decried 3-D as a gimmick that detracts from a film's narrative task. Those critics are missing the point: a film as exceptional as Toy Story 3 will be exceptional in any viewing format.
If three-dimensional novelties are the newest flavor and are doomed to fade away by, oh, 2014, so be it. If the same gimmick thrives and comes to be expected as a matter of course by future audiences, that's fine too. Just keep giving us inventive films with memorable characters and great scripts, and animation will continue to thrive on the big screen for many summers to come.
Martin "Dr. Toon" Goodman is a longtime student and fan of animation. He lives in Anderson, Indiana.