Seven animated features are currently on the fall schedule and AWN takes a chance to run them down. Disney and DreamWorks have their heavy weights, while indie releases shine as well. Warner Bros. and Animal Logic partner again. And Lionsgate enters the animation game.
My Dog Tulip (New Yorker Films, Sept. 1)
Paul and Sandra Fierlinger put their spin on the age-old tale of man and his best friend, basing their story on J.R. Ackerley's 1956 book. This indie TVPaint production from producer Norman Twain Prods. and distributor New Yorker Films will have a short run in New York. The film about a man who rescues a German Shepherd debuted at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival in 2009 and received an honorable mention at Ottawa the same year. The voice cast features Christopher Plummer, Lynn Redgrave and Isabella Rossellini.
Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue (Walt Disney, Sept. 3)
This direct-to-DVD production is getting a two-week theatrical run in Los Angeles at the El Capitan Theatre. In the film, Tinker Bell must partner with a rival fairy in order to keep secret their existence from humans. Much like Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure last year, this film is rumored to be on Disney's list of Oscar submissions in an effort to help lift the yearly releases high enough to ensure five nominations. Director Bradley Raymond devised the story, which was scripted by Bob Hilgenberg and Rob Muir. Mae Whitman, who just appeared in Scott Pilgrim as one of the evil exes, voices Tink. The rest of the voice cast includes Michael Sheen, Lucy Liu, Raven-Symone and Rob Paulsen. The film arrives on DVD and Blu-ray Sept. 21st.
Alpha and Omega (Lionsgate, Sept. 17)
Produced by Crest Animation, this 3-D CG flick follows two polar opposite wolves that have been placed together in a foreign forest in an effort to raise the species population in the area. Too bad they hate each other. Anthony Bell (The Boondocks, Rugrats) and Ben Gluck (Brother Bear 2) helmed the production, which features the voices of Justin Long, Hayden Panettiere, Christina Ricci, Dennis Hopper and Danny Glover. Crest Animation is best known for its home entertainment work on Casper and Care Bears, as well as religious programming. This film is the first of a three-picture deal Crest signed with Lions Gate Family Ent.. The next film is Norm of the North, which follows a polar bear who ends up the spokesperson for a company that is destroying his native Arctic.
Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole (Warner Bros., Sept. 24)
The last time Warner Bros. and Animal Logic partnered on an animated feature, they produced the Oscar-winning Happy Feet. Based on the first three books in Kathryn Lasky's popular YA book series, the film follows a young barn owl who is sent to an orphanage where they brainwash the children into serving as soldiers. Like with Happy Feet and George Miller, this production brings in a helmer from the live-action ranks in The Watchmen's Zack Snyder. The Australian heavy voice cast includes Jim Sturgess, Geoffrey Rush, Emilie de Ravin, Hugo Weaving, Sam Neill, Helen Mirren, and Abbie Cornish. Sight unseen, many wonder if this one is a real contender for the Oscar race or not. The theatrical run will also feature the second CG Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner short of the year titled Fur of Flying.
Megamind (DreamWorks, Nov. 5)
With Universal's Despicable Me already a monster success, can DreamWorks' super-villain spoof stand up? The story here follows the rivalry between hero Metro Man and villain Megamind, whose evil plots are getting tiresome. But what happens when one works? What does it mean to be a supervillain without of superhero? The existential questions abound in this film directed by Tom McGrath (Madagascar). As with any DreamWorks production, the voice cast shines with stars, including Brad Pitt, Will Ferrell, Jonah Hill, Tina Fey and David Cross. A fun game to play during the film would be spotting the superhero references. A few include Metro Man's suit modeled after Captain Marvel, Hal's sad face pin a nod to Watchmen's Comedian, Megamind's blue skin an ode to Freakazoid! and baby Megamind crashing into a prison instead of a happy home tips its hat to Red Son, a series of comics that wonder what would happen if Superman had landed in Soviet Russia instead of the Kent farm.
Tangled (Walt Disney, Nov. 24)
Walt Disney's long-in-the-works debut CG princess film will arrive this fall. After Glen Keene had to step away from directing due to non-life threatening health issues, Nathan Greno and Byron Howard took up the mantle of crafting this edgier take on the classic Rapunzel tale filtered through the visuals of a Romantic era painting. Mandy Moore voices the girl with the really long hair, while Zachary Levi lends his voice to Flynn Rider, a thief who "rescues" her from her tower. The leads will be joined by Ron Perlman, Jeffrey Tambor and Brad Garrett. It is yet to be seen whether Tangled will appeal to boys more than Rapunzel would have, but one thing is for sure animated fairytale princesses should be wishing on a star for a hit after the less-than-blockbuster performance of The Princess and the Frog.
The Illusionist (Sony Pictures Classics, Dec. 25)
Many predictors have at least two of the slots for Oscar's Best Animated Feature locked with Toy Story 3 and this film. Sylvain Chomet follows up his Oscar-nominated The Triplets of Belleville with this ode to comic legend Jacques Tati. Based on an unproduced Tati script, the film follows a vaudeville performer who fears his brand of entertainment is becoming a relic of the past. Chomet casts an animated Tati in the lead role and pays loving tribute to the master in every aspect of the performance. The entire idea of the production highlights the ideas that animation can explore that would take legions of visual effects artists and hundreds of millions of dollars to even attempt. Many supporters of the film believe this is the film that deserves to win the Oscar.
Rick DeMott is the director of content for Animation World Network, VFXWorld and AWNtv. Additionally, he's the creator of the movie review site, Rick's Flicks Picks, which was named one of the 100 best movie blogs by The Daily Reviewer. He has written for TV series, such as Discovery Kids' Growing Up Creepie and Cartoon Network's Pet Alien, the animation history book Animation Art, and the humor, absurdist and surrealist website Unloosen. Previously, he held various production and management positions in the entertainment industry.