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Animation and VFX Fall 2014 Movie Preview

Witches, robots, cuddly bears and Moses himself are coming to theatres this fall.

Those lazy, hazy crazy days of picnics and BBQs are now behind us, friends, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find respite in the otherworldly offerings making their way to the multiplex.  In this roundup of upcoming animated and visual effects-laden films, there’s actually a fair number of original concepts amidst the remakes and sequels to popular franchises.  In short, something for one and all.

Dracula Untold – October 10th

CG Bats are everywhere to be found in this new spin on the legend of Dracula directed by Gary Shore.  Credit for those ultimately rests with WETA, The Third Floor, Milk VFX, Framestore, Windmill Lane VFX, Level 256 VFX, Peanut FX, Nvizible, Method Studios and Clean Angle Studios, though it’ll be up to Luke Evans to deliver a performance strong enough to stand alongside those of Bela Lugosi and Gary Oldman.

The Book of Life – October 17th

Reel FX Creative Studios delivers a Mexican-themed CG animated adventure in which the dashing Manolo (Diego Luna) must fight his way back from the “Land of the Remembered” to win the hand of his sweetheart Maria (Zoe Saldana).  Produced by Guillermo del Toro and directed by Jorge Gutiérrez, Life features some rather interesting character designs but little of the Pixar/DreamWorks/Disney nuance audiences have come to expect in their animated fare.  Still, the movie’s unique visual style and Día de Muertos story may just draw people in.

Horns – October 31st

Just in time for Halloween, Harry Potter himself is back in theatres with a twisted tale of death and possible possession to pique our interests.  Director Alexandre Aja teamed up with Tippett Studio to realize the visual effects in this story of a man accused of raping and murdering his girlfriend, based on Joe Hill’s novel of the same name.  It premiered at the 2013 TIFF festival and received somewhat mixed reviews, but looks worthwhile if for no other reason than to see how far they can take Hollywood’s beloved boy wizard into demon territory.

Interstellar – November 7th

Christopher Nolan’s latest is a serious sci-fi flick centered around two not-so-crazy notions: that the Earth’s resources will soon be exhausted and that astronauts could soon travel through wormholes.  Written with his brother and frequent collaborator Jonathan Nolan, Chris has brought together an all-star cast including Matthew McConaughey, Michael Caine and Anne Hathaway in the hopes of giving us some thrills along the lines of Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Jaws.  Early buzz suggests he’s done just that, with the help of visual effects from Double Negative.

Big Hero 6 – November 7th

Disney delves full-throttle into superheroics with this liberal adaptation of the Marvel comics of the same name.  Big Hero 6 focuses on the relationship between a tiny teenaged boy and his robot – voiced by Ryan Potter and 30 Rock’s Scott Adsit respectively – who live in the Tokyo-meets-San Fran city of San Fransokyo and team up with a bunch of nerds to unmask an appropriately mysterious villain.  Directors Don Hall and Chris Williams seem to have pulled out all the visual stops with this CG thrill ride while simultaneously tapping into everything we’re obsessing about these days, from superhero teams and anime to cultural mash-ups.  Should be good.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 – November 21st

We can thank Twilight for setting precedent on this one.  The final Hunger Games book has been split into two films, the first of which sees Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen leading a revolt while trying to save Josh Hutcherson’s Peeta Mellark, who is being tortured something fierce.  Double Negative, Gentle Giant Studios, Scanline VFX, MPC, The Embassy VFX and Rising Sun Pictures handle all of the effects under the supervision of Catching Fire’s Francis Lawrence, who returns to direct both parts of the franchise-concluding films.

Penguins of Madagascar – November 26th

As if having their own TV series wasn’t enough, the amiable penguins are now starring in their own feature film directed by Simon J. Smith and Eric Darnell.  It’s a globe-hopping spy thriller from DreamWorks Animation featuring voice work by John DiMaggio, John Malkovich and Benedict Cumberbatch as a penguin, octopus and wolf.  Hey, why not?

Exodus: Gods and Kings – December 12th

It wouldn’t be the holiday season without a religious picture to look forward to and Ridley Scott sure has a doozy up his sleeve.  This retelling of the biblical tale of brotherly conflict features Christian Bale as Moses, Joel Edgerton as Ramesses II and as many locusts as Double Negative, One of Us, Stereo D, MPC, Method Studios, The Third Floor, The Senate VFX and Nvizible could create.  Whether this will be met with the kind of reception that greeted Aronofsky’s Noah earlier this year remains to be seen.  We’re just happy to see Sigourney Weaver and Ben Kinglsey in there.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – December 17th

What can we possibly say about this one?  It was formerly subtitled “There and Back Again”?  You already knew that.  You’ve also already read the books, seen the prequels/sequels/midquels and pre-purchased your tickets for the very first midnight screening in your hometown…not that anyone would blame you.  It’s your last chance to see Ian McKellen taking names in his epic white wig.  Just take a moment during the closing credits to applaud Weta Digital for their groundbreaking visual effects work on all six films as you wipe away your Tolkien-lovin’ tears.

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb – December 19th

As fate would have it, the first of Robin Williams’ final four movies also happens to be the late Mickey Rooney’s final bow.  The two comedy giants share the silver screen with Ben Stiller, Ricky Gervais and Dick Van Dyke in the (reportedly) concluding chapter of the popular franchise about historical figures engaging in amusing shenanigans.  And with the magical powers of The Tablet of Ahkmenrah about to fade away forever, they’ll need Gentle Giant Studios, Zoic Studios, Method Studios, MPC and Digital Domain to help keep the magic alive.

Paddington – December 25th

Literary icon, beloved children’s character and all-round cuddly buddy Paddington Bear is about to get the CG treatment.  Paul King, who does double duty here as director and screenwriter, has concocted a film which – going by the trailer – features poor Paddy sustaining head injuries and nearly drowning in a toilet bowl.  Could this be why Colin Firth dropped out of project, claiming the character didn’t have “his voice”?  We’ll let you decide.  Ben Whishaw has since stepped in to play Paddy, who was created using a mix of animatronics and CGI, courtesy of Double Negative, Framestore, One of Us and The Third Floor.

Into The Woods - December 25th

Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s musical interpretation of fairy tales became a classic for its clever examination of the concept of Happily Ever After.  Now, it’s hitting the big screen with Meryl Streep in the juicy role of the Witch with Atomic Arts and MPC bringing her unpredictable magic to life.  Chicago director Rob Marshall has also brought a number of theatre vets onto the project, including Christine Baranski and Tracey Ullman, so hopefully this one will be music to our ears.


James Gartler is a Canadian writer with a serious passion for animation in all its forms. His work has appeared in the pages of Sci Fi Magazine, and at the websites and