A new crop of animated and VFX-heavy films should free us from the icy grasp of this winter’s brutal cold streak.
As the brutal cold of the winter months give way to something warmer, a new crop of animated and visual effects-heavy films are here to get us in the mood for the summer blockbuster season. As ever, sequels and remakes make up a large percentage of the offerings, but one can’t help but notice two other trends – hordes of robots and pop singers in acting roles. We’ll leave it to you to decide which is more frightening.
Chappie – March 6th
Move over Terminator – Chappie is the new robotic threat to mankind. Neill Blomkamp directs this story of a bot with the capacity to feel and the folks trying to destroy him. Featuring a script from Blomkamp and wife Terri Tatchell, and visuals courtesy of Image Engine, Ollin VFX Studio, Animatrik Film Design and The Embassy VFX, Chappie stars Sigourney Weaver, Hugh Jackman and Sharlto Copley, who both voices the title character and provided what he calls a “poor man's motion-capture” performance to help create the robot’s physical movements.
Cinderella – March 13th
Seeing Cate Blanchett embody famously frigid stepmother Lady Tremaine in the flesh is a big part of the appeal of this latest interpretation of the beloved fairy tale, directed by Kenneth Branagh. Helena Bonham Carter co-stars as the Fairy Godmother, but it’s the Moving Picture Company and Argon VFX responsible for all the on-screen magic. Frozen fans should also take note that a seven-minute animated short – Frozen Forever – featuring the cast of the 2013 smash will precede the main feature for an extra dose of Disney Princess-related fun.
Insurgent – March 20th
Shailene Woodley is back for another round of mind-bending adventure as Tris in this second installment of the Divergent franchise. Kate Winslet and Theo James also returns as the scheming Jeanine Matthews and strapping Tobias “Four” Eaton respectively, with Robert Schwentke handling directorial duties and Double Negative, Animal Logic, Luma Pictures, Capital T, Milk VFX, The Third Floor, Prime Focus and Method Studios making all the buildings elegantly float by.
Home – March 27th
DreamWorks Animation has adapted Adam Rex’s novel The True Meaning of Smekday into a wacky intergalactic buddy comedy starring the unlikely duo of Rihanna and Jim Parsons. The colorful trailer suggests director Tim Johnson may recover from past missteps like Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas with a more inviting Lilo & Stitch-like premise that could easily be a hit with the youngins, provided the jokes land.
Furious 7 - April 3rd
The late Paul Walker makes his final appearance in this latest entry of the hit automotive franchise, which features returning faves Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez alongside rapper Iggy Azalea. Weta Digital, Gentle Giant Studios, Digital Domain, MPC, Scanline VFX, Proof Inc, Ollin VFX Studio and Pixomondo handle all of the tight curves and parachuting vehicles.
Little Boy – April 24th
A period drama about a kid who wants his father to come home from World War II doesn’t really sound like the kind of picture that would need visual effects, but this little boy, it turns out, can move mountains. At least, he thinks he can, thanks to the work of Opus VFX, Iloura and the defunct Canadian studio Modus VFX. Starring Emily Watson, Tom Wilkinson and 7-year-old Jakob Salvati, this family flick from Smithsonian Institute Award-winning director Alejandro Gómez Monteverde (Bella) seems certain to warm the cockles of your heart.
Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron – May 1st
Move over Chappie – now Tony Stark’s robots are the newest threat to mankind. Of course, there’s a team of Marvel superheroes ready to take them down, which helps, along with snazzy VFX by practically every studio in the biz, including: Double Negative, ILM, The Third Floor, Animal Logic, Prime Focus, Clear Angle Studios, Luma Pictures, Method Studios, Framestore, The Imaginarium Studios, Capital T, Trixter Film and Lola Visual Effects. See kids? Hulk, Thor and Captain America can’t do it alone.
Mad Max: Fury Road – May 15th
Mel Gibson is nowhere to be found in this reboot of the gritty fantasy franchise. The titular role now goes to Tom Hardy, with Charlize Theron, Nicolas Hoult and Lenny’s daughter Zoë Kravitz rounding out the cast of crazed outback warriors. Iloura, Method Studios, Stereo D, 4D Max, The Third Floor and BlackGinger provide visual effects work, with franchise creator George Miller once again calling the dance from the director’s chair.
Tomorrowland – May 22nd
Brad Bird brings his special touch to this film based on – you guessed it – that famous district of Disney World. Though the plot of this dimension-hopping sci-fi fantasy flick is still under wraps, it seems a safe bet it’ll be better than 2003’s The Haunted Mansion. George Clooney stars as good guy Frank, who was supposedly banished from Tomorrowland by its Mayor, Hugh Laurie’s villainous Nix. Walt Disney’s own Carousel of Progress attraction is slotted to make an appearance somewhere along the way, with ILM, OOOii and Halon Entertainment handling all the digital wizardry.
San Andreas – May 29th
The famous Californian Fault is at the centre of this Brad Peyton-directed disaster flick, featuring earth-shattering effects by Cinesite, Scanline VFX, Hydraulx, Method Studios, Stereo D, The Third Floor, Image Engine and Proof Inc. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stars, with Ioan Gruffudd (Forever), Archie Punjab (The Good Wife), Paul Giamatti and yes, Kylie Minogue along for the harrowing ride.
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 EW.com and Newsarama.com.