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Trailer park report: animated films

01/10/2006. Contributed by Mark R. Leeper

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As is a sort of a yearly tradition for Mark to cover the film studio presentation of upcoming films given at the World Science Fiction Convention. These presentations are a custom that goes back at least as far as MidAmericon in 1976 when a minor filmmaker, George Lucas, showed his designs for his upcoming film, Star Wars. Presentations of upcoming films for the Worldcon became common for a while but are now a dying tradition.

As is a sort of a yearly tradition I have covered the film studio presentation of upcoming films given at the World Science Fiction Convention. These presentations are a custom that goes back at least as far as MidAmericon in 1976 when a minor filmmaker, George Lucas, showed his designs for his upcoming film, STAR WARS. Presentations of upcoming films for the Worldcon became common for a while but are now a dying tradition.

These days one person comes to the convention with one or two DVD disks of trailers and there is little to the presentation besides that. Instead they send advertising giveaways like pins and buttons. That is less labour-intensive and the same presentation can be rolled out at different convention with little extra effort. In fact, they make the package up for another event entirely, the San Diego Comic-con. That event is much more commercial than the World Science Fiction Convention but also much bigger so that from the studios' point of view it has eclipsed the Worldcon. My knowledge of the films discussed here has been augmented by references to the Internet Movie Database.


I think that the Golden Age of animated films is right about now. Certainly studios like Pixar and Dreamworks have shown that animated films frequently can out-perform films of similar cost shot in live action. The first trailer for a film presented was CHARLOTTE'S WEB. Curiously, that is being done live action. I will talk about that next week. It was followed by a string of animated films and I will talk about them now.

OPEN SEASON, the first of several animated trailers we saw, already has trailers in theaters. It seems to be the adventures of a likable bear and a fast-talking deer. Boog is a tame bear that escapes and finds himself in woods during hunting season. He cooperates with Eliot, the deer, to survive the guns that will be pointed at them. The content is not promising, but the jokes in the trailers had the audience laughing. Martin Lawrence and Ashton Kutcher are the primary voices.

When I was young, films for children were expected to be wholesome. Even for adults they were expected to avoid vulgarity. Most people who saw a toilet in PSYCHO were seeing that sort of facility for the first time on the silver screen. These days the films with scatological humour are mostly made for young kids. FLUSHED AWAY deals with a mouse that is flushed down a toilet only to find a wonderland in the sewers of London. Not much is obvious from the trailer beyond that premise. This film seems to be all about the adventure of a house mouse learning to live as a sewer mouse. Oh, boy.

What looks to be an allegory about being yourself has Mumbles, an Emperor Penguin wanting to tap dance his way in HAPPY FEET. Unlike penguins who sing to find a mate, Mumbles wants to tap dance his way into the hearts of females. It will be interesting to see how people react to this film after seeing the harsh world that some Emperor Penguins live in MARCH OF THE PENGUINS. I don't suggest tap dancing when you have the next generation balanced carefully on your feet. There are advantages to singing. Robin Williams, Hugh Jackman, Elijah Wood, Nicole Kidman, Brittany Murphy, and Hugo Weaving do the voices.

It was hard to tell the viewer much about MEET THE ROBINSONS except that the Robinsons are a weird family that you would really not want to meet. The IMDB says that this one is about a boy who has a machine that retrieves memories and somehow he goes forward in time with it to find a family that needs his help. Maybe you have to see the film to understand this.

RATATOUIE is the adventures of a rat in France who lives in an expensive French restaurant. He suddenly realizes that what he and other rats are eating is garbage. When you are a rat it comes with the territory. This rat goes off in search of better cuisine. This sounds like FLUSHED AWAY in reverse. Brian Bird directs and previously directed THE IRON GIANT and THE INCREDIBLES, so in spite of the trailer not being very inviting, the film might still be decent.

TMNT (that seemed from the trailers to be the title though the IMDB lists it as TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES) is an animated film telling the further adventures of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The trailers--there were two of them--had little information except that there is a falling out between two of the turtles and they fight something that look like a gargoyle. There is not much information yet about the plot.

A very repressive Paris in the year 2054, one where spy cameras are trained on everybody, is the setting for a stylish, apparently monochrome animated film entitled RENAISSANCE. (The description in the IMDB says, "In 2054, Paris is a labyrinth where all movement is monitored and recorded. Casting a shadow over everything is the city's largest company, Avalon, which insinuates itself into every aspect of contemporary life to sell its primary export--youth and beauty. In this world of stark contrasts and rigid laws the populace is kept in line and accounted for.")

What makes objects appear to be three-dimensional is in large part the fact that your eyes get different information. They see together more than one eye can. I would think this means you cannot go back and make a two-dimensional image three- dimensional. Apparently with new digital technology you can extrapolate out the missing information for the left-eye image. So they can and have made a 3-D IMAX version of THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. Because the animation looks like a 2-D image of actual 3-D objects, this is a good choice of a film to choose. For me, Tim Burton films are a mixed bag. This is one of the Burton films I really do like. There is a lot of creativity in all parts of the screen.

Next week I will talk about some of the live-action films that are coming.

Mark R. Leeper

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