C'mon Hollywood: Where are the animated films this summer?
Let’s just get this out of the way; it’s been a pretty lackluster summer at the box office so far. Maybe some of you will disagree and that’s fine, but it feels like we’ve had a cavalcade of ho-hum entertainment so far, with a few cool entries sneaking by. 2014 was always going to serve as a preamble to 2015, which has a far more impressive line-up of pics that, at least when BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE was still included, threatened to break the box office wide open (and still may). However, the one thing that’s been a true drag this summer is the lack of animated films.
Now, some folks may be happy to have less animated pics during the summer movie season, but for those that love the medium and/or have youngsters that they’d like to take to the movies it makes for a serious lack in options. Dreamworks’ HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 is the only good option this summer, which is a great little flick, but a little depressing when you consider it’s the only one we’ll get. And I’ll be damned if I consider PLANES: FIRE AND RESCUE a viable option. I would rather endure a long day at Chuck E Cheese than weather that storm.
Pixar pushed THE GOOD DINOSAUR from its original May 2014 release to 2015, making this the first Pixar-less summer since 2003. While the company has been hot and cold of late, their presence is sorely missed. Universal had a massive hit last summer with DESPICABLE ME 2 and while I didn’t enjoy it all that much, it was less painful than a faux Pixar flick with talking planes. However, Universal’s slate for animation was clear this summer as well, with THE MINIONS invading next year (along with all other animated films, apparently).
The issue here is twofold; Diversity and Options. It’s nice to have 3 or more animated films to take your kids to (or to just enjoy as an adult) as it helps get your future movie geek(s) in the making out to the theater and building those movie memories and it also keeps you from having to choose less desirable options. Somehow TRANSFORMERS 4, TAMMY, and DELIVER US FROM EVIL wound up being the only new options to open this July 4th holiday weekend, leaving kids to just go see HTTYD 2 again or suffer the trauma of one of the aforementioned titles. And, TRANSFORMERS 4 is hardly an acceptable alternative. Three hours of mindless excess is a lot to ask of any kid OR adult. At least most animated pics are a pretty lean 90 minutes or so.
The other good thing about having more animated pics on deck is that you’re able to play the odds. One or more of them is going to suck. That’s a given. And, one of them will be “meh.” Usually, you have to suffer through a few crapfests before you get to the gem. Fortunately for this summer, HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 was a gem, but that doesn’t mean we’re tapped out for the season. Far from it. Now, parents and animation enthusiasts have nothing but the dread of being taken to PLANES: FIRE AND RESCUE (if they so choose), while holding out till September for THE BOXTROLLS and into the fall/winter for BIG HERO 6 and THE BOOK OF LIFE.
For me, even putting PLANES: FIRE AND RESCUE on the menu is insulting. It’s obvious that it belongs on a straight-to-DVD shelf and not in a theater. No one is fooled (okay, maybe some are, which is why we have another one). It’s the chicken McNugget of choices. There’s no real sustenance to it. I can’t imagine it ever being more than an afterthought in a kid’s DVD library. Along with crap like THE NUT JOB or MR. PEABODY AND SHERMAN it’s been one slap in the face after another, minus a few pleasant entries.
Ultimately, there isn’t much we can do at this point. We just have to suck it up and motor through a mostly animation-less summer and particularly lame year overall in animation. It is what it is, but that doesn’t mean we have to like it. We lucked out with THE LEGO MOVIE earlier this year and HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON this summer, which is nice enough, but one or two other viable options would’ve gone a long way in making for a more enticing summer box office. In the end, 2014 will just be a disappointing year for animation. Hopefully, Hollywood pays attention and spaces out their selections a little more evenly in the future and, more than that, will give us more quality selections rather than bullshit fare that obviously belongs on a straight-to-DVD rack.