Ink & Pixel: Special Edition: 2014 Animation Preview
Ink & Pixel is a source of pride and joy for me as a writer and as such, I’m always striving to take this column further for those who read and enjoy it. If you yourself, or anyone you know, helped to make any of the amazing feature animated films found within this column, I would love to talk to you to further my knowledge. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can discuss it further.
Happy New Year! I hope each and everyone of you have been enjoying the holiday season and that you've had lots of down time to catch up on films, books, or whatever else might be your poison. In case you missed it, the last Ink & Pixel featured what I believe to have been the Top 3 Best Animated Films of 2013 I hope that you all enjoyed the list, and again, I urge you to partake in each of the wonderful films featured. This week though, I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at what notable feature-length animated films are forthcoming in 2014. Please remember that all release dates are subject to change at any time, and that we can only hope that each film mentioned here will both meet and exceed our expectations.
THE NUT JOB
Release Date: January 17th, 2014
An upcoming release from Open Road Films, THE NUT JOB is, (are you ready for this), a Canadian/South Korean/American CGI animated comedy heist film … with squirrels! Written by Peter Lepeniotis, Lorne Cameron, and Daniel Woo,THE NUT JOB - under the direction of Peter Lepeniotis (CASPER, DINOSAUR, GOTTA CATCH SANTA CLAUS) - focuses on the exploits of Surly Squirrel (Will Arnett), and his rat friend Buddy (Eric Bauza). After being banished from their community park residence, Surly and Buddy are forced to survive life in the big city, and as luck would have it, Surly's got a surefire plan on how the mischievous duo might survive new and harsh surroundings … by robbing Maury's Nut Store blind!
Based on the 2005 short-film Surly Squirrel, THE NUT JOB boasts some madcap antics, with actors like Brendan Fraser, Liam Neeson, Katherine Heigl, Maya Rudolph, Jeff Dunham, and Gabriel Iglesias along for the ride. Trailers for THE NUT JOB haven't done much to get me excited for the execution of Surly and Buddy's nutty schemes, but stranger things have happened and you never know which films may surprise you in the new year!
THE LEGO MOVIE
Release Date: February 7th, 2014
Well … they've finally done it! LEGO, the much cherished, plastic building block mega-franchise, is set to unleash their first major motion picture upon the world. THE LEGO MOVIE, directed by Phil Lord (CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS, 21 JUMP STREET) and Chris Miller (CLONE HIGH), is an American-Australian CGI animated action-adventure film of epic proportions.
The film draws audience members into a world built entirely of Legos, and introduces us to a happy-go-lucky average Joe named Emmet (Chris Pratt). Mistakenly thought to be an integral part of a legendary prophecy, the citizens of the LEGO universe believe Emmet to be one they refer to as the Special – the last living Master Builder. Together with an old, Gandalf-inspired mystic named Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), a fearless young woman named Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), and the frickin' Batman (Will Arnett), Emmet must forget everything he's ever known and learn to harness the power of imagination, if he's to have any hope of stopping the sinister Lord Business (Will Ferell) from gluing the world together.
Personally, I've got super high hopes for this movie! It baffles me that it's taken LEGO this long to launch what I hope to be a series of major-motion pictures based on the construction block empire they've been cultivating for decades. It looks to be a movie packed with laughs, Easter eggs, and plenty to keep both kids and the adults in the audience entertained. Bring it on!
THE WIND RISES
Release Date: February 21st, 2014
Although THE WIND RISES (or Kaze Tachinu as it is referred to in Japan) is technically a 2013 release, the film will soon be making its overseas English-speaking debut all around the world come this February. THE WIND RISES is a Japanese animated historical fantasy film both written and directed by the highly acclaimed Hayao Miyazaki. The film, loosely adapted from a short story entitled The Wind Has Risen by Tatsuo Hori, features a look at the life of Jiro Horikoshi, the man responsible for designing fighter planes used during World War II. Sadly, this is to be Miyazaki's final film before retiring (again) as a feature-length animation director.
Having already been released in Japan, THE WIND RISES has received high praise from critics, but has also met with a fair amount of controversy. However, this appears to not be impeding Miyazaki's final film from making its way overseas. With stars such as Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, Elijah Wood, and Stanley Tucci set to lend their voices to the film's cast, you can be sure that both historians and anime fans will be awaiting this one with much anticipation. I know I am.
MR. PEABODY & SHERMAN
Release Date: March 7th, 2014
Straight from out of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show – a 1960s animated television program - comes the 3D CGI comedy adventure film MR. PEABODY & SHERMAN. Produced by Dreamworks Animation and distributed by 20th Century Fox, director Rob Minkoff aims to reintroduce the genius dog and boy duo to a brand new generation of youngsters at the tail end of 2014's winter season.
What's that? You say you don't remember what Mr. Peabody and Sherman's deal was back in the 60s? Well, as part of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, Mr. Peabody - a highly intelligent beagle - and his adopted boy companion, Sherman, would host a rather educational cartoon segments entitled Peabody's Improbable History in which the two characters would make use of a time machine (called the WACAC machine) to teach history to young viewers. I've seen plenty of these segments in the past and I recall them as being quite awesome, as well as educational. The new film will feature both Mr. Peabody and Sherman engaged in mad dash to fix the time-space continuum after one of their trips through history goes terrible wrong.
I'm really hoping that this film does well. The trailer manages to garner a few honest chuckles, and I simply adore the idea of having animated characters whose modus operandi is the importance of a good education through action and adventure featured on the big screen.
Release Date: March 11th, 2014
An upcoming sequel from Blue Sky Studios, RIO 2 is the follow up to 2011's bird loving CGI animated romance adventure, RIO. Directed by Carlos Saldanha, RIO 2 follows Blu (Jessie Eisenberg), the clueless-in-love parrot, and his female companion Jewel (Anne Hathaway), into the next chapter of their ever-expanding love life. After circumstances force them outside the comfort of their own tropical city, Blu and his family must make their way into the forests of the Amazon, where they must learn to conquer a brand new set of fears, dangers, and … in-laws.
With stars such as Leslie Mann, Jamie Foxx, Kristin Chenoweth, and John Leguizamo joining the cast this time around it looks as if RIO 2 is set to make a bigger splash than its predecessor and I have no doubt that kids and parents will be lining up to see the latest adventure from Blue Sky's increasingly popular love birds. I don't know that I'll be one of them, but stranger things have happened.
LEGENDS OF OZ: DOROTHY'S RETURN
Release Date: May 9th, 2014
From Summertime Entertainment - the family entertainment chapter of Alpine Pictures - comes LEGENDS OF OZ: DOROTHY'S RETURN. Based upon both The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, written by L. Frank Baum, and Roger Stanton Baums' Dorothy of Oz, comes this 3D CGI animated musical looks set to have you once again skipping along the Yellow Brick Road, further into the mysterious and enchanted Land of Oz. DOROTHY'S RETURN - set after the events of the original WIZARD OF OZ – finds the ever-curious, Kansas-bred Dorothy back in the wonderful world of Oz only to discover that her friends the Scarecrow (Dan Aykroyd), Tin Man (Kelsey Grammer), and Cowardly Lion (Jim Belushi) have been taken by an insidious new evil who calls himself The Jester (Martin Short).
But all is not lost, for Dorothy is known to make new friends (and enemies) quite easily in the Land of Oz. Along with her new compatriots Marshall Mallow (Hugh Dancy), China Princess (Megan Hilty), Tugg (Patrick Stewart), and an over-sized owl named Wiser (Oliver Platt), Dorothy aims to rescue the magical Land of Oz from the clutches of The Jester before he turns everyone in the kingdom and beyond into helpless marionettes to add to his collection.
The film is set to release on a minimum of 3,000 screens across the U.S. And Canada in the Spring of 2014. Will you be following Dorothy along a broken Yellow Brick Road in search of her friend's salvation, or will you just content to watch the highly underrated 1985 cult classic RETURN TO OZ instead?
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2
Release Date: June 13th, 2014
Huzzah! The much anticipated sequel to the surprise 2010 CGI fantasy action animated hit, HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, will finally be making its way into theaters at the start of the Summer of 2014! Produced by Dreamworks Animation and distributed by 20th Century Fox, HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 finds us five years after the establishment of peace between humankind and dragons.
In the sequel, we join main characters, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his dragon, Toothless, as they relish in their freedom, exploring the skies in search of adventure. However, much more than adventure awaits, for soon the duo will discover an uncharted ice cave - one that is home to hundreds of new species of dragon, and rather mysterious new villain referred to as the Dragon Rider.Together, Hiccup and Toothless must once again lead the charge alongside friends - humans and dragons alike - if peace is to be kept throughout the land.
Imagine being almost single handedly responsible for a nationwide peace, and then having that peace threatened once more after you worked so hard. What would you do to maintain order? How far would you go to prevent having to once again sleep with one eye open? Can you tell that I’m excited for this film? I sure hope so! HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON was hands down one of the best animated film releases of 2010, and it’s my hope that this sequel will only serve to add to the franchise’s already well established foundation. Bring it on!
Release Date: September 26h, 2014
From the up and coming studio that brought you Neil Gaiman’s CORALINE and the horrifyingly brilliant PARANORMAN comes a new feature-length 3D stop-motion animated film entitled THE BOXTROLLS. Based on the children’s novel ‘Here Be Monsters’ by Alan Snow, THE BOXTROLLS tells the tale of a young orphaned boy brought up by a band of cave dwelling, dumpster diving creatures. What’s more, the film boasts a superb cast with actors such as Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Toni Collette, Ben Kingsley, and Elle Fanning lending their voices to the story’s characters. Not much else is known about THE BOXTROLLS, beyond its focus on the young boy doing everything he can to help his “family” after a sinister exterminator is made aware of their existence, and aims to wipe them all off the face of the earth.
For real though, if CORALINE and PARANORMAN are any indication of the talent and dark imaginations residing within the walls of Laika - the film’s production house - then this is a film to get excited for! Directed by Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi, THE BOXTROLLS looks to be a perfect addition to the silver screen during the decaying days of Autumn this coming year.
BIG HERO 6
Release Date: November 7th, 2014
From Marvel Studios and Disney Animated Pictures comes BIG HERO 6, the first feature-length animated film since the companies merged to form what I like to refer to as “the megazord of geek entertainment”. Created by Steven T. Seagle and Duncan Rouleau, the team Big Hero 6 made their first comic book appearance in the year 1988. They’re a relatively unknown group of heroes (based out of Japan), who made their debut in the second volume of Alpha Flight - a series which features the exploits of a Canadian superhero squad. Set in the fictional city of San Fransokyo, the team Big Hero 6 is lead by a technological prodigy named Hiro Himata. Alongside his robot companion Baymax, and a band of inexperienced heroes by the names of Wasabi No-Ginger, Honey Lemon, GoGo Tomago, and Fred, Hiro and his friends soon learn of a disturbing criminal plot that threatens the populous of their fair city.
To be honest, I’m a little confused as to why we haven’t received more information about this film in the past year. I anticipated having seen a more robust trailer at this past year’s New York City Comic Con, but alas, there was none. That said, I’m sure that once Marvel and Disney have something significant to share with us that they’ll be doing just that. We can only wait and hope that BIG HERO 6 is the first in a long line of successful animated films resulting from the Marvel/Disney merger. Excelsior!
Release Date: November 26th, 2014
From Dreamworks Animation comes HOME, a 3D CGI animated alien invasion buddy comedy directed by Tim Johnson. Based on the book The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex, HOME tells the story of an enthusiastic alien boy named Oh (Jim Parsons), who - under the command of Captain Smek (Steve Martin) - seeks refuge on the planet Earth in the hope of eluding a dangerous enemy who's been prowling the cosmos. In fact, Oh and Captain Smek become quite fond of Earth, and in doing so believe it best if they escort its human population off the planet itself … you know, in case the enemy should show up.
However, just as things seem to be working out for Oh and Captain Smek, a human girl named Tip (Rihanna) escapes being deported off the planet. After a lot of commotion Tip and Oh find themselves in each others company, and ultimately alert the enemy to their presence, placing the planet Earth and its remaining population in grave danger.
Without a trailer available for the film I’m not quite certain what to make of this release just yet. I do enjoy Jim Parsons to an extent, so it will be entertaining to see how his now iconic voice and particular energy transfer over to the animated screen. Will HOME be another surprise smash for Dreamworks? Only time will tell, and I’ll be looking forward to seeing what this film is all about.
Release Date: TBA
Indeed! Perhaps you’ve already seen the trailer for THE CONGRESS? No? Well, it’s a live action/animated film written and directed by Ari Folman. Featured as part of the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, THE CONGRESS has already got critics and fans of the animation medium singing its praises. In the film, Robin Wright plays an actress whose capriciousness has relegated her into someone that no studio or director would choose to be involved with ever again.
In an attempt to salvage what’s left of her dignity, as well as her notoriety reputation, Robin agrees to sell the rights of her likeness to a technologically advanced movie studio called Miramount Pictures. As part of the deal, Miramount will be able to use a digital rendering of Robin in any film they see fit, even if that means developing films so advanced that viewers are able to manipulate Robin’s characters into performing any action of their choosing. Think of it as a super advanced and interactive “Choose Your Own Adventure” film where you, the viewer, have complete control over the actor’s decisions. Sounds great, right? Well, Robin no longer thinks so, and she’s taking her stance on the matter all the way to Congress in order to get it sorted out.
I don’t know about you but I am pumped to check out this film once it hits U.S. theaters and Video On Demand services sometime in 2014. I’m excited by the prospect of the film’s live action/ animated presentation, and am really hoping that the film delivers an entertaining yet poignant message about identity.
So there you have it! 2014 should prove to be an intriguing year for animation. Looking over the list now it seems as though there are quite a number of “riskier” films being made and that ain’t a bad thing. The unknown breeds new beginnings and there’s no telling what sort of unexpected surprises await us throughout the year. Cheers and best of luck in 2014!
|Extra Tidbit:||Which animated films are you most looking forward to in 2014? Let us know in the Strike Back section below.|