The year provides another bumper crop of animated pics. Two venerable titles return with spectacular results, both in quality and box office. Plus, a few new entries dazzles in terms of technology and script.
“Toy Story 3”
Classic Precursor: With a pedigree like the first two, what could be more classic?
Shot at a Globe Nod: While it’s been 11 long years since Woody, Buzz and the rest of the gang last delighted audiences, the franchise continues to delight the eyes while exploring weighty themes of change and growing up in a film more than worthy of the other two. Universally glowing reviews and huge box office — $414 million domestic, more than a billion worldwide, making it the highest-grossing animated film ever — only increase its Globe chances.
An Upbeat Opinion: “It enchanted and moved me so deeply I was flabbergasted that a digitally animated comedy about plastic playthings could have this effect.” — Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly
“Shrek Forever After”
Classic Precursor: The fourth and final chapter in a classic series.
Shot at a Globe Nod: The epic fairy tale returns to its green roots with a reboot that has Shrek yearning to take a break from marriage and fatherhood so he can revisit the good old days of being a truly scary bachelor ogre. Result? Another $240 million domestic and more than $460 million internationally in the kitty.
An Upbeat Opinion: “… it has a sweetness all its own, and, given the corporate pressures to turn this film into a marketeer’s cash register, that’s a neat accomplishment.” — Peter Rainier, Christian Science Monitor
Classic Precursor: A rich goulash that tips its hat to Bela Lugosi classics, thanks to Steve Carell’s Eastern European accent.
Shot at a Globe Nod: An inspired international collaboration — ingredients include “Ice Age” producers, French animation, Julie Andrews’ plummy English tones — that propelled this charming 3D kiddie tale into a huge $250 million hit in the United States.
An Upbeat Opinion: “The film is funny, energetic, teeth-gnashingly venomous and animated with an eye to exploiting the 3D process with such sure-fire techniques as a visit to an amusement park.” — Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
“How to Train Your Dragon”
Classic Precursor: “Old Yeller” meets “King Kong” with “Harry Potter” overtones.
Shot at a Globe Nod: Mixing a visually beautiful palette with kinetic action that takes full advantage of its 3D digital format, the film also has a great message — ignorance breeds fear and vice versa — that helped make this a global hit (close to $300 million overseas) and a strong contender for a Globe.
An Upbeat Opinion: “… a shrewd blend of conventional pop-culture pandering and exalted cinematic artistry.” — A.O. Scott, New York Times
“Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole”
Classic Precursor: “Animal Farm” meets “The Lord of the Rings” by way of “Braveheart.”
Shot at a Globe Nod: Directed by Zack Snyder, who does for owls and feathers what he did for Greeks and armor in “300,” the film uses lush 3D animation from the team behind 2007 Globe winner “Happy Feet.” Maybe voters will feel happy again.
An Upbeat Opinion: “The magnificent arcing swoops and spins of the owls achieved by the animation team make such good use of the 3D technology you can almost feel the pure freedom and joy of flight.”– Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times
Classic Precursor: A clever twist on all the comic superhero stories, with special affection for “Superman.”
Shot at a Globe Nod: Directed by “Madagascar” helmer Tom McGrath, the 3D film from DreamWorks Animation both pays homage to comic book conventions and subverts them at the same time. And an all-star cast including Will Ferrell, Brad Pitt, Tina Fey and Jonah Hill should also appeal to Globe voters.
An Upbeat Opinion: “Funny reigns victorious … utterly delightful film.” — Michael O’Sullivan, Washington Post
“Tales from Earthsea”
Classic Precursor: It channels “Star Wars” and “The Lord of the Rings.”
Shot at a Globe Nod: Directed by Goro Miyazaki, son of Hayao Miyazaki, the Japanese master behind “Ponyo,” “Princess Mononoke” and Oscar-winner “Spirited Away,” it features gorgeous dreamscapes, and the voices of Timothy Dalton and Willem Dafoe. Maybe it will give Goro the Globe nom his father has yet to win.
An Upbeat Opinion: “… this utterly earnest, philosophy-drenched story recombines its borrowed elements in imaginative ways to create a frequently gripping effect that builds to a rich climax. The Miyazaki legacy is in good hands.” — Kyle Smith, New York Post
“My Dog Tulip”
Classic Precursor: “Lassie” meets “Call of the Wild.”
Shot at a Globe Nod: Well-regarded filmmakers Paul and Sandra Fierlinger used French software TVPaint to create more than 60,000 drawings and give a painterly look to the film’s detailed postwar London settings. There’s also a Globe-friendly all-star cast (Christopher Plummer, Isabella Rossellini and the late Lynn Redgrave) doing the voiceovers.
An Upbeat Opinion: “… a love song from a lonely 50-year-old man to the Alsatian he adopts and which becomes his best friend and boon companion.” — James Verniere, Boston Herald