The animation business
isn’t flat – it’s
just drawn that way.
As “Shrek 2” goes about gathering its green,
Next! looks ahead to future animated features and notes
an obvious trend: The computer-animated toons tend these
days to do a lot better at the box office than their hand-drawn
brethren. Since November 1995 (the month Pixar’s “Toy
Story” was released), eight of the 10 highest-grossing ‘toon
features came out of a computer.
So if you think you’re seeing more big-screen digitized
animation than ever (even filmmakers overseas are getting
into the act – the first European CGI cartoon feature, “Kaena,” opens
June 4), it’s no secret why.
Perhaps the most anticipated title
of its ilk is the Nov. 5 release “The Incredibles” – simply
because it boasts the same Disney/Pixar label that’s
affixed to “Monsters, Inc.,” the “Toy
Story” series and the highest-grossing animated release
of all time, “Finding Nemo.” The computer-animated
action-comedy is about a family of superheroes who find
that the world will not let them lead everyday normal lives.
Written and directed by Pixar newcomer Brad Bird (“The
Iron Giant”) , it features the voices of Bird, Holly
Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, Jason Lee, Craig T. Nelson,
John Ratzenberger, Wallace Shawn and Sarah Vowell.
DreamWorks gets into the swim of things
Oct. 1 with “Shark
Tale.” The animated comedy, set against an aquatic
criminal underworld, is about a shakeup that occurs when
the son of a powerful shark is killed and a young hustler
fish found at the scene claims to be the hero/slayer. Eric “Bibo” Bergeron
(“The Road to El Dorado”) and Vicky Jenson
(“Shrek”) direct from a screenplay by Rob Letterman,
Damien Shannon & Mark Swift (“Freddy Vs. Jason”)
and Michael J. Wilson (“Ice Age,” “The
Jacket”). It features the voices of Will Smith, Angelina
Jolie, James Gandolfini, Renée Zellweger and Martin
Scorsese. No offense is intended to Aquatic-Americans,
who are, by-and-large, respectable, law-abiding fish.
Animated Features Since ‘Toy Story’
(domestic grosses in millions)
1. Finding Nemo (2003) $339.7
2. Shrek (2001) 267.6
3. Monsters, Inc. (2001) 255.1
4. Toy Story 2 (1999) 245.8
5. Toy Story (1995) 191.7
6. Ice Age (2002) 176.3
7. Tarzan (1999) 171.0
8. A Bug’s Life (1998) 162.7
9. Lilo & Stitch (2002) 145.7
10. Dinosaur (2000) 137.7
“The Polar Express” pulls into theatres Nov.
19. The fantasy drama is about a young boy who, after refusing
to accept his friends’ arguments that Santa Claus
does not exist, is rewarded by the arrival in front of
his house of the Polar Express, a steam train that picks
up true believers from all over the world on Christmas
Eve and transports them to the North Pole to meet the Kringle
himself. It’s based on the children’s book
by Chris Van Allsburg (“Jumanji”) and directed
by Robert Zemeckis (“What Lies Beneath,” “Cast
Away”) from a screenplay by Malia Scotch (“Hook,” “Madeline”).
Tom Hanks voices the express conductor. Andrew Ableson,
Debbie Lee Carrington, Eddie Deezen, Josh Hutcherson, Chantel
Valdivieso, Michael Jeter, Hayden McFarland, Peter Scolari
and Chris Coppola also add their voices. Warner Bros. is
punching the tickets.
“Yu-Gi-Oh!” is the animated feature version
of the collectibles your kids are always pestering you
to buy. Underneath the sands of Egypt, the ancient evil
spirit Anubis has reawakened and it’s up to Yugi,
who defeated Anubis centuries ago, to rid the world of
evil once again. Ryosuke Takahashi directed. Amy Birnbaum,
Wayne Grayson, Dan Green and Eric Stuart provide the voices.
Warner Bros. unleashes the product tie-ins Aug. 13.
“Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence” is
a sci-fi actioner set in 2032, when the distinction between
and machines has almost been erased. A cyborg agent for
Section 9 of the Public Safety Bureau finds himself increasingly
attracted to the prime suspect in a murder – a suspect
who may or may not be human. Based on the Japanese anime
comic strip Koukaku-Kidoutai by Masamune Shiro, it was
written and directed by Mamoru Oshii. As it did with “Millennium
Actress,” DreamWorks’ Go Fish division plans
to dub “Ghost” in English for U.S. release.
Assembly should be completed by Sept. 17.
Absorbent and yellow and extremely
profitable is he. “The
SpongeBob SquarePants Movie” finds the titular Nickelodeon
phenomenon taking leave from the underwater burgh of Bikini
Bottom to track down King Neptune’s stolen crown.
Sherm Cohen and Stephen Hillenburg direct from a screenplay
by fellow TV “SpongeBob” alumni Derek Drymon
and Tim Hill. Alec Baldwin and Scarlett Johansson add their
voices to those of TV show regulars Tom Kenny as the title
character and narrator, Rodger Bumpass as Squidward, Mr.
Lawrence as Plankton, Jeffrey Tambor as King Neptune, Bill
Fagerbakke as Patrick Star, Carolyn Lawrence as Sandy Cheeks
and Clancy Brown as Mr. Krabs. Paramount squeezes it out
Will Ferrell provides the voice of
the Man in the Yellow Hat in “Curious George.” The animated comedy
is about the precocious silent primate who leaves the jungles
of Africa for a series of misadventures. It’s based
on the children’s books by Margaret and H.A. Rey.
Jun Falkenstein (“The Tigger Movie”) directs
from a screenplay by Robert L. Baird and Dan Gerson (“Monsters,
Inc.”). Universal sends it on its way Nov. 4, 2005.
“Pooh’s Heffalump Movie” finds the Silly
Old Bear encountering the heretofore imaginary elephant-like
creatures, the Heffalumps. Longtime animator Frank Nissen
makes his feature directorial debut from a screenplay by
Brian Hohlfeld (“Pooh’s Big Movie”) and
Evan Spiliotopoulo. It features the voices of Brenda Blethyn,
Jim Cummings, Ken Sansom and David Ogden Stiers. Buena
Vista lets it out of the trunk Feb. 11, 2005.
“Madagascar” is an animated feature about
four zoo animals who, thanks to a shipwreck, end up in
the wilds of the titular African isle. Eric Darnell (“Antz”)
and Conrad Vernon direct. Chris Rock, Ben Stiller, Jason
Alexander and Madonna lend their voices. DreamWorks plans
a May 27, 2005 release.
“Robots” is a comedy, set in a world populated
entirely by androids, about a metal man who finds himself
at odds with a corporate tyrant when he sets out to improve
the planet. Chris Wedge (“Ice Age”) directs
from a screenplay by Lowell Ganz & Babaloo Mandel (“EDtv,” “Where
the Heart Is”). Those voicing the ‘bots include
Ewan McGregor, Halle Berry, Mel Brooks, Drew Carey, Jim
Broadbent, Paul Giamatti, Stanley Tucci and Amanda Bynes.
Fox winds it up March 11, 2005.
“Tusker” follows the adventures of a small
team of elephants as they cross Southeast Asia on a mission
to save their herd from marauding poachers. Those adding
their voices to the herd include Jody Foster, Gary Shandling,
Dana Carvey and Morgan Freeman. Tim Johnson (“Antz”)
directs from a screenplay by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio
(“Small Soldiers,” “The Road to El Dorado,” “Shrek”).
DreamWorks is expected to herd it into theatres in 2006.
Disney’s “Chicken Little” is falling
into multiplexes. Based on the classic nursery rhyme about
the panicky poultry (and his friends Foxy Loxy, Turkey
Lurkey, Henny Penny, Cocky Locky, Ducky Daddles and Goosey
Poosey) it’s directed by Mark Dindal (“The
Emperor’s New Groove”). Zach Braff, Joan Cusack,
Katie Finneran, Don Knotts, Garry Marshall, Amy Sedaris
and Steve Zahn provide the voices. Buena Vista plans to
releasey-weasy it July 1, 2005.
Finally, in more ways than one, “Cars,” Pixar’s
last contractually-obligated feature for Disney, hits the
road. It features a collection of classic cars bound for
adventure on Route 66. John Lasseter (the “Toy Story” series)
directs. Bonnie Hunt, race-car driver/actor Paul Newman,
retired stock car champion Richard Petty, Pixar good-luck
charm John Ratzenberger, Larry The Cable Guy and Owen Wilson
give the automobiles voice. Buena Vista revs it up Nov.