If you were around in 1961, you may have seen an obscure animated feature titled Alakazam the Great, about three friendly monsters – Son Goku (monkey), Sir Quigley Brokenbottom (Pigsy), and Sandy – escorting Prince Amat from China to India.
This was part of the first wave of Japanese animated films, known as anime, to enter the United States. The other two features in that wave were Panda and the Magic Serpent and Magic Boy. They were box-office failures at the time, and because of this the anime film genre is still fighting to enter the American theatrical market.
Alakazam the Great was also America’s first cinematic introduction to the ancient Chinese story Journey to the West or Monkey King, as it is better know in America. This legend is over a thousand years old in the oral form. It was written into a novel, probably by the scholar Wu Cheng’en in the 16th century. The first Oriental animated feature, the Chinese Princess Iron Fan (1940), is an adaptation of part of Journey to the West. Alakazam the Great, more specifically, is a movie adaptation of Osamu Tezuka’s 1952-59 My Son Goku manga version of Journey to the West.
We covered animated feature The Nut Job thoroughly upon its release in January 2014. If you enjoyed it, I have good news: a sequel is coming August 18, entitled The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature.
The Nut Job was about a group of anthropomorphized city wildlife led by Surly Squirrel raiding an out-of-business nut shop while a gang of bank robbers are using it as a cover for their heist. The movie is semi-famous for having been almost universally reviled by the critics before its release – it got a 12% rating on Rotten Tomatoes – then getting a very favorable audience when it came out.
It was produced by ToonBox Entertainment in Toronto, and mostly financed by South Korean investors. The Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism of the Republic of Korea got a credit. They even threw some love by having the animal cast plus an animated Psy, the popular South Korean singer-dancer, break into “Gangnam Style” over the closing credits.
Compared with their competition at Disney and Pixar, Illumination relies less on strong storytelling and instead leans more heavily towards pure charm to make their movies successful. In the past, they've accomplished this with cute and colourful characters, and a child-friendly sense of humour.
With that history in mind, The Secret Life of Pets continues its studio's charm offensive, compensating well for a bland and forgettable story.
The Secret Life of Pets [trailer] is Illumination Entertainment's latest CG animated film offering, released on July 8, 2016. It's an entertaining comedy that's been doing quite well at the box office. I went to a weekday early evening screening, and the theater was packed with about an equal mix of adults and kids. Everyone seemed to enjoy it!
The story starts in an apartment building in Manhattan. Max (voiced by Louis C.K.) is a terrier who adores his owner, a young woman named Katie. One day she brings home a second dog, a huge, shaggy brown Newfoundland named Duke. Max and Duke don't get along at all. Their conflict results in them getting lost in the city, avoiding animal control officers and a gang of abandoned pets led by an insane white rabbit named Snowball. Meanwhile, the other pets from the apartment building embark on a quest to find them, led by Gidget, a white pomeranian.
Monster Trucks. Do the trucks become anthropomorphic, or do the trucks become inhabited by anthropomorphic monsters? It’s hard to tell from this first trailer; but the movie, coming on January 13, 2017, does look like something that anthro fans will enjoy.
All of the information is in this Cartoon Brew article, so just read it there.
If there is a difference between anthro fans and furry fans, this movie may make it clearer. The monsters in Monster Trucks aren’t furry at all.
The new Chinese 100-minute animated feature Big Fish & Begonia now has a music video as well as a trailer for promotion. Directed by Liang Xuan and Zhang Chun, and produced by their B&T Studio, the hand-drawn/CG hybrid feature will be released July 8 throughout China. No word on a U.S. release yet.
I didn't see the last Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie from 2014, but can you blame me? The film came out to terrible reviews, the new "Shrek" Turtle designs looked ugly, and it was produced by Michael Bay. Though I have childhood nostalgia for the Turtles (although I was born too late for the late 80s TMNT phenomenon), I had no interest in seeing it.
Then the first trailer for the sequel, Out of the Shadows, appeared late last year and it looked like it could be good fun. After the first film got criticised for not being faithful to the original cartoon or comics, the fan-service was clearly jacked up in this new movie by giving us Bebop and Rocksteady, Baxter Stockman and Krang to look forward to. Then there was that fantastic final shot of the tank on the rapids; the kind of over-the-top moment that we need more of in action films. So does this movie live up to the promise of cartoon characters and brainless fun? For the most part, yes.
We came across this announcement from Screen Daily: “Kaleidoscope Film Distribution (KFD) is handling world sales on animated feature Danny Diamondback, which Aardman Animation alumni Darren Walsh (Shaun The Sheep TV series) will direct. It’s the story of a young rattlesnake with a musical talent in his tail. The film is based on the children’s novella of the same name, first published by Harper Collins and written by illustrator and production designer Barry Jackson (How The Grinch Stole Christmas). Jackson has written the script and will be heading up production design on the project. Siege Train Studios’ Curtis Augspurger (Valiant), Matthew Hampton, and Cora Palfrey will produce the film alongside Jackson. Bibo Bergeron (Shark Tale) will serve as executive producer.” That’s one heck of a lotta veteran anthropomorphic talent on one project. No word yet on if the film is to be CGI or claymation. Guess we’ll find out after they give us a projected release date!
Padak, a 2012 South Korean CGI feature, is coming to America – but not to theaters. EigoMANGA, a San Francisco-based media publisher, has announced that it has been acquired from Lionsgate to be distributed beginning on June 6 on Linux, Mac, SteamOS, Windows, and all other online Steam-supported platforms.
The 78-minute feature, directed and written by Lee Dae-Hee and produced by the E-DEHI studio, will be released with the original Korean voice actors including Kim Hyeon-ji, Si-Yeong-joon, Ahn Yeong-mi-l, Hyeon Kyeong-soo, and Ho-san Lee, and subtitled in English. It was first shown at the Jeonju International Film Festival on July 25, 2012, and has also been shown at international film festivals in Warsaw, Dallas, Melbourne, Vladivostok, Seoul, and other cities, winning awards at many of them.
Toho Films has just released an aw-it’s-cute trailer for its August 6 CGI theatrical feature adaptation of author Hiroshi Saitō’s children’s book Rudolph and Ippaiattena. But Toho has also added a mention of one of its other big summer releases, Godzilla: Resurgence. Japan still has theatrical monopolies, so these features released by Toho Films will only play in the Toho Cinemas theatrical chain.
Anime News Network has news on the film’s voice actors, Saitō’s original children’s book series, and a translation of the trailer’s text.
Here is another anthro-animal animated movie that America probably won’t get. The Hollywood Reporter reported on March 14 that:
Malaysia's Animasia Studio has inked a deal with China's Zero One Animation to produce the CGI-animated feature film Chuck Chicken — The Movie.
The $8 million movie is being adapted from the successful television series Chuck Chicken a.k.a. Kungfu Chicken. Production will take place in China, but animators from both countries will work on the project. The film will premiere first in China, as the original TV series was particularly popular there, having gained 300 million views within six months of its launch on the country's VOD platform iQIYI.
The Malay Mail Online says that the movie will be finished in 2018. There are several furry fans in Malaysia including prominent new author MikasiWolf and artist Silverfox5213. Can any of them tell us anything about Animasia Studios?
Anthro animal animated features are sneaking up on us faster than we can announce them.
Here is the trailer for the 90-minute The Wild Life, due for American release on September 9, 2016. It’s very loosely based on Robinson Crusoe from the island's animals’ point of view; Tuesday the parrot, Carmelo the chameleon, Scrubby the goat, Rosie the tapir, Pango the pangolin and others. The animals decide to “help” the human castaway and his dog. Ha, ha.
This has already been released throughout Europe in February as Robinson Crusoe, and it will have been seen in most of the rest of the world by the time we get it. If nWave Pictures is involved, it’s a Belgian production. nWave’s animation studio is in Brussels. It does good work. nWave produced the 2013 The House of Magic, which was scheduled for an American theatrical release – it’s set in Boston – up to the last minute. It ended up as a direct-to-DVD kids’ release.
Let’s hope that The Wild Life has better luck.
Warner Bros. has just released its first “official trailer”, as opposed to the teaser (which is funny but offers no clue to the movie’s plot), for its forthcoming CGI animated feature, Storks, due September 23, 2016; directed by Nicholas Stoller and Doug Sweetland, with the voices of Andy Samberg, Kelsey Grammer, Keegan-Michael Key and more. The story begins to be revealed.
Storks used to deliver babies. They are famous for delivering babies. But this image is obsolete. They modernized some years ago, and now specialize in delivering commercial packages for giant Cornerstore.com; a competitor to FedEx, on a worldwide scale. Junior, the top delivery stork, is about to be promoted upstairs into the executive ranks when he accidentally activates the old Baby Making Machine and produces an adorable baby human girl.
Desperate to get rid of the baby before his goof is discovered, Junior and his assistant Tulip, the only human (female) on Stork Mountain, find a human boy who has wished that he had a younger brother. They try to persuade him to take a baby sister instead. And what must the hapless parents think of this?
We’ll find out in September.
Here is the British trailer for Top Cat Begins, directed by Andrés Couturier, that was released last October 30 in México as Don Gato: El Inicio de la Pandilla. It’s coming on May 27 in the U.K., distributed by Warner Bros. (so can the U.S. release be far behind?)
It was produced for only $8,000,000 (estimated). While I’m tempted to say that it looks it, it’s really not bad for only $8 million these days. It was produced by Ánima Estudios in Ciudad México, the makers of that Oz movie with the Day of the Dead look, Wicked Flying Monkeys. Haven’t seen that yet? Don’t worry; you will.
Look at the lip sync. Was this movie made for English or Spanish dialogue? What do you think?