I had some friends over recently, both furry and dragon fans, to show them a retro and entertainingly stupid 1991 anime mini-movie called Capricorn. We poked holes and made fun of it. The following day, in a spirit of— amicable masochism I guess, my friend Dav treated me to the recent movie trailer for A Dragon Adventure:
Confused and somewhat alarmed by the quality levels, I started to look into where it came from.
I am well-aware that computer-animated films with talking animals are churned out all over the world, and most of them are of pretty terrible quality. The theory is that kids will watch anything. So if you believe that, then who cares about quality? Just work on a small budget and make money. What I hadn't done was to take a look down this particular rabbit hole. Now, having done so, I regret it.
And now a rather different take on Dreamworks’ How To Train Your Dragon universe, this time in a new Netflix TV series for young viewers. Animation World Network gave us the scoop: “DreamWorks Animation has just unveiled the high-flying trailer and cast of its new animated preschool series, Dragons Rescue Riders. This all-new chapter in the Oscar-nominated How to Train Your Dragon franchise follows the adventures of twins, Dak and Leyla, raised by dragons, who share a unique ability to communicate with them. The brother and sister lead a team of five young dragons, Aggro, Winger, Summer, Cutter, and Burple, with whom they spend their days rescuing other dragons and helping people in their adopted town of Huttsgalor. All 14 episodes of the new series debut September 27 exclusively on Netflix.” Check out the preview trailer as well.
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019) is the latest film in the HTTYD series, the first of which came out in 2010 and was followed by a second film in 2014. Now, after a four-and-a-half-year gap, we have a third one, presumably (?) the last, but even if DreamWorks decides to keep the film franchise going, The Hidden World feels like the completion of a trilogy, all of which have involved Dean DeBlois as screenwriter and director.
I'm going to try and avoid major spoilers, so I'll summarize the plot points introduced in the early part of the film. I won't be linking to trailers, because they give away some of the locations and scene gags that are better kept a surprise. I watched a 2D screening, and I haven't kept up with any of the franchise spinoffs or shorts. I'm not a fan of most of the dragon designs or of several secondary characters, but regardless, I've happily enjoyed Hiccup and Toothless' adventures together.
We haven’t heard of Flying Bark Productions before, but according to Animation World Network it sounds like we should start paying attention to them! The studio is hard at work on a CGI feature film called 100% Wolf, which they plan to follow with a TV series of the same name immediately after. The plot? “Lovers of surreal, laugh-out-loud animation should enjoy this comedy series about Freddy Lupin, an 11-year-old boy set to turn into a werewolf, just like everyone else in his family. But things don’t go as planned when Freddy turns into an adorable poodle instead.” Got that? Interesting thing is the feature and series are based on a popular Australian children’s novel by Jayne Lyons. No word yet on distribution, but the film and series are scheduled to be complete in 2019.
Sheep & Wolves (trailer) is an 85-minute Russian CG-animated movie that came out in 2016, also known as Волки и овцы (Volki i ovtsy). The writing and production took five years by Wizart Animation, whose earlier film had been The Snow Queen (2012).
Sheep & Wolves didn't quite break even at the box office, and received mixed reviews. After I watched it, I have to agree it's a middle-of-the-road film. It's not bad, it's not great - it's thoroughly so-so. On the positive side, the animation is good and very furry! But the writing... it's for kids aged six and above. There's not much in it to appeal to adults; it's what I call a "babysitting film". Plunk your tykes down in front of it and keep them distracted for a while. Still, I'd rank it a notch or two above Alpha & Omega.
Happy Family (IMDB page) is a 2017 animated movie from Germany, about a family that gets turned into monsters by a witch. It looks like a mashup of The Addams Family, The Munsters, and Hotel Transylvania.
Warner Bros. funded the production, and are distributing it in Europe and Latin America, presumably to be followed by direct-to-DVD sales in the U.S. in 2018. It's based on a book by David Safier.
Is it furry? Well, the family includes a kid who's a wolf-boy, there are talking bats, and VAMPIRES! (Boo.)
Since Dronon recently posted the trailer for “Bigfoot Junior” on Newsbytes, it seems like a good time to take a deeper look into nWave Pictures. Their main animation studio is located in Brussels, Belgium, while their regional office in Burbank, California has been working diligently to get its pictures distributed theatrically in English in North America for the past decade. They do get theatrical releases in much of the rest of the world-- but usually have to settle for them going direct-to-DVD as "kid’s cartoons" in the United States. Despite being “family” movies, they’re good ones, and they do feature talking animals. Let's take a look at their history in the animated featured film business to date.
nWave was founded by director Ben Stassen in 1994. Its first animation projects were for amusement park attractions and video games. Their first theatrical feature, “Fly Me to the Moon”, which was about housefly astronauts, was released in January 2008.
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.