Saturday, March 19, 2011

Rango Saves the Day: Are Animated Films Hollywood's Saving Grace?

This past Thursday March 17th 2011 (yes on St. Patrick's Day) I went to see my first film in theatres in over two months!  For my friends out there, I usually like to see a movie at least once a week, but there has been nothing on the horizon until this film. After the the movie ended (great film) a light bulb went off in my head,  and I said to my friends "Wow I have seen more animated films in the theatres as a 26 year-old then I did when I was a little kid."

As the evening drew to a close I thought the animated features I watched in my childhood Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Mulan, etc and how animated features have changed in the last 10 years.  Rango is a prime example-the film has a message, there is adult humour.  Movie producers and executives have realized how to fill the seats to movie theatres make animated movies with shiny colors that appeal to children and throw in some adult joke so their parents will enjoy them too!

Throughout the 2000s every year there have been one or two animated films that just hit it out the park (most of them from Pixar or Dreamworks, and some foreign animated films).  However starting around 2008 animated films have become more important than ever.  In 2008 four animated films were on the list of the top ten grossing films for the year (in the USA), and they were: Wall-E (#5 for the year 223 million), Kung-Fu Panda (#6 215 million), Madagascar 2: Escape from Africa (#8 for the year 180 million), and Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who (#10 for the year 154 million).  Combined grosses for all four of these films from domestic and foreign numbers were in the billions and the animated film became a saving grace at the box office.

 Within today's financial climate studio bosses are pulling their hair out to make sure that their films are making money, but in early 2011 theatres have been losing money because of poor attendance at the movies.  Here is an idea Hollywood, make better movies and stop pushing terrible sequels on us!  Rango was a great film, it was original, cute, funny, quirky, pleasing to all ages, witty and so on.  Rango will most likely make just 100 million domestic at the box office and will become the highest grossing movie of the year soon. In today's movie climate animated films are becoming some of if not the most critically acclaimed most enjoyable films of the year.  Toy Story 3 was the largest grossing film domestically in 2010 make just about 415 million dollars. 

I am proud to say that the Academy Awards took note of this early trend in 2001 and created a category specifically for feature length animated films, and that first honor was bestowed to Shrek.  There have however only been three animated features nominated for Best Picture: Beauty and the Beast (1992) Up (2009) and Toy Story 3 (2010).  Up and Toy Story 3 were nominated because there are now 10 nominees in the Best Picture category-worthy animated features had been snubbed in this category years prior.

So with a shift in quality and viewer taste animated features need to be recognized for the contribution they are bringing to cinema as creative films and films that fill the seats of movie theatres. I am proud to say that in 2011 animated films have advanced things "To Infinity and Beyond."

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