It has been a spectacular year for animated films in 2009. Three challenging and varied animated films, Coraline, Up, and Fantastic Mr. Fox and Disney’s return to its 2D traditional roots with The Princess and The Frog finishing out the year (I’m pretending the awful looking Planet 51 does not exist), it is time to look forward to 2010 to see what interesting films are coming along.
One of Japan’s finest animation directors, Satoshi Kon has brought decidedly complex and adult tales and genres to the screen with Millenium Actress, Paprika, Perfect Blue and Tokyo Godfathers, with his upcoming feature, The Dreaming Machine, described as a ‘future folklore story’ and skewing a bit younger, there was no dumbing down of the production design, which will be instantly familiar to anyone who follows Kon’s work. Twitch offered up a variety of stills recently to whet the appetite.
Out of an Israeli studio comes the latest riff on movie homage and global warming (see also Wall-E). Will Sam Peckinpah roll in his grave (or at least the designer of the iconic one-sheet of that film), or will The Wild Bunch deliver smart, subtle entertainment. The plot follows has group of (evil) genetically engineered cornstalks choose to invade an idyllic meadow. The common wildflowers rally to defend their home. This doesn’t sound like much elements of the original western are going to be borrowed, but time will tell. The voice cast includes Abigail Breslin, Willem Dafoe and Willie Nelson.
Coming out of nowhere, three years ago, to open the eyes of the arthouse world (and get them tapping their toes) was Sylvain Chomet’s Belleville Rendezvous (The Triplets of Belleville). Other than contributing a cute short to the Paris Je T’aime anthology, Chomet has been hard at work on the follow-up, titled The Illusionist. Several stills popped up online via one of the production designers portfolio/blog and they are certainly reminiscent of Belleville. The story is even more curious because it is sprung from an unfinished project from the legendary Jacques Tati. Set in a small village in Scotland in the 1950s, a down-on-his-luck illusionist meets a young lady who is convinced that he is a real magician.
While the teaser trailer does not offer a great deal of plot or even build confidence that this will be high end CGI animation, it is curious to see Bollywood attempt an animated feature film. Sultan: The Warrior may be more Prince of Persia than the Hollywood live action version. Featuring India megastar Rajinikanth (not only on voice duty, but also the lead character is crafted in his image) and a soundtrack by Oscar winner A. R. Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire). This is no small upstart project. It gets its world debut in January 2010 on a record number of screens for any Indian release, ever.
I caught My Dog Tulip at this years Toronto International Film Festival and can attest to its high level of quality and entertainment (Row Three Review). Based on J.R. Ackerley’s novel/diary about his trails and tribulations with his female German Sheppard. Voiced handsomely by Christopher Plummer, Lynn Redgrave and Isabella Rossillini, you will not find another animated film with a more lauded and awarded cast voice actors no matter how hard you try. Decidedly adult and featuring loads of doggie sex and scatology, yet tender and intimate. If mainstream audiences can get past the NFB/Bill Plympton-esque animation style, it will put dog lovers through the full gamut of emotion more than the cheap pablum like Marley & Me. Even more curious is that the entire film was animated by only two people (husband and wife pair Paul Fierlinger and Sandra Fierlinger) on digital drawing pads. There is a trailer for My Dog Tulip, here.
As is the norm in the early 21st century, with cheaper and more accessible tools for crafting animated features, there is a lot more beyond the highlighted five above (many of the big studio entries are presented in distracting 3D): Around the World in 50 Years, Alpha and Omega, How To Train Your Dragon, Toy Story 3, Shrek 4ever After, Despicable Me, Rapunzel, Oobermind, Holy Night! and Metropia and A Town Called Panic (both currently on the festival circuit may get some sort of North American bow in 2010) the latter squeaked into the 2009 Oscar race.