2014 is off to a great start with the huge success of Warner Bros.’ hilarious and extremely clever hit The LEGO Movie. The animated feature films scheduled to open in the U.S. over the next few months will offer filmgoers a variety of stories, styles, and experiences that all look “awesome” to us. Marc Vibbert and Tom Fonss discuss the spring features in episode 62 of the Animation Fascination podcast. Here’s my take on what to expect with the animated features coming to theaters this spring.
First up is the English dub of Studio Ghibli’s beautiful 2D hand-drawn animated feature The Wind Rises. Opening in New York and Los Angeles on February 21st and then in wide release across the U.S. on February 28th, the film is a serious, sober, and unique look at the life of aeronautical engineer Jiro Horikoshi who designed Japan’s World War II fighter planes. Rated PG-13 and designed for more grown-up audiences, I can’t wait to experience this film. Animation Fascination’s editor-in-chief Marc Vibbert has already seen it and says it’s not to be missed.
Next is DreamWorks Animation take on Jay Ward’s classic characters Mr. Peabody & Sherman. Opening in the U.S. in wide release on March 7th, the CG-animated film tells how Sherman and his new friend Penny “accidentally rip a hole in the universe, wreaking havoc on the most important events in world history” (and with Mr. Peabody saving the day, I presume). Also expected to play in front of the film is a new short starring another classic duo from Jay Ward, Rocky & Bullwinkle. Directed by Rob Minkoff (The Lion King), the film features the voices of Ty Burrell, Max Charles, Ariel Winter, Stephen Colbert, Leslie Mann, Patrick Warburton, Stanley Tucci, Allison Janney, Lake Bell, Zach Callison, and Dennis Haysbert. My hope is that the film keeps the cleverness and sharp humor of its source material.
After a successful run on the 2013 film festival circuit, the 2D hand-drawn animated foreign film Ernest & Celestine will begin its run in the U.S. on March 14th. The film’s creators will be in Los Angeles on March 1 to introduce the film to the U.S. The English dub of Ernest & Celestine features the voice talents of Forest Whitaker, Mackenzie Foy, Lauren Bacall, Paul Giamatti, William H. Macy, Megan Mullally, Nick Offerman, and Jeffrey Wright. Most likely, the film will be playing in art house theaters across the country, so make sure to check your local listings carefully as to not miss seeing this acclaimed film.
The next film which should also be a mega-hit (at least on opening weekend) is Blue Sky Studios’ sequel Rio 2 which opens in wide release on April 11th. The film tells the continuing story of macaws Jewel (voiced again by Anne Hathaway) and Blu (voiced again by Jesse Eisenberg), who now have three little birdies of their own. They end up leaving their domesticated life in their beloved Rio de Janeiro for an adventure in the Brazilian Amazon. The entire voice cast of Rio returns along with new characters voiced by Andy Garcia, Rita Moreno, Bruno Mars, and Kristin Chenoweth. This film will be critic proof and hopefully the kids will have a blast (and wouldn’t it be great if the parents could have fun, too).
Last, but not least, is Summertime Entertainment’s CG-animated pic Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return scheduled to open May 9th. Based on a book written by Roger Stanton Baum, the great-grandson of the original author of the Oz books L. Frank Baum, the story has Dorothy back in Oz to help her friends combat a new threat. Directed by Will Finn and Dan St. Pierre, the voice cast includes Lea Michele, Hugh Dancy, Megan Hilty, Jim Belushi, Martin Short, Dan Aykroyd, Kelsey Grammer, Oliver Platt, Bernadette Peters, and Patrick Stewart. Original songs for the film are by Canadian rocker Bryan Adams.
While I respect anyone who has the tenacity to get a film made, we’ll see if it’s decent or if it’s like what Dr. Ian Malcolm (played Jeff Goldblum) says in the film Jurassic Park:
“[Y]our scientists [or filmmakers in this case…] were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”
Will you be checking out any of these new animated features this spring? Let us know in the comments below!