1. The casting pool is thinking outside the box. Way outside the box. Gone are the days of grand comedy stars like Robin Williams (Aladdin) and Eddie Murphy (Mulan) taking all the applause- now the majority of parts are offered to lesser known actors from cult tv comedy shows such as Community (eg Alison Brie in The Lego Movie) and 30 Rock(Jack Mcbrayer in Wreck-It Ralph.) This means production costs are significantly lower than if a big star had been attached but also that the film becomes a draw to the more obscure fans/edgy geeks out there in the universal audience. Everyone’s a winner!
2. The directors of these movies are no longer just an appointment made by a faceless studio; the trend now seems to be for the director to have written the script as well as filming it ensuring a level of care and attention to detail that may not have been there before. If you’d like some examples feel free to check out Wreck-It Ralph’s Rich Moore, Frozen’s Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee or Rio’s Carlos Saldanha. Admittedly there are usually other writers adding to the scripts at some point as in the films listed above but at their core, they are based on little more than the director’s own personal vision. Which is an awesome thing.
3. Song has always played a major part in the animated movie merry-go-round no doubt. Just think about that for a moment- I mean who doesn’t remember singing along to I Wanna Be Like You or Hakuna Matata when they were younger? But recently things have changed…. Now that these so called movie songs have been given the chance to break out of their confines and hit the pop charts/Oscar nominations, their song writing and lyrical quality has soared even further. In fact they can even change the evolution of the project themselves. For example: In Frozen Queen Elsa was originally intended to be the villain of the story. However, when the character’s major song, “Let it Go,” was played for the producers, they concluded that the song was not only very appealing, but its themes of personal empowerment and self-acceptance were too positive for a villain to express. Thus, the story was rewritten to have Elsa as an isolated innocent who is alarmed upon learning that her powers are inadvertently causing harm and struggles to control her powers with Anna’s help. Now that’s a powerful tune, hot damn!
4. Fact number four: Faith in animation and fantasy can save a producer’s soul. Don’t believe me, then listen to this…. Before The Crood’s release, DreamWorks Animation was suffering from major disaster box office returns and generally mixed word of mouth reception for Rise of the Guardians (2012). While the film did gross more than its $145 million budget, it still did not turn a profit for DreamWorks due to its high production and marketing costs, forcing the studio to take an $83 million write-down. This marked the first time that the studio had lost money on an animated film since Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (2003). As a result of this combined with other factors, in February 2013, the studio announced it was laying off 350 employees as part of a company-wide restructuring. If had The Croods (2013) bombed even worse than Guardians, the studio would lay off even more employees and might face the potential possibility of a bankruptcy. The Croods (2013) then opened on March 22, 2013 to glowing positive reviews and widely enthusiastic acclaim from audiences, eventually earning more than $186 million in the U.S. and over $583 million worldwide, earning its place to be sixth highest grossing film of the year (so far), besting Oz the Great and Powerful (2013), Pacific Rim (2013), Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), and World War Z (2013). It remarkably helped DreamWorks’ earnings rise higher from $162.8 million to $213.4 million in the second quarter of 2013 – one of the best financial earnings ever received in the company’s history!
5. And finally…Animation no longer has any boundaries; imagination-wise or geographically. What with the success of animators outside the USA such as studio Ghibli (Hayao Miyazaki’s homestead making recent anime wonders The Wind Rises and Arrietty), individuals such as French director Sylvain Chomet (Belleville Rendez-vous) and even old fashioned South American directors moving away from live footage to embrace the joys of animation (see Juan Jose Campanella’s new movie The Unbeatables), there’s no place for language or culture shock worries anymore. And if you don’t believe anything else in this list then please believe in the beauty of that idea if nothing else- because that kind of celluloid transcendence is a wonderful wonderful thing.