I love animation.
There's something magical about it. Done right, it's storytelling without limitations. You can draw (or render on a computer) anything you can imagine. You don't have to worry about sets, special effects, costumes or even what your actors look like.
Which is why I'm so disgusted with this current wave of CGI animated films. Now, honestly, I can't claim to have seen many of them, but I don't think I have to. They're all the same. You can tell from the trailers and commercials.
And while I'll usually rail against people who criticize stuff they haven't seen, this time I feel relatively justified in committing the same sin. Others have subjected themselves to those so-called animated movies so I don't have to.
Now, there have been a few bright spots in the past year or so, but they pretty much were ignored by the mainstream audiences. Fortunately, thanks to DVD, they're still out there and still have a chance to find appreciative viewers.
This past weekend the wife and I finally caught up with some films we'd missed, including Hayao Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle. What a brilliant piece of filmmaking and storytelling... but then, what else do you expect from Miyazaki? This is the man responsible for Spirited Away, after all. The movie completely subverts Western narrative conventions and defies expectations at every turn. Too bad more people won't see it.
And you want to see a computer-animated feature that doesn't suck? Check out Hoodwinked. Made for less than half of the average CG-toon's budget, the animation isn't as smooth or polished as what you'll see in Over the Hedge or Cars, but the story – a twisted take on Little Red Riding Hood – is clever and full of surprises, with some damned funny bits and great characters. Ignore the reviews that obsess on the flaws in the animation. The movie has a great story, witty script, and some genuine genius behind it.
If I was John Lasseter, I'd be doing a little head-hunting and bring some of those Hoodwinked guys over to Pixar.
Check 'em out.