Because competing studios don’t want to release their films anywhere near The Dark Knight Rises, which opens in theaters next Friday, the only new wide release in theaters this Friday the 13th is Ice Age: Continental Drift. A cursory look at the trailer or billboards for this fourth film in the animated franchise featuring zany, googly-eyed creatures tells you why: it's aimed squarely at the pre-teen set—not exactly the audience interested in the final chapter of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy.
There are dozens of 3-D computer-animated features that cater to underage audiences, but precious few offer something for adults without wee ones. Pixar is the reigning champion of 3-D computer animation, but of all its movies featuring cutesy creatures and cars that make wonderful plush gifts for tots, there are three that stand out as having the most appeal for moviegoers old enough to vote. Ratatouille—about a restaurant rat who aspires to be a great French chef—will delight foodies of all ages. WALL-E follows a lonely robot left to clean up a poisoned Earth and later shows humans as overweight blobs that have everything done for them by computers, which is a dark, dystopian view of the future. In Toy Story 3, Woody, Buzz Lightyear and friends face an uncertain future as their owner, Andy, takes off for college and leaves his childhood toys behind.
It seems that when 3-D animated films strive for a more photorealistic look as opposed to cartoonish characters, the target age range creeps upward. Look at 2007's Beowulf, based on the Old English epic poem, which features some frightening battles and a nearly nude computer-animated Angelina Jolie as Grendel's mother. The rated-R animated feature Resident Evil: Degeneration doesn't star Milla Jovovich, but it does have the bloody zombie violence that fans of the video games as well as the live-action series inspired by them would expect. The PG-rated, animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars takes place between Episode II and III in the Star Wars universe and will be of interest to fans of George Lucas's space saga.
There are other fantastical animated features that clearly had an audience older than grade school in mind. Although Monster House certainly appeals to kids, the inclusion of the dark Siouxsie and the Banshees song "Halloween" over the end credits is an invitation for Gen X to check it out, too. The 2009 film 9, an extended version of Shane Acker's Oscar-nominated short of the same name, is a post-apocalyptic adventure featuring a group of mechanical rag dolls fighting for survival and is much too dark for little kids. Zack Snyder's gorgeous and underrated Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole features photorealistic owls in violent combat and even uses a haunting Dead Can Dance song during a battle sequence—not the sort of thing your average fourth grader is into. Although the dazzling Rango features an adorable chameleon voiced by Johnny Depp and other cute characters, the Oscar-winning animated film by Gore Verbinski features nods to Hunter S. Thompson and other references that are surely aimed at adults.
All of the movies discussed in this post are available on DVD, Blu-ray and, in some cases, Blu-ray 3D.