There's a new animated feature from a major studio out this weekend, but you wouldn't know it from how little marketing Fox seems to be doing in support of it. Seriously, does anyone know anything about Epic? Has anyone seen a commercial? Is anyone hearing buzz on this? It is, after all, the first movie personally directed by Oscar winner and all around computer-animation big deal Chris Wedge in eight years. Not that that's the sort of detail that sells family films. But at the moment it also has a lot of positive reviews posted to Rotten Tomatoes. Not that many children care about critical reception.
Epic is also based on a book by William Joyce, albeit with a changed name (the original title is The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs), who like Wedge has won an Oscar for Best Animated Short (for The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore). He also had some hand in Wedge's last feature, Robots, Pixar's Toy Story and A Bug's Life, Disney's Meet the Robinsons and DreamWorks Animation's Rise of the Guardians. That last film was a box office diappointment last fall (even with worldwide gross exceeding $300 million), so maybe there is some worry that Epic will also fail to be a big success.
Otherwise, though, this doesn't appear to be a very exciting season for animation. Pixar's latest is the prequel Monsters University, which will surely be another hit for the studio but doesn't seem to be exciting older moviegoers, even those who are normally devoted to the brand. Likewise there's also a spin-off of Pixar's unfavored Cars franchise, titled Planes, and it's not even actually made by Pixar. That was originally supposed to go straight to video, but Disney probably saw an opportunity in the lack of strong family fare at the end of the summer -- there is a limited release of a Top Cat cartoon feature produced in Mexico, but that isn't much competition.
In July, though, there are a couple heavies. Universal has the sequel Despicable Me 2, which is sure to draw in tons of little lovers of the Minions. Sony has the live-action/animation hybrid sequel The Smurfs 2, which is sure to draw in tons of little lovers of tiny blue people. And DreamWorks Animation's latest -- which Fox will distribute -- is an original effort called Turbo, which is being counted on enough that there's already a TV series spin-off in the works that will arrive later in the year. I'm kinda counting on that one solely because its tagline is a nod to the Fast and the Furious franchise and like its latest installment might be a really fun surprise. Interestingly enough, it's about a snail, and Epic has its own snail character, too.
Unfortunately, for the more grown-up animation fans, a highly anticipated hybrid work called The Congress is not slated to hit theaters in the U.S. this summer. This current Cannes sensation from director Ari Folman (Waltz With Bashir) is based on a book by Stanislaw Lem (Solaris) and stars Robin Wright as "Robin Wright," an aging actress (in the live-action world) who sells her digital likeness and winds up in an animated world. It does officially open in France in July, however. If only I could afford a flight and knew French, because it's the one animated feature I'm most looking forward to.
What is your most anticipated animated movie of this summer?
Here are some responses received so far via Twitter: