Will 2011 go down in history as the year when animation's hot streak finally cooled? Oh sure, bix box office awaits a great number of the toons arriving this year but box office isn't everything. You can be a huge hit and impress virtually no one (just look through some past box office charts and think about the way people talk about some of those "blockbusters") since audiences have a Pavlovian response to certain genres in certain decades with certain ubiquitous forms of advertising: Must Buy Ticket.
It's hard to figure which animated films will be nominated for Best Animated Feature come January since half of the releases (literally by my count) are sequels. Sequels are judged differently than original fare. Half of our response (at the very least) is in the way the new film dialogues with the old. Does it add to the conversation, merely parrot it, deepen it, spoil it, change it? Once studio creatives get too self-referential or repetitive they can turn into a soulless production line workers and whole genres can become museum pieces rather than evolving vivid living things. The documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty, which I highly recommend to animation lovers, charts this very problem in regards to Disney. It documents the dwindling audience love and studio creativity in the 1980s through to its spectacular rebirth in the early 90s. It's a good film to see to remind ourselves that we can only borrow heat from past glories for so long before things gets chilly.
Here's a potentially happy visual extro that has nothing to do with this year's Oscars. Here are three concept drawings from Pixar's Summer 2012 feature BRAVE.
Since the delightfully cute-looking Newt was cancelled it's Pixar's only original film in the pipeline with sequels to Cars (this year) and Monster's Inc (called Monsters University in late 2012) bookending it. Brave (formerly titled The Bear and the Bow) features their very first lead heroine "Merida" (voiced by Kelly MacDonald), and was at one point going to be Pixar's first movie directed by a woman and then it wasn't and now it's (co)directed by her. It's also NOT a sequel. Let's hope it's great so that 50% of the population (the ones with vaginas) don't get blamed for spoiling Pixar's unbroken winning streak*.
*If you ask me this "ALWAYS PERFECT" business is a myth, a huge pitcher of Kool-Aid we all drank. It would be much healthier to let go of it. Though it made a billion dollars Cars (2006) is NOT a good movie. People are always (still) making excuses for it like "I didn't love it but..." Just stop making excuses. Accept that they've already stumbled once and we won't be pressuring them with this "Perfect!" myth. And we won't be so heartbroken when they start churning out a gazillion sequels. And they won't be so nervous about mixing up the formulas a bit or scared into only making sequels.