"The Croods." "Planes." "Despicable Me 2." All three animated features are coming out this year and we won't be writing about them below. Not because we think they'll be bad or anything, but they just don't get our blood pumping like some of the under-the-radar or direct-to-DVD features on the way this year. It's a year where we've got a pair of animated Batman films, more anime Iron Man, the return of Detective Conan, and a pair of new movies from Studio Ghibli.
After the jump, take a look at some of the animated films of 2013 that have got us pretty Geeked.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Pt. 2 (January 29th, Warner Brothers Animation)
It was a surprise how much writer Bob Goodman was able to condense and incorporate into the first half of the animated DKR, and it was almost amazing how effectively director Jay Olivia was able to maintain the spirit of Frank Miller's story. These direct adaptations typically don't go well, attempting to cram hundreds of pages of story into 75 minutes--something typically gets lost.
Prediction: the movie will rise and fall on the neck snap scene.
That said, let's see how Olivia and handle the back half of the story with the able support of actors Peter Weller, Ariel Winter, and Michael Emerson as the Joker.
LEGO Batman The Movie - DC Superheroes Unite (TBD, Warner Brothers)
We won't just have one Batman movie out this year. Bringing the Traveller's Tales games to life, bringing together the LEGO-ized versions of the heavy hitters in the DC universe (and if it's anything like the games, some of the lesser known characters as well). The feature is from Jon Burton, the writer for "LEGO Batman" for the consoles who appears to be making his filmmaking debut.
"The Wind Rises," "Princess Kaguya Story" (Summer, Studio Ghibli)
Two very different films from the anime powerhouse. "The Wind Rises" will cover the invention of the Zero fighter plane using talking animals (it sounds stylistically similar to their earlier film "Porco Rosso"), while "Kaguya-Hime no Monogatari" (aka "Princess Kaguya Story") is an update on the folk tale of a girl born on the moon who comes to Earth to be raised by humans.
Both films will be hitting Japanese theaters this summer--no word on a U.S. release date. I can easily see Disney snapping up "Princess Kaguya Story" for a theatrical release, but I'm curious how much support they'd be willing to give an anthropomorphic story about the invention of a Japanese fighting plane.
"Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2: Revenge of the Leftovers" (September 27th-ish, Sony Pictures Animation)
This fall, we'll get the surprise followup to the surprisingly good "Cloudy" with the principal cast of the first film returning, joined by Will Forte. Forte will play Chester V, a world-famous inventor and idol to hero Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader), who invites the meatball machine inventor to an island filled with brilliant makers and tinkers, with a bunch of mutant food monsters thrown into the mix.
I don't know to what degree the world of "Cloudy" needs revisiting, but it makes this list because the first film was so good (thanks to a pitch-perfect cast), and it's hard not to be a little excited by more animated James Caan.
"LEGO Batman The Movie - DC Superheroes Unite" will be headed straight to DVD, Blu, and VOD sometime early this year.
Persona 3 (TBD, Aniplex)
While there's still no official release date for the Aniplex film adaptation of the popular JRPG, I still can't help but be a little excited. The PS2 game followed your nameless teen hero who joins Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad (SEES) in order to help them fight the psychosis-born mounters living in the tower of Tartarus, which can only be accessed during the mysterious, 13th Dark hour.
The "Persona 4" animation had its problems, but overall it did justice to the most recent numbered entry in the "Shin Megami Tensei" series. From what I recall during my time with "P3," that game was a little darker with a tilt towards sci-fi. Currently, "Persona 3" has only been announced for theatrical release in Japan, but it's only a matter of time before some company like Section23 or FUNimation snaps up its U.S. release rights.
"Iron Man: Rise of the Technovore" (TBD, Madhouse)
Among the MadHouse-producer Marvel animated series from last year, "Iron Man" was undoubtedly the strongest entry, honoring the spirit of the comics character while telling a story that made sense being told in Japan. As a follow-up, the studio is producing a direct-to-DVD feature which will pile on more characters from the Marvel U. Handling writing duties this time out is Brandon Auman ("Iron Man: Armored Adventures"), with Tony being framed for a terrorist attack and being forced to clear his name.