An Animated Discussion

My dad and I saw Shrek the Third on Saturday afternoon. From a technical standpoint, the CGI animation and effects were superb, as expected. When you have a team of 150 talented people put a million man-hours into the project, that's no surprise. And the movie did have its moments, but I think it may have suffered from having too many secondary characters trying to do too many things and diluting the emphasis from the main characters. The first movie was mainly focused on Shrek, Fiona and Donkey. The second movie expanded the number of main characters by adding in Puss-In-Boots, as well as the Fairy Godmother and Prince Charming as the new villains. This one adds more new characters but there's only 90 minutes of screen time. More time for the new characters means less time for Shrek, Fiona and Donkey, and less character development and depth. Other than that minor quibble, though, I enjoyed the movie.

You could tell that the demographic being targeted by the previews was children and teens. We saw previews for no less than four upcoming animated features:
  1. A new Penguins movie where the birds go surfing
  2. A feature-length The Simpsons movie (looked funny)
  3. Ratatouille, about a rat in a Paris restaurant who wants to be a chef (I laughed out loud when one of the female chef characters said, "I don't like to be rude, but we're French!"; I was probably the only one in the theater who laughed at the line, but most of the crowd must have been either kids or Francophiles)
  4. Bee Movie, with Jerry Seinfeld as the voice of a worker bee who escapes the hive and ends up lost in the big city
There were also previews for the new Nancy Drew movie, with the teen sleuth going to Los Angeles, and the cartoony live action Transformers movie. Now, a car or truck that turns into a fighting robot is a great concept for a toy for 8-year-old boys, but as a hook for a movie plot, it's thinner than Nicole Ritchie after a week of Slim-Fast. My poor old dad seemed kind of freaked out by the freneticness of the latter preview, with its noise and explosions.

Yesterday, I was channel-surfing and found an interesting animated series on Nicktoons called Avatar: The Last Airbender. They were showing a seven-hour marathon of shows from the first season, and I came in about halfway through. The target demographic is 6-11 year olds, but it's actually a fairly intelligent show that is watchable by all ages. The animation quality is better than most kid shows, and unlike most Japanese anime, the characters don't look like freaks or dress provocatively. Best of all, there actually is plot and character development, and the characters (and the young viewers) pick up good, wholesome moral lessons. The show was created in-house in America by Nickelodeon and animated in South Korea. It's head-and-shoulders above most of the stuff out there for kids, and the reviews on Amazon.com are almost routinely excellent, with many parents writing about how they enjoy watching the show with their children.

So, what's it all about? Here's Amazon's Plot Synopsis:
When the hostile Fire Nation threatens to enslave the Water, Earth, and Air Nations, a reluctant and irresponsible boy must face his destiny as the Avatar, the Chosen One who can restore the world order. This new animated series centers on twelve-year-old Aang, who must forgo his selfish wandering to learn to master his latent powers over the four elements. Only then can he conquer the Firebenders, the evil magi who threaten the world.
If you'd like to know more, read the review at the link.