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Real to Reel: Getting it right in kid’s animation

16 October 2011 By Eva Niessner, Columnist No Comments

reel to real

It seems like kids’ movies are getting worse these days.

Maybe I’m just speaking as someone who grew up during the Disney Renaissance, one of those 90s-kid snobs who can remember watching “Beauty and the Beast” until the VHS tape wore out.

But while the majority of movies aimed at children seem to be a stew of product placement and fart jokes, there are two movie studios who are getting it right consistently–Pixar and Studio Ghibli. Pixar honestly seems to spend time making their cartoons enjoyable, meaningful, amusing and attractive. They put out about one movie a year, and the effort and time shows. Pixar uses amazing celebrity voices (Tom Hanks, Ellen DeGeneres, John Goodman, Kevin Spacey and Phyllis Diller, to name a few), gorgeous CGI, and the scripts are actually funny.

The newest Pixar movie, “Brave,” comes out June 2012. It’s the first fairy tale and first female lead for the studio, but the teaser trailer looks promising. Craig Ferguson and Emma Thompson will be lending their voices, as well as Kelly Macdonald, who played the Grey Lady in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II.”

Although its style of animation is vastly different, Japan-based Studio Ghibli can boast all of what Pixar can. The cartoons are intensely aesthetic, enjoyable for adults as well as children, and full of magic and humor. When they come to America, they go all out with their dubs, using the voice talents of actors like Liam Neeson, Christian Bale, Tina Fey, Daveigh Chase, Phil Hartman and Lauren Bacall.

Billy Crystal has actually done voice acting for both studios, in Pixar’s “Monsters Inc.” and Ghibli’s “Howl’s Moving Castle.” It should be noted that not every Studio Ghibli movie is intended for small children, like “Grave of the Fireflies,” a harrowing movie that depicts orphaned children struggling to survive at the end of World War II.

But those that are, such as “My Neighbor Totoro,” “Ponyo” and “Kiki’s Delivery Service,” are incredible.

The movies deal with issues that children face often, especially moving to a new place or learning to make friends, while setting them among magical or supernatural backgrounds. “The Secret World of Arrietty,” the next upcoming Ghibli movie to be shown in North America, will be released on Feb. 17, 2012.

The story is based upon the novel “The Borrowers” and is about a tiny ‘borrower’ who befriends a human boy.

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