Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Toy Story 3 & How to Train Your Dragon


Starring the voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, Michael Keaton, Ned Beatty, John Ratzenberger, Wallace Shawn, Estelle Harris, Jodi Benson, Whoopi Goldberg, Jeff Garlin, Timothy Dalton, Bonnie Hunt, R. Lee Ermey and Laurie Metcalf.
Directed by Lee Unkrich.


Starring the voices of Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Kristen Wiig.
Directed by Dean DeBlois & Chris Sanders.

Pixar once again expands and deepens the Toy Story universe; meanwhile DreamWorks Animation is getting better at creating their own Pixar magic with the right blend of humor, heart and story.

I saw these movies very closely to each other (Dragon's at the $2 theater), and I came away wondering why animation these days are telling the best stories. HTTYD was everything Eragon wishes it was, and Toy Story 3 brings back old favorites and mixes them with new characters and situations seemlessly.

Toy Story 2 was eleven years ago, and rather than going the Simpsons route, TS3 lets its characters age. Andy is grown up and ready to go to college. So does he put the toys in the attic, donate them, or throw them away? Andy puts them in a trashbag to put in the attic, but they accidentally wind up being donated to the local day-care center, where they must adjust to the new hierarchy. Where the magnanimous Woody and gung-ho Buzz may have been co-leaders, now they must all answer to Lotso Huggin Bear, voiced with the Southern courtesy and dark menace of Ned Beatty.

My favorite new addition? Ken. As in Barbie's Ken. The two finally meet.

P.S. Slinky Dog is back, now voiced by Blake Clark (Grown-Ups). Slinky was voiced by the late Jim Varney in the first two Toy Story movies.

Meanwhile in How to Train Your Dragon, the story centers on Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), a smart nerd among club-swinging Vikings on an island constantly attacked by dragons. The dragons are varied and distinct, and Hiccup meets an injured one in the forest, supposedly the fiercest breed, but slowly he befriends the beast, even names it Toothless. The mostly-quiet scenes with Hiccup and Toothless bonding are the heart of the movie. I loved the animation and characterization with him. The Vikings are fine; there seemed to be some inspiration from Terry Gilliam in how to draw them.

I saw neither in 3-D, and animated movies tend to be the only movies I like seeing in 3-D (besides Avatar). Both are shoo-ins for Best Animated Film nominations in January, regardless of what else comes out this year.

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