2006 begins – and I’ve just updated my running list of animated features. It’s going to be an interesting year for theatrical animation. Is this the year where CG goes bust and Hollywood comes to it’s senses? (Well scratch that last part, “comes to its senses” – that’ll never happen).openseason2.jpgAlready I have listed at least 15 films scheduled for major theatrical release (16 if you count the wide release HOODWINKED will get later this month). Twelve are what I’d now label as traditional computer generated films. One (CURIOUS GEORGE) is essentially hand drawn, another (MONSTER HOUSE) is in the technique I call “Zemeckis motion capture” (also known as uncanny valley), and still another is in the strange “computer enhanced rotoscope” world of Richard Linklater & Bob Sabiston (previously seen in WAKING LIFE, this year in A SCANNER DARKLY).Two films are about inanimate objects coming to life (Pixar’s CARS and Threshold’s FOODFIGHT), and two are about the lives of stylized human characters (Disney’s MEET THE ROBINSONS and IDT’s YANKEE IRVING).Here’s the scary part – eight films scheduled for release between March and November (almost on a monthly basis) are about a group of anthropomorphic animals on a grand adventure (think last year’s MADAGASCAR). Here’s the list I’ve compiled thus far:

Blue Sky’s ICE AGE 2: THE MELTDOWN (3/31), Disney’s THE WILD (4/14), Dreamwork’s OVER THE HEDGE (5/19), Warner Bros. THE ANT BULLY (8/4) and HAPPY FEET (11/17), Sony’s OPEN SEASON (9/29), Nickelodeon Movies’ BARNYARD (10/6), and Aardman’s FLUSHED AWAY (11/3).

So the question is this: Will all of them succeed – or will Hollywood’s CG boom implode? Can the already-eroding moving-going audience support a steady stream of similar sounding pictures? Can the DVD backend for such derivative material maintain the level of sales required for the producers to recoup their investments? Most importantly, can all these films be good?The industry has survived one VALIANT – can it endure an onslaught of such product? As I said up front – It’s going to be an interesting year.

Jerry Beck