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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Five Best: CGI Animated Films

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="304" caption="Scene from "Despicable Me" courtesy of"][/caption]

Universal Studios releases the newest CGI Animated film with Despicable Me this Friday, July 9th, starring voice talents of Steve Carell, Jason Segal, and Russell Brand. Let's take a look back at the relatively short history of CGI animated films and try not to make it a list of nothing but Pixar films, if possible. Here they are, in chronological order.

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Toy Story (1995)

The movie that basically started the genre, Pixar's first full length feature film was an original, heartwarming piece of filmmaking. A sub-set of Disney, the Pixar Animation Studio would improve upon the themes of Toy Story, but certainly hit the ground running.

A simple idea - toys have lives of their own when their owners aren't around, is much more than that. It's a story about friendship, love, dedication, and what it feels like when you are "replaced." With the voice talents of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, and many more, it started the multiple A-list voice actor trend, too.

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Shrek (2001)

The only non-Pixar film on the list, respect certainly needs to be paid to the ingenious "fairy tale" first spun by Mike Myers and company. A basic story of prince rescues princess, but with a very demented and borderline  edgy twist, Shrek is for fans of all ages. This was the first major release from Dreamworks Studios, formed by Stephen Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and David Geffen.

Spurning a less-then-wonderful series of sequels, the original Shrek is still an excellent example of storytelling, with top-rate writing and stellar voice talent, including John Lithgow, Eddie Murphy, and Cameron Diaz.

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="226" caption="Scene from "Finding Nemo" courtesy of"][/caption]

Finding Nemo (2003)

Father loses son. Father searches high and low for son. Word spreads and they are reunited. It's an easy story (as many of these films are), but it's beautifully executed, with a wonderful cast of characters.

One of the toughest things to animate with CGI is the way living creatures' skin and hair reacts to water. Pixar went for the bank with an entire film set underwater, with more types of characters than any story they had tacked before. A critical and box-office smash, Finding Nemo changed the landscape of animated films, giving them more serious themes with deeper storylines.

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WALL-E (2008)

Pixar gives us a semi-dystopic vision of the future of our universe in this story about the environment and the human race's dependence on technology and media. As complicated as the sub-stories become, at the heart of the film is a beautiful love story between two robots. Yes, two robots.

WALL-E (or Waste Allocation Load Lifter - Earth Class) is basically a trash compactor cleaning up the Earth after it has been ruined by the human race. WALL-E soon meets EVE (or Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator), a much more advanced model than him. What follows is a heartwarming story of WALL-E's pursuit of EVE and his dream of a Hello Dolly-style romance.

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Up (2009)

Only the second animated film to be nominated for Best Picture, Up doesn't waste time bringing you into an emotional story and absolutely tearing your heart out. A touching story of love and adventure, Up tells the story of Carl (Ed Asner), an elderly man who decides to tie hundreds of balloons to his home and float to South America, a dream of his and his late wife. Unfortunately, he has some unwelcome comany.

A serious (but funny) story about letting go and loving again, Pixar dialed up the drama and comedy yet again through an epic series of settings. But, as it always does, the writing and beautiful animation of the film take it over the top, to levels of genius.

Well, it was almost all Pixar. Even more are worth your time, listed below. Either way, the genre has become a powerful force in the cinematic community.

Also worth your time:

- A Bug's Life (1998)

- Toy Story 2&3 (1999, 2010)

- Monsters, Inc. (2002)

- Ice Age (2002)

- The Incredibles (2004)

- Happy Feet (2006)

- Monster House (2006)

- Ratatouille (2007)

- Kung Fu Panda (2008)

How to Train Your Dragon (2010)

- Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009)

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