Almost exactly three years ago I wrote a post called "Animation indiscrimination," in which I decried my lack of selectivity when choosing animated movies to see in the theater. I was operating under the general principle of "if it's animated it must be good," and one particular viewing really showed me the limitations of that perspective.
Well, watching the dismal Astro Boy must have really had a profound impact on me, because since then I've gone in the opposite direction.
In the three years since Astro Boy, I've seen exactly eight animated movies in the theater. That's less than three per year. For the record, they were Disney's A Christmas Carol, The Princess and the Frog, How to Train Your Dragon, Toy Story 3, Tangled, Rango, The Adventures of Tin Tin and Dr. Seuss' The Lorax. I've seen a couple others on DVD as well.
My general antipathy toward watching animated movies has even led me to shun both of the last two Pixar releases upon their theatrical releases. Granted, Brave and especially Cars 2 do not purport to find Pixar at its finest, but still.
To be sure, this trend is not just an overreaction to my assumption that all movies with state-of-the-art animation must be good. Part of it has been conscious, and has related directly to an event in August 2010: the birth of my son. Since he's been on the scene, I've thought it might be wise to stockpile movies he'd want to watch with me in a couple years. The fewer of these I'd already seen, the more I'd enjoy it when I eventually watch them with him. And if he loved them, it would mean one fewer of many viewings I might ultimately have to endure.
But I also think there come moments in people's lives when they undergo a transition. One day you like something; the next day you've grown out of it. And as I've pondered before on this blog, this transition may have been happening to me over the past couple years. Though there have been features that have reminded me what it felt like to discover animation for the first time (Tangled), there have been more movies that have struck me as only so-so (Rango, How to Train Your Dragon) or just as dismal as Astro Boy (The Lorax).
Of course, when confronted with realizations like this, most people want to blame external forces rather than themselves. And I think there's some validity to that. As with the rest of the film industry, the last couple years have seen the rise of sequels as the current standard bearers for animation. At times I just feel like I'm being stampeded by Shreks, Madagascars and Ice Ages. I react not only by getting out of the way, but becoming depressed about the state of things today. The surest sign of getting old is when you find yourself repeating "They don't make 'em like they used to."
All of this is an excessively long preamble to tell you that I am hoping to see my first animated movie in the theater since The Lorax when Wreck-It-Ralph comes out today. Ralph has just enough of a combination of originality and promise to seem like a good bet to break my current animation losing streak. Which probably dates back almost a full two years, to when I saw Tangled in November of 2010.
In fact, if it were anything shorter than 120 minutes, I might even see it this afternoon, when I get off work at 2:30 but don't have to pick up my son until 5:30.
In fact, I'm really disappointed that it is two hours long, because this is one where I need to strike while the iron is hot. I'm concerned that if I don't, it will fade among my priorities as we get deeper into November, and the year's prestige pictures start asserting their own claim to my attentions. And as much as this post finds me resolving to see Wreck-It-Ralph in the theater, I have to admit that the footage I've seen is not quite as unambiguously awesome as I hoped it would be. I'm not the viewer I was three years ago. Whereas then, I embraced any excuse to see an animated movie in the theater, now I embrace any excuse not to. The possibly slightly-less-than-awesome quality of Wreck-It-Ralph could easily sap my resolve.
But here's hoping it doesn't. I have enough reminders these days that I'm an adult. When the kid inside does want to come out to play, I want to let him.