Friday 18 April 2014

Animation Studios' Shophomore Films - From Worst to Best

Many times, animation studios start very strong with a debut feature that is beloved and popular. But, when the time comes to release their second outing, they often stumble. Either they are just a retread of the first film or just aren't as successful as it. However, many of these films have actually improved on their predecessors and are now regarded as masterpieces. Let's take a look on these second (and often underrated) efforts and see how they compare to their immediate predecessors.

Hop (2011)

The less we speak about this film, the better. After Illumination Entertainment made a promising debut with Despicable Me the year before, they went completely downhill with this film that can hardly even be called animated. A live-action/animation hybrid of the worst kind (in the same vein as The Smurfs and Alvin and The Chipmunks), Hop is just a very poorly conceived film with crass humor that will leave you with a bad taste in your mouth.

Better/Worse Than the First Film: Much worse

Robots (2005)

I think Ice Age remains Blue Sky's best film to date. It is a winning combination of humour and heart, packed with endearing characters. Unfortunately, their subsequent films haven't been unable to repeat that combination in a successful way. Robots, show lots of imaginative design, all packaged up in gorgeous environments, but unfortunately the story is stale and many of the characters are annoying. Robots is not the studio's worst film (that title goes to Epic), but it is still a very forgettable affair.

Better/Worse Than the First Film: Worse

ParaNorman (2012)

Laika jumped on the animation train with a superb debut film, Coraline. Spooky and gorgeously animated, Coraline was an instant masterpiece and a tough act to follow. Fortunately, Laika seems to know what they're doing, as their second film, ParaNorman, is a fantastic achievement in its own right. And, while I prefer Coraline, ParaNorman is no slouch either. With superb animation, a timely message and great characters, ParaNorman is a winner.

Better/Worse Than the First Film: Slightly worse

Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)

After the delightful Chicken Run (which I still think is Aardman's best film to date), Aardman's next film put, arguably, their most recognizable characters in the spotlight. With wonderful animation, witty jokes and great characters, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is a film that cemented Aardman as a first-class animation studio.

Better/Worse Than the First Film: Slightly worse

The Prince of Egypt (1998)

DreamWorks Animation made its debut with the serviceable Antz, which is a fun but very uneven film. Things got much better with their second outing, The Prince of Egypt. Based on Moses's story from the Bible, you don't have to be a religious person to appreciate the level of great storytelling that the film has. Coupled with superb animation and great songs, DreamWorks crafted one of their best and most mature films to date. It's a shame the film is not as popular as others from the studio because it truly is a classic.

Better/Worse Than the First Film: Better.

Castle in the Sky (1986)

After the wonderful and epic Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Miyazaki and his then-recently-founded studio, Studio Ghibli, set their heights on an adventure story featuring a girl with a magical past and a seemingly ordinary orphan boy, who together have the clues to find the mysterious land of Laputa, which is hidden in the sky. Brimming with memorable characters, a message of courage and friendship and wonderful action sequences. Castle in the Sky is another winner from Ghibli.

Better/Worse Than the First Film: Equal

A Bug's Life (1998)

In 1995, Toy Story changed the animation industry and set the standard technique in which most animated films are made today. Not only that, but it is also a superb film and one of the best debut films from a studio in the history of filmmaking. Their second outing had the difficult task of equalling or surpassing those feats and, while A Bug's Life is not as popular as its predecessor, I think that it's the better film of the two. The animation is simply gorgeous and still impressive almost 16 years later. The story is superb too, brimming with wonderful and witty characters; the whole world that Pixar created is just a marvel to behold. Include a superb score by Randy Newman and you have an exciting, adventurous film that will delight everyone. A Bug's Life may not be as popular as other Pixar films, but it's actually one of their best.

Better/Worse Than the First Film: Better

Pinocchio (1940)

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was a game changer in the filmmaking industry and it single-handedly introduced animated films as a viable form of entertainment. It became a huge box office success and is still regarded as a classic more than 70 years later. The studio's second outing took storytelling and animation to a whole new level. Unfortunately, when it first came out, WWII was raging and the film didn't recoup its budget. Still, time has been nothing but kind to Pinocchio and now it's regarded as one of Disney Animation's best films (if not their very best). With a superb story about right and wrong, wonderful and memorable characters and catchy music that has become a staple of the company, Pinocchio sits at the very top of the studio's best movies.

Better/Worse Than the First Film: Better

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