As stated last week, this year's animation race is going to be interesting. With this weekend's How to Train Your Dragon 2 (review coming next week), the race is already looking to be interesting. Besides The LEGO Movie, this year looks to be a nice antidote to the lackluster output of 2013. It does seem futile to discuss any category locks at this point, but what about the outliers? What films are going to be on the fringes of discussion and may make the cut? With today's release of the trailer for The Penguins of Madagascar, the discussion opens back up. Can a spin-off film from the acclaimed franchise Madagascar actually stand a chance at a nomination?
Next to Ice Age, it is obvious that few animated franchises nowadays are as popular as Madagascar. While it has only produced three films, the lovable penguins have taken off on their own rocket of success. Beyond the first film where they played supporting comic follies, they have taken off with their own Nickelodeon TV series. They have established themselves as the most interesting and exciting of the cast. This is most evident with their recent upgrade to feature film with guest starring voices by the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich. The only question is if it is a gimmick or if there is actual potential here.
Not to beat a dead horse, but if Frozen can win audiences over despite being a lukewarm film, then anything is possible. Of course, The Penguins of Madagascar has more in common with a Dreamworks Animation film: Puss in Boots. Consider the facts. The feline was one of the most acclaimed characters in the Shrek franchise. When he got his own spin-off, he brought new life into the franchise and it even ended up with an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Film. The film inevitably lost to Rango, but it raises the chances for The Penguins of Madagascar greatly. For starters, Madagascar or its subsequent sequels has not been nominated in this category. However, provided that the film can breathe new life into the franchise, it may be looking at a different picture.
Check out the trailer:
At very least, it looks exciting and fun. It may play fast and loose, but the trailer does give some hope that the film to come will be full of life. Admittedly, Puss in Boots was more grounded in a retro story that didn't rely on high tech gimmicks, or the use of songs by N.E.R.D. and Kenny Loggins. This feels more like a popcorn movie. The trailer says most everything that needs to be known (it is a spin-off) and IMdb offers no additional information at this point.
It does look enjoyable, but consider what is up against. Along with any potential foreign film, the animated category already has a few potential locks. Along with The LEGO Movie and most likely How to Train Your Dragon 2, we still have the fall's out. This includes The Boxtrolls and Pinocchio and whatever film has yet to be publicized at the moment. Even then, the franchise is popular enough that given any potential success, it may likely get into the category. It may be a long shot, as high concept films like Monsters vs. Aliens missed the cut. Either way, this is a topic likely to be addressed in the future.
For the time being, we can admire the trailer and speculate on how good it will be. If anything, it is a welcome sign to see a movie adapted to a TV series adapted to a movie looking so fun and fresh. While it may contradict my belief that the Best Animated Film must do something creative with the genre, it may be my implicit attachment to penguin culture in general that is making me admire this. Of course, Puss in Boots effectively played to my cat loving sensibilities. The question is can this film exceed the mediocrity of the Madagascar films and bring something lively?
Is The Penguins of Madagascar capable of making it into the Oscar conversation? Will it simply exist as a fun popcorn film? Who is likely to be its biggest competitor?