Audiences were a dimension closer to feeling like they were soaring with blue aliens or diving into the depths of Titanic’s wreckage in lauded James Cameron movies like Avatar and Ghosts of the Abyss; 3D technology was all the rage. But the popularity of 3D films has more recently declined — peaking in 2011 with a record 47 3D films released, but revenue dropped 18 percent from 2010. Thirty-four 3D films were made in 2013, and 28 are scheduled for this year. The reasons why are up for debate — from more expensive 3D ticket prices to the quality of the films themselves.
Children’s 3D movies, however, are a different story. Three of the seven movies of the first-quarter of 2014 were 3D non-superhero kids movies. According to the MPAA, the share of tickets sold to 2-11 year olds is at its highest point since 2009, and with 3D attendance skewing towards children age 2-17.
When it comes to 3D technology, the youngest audience members are a good bet. While 3D is a non-traditional medium, many of the children’s films are based on a time-tested format: traditional pencil drawings in picture books. Here’s a look at some of these films, including those that are soon to come.
The Polar Express
IMAX’s first full-length animated 3D feature was released in 2004, but its source material, the eponymous award-winning picture book by Chris Van Allsburg, was published in 1985. The story features a young boy who meets a conductor of a train called the Polar Express, which is journeying to the North Pole. Together, they go on a Christmas adventure. The film stars Tom Hanks (through motion-capture) as the train conductor, but unlike the book, the film takes place in the late 1950s. The film, which cost $165 million to make, garnered great attention on the possibilities for 3D in animated films.
The Adventures of Tintin
Tintin may have been more recently introduced to audiences in the U.S. via the Steven Spielberg action-adventure film, but the comic book series has been read for generations in Western Europe. The clean and colorful pages by Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi, who wrote under the pen name Hergé, have sold over 350 million copies and translated into roughly 80 languages. The film grossed over $373 million and received positive reviews, including comparisons to Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark. A sequel, The Adventures of Tintin: Prisoners of the Sun, will continue to follow the young investigative journalist and his dog. It be directed by Peter Jackson and released in 2016.
The British comedy film is based on the beloved children’s literature character, Paddington Bear, who first appeared in 1958. The writer, Michael Bond, wrote more than 20 books featuring the brown bear, which was illustrated by Peggy Fortnum. The books have sold over 30 million copies worldwide. David Heyman, who is known for his work on all eight Harry Potter films, is producing Paddington. Colin Firth’s voice was recently replaced by Ben Whishaw after the studio decided Firth’s voice was unsuitable for the character. The film also includes the voices of Nicole Kidman, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Bonneville, Julie Walters, and Sally Hawkins. It will be released November 2014.
Le Petit Prince
The whimsical drawings and philosophical musings of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s 1943 novella will soon come alive in a 3D computer animated fantasy film. The French book has been translated into more than 250 languages and has sold over 140 million copies worldwide. The film, which has an $80 million budget, features an international A-list cast including James Franco, Marion Cotillard, Rachel McAdams, Jeff Bridges, Ricky Gervais, and Paul Giamatti. Many adaptations of the book have occurred, including a 1974 film. Hopefully the latest film will be able to retain the poetic charm of the source. It will be released October 2015.
The latest film based on the classic Charles Schulz comics is the first in 35 years. The film will be released November 2015. The influential comic had 17,897 strips published, a readership of 355 million in 75 countries, and was translated into 21 languages. The iconic characters, including Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and Woodstock, will appear in the film. The late Bill Melendez will voice Snoopy and Woodstock through archival recordings. Melendez was the only person Schultz trusted to turn his comic creations into television specials. Recent promo at San Diego Comic-Con, including artwork and a short trailer, suggests that the film retains the warm and playful spirit of the comics.