The Mitchells vs. The Machines ★★★

In the Fall of 2006, a new competitor entered the animation market. In a time when the industry was already head over heels with recent Pixar successes, and even the transitionary work of auteurs such as George Miller moving to an animation-medium platform — the mid-2000’s offered a new escape and vision of the future for contemporary animation. The competitor in question was Sony Pictures Animation; a studio that opened its doors with the juvenile comedy Open Season. By no means is the film a cinematic masterpiece, but for a slapstick comedy about a delinquent deer and a stern bear named Boog — the end payoff for Open Season resulted in a flood of commercial and artistic opportunities. The studio would later release Surf’s Up and Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs; two feature endeavours that many including myself consider to be some of the studio’s most profound and articulated efforts to date.

Although, this wave of new projects have ultimately resulted in a great toll for Sony. Just like in the same footsteps as other animation powerhouses such as Illumination; the power of public demand ultimately drives the market for film sequels, reboots, spinoffs, and other franchise fare. Since its inception, the majority of Sony Pictures Animation’s feature catalogue have predominantly been adaptations of pre-established works — either pre-existing intellectual property or even feature continuations of prior original films. The majority of these films, whilst beautifully crafted by a dedicated team of visual artists, often find themselves in their own malaise of bored tropes and pitiful Déjàvu.

I get it. Every company has to make a profit somehow. Even major-award contending studios like Pixar had to sacrifice some of its own property for the sake of revenue and further job consideration. But in the case of Sony Pictures Animation, there’s a solid time span in the mid-2010’s that resulted in a bit of public distrust for the studio. After their imaginative collaboration with UK animation house Aardman, Sony Pictures Animation fell into a bit of a strut. While some of their recent sequels are certainly enjoyable as passable entertainment — some of their more egregious productions such as the infamous The Emoji Movie was originally labeled as a laughing stock amongst industry elites in its opening release. The critical reception at the time even concerned appreciators of the studio, including myself — worried for the prospects of the talented designers, animators, and supporting artists that formed such gratifying visual flare...

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