The computer-animated film The Tale of Despereaux is an adaptation of Kate DiCamillo’s much-loved children’s novel. Despereaux (voiced by Matthew Broderick) is a small mouse that, much to the horror of his fellow mice, is more interested in adventure and excitement than dutifully playing the part of a fearful little rodent. The film’s title is actually slightly misleading as Despereaux’s tale is only half of the story. There is also Roscuro (voiced by Dustin Hoffman), a rat with a love of culture, sunlight and good food, who is forced to live underground with rats that possess a more vicious nature. Included in the mix of characters are a mournful king, a lonely princess, a bitter jailer, a whimsical maid and a chef who makes world famous soup with the secret assistance of a magical vegetable spirit.
Bolt is the new computer generated animation from the Walt Disney Animation Studios, conceived and produced under the guidance of John Lasseter who directed the Pixar classics Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2 and Cars. While Bolt doesn’t quite contain the same charm and slick storytelling that defines the Pixar films, it is still a mostly enjoyable film that should appeal to all ages.
Adapted from the novel by Jeanne DuPrau and directed by Gil Kenan (Monster House), City of Ember is a family orientated science-fiction/fantasy about an underground city powered by a dying generator. While trying to save the generator, teenagers Lina Mayfleet (Saoirse Ronan from Atonement) and Doon Harrow (Harry Treadaway from Control) discover that the inhabitants of Ember were supposed to have returned to the surface long ago. However, the city’s corrupt officials have a vested interest in keeping such information quiet.
The latest much-loved children’s fantasy novel series to receive a lavish Hollywood film adaptation is The Spiderwick Chronicles by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black. Helmed by Mean Girls director Mark Waters, the film adaptation follows the plot of the 5 novels about a group of siblings who discover a hidden world of magical creatures. The children learn that this world had been documented in a book by their great uncle and they now must protect this book from the forces of evil that seek the knowledge it contains.
Faithfully adapted from Katherine Paterson’s classic 1977 children’s novel and directed by Rugrats and The Simpsons producer Gabor Csupo, Bridge to Terabithia is light years from the saccharine, sanitised and simplistic cinema that is often forced upon children and adolescents.
Ever since Toy Story in 1995 the most popular family films have been computer-animated stories that have simultaneously appealed to both children and their parents. Pixar and Dreamworks have skilfully dominated this market with great success by continuing to make films that contain enough cultural references and cross-generational humour to keep all age groups entertained. Despite the pleasures that such films create it does seem a pity that there are a lack of films these days that are unashamedly made for children (and the inner child within many adults). The 1980s saw the release of many magical films that were aimed solely at children of all ages and it seems that with Arthur and the Invisibles Luc Besson has attempted to recreate the mood of these films.