With so many animated 3-D movies to choose from, it can be hard to determine which films deserve that extra surcharge that multiplexes are demanding for the extra dimension. In most cases, it’s worth paying the extra few dollars since the animation genre lends itself naturally to 3-D – with the following movies standing as the best and most eye-popping examples of the burgeoning technology:
DreamWorks Animation has long been at the forefront of the 3-D revolution, so it’s not surprising that the most impressive use of the technology comes from the Shrek and Kung Fu Panda studio. And although they’ve put 3-D to impressive use in movies like 2009’s Monsters vs. Aliens and 2010’s Shrek Forever After, DreamWorks’ crowning achievement in the 3-D realm is undoubtedly 2010’s How to Train Your Dragon. The film’s lush landscape of rolling hills and Viking villages is enhanced by the depth afforded by 3-D, yet it’s in its action-oriented moments that How to Train Your Dragon truly soars – as the breathtaking flying sequences offer an ideal example of what 3-D can really do.
It goes without saying that you can either thank or blame Robert Zemeckis for Hollywood’s obsession with 3-D, as the Back to the Future filmmaker effectively kicked off the current 3-D renaissance with his 2004 motion-capture extravaganza The Polar Express. Though the technology was used relatively well in that Tom Hanks vehicle, Beowulf took 3-D to a level of sheer immersion that had never been even been hinted at within animated film prior to that point – as Zemeckis and his team of animators effectively used the extra dimension to place the viewer smack-dab in the middle of the title hero’s action-packed universe.
3. 'Up' (2009)
Though Pixar had added 3-D to such existing films as Toy Story and Toy Story 2, Up marked the first time that the studio had employed the technology during the production of one of their movies. And while the film’s use of 3-D isn’t as showy as that of its competitors, Up remains the very best example of how 3-D can be used to deepen and enhance an environment. As director Pete Docter says in the movie’s production notes, “[We] took a lot of the same storytelling elements that we were using and tried to use depth as another way of telling that story.”
Originally released in 1993, The Nightmare Before Christmas remains the best example of a 2-D animated movie that’s been seamlessly converted into 3-D in post production. The eye-popping universe inhabited by Jack Skellington, Sally, and the rest of the Halloween Town residents comes to vivid life with the added dimension, as the 3-D process, notes Entertainment Weekly critic Scott Brown, “doesn't produce many in-your-face jolts, but [enhances director Henry] Selick's lapidary ghouls quite beautifully.” The stop-motion animation genre seems to work especially well in the context of 3-D, with 2009’s Coraline also standing as a strong contender for this list.
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs works especially well in 3-D, as the movie features a premise that seems to have been tailor-made for the added dimension. Based on the book by Judi and Ron Barrett, the movie follows plucky hero Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) as he attempts to help his sardine-eating town by inventing a device that turns water into food. The spectacularly-conceived 3-D effects are especially prominent during sequences in which edible items come flying at the viewer, and there’s just something inherently irresistible about the sight of hamburgers, pancakes, and (of course) meatballs raining down onto the characters (and, by association, us).