Animated Features Smurfs Lorax

Simply put: are studios creating animated feature films with only an eye to short-term profits at the expense of long-term gains?

Consider Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. A bone fide smash hit when originally released and steadfastly popularity over the course of the 20th century.

In contrast, CGI features from today seem to made to follow a specific formula when it comes to their success, i.e. use a tried and trusted story formula, garner a massive box office take, whip up massive publicity for whichever celebrity gets to work in jeans, sell millions of DVDs (yes, people still buy them) and above all, flog tons of merchandise.

While animated features are a business, it's difficult to see films that follow such a formula through a cultural lens. What does, say, Wreck-It-Ralph contribute besides basic entertainment? Will we talk about it in ten years the same way we do about Who Framed Roger Rabbit now?

While Roger was entertaining in more ways than one, it at least used timeless characters. Wreck-It-Ralph on the other hand, cashes in on the current craze for all things 8-bit and video game-related; a fad to be sure and one that will look old pretty quick.

So with the likes of Pixar busy raiding their back catalogue and others content to push either sequel upon sequel on us or to create films designed to follow the protocol, where are the films that are genuinely unique in a cultural way and that (intentional or not) are likely to remain popular in the way Snow White has?

Charles Kenny writes prolifically on his own blog, The Animation Anomaly.