In Fernando Meirelles’ eye-opening, critically acclaimed 2002 film City of God, the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro is revealed to be corrupt, violent, and desperately poor, its streets ruled by gangs of nihilistic youths who murder with impunity as they jockey for control of a lucrative narcotics trade. Nearly a decade later, that very same city has become the inspiration for the delightful animated comedy Rio, starring Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway.
Rio heralds the advent of an exciting new movement in animated filmmaking, one that looks to rejuvenate the stale sub-genre of talking-animal flicks by embracing exotic urban settings that would previously have been considered ill-suited for studio releases with four-quadrant aspirations. Below are just a few examples of several such projects that are currently in development as we speak. Like Rio, they feature storylines informed by the unique cultural and historical milieus of the cities in which they are set.
Kenny the kidney lived a simple but fulfilling life, working each day alongside his twin brother and the rest of the organs to maintain homeostasis. All of that was shattered one day by a surgeon’s scalpel after Kenny’s owner fell afoul of Chinese authorities. Following a harrowing journey inside an ice chest, Kenny was placed in a new home, where he was treated like a foreign invader by the other organs. Can Kenny overcome their rejection? Find out in this uproarious culture-clash comedy!
Kleb may be a microscopic organism, but his ambitions are as grand as the Himalayas. From the day he was born, in the colorful waters of India’s Ganges River, Kleb has yearned to leave his native New Delhi and become famous as the world’s first-ever Superbug. Together with his best friend Metallo, he hitches a ride in the lungs of an Australian backpacker and embarks on a rollicking road-trip, leaving an indelible impression on everyone he meets in this infectiously entertaining 3D adventure.
As Kim Jong-Il’s most prized pet, Sherri the Shih Tzu leads a pampered existence, enjoying privileges normally reserved for Dear Leader’s most senior lieutenants. But when a clerical error lands her on the mean streets of Pyongyang, Sherri quickly discovers that the world isn’t all sunshine and kimchi. Scared, alone, and hunted as food by the desperately malnourished inhabitants of North Korea’s glorious workers’ paradise, she’ll have to learn to survive on her own if she is to make it back home intact.
Ivan the Dancing Bear is on tour in Chechnya with the traveling Moscow Circus when hordes of wacky separatists storm the Grozny Civic Auditorium, taking his entire troupe hostage. Can Ivan, a bear raised entirely in captivity with little counter-terrorist training, negotiate a peaceful end to the standoff before the hilariously inept Russian army arrives and begins slaughtering people indiscriminately? Surrender to laughter in this exhilarating siege comedy.
For as long as he can remember, Talib the tugboat has dreamed of joining the prestigious Somali pirate fleet, only to be told that he’s too slow and bulky to be a proper plundering vessel. But when a massive storm wipes out all Mogadishu’s speedboats, Talib is left as the only seaworthy craft available to raid a Norwegian tanker that has inadvertently wandered into nearby waters. Set sail for swashbuckling adventure in this inspirational tale of unsinkable courage!
Follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/thomasleupp.