It’s summertime, and you know what that means: bikini anxiety, ”Too hot outside, too cold in the office” syndrome, and… animated movies? Yup, no fewer than five big screen cartoons will be released in the next six weeks — including ”Titan A.E.” (voiced by Matt Damon and Drew Barrymore), which is new in theaters this weekend. But before you rush out to catch them in the cineplex, check out their websites at home. EW Online tells you which are worth your time and which aren’t.
Featuring the Voices of Drew Barrymore, Matt Damon, Bill Pullman, Janeane Garofalo
Release date June 16
Site Overview A comprehensive site with a great sci-fi look that lets you imagine you’re IN the movie. It gives the back story (hint: ”A.E.” stands for ”After Earth”), features the three main stars (Damon, Barrymore, and Pullman) in making-of clips, and allows visitors to play a survival-strategy game.
Kid Friendly? You bet. Those who are 13 and over can join a space ship with their friends in the Operation: After Earth game, or watch skateboarders compete in a longest-jump contest.
Adult Friendly? Pretty much. A man’s home may not be his castle anymore, but here Dad can captain his own space ship, fight off the Drej (the baddies who destroyed the planet), and watch Drew talk about how her character is ”powerful and sexy.”
Featuring the Voices of Mel Gibson, Julia Sawalha, Miranda Richardson
Release date June 23
Site Overview A bare-bones website on which Reel.com branding overpowers the ”Chicken” nuggets. It’s a ”Reel” shame that what promises to be the most entertaining animated movie of the summer has spawned the dullest website of the bunch.
Kid Friendly? Nah, but print out the coloring book and paper airplane pattern so your offspring will have something to do while YOU go back to the ”Titan A.E.” site.
Adult Friendly? Not really, though the site DOES offer a brief history of Aardman Animation Studios, which brought us the Wallace & Gromit films. One might have better luck on ”Run” creator Nick Park’s site, recently given a B in EW magazine.
THE ADVENTURES OF ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE
Starring Robert De Niro, Rene Russo, Jason Alexander
Release date June 30
Site Overview Set up like a retro TV set (Fun and Games channel, Education Television channel, and so on), the site is chockful of hilarious film clips, all sorts of Rocky & Bullwinkle interactive games (you can compete against other site visitors in the pie throwing contest), and ”campaign” info (Natasha and Boris are campaigning to unseat the U.S. president; Rocky and Bullwinkle are trying to foil the plot).
Kid Friendly? Yes. Though the younger crowd may find the old-style moose and squirrel a tad quaint, they should enjoy getting their own voices on the site by recording a campaign slogan with an easily downloadable microphone program.
Adult Friendly? Absolutely! Just enough nostalgia to remind boomers of after-school days of yore and enough techno to remind them it’s 2000. Fractured Cyber Tales, anyone?
POKÉMON THE MOVIE 2000
Release date July 21
Site Overview Like the cartoon from whence it sprung, this is sensory overload city: Upon entering the site you may feel assaulted as the movie’s logo comes careening at you, then Ash, then Pikachu, and finally a snippet of the pop-py theme song blares. Your kids can play Pokématch, take a Poké-pop quiz, win Poké-prizes, watch the trailer, and of course buy Poké-product.
Kid Friendly? Well, duh! The preteen set won’t be able to get enough, though parents will surely wish they would.
Adult Friendly? Well, duh! See above
THOMAS AND THE MAGIC RAILROAD
Starring Alec Baldwin, Peter Fonda, Mara Wilson
Release date July 26
Site Overview The popular British children’s book and TV characters are presented over a gentle ”blue sky with cotton candy clouds” background. Glitches: A broken link back to the Thomas homepage and an inordinate amount of rigmarole involved for children to make a Thomas page of their very own (per new U.S. laws, according to the very Brit explanation).
Kid Friendly? A dreamy site for preschoolers and pre-”Pokémon” obsessed kiddies where — with a grown-up’s help — they can meet the engines, paint a train car, play train games, print out lots of trains to color at home, among other loco-centric fare.
Adult Friendly? The youngsters may love it, but we’re kinda creeped out by those weirdly anthropomorphic train faces. Is it just us, or does the movie’s villainous choo choo Diesel 10 have a certain Hannibal Lecter vibe?