Yes, those little pill-shaped yellow guys were cute. And yes, Steve Carell delivered some fine Russian-supervillain voice work. Still, it’s unlikely that Despicable Me would have opened as big as it did this weekend without the added bonanza of 3-D. With its expectations-beating, not-at-all-despicable $60 million opening, Despicable Me is just the latest animated movie to reap a box office windfall thanks in large part to the higher prices of 3-D tickets. Toss in Toy Story 3‘s staggering $340 million-and-counting haul — much of that from 3-D ticket sales — and it looks like this summer, as far as animated movies go, the 3-D train has left the station and is hurtling right toward you…in 3-D!
Personally, I took my two young daughters to an old-fashioned 2-D showing of Despicable Me. We’d seen Toy Story 3 in 3-D recently and, as much as my kids enjoyed it, they seemed to spend half the movie taking their ill-fitting 3-D glasses off and putting them back on, so I didn’t feel a great need to shell out an extra $3.50 per ticket to repeat the experience. Would we have liked Despicable Me any more in 3-D? Hard to say. The closing credit sequence, in which the little yellow minions tried to break through the plane of the screen into the third dimension, was clearly geared strictly for 3-D theaters. Otherwise, it didn’t seem like we missed much.
Some would argue that animation is the perfect medium for 3-D — not only can it enhance the visual experience, it can also serve as a kind of gateway drug for kids, hooking them on 3-D for years. Others will say 3-D is just a gimmick and that if 2-D animation was good enough for the likes of Walt Disney, Chuck Jones, and Hanna-Barbera back in the day (and is still good enough for Hayao Miyazaki now), it should be good enough for anyone. But what do you think? Are we heading quickly toward a future in which all animated movies will be in 3-D? Would you welcome that? Or, like my kids, are you perfectly happy to take in your animated flicks sans glasses?