3D movies have been around for quite some time, tracing their origin back to the 1950s. The first 3D feature film released in America was in 1952, called Bwana Devil. It was set in erstwhile British East Africa (today’s Uganda) and centered largely on the hunt for two man-eating lions. The success of Bwana Devil, despite the poor reviews and overall low quality of 3D, sparked a craze for 3D movies throughout the 1950s, which is still called the golden decade for 3D movies. But audiences soon lost the appetite for such movies and the market for 3D movies has waxed and waned over the past five decades.
But then, Avatar happened. James Cameron’s magnum opus, a movie that cost more than $300 million to produce and raked in more than $2.7 billion worldwide, used a revolutionary new technology to film entirely in 3D. The effects were better, grander and more convincing than anything that the world had ever seen, helped, of course, by the upsurge in the number of 3D capable IMAX theaters. Avatar represented a definite tipping point in the development and popularity of 3D movies.
Movie critics have long scoffed at 3D, dismissing it as a cinematic gimmick meant to sell high priced tickets. Roger Ebert, is famously dismissive of 3D in movies and rates it as one of the poorest innovations in movie making. Yet, anyone who has watched a masterpiece like Avatar (which would be pretty much everyone!) can testify to the sheer immersion and entertainment value that 3D can have.
Children especially enjoy 3D. The sensation of depth, of things flying out of the screen, of immersion really helps to pull them into the movie watching experience. Keeping a child seated in a theater before a giant screen for two hours straight is indeed a Herculean task, but 3D movies manage to do it quite effectively. I remember my first 3D IMAX experience – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, a movie that lends itself wonderfully to out of the world special effects. Only the final few minutes were in full 3D, but I can still recall the joyous expressions on the faces of nephews and nieces who accompanied me. Later, on the way back home in the car, all they could talk of was the final battle between Dumbledore and Voldemort, captured in glorious 3D.
I saw the same expressions on the faces of all children when I watched Avatar, even though thematically, Avatar is a movie aimed more at adults than children. “Wondrous Bewilderment” is what I like to call it – complete awe and immersion into the movie. Clearly, 3D hits the sweet spot with children. It makes movies more than a watched, but a “lived” experience, something imbibed not through eyes and ears, but all the senses combined.
Hollywood, of course, has obliged by releasing more and more 3D movies aimed at kids as well as adults. If Clash of the Titans was aimed at adults, Toy Story 3 was for children (even though I saw more adults in the theater than kids!). 3D has indeed become the buzzword of this new decade. 3D capable televisions are now being sold at all major electronic stores, and even Nintendo has come out with a 3D hand-held console, appropriately named the “3Ds”.
2011 will see the release of dozens of fully 3D movies. While few of them will reach the same quality level as Avatar or Toy Story 3, you can be sure that they’ll provide plenty of entertainment. Some 3D movies for children to look forward to this year include:
- Rio, releasing on April 15 (animated)
- Kung Fu Panda 2, releasing May 26 (animated), sequel to Kung Fu Panda
- Cars 2, releasing June 24 (animated), Pixar’s second shot at the Cars franchise.
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows: Part II, releasing July 15
- Captain America: The First Avenger, releasing July 22
Although you can’t replicate the 3D effects on a television screen (even if it’s a 3D TV), some already released movies for children you can watch with your family over the weekend are:
- Toy Story 3 – a perennial favorite which continues the adventures of Woody and Buzz Lightyear into the 3rd installment of the series.
- Up – a mature, yet hilarious animated movie with an unlikely protagonist. I daresay that adults will enjoy it even more than children.
- Alice in Wonderland – Tim Burton’s reimagining of the classic tale. A little bit on the darker side, but a great watch nonetheless.
- Despicable Me – one of the best animated movies to come out in 2010.
- Shrek: Forever After – the fourth and final installment of the series is also one of the funniest movies you’ll ever watch.
It is no secret that Hollywood has embraced 3D in a big way. Nearly every city has at least one high quality 3D capable theater. For children who love 3D movies, there could be no better time than now!