Let’s face it, animated films are a huge deal.   To the studios that make them, they are a guaranteed cash cow.  Next to Pixar, Dreamworks Animation is right at the top of the heap with hits like SHREK, HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, and the MADAGASCAR films.  HeyUGuys was invited to New York this week to take a look at what Dreamworks has in store for us in 2013, and I can tell you, it’s pretty cool.

I made my way to the screening location, where we were able to watch roughly half hour of footage from the three films slated for release next year: THE CROODS, TURBO and MR. PEABODY AND SHERMAN.  What I saw was incredible, even though a lot of the footage was still not complete.  All of the films will be released in 3-D, and judging from the content, they should be amazing!  So let’s get right to it.

The first film featured, also the first to be released theatrically, was THE CROODS (trailer here), presented by directors Kirk Di Micco (SPACE CHIMPS) and Chris Sanders (HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON). Featuring the voice talents of Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone and Ryan Reynolds, THE CROODS tells the story of the world’s titular first family as they are forced to journey outside their cave when it is destroyed by seismic shifts.  They venture out into a rich landscape aided by a slightly more evolved caveman named Guy, and discover a world they never knew existed.

The first clip we were shown was the opening of the film.  It starts with family patriarch Grug (Cage) as he ventures out of his cave in the morning to scare away the animals.  He is soon joined by his family as they begin the arduous task of simply gathering their breakfast.  What ensues is a fantastic sequence involving their attempt to swindle an egg while evading beasts who have their sights set on it as well.

Grug’s daughter, Eep (Stone), breaks her father’s cardinal rule and leaves the cave at night.  She soon encounters Guy (Reynolds), who explains to her his theory that the world is coming to an end.  After scolding his daughter about the dangers of the unknown, Grug and his family are forced to confront the inevitable when the mountains surrounding them begin to crumble and their home is destroyed.  It is then that the whole family decides to venture into the rich wilderness to find a new cave.

After contending with creatures they have never seen, the Croods are joined by Guy who introduces them to ideas like using tools such as fire and shoes.  It is revealed that Eep is in love with Guy, and he is the catalyst that shapes their evolution.

THE CROODS was the only film featured that presented finished 3-D rendered footage.  It works beautifully with the story.  Ryan Reynolds and Emma Stone were in attendance and spoke briefly about the process of turning words into visuals.  Reynolds described his fascination with the animators’ ability to “capture his soul” by incorporating his quirks into the makeup of the character.  Stone said she was excited to play a character who is a teen trying to break out of the family dynamic which she feels is inhibiting her.  It is a wildly inventive story that took 9 years to develop and bring to the big screen and you can see THE CROODS in March 2013.

The next film we were treated to was MR. PEABODY AND SHERMAN, presented by director Rob Minkoff (THE LION KING).  The film is based on the popular characters first featured on “The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle” television show.  Ty Burrell stars as Mr. Peabody, the smartest dog in the entire world who adopts a human son named Sherman (Max Charles).  The two travel time via a time machine called the WABAC (cleverly pronounced WAYBACK), and witness historical world events firsthand.  When Sherman starts his first day of school, he quickly finds a nemesis in Penny Petersen (Ariel Winter, MODERN FAMILY) with whom he gets into a physical altercation.  When Peabody invites the Petersons to his home to smooth things over,  Sherman and Penny sneak into the WABAC and travel back in time.  When the machine returns, Sherman is alone, leaving Penny in ancient Egypt.  Now it’s up to Peabody and Sherman to travel back for Penny, and ensure that the events that shaped the world are not disrupted.

The footage I saw was unfinished but still very entertaining.  It is the opening scene in the film, and Peabody and Sherman are right in the middle of the French Revolution.  Mr. Peabody is about to be decapitated by a guillotine, and narrowly escapes with Sherman in tow.  The two are able to best a legion of soldiers in the French sewers and return to the WABAC to venture back home.   It is a wonderfully nostalgic feeling watching the footage if you were a fan of the characters as a child.

Ty Burrell is a wonderful choice as Mr. Peabody, as he seems to have figured out the authoritative and sure-footed tone of Peabody’s disposition.  Newcomer Max Charles also provides a youthful spirit to Sherman, who is sincerely aloof to the odd appearance of a human boy being raised by a dog. It is probably the one animated film I most look forward to seeing.  MR. PEABODY AND SHERMAN also features the voice talents of Ellie Kemper (THE OFFICE) and the great Stephen Colbert (THE COLBERT REPORT).  It is slated for release in November 2013.

The last film we previewed was TURBO, presented by director David Soren.  Ryan Reynolds shows up again to play the titular character, a snail obsessed with racing who acquires great speed in a freak accident.  Turbo and his brother Chet (Paul Giamatti) are taken by a taco truck driver named Tito (Michael Pena) who races snails at he and his brother’s restaurant.  It is there that Turbo meets his new snail crew led by Whiplash (Samuel L. Jackson), who will help him achieve his dream of racing in the Indianapolis 500.

The footage we were shown included the opening scene of the film in which Turbo watches his favourite race-car driver on television while pretending he is competing as well.  It is a funny scene that showcases Ryan Reynold’s comedy chops.  The dynamic between Reynold’s Turbo and Paul Giamatti’s Chet is what I liked most about what I saw.  Both actors have very recognizable voices, and the animators definitely used their respective likenesses to design the characters.

We also got a look at some footage of the team of snails voiced by Samuel L. Jackson, Snoop Dogg, and Maya Rudolph, who play great off of each other.  Of all of the three films featured, TURBO seems to be the one that children are really going to love.  It’s got humour that is geared toward children and characters that are destined to become merchandising goldmines.  It did remind me a bit of Pixar’s CARS, with obvious differences, just to give you some perspective.

TURBO hits theaters in July 2013.

Dreamworks recently signed a 5 year distribution deal with 20th Century Fox, and as you can see, they are making the most of their new partnership.  Dreamworks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg was on hand for the presentation and appeared enthusiastic about what they have coming up.  Based on what I saw, I can tell you that I have to agree.  Be sure to check out these great projects in the coming year.