I was lucky enough to visit Warner Bros today to get a sneak peak preview of the upcoming animated feature ‘Legend of the Guardians’.  I had my reservations and I certainly didn’t expect to come away extremely impressed, enthusiastic and full of anticipation for its release on the 22nd of October 2010.

The thirty minutes of footage I got to see were chosen mainly to show off the film’s wonderful 3D visuals, but there was much more on offer here. The animation was stunning with gorgeous visual effects and there was a glimpse of what is to come in terms of character and storyline.

I have to say at this point I was not a fan of the trailer that was released recently. I thought it looked strange and I found it hard to accept these Owls as characters I could enjoy watching in an animated film, (and let’s not forget the god awful song that accompanied it). So I fully expected the preview footage to equally underwhelm, but what I found was a film that could easily become one of the finest animated movies of the year.

The preview footage contained a number of scenes from the movie, each introduced by Zack Snyder who offered information on the film’s characters, plot, design and he spoke of his passion to create a movie his children could see.

Ga’Hoole fans beware – small spoilers do follow, but I imagine it’s nothing you don’t already know if you’ve read the books.

The scenes which followed were of the main character Soren and his brother Kludd being snatched by the evil characters of the film, called the Pure Ones. Next up was Soren and his friend Gylfie escaping the land of the Pure Ones and learning to fly in the process. A scene showing Soren and Gylfie meeting up with the third member of their gang called Digger,  followed by a scene showing the Owls meeting the Guardians and being taken to the great Ga’Hoole tree. Finally there was a beautiful scene of Soren training in torrential rain with lightning spiking out in slow motion which was visually stunning.

Each scene showcased some excellent 3D which was as good as any I’ve seen; it never felt that it was there for the sake of using 3D, nor did it look out of place. What really surprised me was just how good the animation is, it’s some of the best I’ve ever seen. The birds themselves looked flawless, the design stunning with detailed feathers and other features which really stood out. The thoughts which troubled me from the trailers were forgotten instantly as I grew to like the characters, helped by some excellent vocal casting and I warmed more and more to the idea of a more realistic looking animated character that Legend of the Guardians is offering, as opposed to your regular toy range friendly creations which litter most animated movies. It really works well.

Overall the story looks very interesting combining a wonderfully mythological tale with characters that seem interesting with a wide range of comical, wise and evil roles in place to offer something for all. It is visually incredible and the action scenes were exciting, scary, well choreographed, delicious to watch and contained your regular Snyder slow motion moments. It left me desperate to see more.

Zack Snyder is a great director who knows how to create an entertaining visual treat and this film is looking no different. I’m expecting big things from Legend of the Guardians and I can’t wait until 22nd October for it’s release.