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"Titan A.E."

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Currently in the world of animation there is a great war going on for the hearts and minds of young-adult audiences. Disney's domination was always kid-centric. Once the kids move into teenhood, the rules change, and animation, for them, is no longer considered cool. Titan A.E. (Titan is a spaceship; A.E. stands for "After Earth") is the latest attempt by non-Disney, or former Disney, upstarts to go toe-to-toe with the Mouse and market their own cheese. Animators Don Bluth and Gary Goldman, whose biggest previous success was The Secret of NIMH, are among the most adept of the anti-Disneyites, and Titan A.E. has a couple of sequences of surpassing beauty that rival the best work of Japanese anime. The storyline is a Star Wars mélange, and the 2-D human characters seem stick-figure-ish next to the expressive 3-D backgrounds. But the sci-fi elements, complete with the young hero Cale (voiced by Matt Damon) leading the charge of dispossessed Earthlings against the dreaded Drej monsters who destroyed their planet, are at least an attempt to bring teens into the fold. Once there, they may get their eyes widened by such scenes as the ones in which Cale and his cronies are whooshed through a forest of explosive hydrogen trees (they look like membranous cups of crimson) or locked inside a nebula of ice rings. The film's industrial-design décor and lighting, along with the heavy-metal soundtrack, are a jarring, and welcome, change from the soupiness of most American animated features, Disney or otherwise.


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