Hollywood is looking at the future through tinted plastic glasses.
Bloody Valentine, Coraline and the Jonas Brothers concert film were just warm-up acts. The attack of the 3-D movie revival begins in earnest next Friday when Monsters vs. Aliens, the latest computer-animated funhouse from DreamWorks, is launched into theaters.

Studios seem to have at least solved most quality issues. While DreamWorks (aka the House that Shrek Built), has taken longer to join the 3-D revolution than Disney, Warner Bros. and Sony, the wait apparently was worth it, if early reactions to Monsters are any indication.

Disney, one of the earliest adopters of next-gen 3-D ever since 2005’s computer-animated Chicken Little, has 16 releases coming out in the next 2½ years. Yet despite the volume of product, the studio is being selective, with the focus still on animation. “We look at each movie individually,” say Mark Zoradi, head of marketing and distribution. “That filmmaker will decide whether it will enhance the experience.”

That means not even every Pixar production is guaranteed to be in 3-D. In fact, Disney is literally going back to the drawing board this November with The Princess and the Frog, a throwback to such old-fashioned cartoon musicals as 1991’s Beauty and the Beast, which is being transformed into 3-D next year.

This summer brings G-Force, the studio’s first attempt at live-action 3-D with computer-animated guinea pigs as elite crime-fighters. “It came down to us saying, ‘Let’s try a Jerry Bruckheimer movie,’ ” Zoradi says. “It’s classic, high-octane adventure with so much CG that it felt like it would benefit.”

As for the superstar producer behind the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Bruckheimer is taking a wait-and-see attitude before committing to any more 3-D. That includes redoing older titles for rerelease. “There are not enough screens right now to justify costs yet.” But he feels the change is inevitable, especially for action thrillers. “We will see quite a bit of it in the coming years, a big explosion.

Not everyone applauds the rush to 3-D. “Animation studios fixate way more on technology than they should,” says Ellen Besen, author of the how-to book Animation Unleashed. “There was a big transition in the mid-’90s to computer animation. Everyone thinks that the audience stopped liking 2-D.” What really happened? “They forgot to worry about the story.”

Animation historian Leonard Maltin also is not totally convinced that 3-D is necessarily the answer any more than it was when TV threatened the film industry in the ’50s. “If you read the press releases and interviews being given today, they bear an uncanny resemblance to the press releases and interviews from 1953,” he says. “Back then, Jack Warner announced every film would be shot in 3-D. Not to be pessimistic, but there have been big claims and expectations before.” He does concede that the process now is a far cry from the less-reliable gadgetry of the past. “The technology today is fantastic.”

Credit: Excerpts from an article by Susan Wloszczyna published by USA TODAY