The Other Side of Animation 174: Playmobil: The Movie Review


(If you like what you see, you can go to to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

When you are a film fan, it’s extremely easy to overlook the fact that making a film is an incredibly challenging feat of art to make happen. You have to make sure multiple parts of this machine are running, and if anything happens, you have to make sure you are prepared for such situations. This is especially true with animated features. You can’t just delay something or just say “redo this scene, you got three weeks” unless you just introduce crunch periods, which are never a good thing. Animation takes time, and more so than most films that get made. You have to hand-craft everything from scratch. Sometimes, animation projects get wrung through the wringer, and due to bad luck, timing, and other elements, it could mean a bunch of hard-working and very talented individuals that made the film probably were given a bad project, and the final product will not be as good as they intended it to be. I wish more animation fans would understand that. So, what’s with the long paragraph? It’s because I want to talk about Playmobil: The Movie.

Directed by Lino DiSalvo, who was the head of the animation for Frozen, based on the “popular” toyline of the same name, produced by Method Animation, On Animation Studios, and DMS Entertainment, and distributed by STX Entertainment, Playmobil is another animation flop in a year full of animated flops. Having originally been pitched around to studios like Sony, the film started production in 2014 and was supposed to come out by 2017. Bob Persichetti was originally the director and writer of the film at Sony, but then the pitch fell through, and Bob went on to direct 2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. In 2016, the rights were then bought by Open Road Films to distribute it in the US, got Lino DiSalvo to direct, and the film’s budget was going to be $40 mil. Then in 2018 Open Roads went bankrupt, and STX Entertainment bought the rights to the film. Playmobil was shown around the world, and was even the opening night film for 2019’s Annecy Film Festival. It was met with mostly negative reactions that were so bad that people walked out midway through the film’s run. This also isn’t counting all the delays and money trouble STX was having, and the film finally landed with a dead-on-arrival thud on December 6th, 2019 and the UK in August 2019. It was a critical failure and a financial bomb as of writing this review. It has only gained $13 mil on that $40 mil budget. It became one of the top five worst domestic releases in over two-thousand theatres and shares the same spot as other noticeable failures like Delgo. Yeah, that’s quite a ride, and I feel badly for the talented people that were working on this film. So, is it worth all of this panning, and did it deserve to bomb in theaters? Well, let’s look at it!


Our story focuses on a sister and her younger brother named Marla and Charlie, played by Anya Taylor-Joy and Gabriel Bateman. Marla promises Charlie a world of adventure and fun, but those plans are abruptly halted by a tone change of them finding out their parents died. No real explanation as to how they died, but they died. After some time passes, Marla becomes the new breadwinner of the house, and has to take on the adult responsibilities while her brother has become a handful to deal with. Charlie then calls out Marla for not being fun anymore, and runs away to this toy convention downtown. She runs after him and finds him at this Playmobil display, and the two get sucked into the world of Playmobil. They get separated, and it is up to Marla to find Charlie and get out of there. Along the way, Marla encounters a food truck driver/delivery man named Del, voiced by Jim Gaffigan, and the two must avoid the evil clutches of Emperor Maximus, voiced by Adam Lambert.


So, let’s talk about marketing. Normally I don’t do this, because most of the time unless the director has an iron grip on the situation, marketing is done more by the studio and the crew doesn’t have a say in what gets shown. You may have noticed I didn’t mention Rex Dasher, Daniel Radcliffe’s character. Technically, from the trailer, he was the main character. Well, that’s not even close to being true. As many have mentioned, Rex Dasher is only in the film at most for 10 minutes. He’s not the main character, and I’m wondering if this was to try and get some of that synergy vibe from Spies in Disguise. It’s not like other trailers for Playmobil: The Movie are non-existent. They are around, and the American marketing has hidden the fact that this film opens and closes with live-action sequences as if this film was made in the 90s or early 2000s when those live-action remakes of animated properties were huge. It’s some of the worst marketing I have seen for an animated film, and the director and his team didn’t deserve this kind of marketing.


I think the studio knew that they didn’t have a hit, and tried to twist it as much as possible to be appealing, but here is the thing, no one cares about Playmobil anymore. Or, at the very least, it’s still not super popular. The problem is that this film wants to be The LEGO Movie when the Playmobil toyline itself was not interesting or creative. It doesn’t help that the toys were more plastic than anything else. Yes, they had brand tie-ins, but of course, this film wasn’t going to be able to afford those licenses, and all we are left with are generic toys and characters. What worked about The LEGO Movie is that beyond having LEGO Batman and all of the tie-in references, LEGO Movie was still able to be creative and thoughtful. Sadly, Playmobil was not that. It doesn’t have a good creative core that it can work off of. It has one pretty good joke at the beginning when they play with the fact that Playmobil figures are infamously stiff, but they break that one rule within seconds. There is nothing here about this film’s world that makes me think of anything creative. It looks and feels like any normal animated film out there. Say what you will about LEGO Ninjago or any of the LEGO Movies that were released in theaters, they at least make you think of LEGO as a brand and identity. It’s not like Playmobil doesn’t try to get creative as it introduces a bunch of side characters from different realms, but they never stuck with me, because most of the stuff is fairly generic.


Also, this film is a musical! Yeah, if there was one thing this film hid more than the live-action sequences and Radcliffe as not the main character, it’s the fact this film has musical sequences. I know Meghan Trainor and Adam Lambert wrote original songs for this film, and I’m sure this was probably the first time for someone who wrote the songs, but the music in this film is hugely forgettable. No real hooks or anything all that interesting. While it may not be as bad as Jeremy Renner’s songs used in Arctic Dogs, I found very little to like about the music in this film. I think the only one who had any fun with their number is Adam Lambert, but that’s because he’s probably the most talented person there, and is having fun with his character.

This reminds me, I didn’t talk about the characters. That’s because most of the cast is dull, forgettable, or unlikeable. Anna Taylor-Joy is sleepwalking through this film. Gabriel Bateman is also not all that interesting as a kid, and he’s despicable as a character at first. He has the gall to call his sister a terrible person because she now has to take adult responsibilities with the house and taking care of him. I mean, yes, he’s a kid, but he should be lucky that he’s not on the street or in an orphanage. The other cast members don’t have anything to them outside of their one character trait.


I know I’m railing on this one hard, but it’s because I was rooting for it to not be an empty experience, and I got one, but there are a few elements that I did like about it. I think the animation is pretty decent. It’s nothing mindblowing and doesn’t go all the way with the aesthetic of Playmobil, but it’s not bad. Like I said above, most of the characters are boilerplate boring, but at least it seems like Radcliffe and Lambert were the most energized of the bunch. Unlike most of the cast, they were the two you really couldn’t replace. While most of the jokes land flat, a funny joke does pop in from time to time. Not enough of them are funny, but I did get a chuckle here or there.


Normally, I would save this film for a review that’s all about notorious film fiasco, but I really couldn’t do that. It’s not that it didn’t fit the bill, because, I mean, come on, but animation reviewing needs to be improved upon, and that’s taking into considering with how we frame the way we talk about films. Playmobil: The Movie is not good, and it’s going to end up in my bottom 5 animated films of the year. However, I do feel badly for the talented people involved. Like I said, some of the crew that made this film worked with Disney in the past, and it’s not even an offensively bad film. It’s harmless, and at worst, it’s a mediocre film that was a bad idea from the get-go that could have been something great if it was given the right attention. I would say don’t check this film out, but because no one is seeing that film, I think that’s already a given. I hope the people who worked on this keep getting work, and they get to do something more rewarding in the future. Now then, let’s get to the DC animated films I need to catch up on with what I consider to be 2019’s weakest DC animated feature, Batman Hush.

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Rating: The Worst/Blacklist

Animation Tidbits: Annecy Part 2


(Originally written: May 29th: 2019. Sorry for posting this late!)

(If you like what you see, you can go to to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this editorial!)

Alrighty, for the final part of this look at Annecy 2019, I decided to combine a bunch of films from different categories. This is because the various categories don’t have enough to warrant talking about in individual articles. At least, that is my opinion on the other categories. The one major change they made was a new category called Contrechamp, a category with animated features that are in competition, but have visuals that challenge the medium of animation. Otherwise, the films on the list will be from the screening events and In Production section of the festival. Let’s get started!

Children of the Sea (Contrechamp)

Directed by Ayumu Watanabe, the story focuses on a girl named Ruka, who saw a ghost in her dad’s aquarium when she was little. She becomes attracted to the aquarium and the appearance of two mysterious boys named Umi and Sora, all the while the adults who work there figure out the mass disappearance of the earth’s fish. In a lot of ways, it’s almost unfair that this film is the perfect representation for the Contrechamp section of the festival. It’s almost unfair how downright jaw-dropping-off-your-face beautiful the film is. Studio 4C has done a lot of great work, but this easily looks like it will be their best. Plus, with GKids now attached to bringing it over to the states this year, I have major hopes it’s going to be at Animation is Film 2019! If that wasn’t enough to get you hyped, Joe Hisaishi, the composer behind many of the Studio Ghibli classics, is composing the music for this film.

Away (Contrechamp)

Directed by Gints Zilbalodis, Away is about a young man who’s riding a motorcycle, trapped on a mystical island while trying to avoid a shadowy monster chasing him. This is also a film that looks like it will be taking advantage of the Contrechamp title. Sure, it kind of looks like an indie game that’s trying to be the next artistic achievement in gaming, but that’s sort of the fun of it. Plus, this was directed and animated by someone who is 25 years old. That is wildly ambitious and I give him kudos for that. It looks like a visually creative film that I hope does well.

Underdog (Contrechamp)

Directed by Sung-Yoon Oh and Chun Baek Lee, the story revolves around a blue dog that was once a house pet, but ends up back in the wild. He encounters wild dogs, and tries to help them survive and live freely. Generic title aside, I really like the visual look of this film. It reminds me of the work arounds French animation uses in projects like The Painting. It has a super vibrant color palette, and while the CGI may not be Pixar or Disney level at all, it has its own identity and personality to it. I’m happy to see South Korean animation finally making some break-out titles to show that they can make animated features that aren’t tied down to propaganda, and can be watchable by all. Though seeing some of the marketing blurbs say it was more emotionally gripping than Zootopia? Yeah, we will have to see about that.

Ville Neuve (Contrechamp)

Directed by Felix Dufour Laperriere, Ville Neuve focuses on a man named Joseph, who moves into a house with his friend, and tries to get back with his ex-wife, and this is happening with the 1995 Quebec Referendum happening in the background. I like the minimalist approach with its focus on whites, blacks, and grays. It comes off like a more personal and intimate film, and I can’t wait to see what the reviews say about this one.

Playmobil (Screening)

Now then, let’s jump in with the first film in the “Screening” category. Directed by Lino DiSalvo, the story focuses on a young woman named Marla, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, who gets pulled into this Playmobil world with her brother Carlie, played by Gabriel Bateman. They get separated, and it’s up to Marla to team up with Rex Dasher, a secret agent voiced by Daniel Radcliffe and Del, a food truck driver voiced by Jim Gaffigan, to get her brother back and avoid the evil clutches of Emperor Maximus, played by Adam Lambert. Yeah, this film did not get the warmest impression, being negatively compared to the 2014 The LEGO Movie. I can understand why. It comes off as a bit outdated that there needs to be a reason for the Playmobil world to exist, when people would rather just enjoy the world that they make. Still, the film looks silly and aware about itself, and some of the jokes I saw got a chuckle out of me. Hopefully it can be an entertaining flick once it releases later this year.

The Prince’s Voyage (Screening)

Directed by Jean-Francois Languionie and Xavier Pircard, this is a follow-up to a film Jean Francois did a while back called A Monkey’s Tale, which follows the prince from that film, as he washes up on the shore of an island, and encounters an individual named Young Tom and his two parents, who were exiled scientists. The film itself looks great, but that should be no surprise, because it’s the same guy behind The Painting, but I am curious to see how they make this film work, because who remembers A Monkey’s Tale? It has only gotten an English UK release, and no one in America has probably heard of this guy or his films. Still, the CGI looks stylized, and I’m curious to see how this film does in continuing the story with these characters in a travel diary-style form.

Abominable (Screening)

Finally, we are seeing actual trailers and footage for this film. Directed by Jill Culton and Todd Wilderman, we follow the exploits of a young Chinese woman named Yi, voiced by Chloe Bennet, as she encounters an actual Yeti on the rooftop of her apartment building. It was previously caught by a scientist named Dr. Zara, voiced by Sarah Paulson, and an evil rich man named Burnish, voiced by Eddie Izzard. It is up to Yi, her friends Peng, voiced by Albert Tsai, and Jin, voiced by Tenzing Norgay Trainor, to get the Yeti back to his home in the mountains. This is an important film, due to this being DreamWorks first Chinese collaboration with Pearl Studio. As per usual with their non-comedy stuff, Abominable looks visually great, and has some endearing moments, but the jokes and references made in the first trailer and in the recent trailer are iffy. Hopefully, this is more of DreamWorks working at a How to Train your Dragon and Kung Fu Panda level, and not Shrek the Third level. Also, what is up with their marketing for this film? Everyone has already seen a trailer for the film for two or so months before the “official” trailer was released last week. What was the point of having two trailers and one of them was already viewable in theaters? Oh well, I hope this is a good movie.

Toy Story 4 (Screening)

Directed by Josh Cooley, we follow our heroes dealing with their new lives and a new encounter with a self-made toy named Forky, voiced by Tony Hale. One day, Forky gets out, and Woody, voiced by Tom Hanks, sets out to bring Forky back, but also runs into Bo Peep, voiced by Annie Potts. Shenanigans then ensue as Woody and the gang try to get Forky back to their new owner Bonnie, and Woody starts to have a crisis of what it means to be a toy. It’s too easy and frankly lazy, to say how this is a “cash grab”, when all films are cash grabs. We didn’t need a 4th one, but if we needed this one to get back on the train of original films starting with next year’s Onward, then so be it. Plus, I have been hearing good early word of mouth, and plus, who doesn’t want to see Keanu Reeves in his first ever voice role? Even if we might “not need it”, I’m glad to go back if the story is good.

Frozen 2 (Screening)

Directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, our heroes from the first film, Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, and Olaf are off on another adventure to go beyond the kingdom of Arendelle. Yeah, there isn’t much known about the film right now, so let’s talk about how incredible the teaser trailer was. This film looks jaw-dropping-off-your-face-and-exploding gorgeous. I’m sure a lot of this is just teaser editing, and the film may not be this serious in tone, but wouldn’t that be awesome if it was? I know there is a bit of Frozen burnout, but I liked the first movie, and I’m excited to see how this new one unfolds.

Weathering With You (WIP)

In the Work in Progress section, we have the newest film from Makoto Shinkai. The story revolves around a young boy who moves to Tokyo alone, and almost becomes broke, until he gets a writing job for an odd occult magazine. His life feels like it’s constant misery, as rain and dark clouds follow him everywhere. One day, he encounters a young girl who has a mysterious power to clear the sky of the clouds and rain. While I have been critical of some of Shinkai’s efforts and directorial touches in the past, this one has me very excited. To no surprise that Shinkai has more drop-dead eye-popping visuals, something about the story feels instantly likable, and GKids recently announced that they will be bringing it over! I can’t wait to see this film, and I hope to see it sometime soon.

Promare (Midnight Special)

Finally, for the Midnight Special, we have Promare. Directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi, and animated by Studio Trigger, we follow Galo Thymos and his team, the Burning Rescue Fire Department. Their main goal is to take down a group of evil mutants called BURNISH that emits and can control a special fire that is engulfing the planet. This movie looks so over-the-top, silly, nonsensical, it’s super drenched in its anime identity, and this is why I follow foreign/indie animation. This movie looks crazy in the most positive way possible. Sure, if you know anything about Studio Trigger’s previous work like Kill la Kill, Space Patrol Luluco, Little Witch Academia, and SSSS Gridman, then you know you are going to get some of the most vibrant Japanese animation around. It looks like a lot of fun, and I hope to also see it soon.

And that wraps up what I think looks to be the most promising at the Annecy International Film Festival. Even with these listed, there are truly more interesting features being shown in their completed form or work-in-progress form. Just go check out the site, and see the multitude of animated projects being shown, and find your favorites.