Animated Films Are Hardly Child's Play

Dreamworks is already working on the next installment in its "Shrek" franchise. But that won't hit theaters until 2007. In the meantime, it will release "Madagascar," an animated story about zoo animals on the run, in which we'll meet a menagerie of critters, including Ben Stiller as Alex the Lion, Chris Rock as Marty the Zebra, David Schwimmer as Melman the Giraffe and Jada Pinkett Smith as Gloria the Hippo.

Dreamworks also has plans for "Over the Hedge," another animal adventure, featuring Jim Carrey, Bruce Willis and Garry Shandling.

No matter how "Robots" fares, Fox is already pushing forward with a sequel to "Ice Age," which is being teased in previews for the new film.

It's easy to see why an animated film can score so big at the box office. Most of the films are G- or PG-rated. That makes them family-friendly, and kids are apt to see a movie multiple times if it catches on. With the DVD and home-theater rental markets becoming a larger source of revenue, studios are even more enthusiastic about cartoons.

Of course, there have to be limits to how much animation moviegoers really want, and computer-generated animation doesn't come cheap. But the studios are likely to keep churning out the product as long as audiences are filling the seats.

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