“Monsters vs. Aliens” opened 11 years ago this week: March 27, 2009. The DreamWorks Animation sci-fi action comedy starred the voices of Reese Witherspoon, Seth Rogen, Will Arnett and Hugh Laurie.
When you think of DreamWorks animated movies, the first ones that probably pop into your head are “Shrek”, “Madagascar”, “Kung Fu Panda”, “How to Train Your Dragon” and maybe most recently “Trolls”.
However, “MVA” is a significant film in the DreamWorks catalogue for a number of reasons. In fact, here are 11:
1.) “Monsters vs. Aliens” was a modern take on the classic monster movies like “Attack of the 50 Foot Woman”, “The Blob” and even “Frankenstein”. Critics and audiences were able to appreciate this storyline and all the references.
2.) Yes, there were many on-the-surface comparisons to Pixar’s “Monsters, Inc.” at the time of “MVA”’s release. Like Mike, B.O.B. is also a one-eyed, round character. But it was Dr. Cockroach who was put front and center out of the three main creature monsters on the film’s main poster. (Interestingly, the character of Missing Link would also become the title of Laika’s 2019 Golden Globe winning movie.)
3.) DreamWorks marketed “MVA” like crazy. For the Super Bowl, the studio sent me a B.O.B. football and aired a special 3D commercial during the big game.
4.) “Monsters vs. Aliens” was the first DreamWorks 3D release. Nine months before “Avatar” opened, this was the movie that kickstarted the appeal for 3D in theaters. Later in 2009 (still before “Avatar”), other major animation houses released their first 3D films: “Up” (Pixar), “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” (Blue Sky) and “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” (Sony).
5.) InTru3D was the name of the stereoscopic 3D technology DreamWorks and Intel used beginning with “MVA”. InTru was also used on the next 7 films, ending with “Rise of the Guardians” in 2012.
6.) “MVA” was the only DWA release in 2009. This was the first time there was only one DWA movie in a calendar year since 2003. From ’04-’08, DreamWorks released two films each year. In 2010, the studio opened three films. They would not have another single-film year until 2015 with “Home”, and it has not happened again since.
7.) With a gross of just under $200 million in the U.S., “Monsters vs. Aliens” was Reese Witherspoon’s highest grossing movie at the domestic box office for eight years… until another animated movie overtook it in 2017: Illumination’s “Sing”.
8.) “MVA” quickly followed-up with mini installments. First, the short “B.O.B.’s Big Break” debuted on Nickelodeon that September a few days before the movie’s DVD release.
9.) In October, NBC aired the well-received Halloween special “Mutant Pumpkins From Outer Space”. It ran on Wednesday the 28th at 8pmET to 7 million viewers, beating a re-airing of “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” on ABC by 1 million. Then, NBC decided to re-run it immediately at 8:30pm. 5.5 million viewers (likely many who flipped over after “Charlie Brown”) tuned-in, according to TV Tango. (A sequel special, “Night of the Living Carrots”, became available digitally in 2011.)
10.) An “MVA” half-hour TV series aired for a single season from 2013-14. It was the final DreamWorks Animation series to air on Nick before they shifted to Netflix for the majority of their new programming.
11.) As I wrote on Twitter a few hours after publishing this piece, I made a quick little math error. It’s been 11, not 10, years since “Monsters vs. Aliens” opened. But even though the film is a little older than I remembered, clearly the experience of seeing it is still fresh in my mind!