Set about 300 years after the book series, the film tells a story about Guardians Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and the Sandman, who enlist Jack Frost to stop Pitch Black from engulfing the world in darkness. The film was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Feature Film. This was the final DreamWorks Animation film to be distributed by Paramount Pictures.
Jack Frost awakens from a frozen pond with amnesia. Upon realizing no one can see or hear him, he disappears. Three hundred years later Jack, as the spirit of Winter, enjoys delivering snow days to school kids, but resents that they don't believe in him. At the North Pole, the Man in the Moon warns Nicholas St. North that Pitch Black is threatening the children of the world with his nightmares. He calls E. Aster Bunnymund, Sandy, and Tooth, to arms. They are then told that Jack Frost has been chosen to be a new Guardian. Jack is unimpressed by this position, as he still resents not being believed in, but North convinces him to aid them.
Visiting Tooth's world, Jack learns that baby teeth contain childhood memories of the children who lost them; Jack's teeth are included, but tells Tooth he doesn't remember. However, Pitch raids Tooth's home in order to kidnap all of her subordinate tooth fairies except Baby Tooth, whom Jack saved, so that the children's teeth can't be collected and steals all the teeth, thus preventing Tooth from sharing Jack's memories and causing children to not believe in Tooth. In order to thwart Pitch's plan, the group decides to collect children's teeth. During their journey, a quarrel between North and Bunnymund awakens a boy, Jamie. Since he still believes, he can see everybody except for Jack. Pitch's nightmares then attack, provoking Sandy as the Guardian of Dreams. Jack aids, but Sandy is killed by Pitch.
As Easter approaches, the dejected Guardians gather in Bunnymund's home. With the unexpected aid of Jamie's little sister, Sophie, they begin the process of painting eggs for Easter. After Jack takes Sophie home, he is lured to Pitch's lair by a voice. Pitch taunts him with his memories and fear of non-belief, distracting him long enough for Pitch to destroy the eggs, causing children to stop believing in Easter and Bunnymund. Losing his trust in the Guardians, Jack isolates himself in Antarctica, where Pitch tries to convince him to join his side. When Jack refuses, Pitch threatens to kill Baby Tooth unless Jack gives him his staff. He agrees, but Pitch breaks Jack's staff and throws him down a chasm. Unlocking his memories, he learns that he was a mortal teenager who fell into ice while saving his younger sister. Inspired, Jack fixes his staff and returns to the lair to rescue the kidnapped baby fairies.
Due to Pitch, every child in the world except Jamie disbelieves, weakening the Guardians. Finding Jamie's belief wavering, Jack makes it snow in his room, renewing belief and causing Jack to be seen and heard for the first time. Jack and Jamie gather the boy's friends, whose renewed belief bolsters their fight against Pitch. Pitch threatens them, but their dreams prove stronger than his nightmares, resulting in Sandy's resurrection. Defeated and disbelieved in, Pitch tries to retreat, but his nightmares turn on him and trap him in his lair. Afterward, Jamie and his friends bid goodbye to the Guardians as Jack accepts his place as the Guardian of Fun.Chris Pine as Jack Frost, the spirit of winter. Jack Frost is a teenage hellion who enjoys creating mischief and has no interest in being bound by rules or obligations; he just wants to spread his winter magic for the sake of fun, but also wants to be believed in. At the end of the film, Jack becomes the Guardian of Fun.
Jude Law as Pitch Black (The Boogeyman), the essence of fear and the Nightmare King.
Alec Baldwin as North (Santa Claus), the leader of the guardians, and the Guardian of Wonder. He lives at the North Pole in his Ice Castle and is served by loyal North Pole natives, the Yetis (who built the castle and workshop) and the Christmas Elves. He carries a Russian accent/culture persona.
Hugh Jackman as Bunnymund (Easter Bunny), the fabled keeper and bringer of Easter eggs and the Guardian of Hope. He has an Australian accent.
Isla Fisher as Tooth Fairy or Tooth for short, the mythical tooth collector and the Guardian of Memories. Tooth is part human and part hummingbird. Assisted by mini fairies that are split-off extensions of herself, she collects the children's teeth, which hold their most precious memories. Tooth stores them in her palace and returns memories when they are needed the most."
The Sandman, or Sandy for short, the Guardian of Dreams is the oldest of the Guardians and the first Guardian chosen by Man in the Moon. He does not speak, but communicates through sand images that he conjures above his head.
Dakota Goyo as Jamie Bennett, a child who has not given up on believing in the Guardians.
Georgie Grieve as Sophie Bennett, Jamie's little sister
Dominique Grund as Cupcake
Olivia Mattingly as Pippa
In 2005, William Joyce and Reel FX launched a joint venture, Aimesworth Amusements, to produce CG-animated feature films, one of which was set to be The Guardians of Childhood, based on Joyce's idea. The film was not realized, but they did create a short animated film, The Man in the Moon, directed by Joyce, which introduced the Guardians idea, and served as an inspiration for the film.
Early in 2008, Joyce sold the film rights to DreamWorks Animation, after the studio assured him it would respect his vision for the characters and that he would be involved with the creative process. In November 2009, it was revealed that DreamWorks had hired Peter Ramsey to make his feature debut as director of what was then titled The Guardians, and playwright David Lindsay-Abaire to script. Joyce acted as a co-director for the first few years, but left this position after the death of his daughter Mary Katherine, who died of a brain tumor. Joyce continued to assist as an executive producer, while Ramsey took over full directing, making him the first African American to direct a big-budget CG animated film. As with some previous DreamWorks films, Guillermo del Toro came on board as an executive producer. Present almost from the beginning, he was able to help shape the story, character design, theme and structure of the film. He said he was proud that the filmmakers were making parts of the film "dark and moody and poetic," and expressed hope this might "set a different tone for family movies, for entertainment movies." The final title, Rise of the Guardians was announced in early 2011, along with the first cast.
Roger Deakins, the cinematographer who had already worked on the previous DreamWorks' film, How to Train Your Dragon, advised on the lighting to achieve its real look. He selected photographic references for color keys, and during the production gave notes on contrast, saturation, depth of field and light intensity. The film contains a lot of special effects, particularly the volumetric particles for depicting Sandman and Pitch. For this, DreamWorks Animation developed OpenVDB, a more efficient tool and format for manipulating and storing volume data, like smoke and other amorphous materials. OpenVDB had been already used on Puss in Boots and Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted, and was released in August 2012 for free as an open source project with a hope to become an industry standard.
Although the film is based on the Joyce's book series, it contains differences from the books. The book series, begun in 2011, explains the origins of the characters, while the film takes place about 300 years after the books, and shows how the characters function in present time. Joyce explained, "Because I don't want people to read the book and then go see the movie and go, 'Oh, I like the book better,' and I also didn't want them to know what happens in the movie. And I also knew that during the progress of film production, a lot of things can change. So I wanted to have a sort of distance, so we were able to invoke the books and use them to help us figure out the world of the movie, but I didn't want them to be openly competitive to each other." The idea for the Guardians came from Joyce's daughter, who asked him "if he thought Santa Claus had ever met the Easter Bunny." The film includes a dedication to her, as well a song, "Still Dream," sung over the end credits.
Originally, the film was set to be released on November 2, 2012, but DreamWorks Animation pushed the film to November 21, 2012 to avoid competition with Pixar's upcoming film Monsters University, which in turn had been pushed to November 2, 2012 to avoid competition with The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2. Monsters University was then pushed to June 21, 2013, with Disney's Wreck-It Ralph taking its place.
French composer Alexandre Desplat composed the original music for the film, which was released on November 13, 2012 by Varèse Sarabande. The score was recorded in London at Abbey Road Studios and Air Studios, and performed by the London Symphony Orchestra, with a choral contribution by London Voices. David Lindsay-Abaire wrote the lyrics for the end-credit song, "Still Dream," which was performed by soprano Renée Fleming. Stravinsky's Firebird Suite can also be heard during the scene where North first appears. This film marks the first time that a DreamWorks Animation film has not been composed by Hans Zimmer or a member of his Remote Control Productions family of composers (mainly John Powell, Henry Jackman, Harry Gregson-Williams or his brother Rupert Gregson-Williams).
Rise of the Guardians had its premiere on October 10, 2012, at The Mill Valley Film Festival in Mill Valley, California, followed by the international premiere at The International Rome Film Festival on November 13, 2012. Under distribution by Paramount Pictures, the film was released on November 21, 2012, in American theaters. Digitally re-mastered into IMAX 3D, it was shown in limited international and domestic IMAX theaters. It was the second film released in the firm Barco's Auro 11.1 3D audio format, after Red Tails. The film was also shown in Dolby Atmos, a surround sound technology introduced in 2012. Rise of the Guardians was the last DreamWorks Animation film distributed by Paramount, as DreamWorks has signed a five-year distribution deal with 20th Century Fox, which started in 2013 with The Croods.
Rise of the Guardians was released on Blu-ray Disc (2D and 3D) and DVD on March 12, 2013.
That was the last DreamWorks Animation home media release to be distributed by Paramount Home Entertainment, since 20th Century Fox announced its distribution agreement with DreamWorks Animation a few months before the theatrical release. The film was more successful at home media sales than at the box office, having at the end of the second quarter of 2013 "the highest box office to DVD conversion ratio among major releases." In the first quarter of 2013, it sold 3.2 million home entertainment units worldwide, and in the second quarter 0.9 million units, for a total of 4.1 million units. As of August 2013, 2 million DVDs were sold domestically.
It was re-released on DVD on November 5, 2013 and comes with a wind-up marching elf toy.
Rise of the Guardians received positive reviews from critics. Based on 148 reviews, the film holds a rating of 74% on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, with an average rating of 6.5/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "A sort of Avengers for the elementary school set, Rise of the Guardians is wonderfully animated and briskly paced, but it's only so-so in the storytelling department." Another review aggregator, Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 top reviews from mainstream critics, calculated a score of 57 based on 34 reviews, or "Mixed or average." The film earned an "A" from audiences polled by CinemaScore.
Carrie Rickey of The Philadelphia Inquirer gave the film three-and-a-half out of four stars and found the film's characters to have "a primal familiarity, as though they were developed by a tag team of Maurice Sendak and Walt Disney." Olly Richards of Empire wrote, "It's gorgeously designed, deftly written and frequently laugh-out-loud funny. For child or adult, this is a fantasy to get lost in." The Washington Post's Michael O'Sullivan also gave the film a positive review and said, "Thoughts become things. That's the message of Rise of the Guardians, a charming if slightly dark and cobwebbed animated feature about how believing in something makes it real, or real enough." Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three stars and wrote in his review, "There's an audience for this film. It's not me. I gather younger children will like the breakneck action, the magical ability to fly and the young hero who has tired of only being a name." Though he did say, "Their parents and older siblings may find the 89-minute running time quite long enough."
Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter called the film "a lively but derivative 3D storybook spree for some unlikely action heroes." Conversely, Justin Chang in Variety said, "Even tots may emerge feeling slightly browbeaten by this colorful, strenuous and hyperactive fantasy, which has moments of charm and beauty but often resembles an exploding toy factory rather than a work of honest enchantment." Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal found that the film "lacks a resonant center," and that the script, "seems to have been written by committee, with members lobbying for each major character, and the action, set in vast environments all over the map, spreads itself so thin that a surfeit of motion vitiates emotion."
Rise of the Guardians grossed $103,412,758 in North America, and $203,528,912 in other countries, for a worldwide total of $306,941,670.
In North America, the film opened to $32.3 million over its extended five-day weekend, and with $23.8 million over the three-day weekend, it reached fourth place behind The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2, Skyfall, and Lincoln. The film's opening was the lowest debut for a DreamWorks Animation film since Flushed Away. While the film did gross more than double of its $145 million budget, it still did not turn a profit for DreamWorks Animation due to its high production and marketing costs, forcing the studio to take an $83 million write-down. This marked the first time that the studio had lost money on an animated film since Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas. As a result of this combined with other factors, in February 2013, the studio announced it was laying off 350 employees as part of a company-wide restructuring.
The Rome Film Festival and Vanity Fair magazine awarded the new Vanity Fair International Award for Cinematic Excellence in November 2012 to Rise of the Guardians. The film also received the Hollywood Animation Award at the 16th Annual Hollywood Film Festival, held on October 22, 2012.
A video game based on the film was released by D3 Publisher on November 20, 2012 in North America, and released on November 23, 2012 in Europe. It allows gamers to lead the Guardians in their battle against Pitch. The game is a 3D beat-em-up, where the player travels through each of the worlds: Burgess, North Pole, Bunnymund Valley, Tooth Palace, and Sandman's Ship, to fight Pitch's army of Nightmares. The player can switch between all five guardians at any time, and freely customize their powers, and they learn new special abilities as they level up. All the game versions support up to 4 player gameplay. It is available on the Wii, Wii U, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Nintendo DS and Nintendo 3DS.
After the release of the film, the creators of Rise of the Guardians expressed hope that the strong A- Cinemascore average for the film and an enthusiastic word-of-mouth would gather support for the "chance to make a sequel or two." Author and co-producer of the series, William Joyce, also mentioned in March 2013 that he was still in talks about a sequel with DreamWorks Animation: "There is something that we are proposing that we hope they will want to do."