Quick! Name three all-cgi theatrical features that had their visuals made predominantly in Canada. Can't do it? You live in Canada and you still can't do it?
The films I'm thinking of are Pinocchio 3000, The Wild and Everyone's Hero. If you couldn't name them, one reason might be because all three films were flops. Pinocchio 3000 barely got released in Canada. The Wild and Everyone's Hero got wide releases, but neither set the world on fire. Everyone's Hero is still in theaters, but with an opening weekend gross of $6.2 million, it's a safe bet that this film won't be breaking any box office records.
It would take a book to detail Canada's relationship to the U.S. entertainment industry. Canada has content quotas in place in television to prevent U.S. imports from swamping local productions. There are no quotas in place for movies, so in English-speaking Canada, Canadian films get about 3% of screen time. Imagine how odd it would be to have 97% of the movies available to you come from a foreign country. That's Canada.
Canada's track record in animated features is not good. Nelvana has turned out many, but except for Rock and Rule they basically took TV properties and goosed the budgets a little. The theatrical runs were short and the films main audience was on video.
The three films mentioned above were attempts to compete head to head in the feature business, but they all suffer from the view of Canada as a low wage country. Pinocchio 3000 was a Canada-France co-production (Spain was involved in some way as well), but the script came from France. The Wild and Everyone's Hero both had their scripts come from the U.S. Canada's role was to be less-expensive Americans, taking care of the visuals.
The failure of these films is not doing Canada any good. Producers are less likely to bring feature projects to Canada when there's no history of box office success. The problem is that Canada pays for everybody else's sins. If you look at any high end feature studio, you'll find Canadians. They're at Pixar, DreamWorks, Disney, ILM, Sony, and Blue Sky, so the problem is not the quality of Canadian talent. The problem is studio management that won't let the talent in Canada do the job. Canadian studios are shackled to poor scripts and inefficient producers who ride herd on talent that knows it's making bad films.
There's no easy solution. The Canadian film industry is a low budget and low profile affair. It's tough to sit in on a high stakes poker game when you've only got enough chips for one hand. If you don't win the pot, you're out of the game. And if you're an inexperienced player, it's hard to learn the ropes in just one hand.
The deck is currently stacked against home grown Canadian animated features. While there are many low budget live features made for under $10 million, that budget level is a tough one for an animated feature that has to compete with Pixar. Sylvain Chomet avoided that and made a personal animated feature with The Triplets of Belleville, but he's decamped to Scotland.
It may be that Canada may never be a successful player in the animated feature field. There are no artist/entrepreneurs who can get projects off the ground (Canadian animation is hardly creator-friendly) and most Canadian producers are understandably scared of big investments. That leaves us at the mercy of people from other places with money. I just wish that they were smarter.