A recent article in Variety notes that Beast of Burden is now set to shoot as the first China / New Zealand co-production animated feature film. “Written and directed by Kirby Atkins (Nickelodeon’s The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron), the story sees a species of now-extinct creatures called Thoriphants rebel against their life of servitude to mankind and embark on a treacherous journey.” You may recall that we previously discussed the film on this very web site. As a reminder, we’ll give you the link to Mr. Atkins’ original proof-of-concept short film, which helped him to secure the production deal for his first solo feature.
Can’t think of a better title than that, so why try? Several places on the Net (including Flayrah) have already made note recently of The Boy and the Beast. It’s the latest anime feature from Hosoda Mamoru, the man who brought us Summer Wars and The Wolf Children. As you can tell from those works, the man has an interest in anthropomorphic characters — and this new one just may be his most furry feature yet! The Boy and the Beast “… tells the story of a lonely young boy who strays into a parallel world inhabited by supernatural creatures, where a bear-like beastman becomes his companion and mentor.” It’s set to premier in Japan this July. No word yet on any planned release in North America, but most of director Mamoru’s works have made it over here eventually. Check out the article over at Twitch Film — it includes a trailer with subtitles.
More news from Cartoon Brew: The first major-studio release of a faith-based animated feature film. “Academy Award-nominated director Tim Reckart (Head Over Heels) will make his feature directorial debut with faith-based feature The Lamb, Sony Pictures Animation revealed today in a late-Easter Weekend announcement. First announced in September 2014, The Lamb will be a fully CG-animated pic based on the Christian nativity story, telling the ‘inspirational story of a young lamb who will change the world’ with an all-animal cast.” Lest you forget, the last time there was a faith-based anthropomorphic animated film (independently released) it was Jonah: A Veggie Tales Movie. Stay tuned for more information on a release date for The Lamb.
Cartoon Brew has an article about the first teaser trailer for the new CGI (of course) feature film version of Blinky Bill. Wot, ye’ve not ‘eard o’ Blinky Bill? He’s one of Australia’s most famous animated animals: A young koala with an adventurous attitude and a strong environmental heart. “Blinky Bill first rose to fame in the 1930s in a series of lavishly illustrated and conservation-themed books by Dorothy Wall. A new generation of children… was introduced to Blinky through the classic 1990s animated series The Adventures of Blinky Bill.” The new CGI film features Ryan Kwanten (True Blood) as Blinky Bill himself, while other Australian voices include Toni Collette and Barry Humphries (“Dame Edna”). The film is directed by Deane Taylor, who previously was art director on The Nightmare Before Christmas.
In the came-from-out-of-nowhere division: Animation Scoop has a review of a new DVD release, Wolfy, The Incredible Secret from France. Random Media (in partnership with Cinedigm) have now released it with an English soundtrack. “A story of political machinations, anamorphic animal hierarchy and gypsy fantasy – traditionally hand-drawn with a look that leans far away from photorealism. The convoluted English title (French title: Loulou, l’incroyable secret) actually refers to quite a few secrets, which unravel as Wolfy, an easygoing wolf, and Tom, his neurotic bunny pal, travel to Wolfenberg to find Wolfy’s mother. A gypsy has told them that she is the true princess as well as the leader of a rebellion against an evil usurper—a manipulative wolf named Lou Andréa.” Take a look at the trailer linked to the article. It won’t make much more sense, but it’ll give you an overall idea of the movie’s look and feel.
Besides the Oscar-winning animated short film Feast, one of the animated shorts that was making a whole lot of buzz during awards season was called The Dam Keeper. Here’s the description from Wikipedia: ” It tells the story of Pig, an introverted youth who lives in a windmill and keeps a dark fog from engulfing his town. Although socially rejected by his peers, he is befriended by the artistic Fox.” The Dam Keeper was directed by Robert Kondo and Daisuke Tsutsumi, both art directors at Pixar (they worked together on Monsters University). Now comes this bit of news from Cartoon Brew: “Tonko House, the studio founded by former Pixar art directors Robert Kondo and Daisuke “Dice” Tsutsumi, is developing a feature film based on their Academy Award-nominated short The Dam Keeper. The announcement was made along with the news that Tonko House is partnering with First Second Books, an imprint of Macmillan, to expand their short into a graphic novel series. The first book in The Dam Keeper graphic novel series will be released in 2016, picking up the narrative some years after the original story of the orphaned Pig and his quest to maintain the town dam. It will address two questions unanswered in the film: what happened to Pig’s parents, and how did his world come to be at the mercy of a dark cloud?
Word has been spreading fast among the Silly Creatures that the long-rumored big screen version of Jim Henson’s cult TV series Fraggle Rock is finally a go. Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Inception) is set to produce and star in the feature film version. (Interesting side note: Mr. Gordon-Levitt was the voice of Jim Hawkins in the Disney animated film Treasure Planet.) Here what we got from The Nerdist:
Originally an HBO series which ran from 1983-1987, Fraggle Rock centered around a group of tiny creatures called Fraggles, along with the even smaller Doozers who lived among them. The Fraggles and the Doozers lived in a series of caves called Fraggle Rock, and would only venture outside of it to gather radishes to eat, where they would have to avoid the giant Gorgs.
That and get advice from a matronly trash heap named Marjory, and occasionally interact with the human (and his dog) who lives above them all. Trust us, none of this even begins to capture the magic that went into making this show and the magic that viewers took away from it. This new live-action feature film version is being created by the Jim Henson Company and released by New Regency. (Hmm, not by Disney, eh?) No word yet on a targeted released date, but you can bet you’ll be hearing more about it soon.
Toonbox Entertainment (the folks who last year brought us The Nut Job) are starting to look as if they have a particular interest in furry characters. They’re hard at work on The Nut Job 2, but in the interim comes the announcement of Spark, a space adventure film currently in production and scheduled for release in 2016. Here’s what we got from ComingSoon.net: “Spark follows a teenage monkey Spark, voiced by Jace Norman (Nickelodeon’s Henry Danger), and his friends Vix, a battle-ready fox voiced by Jessica Biel, and Chunk, a tech-savvy warthog, as they embark on a mission to take back the besieged planet Bana from the power-mad General Zhong. Spark’s dangerous odyssey leads him to the farthest reaches of the universe, and to the secret of his true identity, with characters like the comically forgetful nanny robot Bananny, voiced by Susan Sarandon, and the noble, self-sacrificing Queen, voiced by Hilary Swank by his side.” Spark is being directed by Aaron Woodley. The film already has an official web site and also its own Facebook page.
Word has been spreading rapidly that Warner Brothers have put the mega-popular show Adventure Time on the fast-track for development as a feature film. Needless to say, many are assuming they were encouraged by Paramount’s success with the new Spongebob Squarepants movie. According to Cartoon Brew: “The animated film will be produced by Chris McKay, the animation supervisor of The LEGO Movie and director of the forthcoming The LEGO Batman Movie, and Roy Lee, one of 18 producers on The LEGO Movie. Adventure Time creator Pen Ward will have some involvement with the film, according to Deadline, specifically ‘in writing and producing the feature version.'” No word yet on a release date, but given how early in the project they are it’s a good guess it won’t be before 2017. The question on a lot of people’s minds then is: Will Adventure Time still be as big then, and bring as many people to the theaters?
If you hadn’t heard, one of Sweden’s most popular funny animals came to European movie screens in 2014. “Sweden’s most popular comic book character – the bear Bamse – now gets his first feature film. In Bamse Och Tjuvstaden (Bamse and the City of Thieves) the strongest bear in the world and his two friends Little Hopp and Shellman show that the best weapon against evil is -friendship (and a few drops of Grandma’s Thunder Honey of course).” After a popular animated TV series and several TV movies you can check out the feature film’s trailer over on YouTube. As usual, of course, there’s little chance we’ll be able to see this stuff anytime soon in North America — at least not translated!
The film adaptation of Paddington has become, world-wide, one of the biggest box office successes of all time for a “family film”. Now come the word (thanks to Cartoon Brew again) that Studio Canal (the French film creators who brought Paddington to CGI life) are fast-tracking a sequel to the 2014 film — once again to be produced by David Heyman from the UK. In the meantime, the studio is busy distributing another oh-so-English property: Aardman Animation’s Shaun the Sheep Movie, which premiered in Britain last week. No word yet on a release date for Paddington 2, but you can bet it will be sooner rather than later.
Over at Cartoon Brew there’s a new article about an upcoming animated film called Blazing Samurai. Does that title sound a little familiar? Maybe it’s because the whole idea of the movie is an animated re-make of Mel Brooks’ classic western comedy Blazing Saddles — but this time, with dogs. And samurai. Yes. “In this version, a dog named Hank travels to a small town in ancient Japan to fulfill his dream of becoming a samurai. He discovers the town is populated entirely by cats, and must overcome prejudice while learning how to be a great warrior from a once-great samurai cat named Jimbo. Chris Bailey, who directed the Disney short Runaway Brain and animation directed Alvin And The Chipmunks, and veteran animator/story artist Mark Koetsier will co-direct from a screenplay by Ed Stone and Nate Hopper.” The film is being distributed by Open Road Films, who last year brought us The Nut Job. Check out the rest of the article, and look for Blazing Samurai to hit movie screens in April of 2017.
This is direct from an article on Cartoon Brew: “Mexican animation firm Ánima Estudios, producer of the hit 2011 Mexican film Top Cat: The Movie, has released a trailer for its next feature Guardianes de Oz ([Guardians of Oz] retitled Wicked Flying Monkeys for English audiences). The film is set to premiere in Mexico on April 10, 2015. Directed by Alberto Mar (Top Cat: The Movie), the film has an original story by Mexico-born director Jorge Gutierrez, who helmed the recent Reel FX feature The Book of Life. Veteran American television writers Doug Langdale and Evan Gore are credited for the final script along with Gutierrez. Taking place in L. Frank Baum’s Oz universe, the film follows Ozzy, a young flying monkey who rebels against his boss, the wicked witch Evilene, and reaches out to the “Guardians of Oz”—the Lion, the Scarecrow and the Tin Man—who have been put under a spell by the witch.” The article also has a link to the trailer itself. It’s easy to see the connection between this and The Book of Life when you look at the character designs!
But enough about next year - here’s ten movies from 2014 I liked.
“… of the animals who didn’t get on the Ark.” That’s the official tag line of Oops! Noah is Gone, a new CGI feature film coming out later this year. Produced in Germany and animated all over Europe, it follows the story of David and his young son Finny, the last of the Nestrians, and what happens when one of them misses the boat — literally. The official English trailer explains it all better… sort of. No word yet on if it’s to be released to North American theaters or only on DVD. Thanks to Cartoon Brew for the heads-up.
[Don’t forget, nominations for the Ursa Major Awards are open now! And with that, we’ll see you all after Further Confusion!]