7 items from 2016
Annecy — As it puts more touches to plans for the ambitious first animation slate at its Warner Animation Group, Warner Bros. has set a release date of Spring 2018 for “Smallfoot,” its awaited second original animated feature.
News of “Smallfoot’s” dating comes as producer Brad Lewis used France’s Annecy Festival on June 14 to unveil seven sequences from “Storks,” Wag’s second movie and first original animated feature which hits U.S. cinemas on Sept. 23.
“Smallfoot” and “Storks” are two of six Wag movies now in various stages of production which will hit U.S. theaters in the next four-and-a-half years. That slate looks set to be the weightiest new addition to Hollywood animation from any studio in what’s left of the decade.
Lewis’ Annecy presentation, by far the biggest unveil to date of never-seen excerpts from “Storks” – just two-to-three minutes have been seen before in public, Lewis said – also served to underscore Wag’s development of a budding house-style, a distinctive zaniness channelling in particular the tone of its legacy Warner Bros. “Looney Tunes” heritage.
Flipping the myth of the Yeti on its head – it is now the hero, a Yeti, who believes humans really do exist – “Smallfoot” is written by John Requa and Glenn Ficarra (“Crazy, Stupid, Love,” “Cats & Dogs”). It was developed from an original idea by Sergio Pablos (“Despicable Me”), who is also set to direct.
Wag is a “front-end” studio based in Los Angeles, handling story boarding, character design, concept art, editorial, story building and voice recording, said Christopher deFaria, Warner Bros. Pictures’ president, animation, digital production, and VFX.
In the case of “Smallfoot,” character design and a lot of the story reel will be carried out at Sergio Pablos’ Spa Studios in Madrid. The movie will then move to one of Warner Bros’ partner animation studios, deFaria added.
“Smallfoot” will become the fifth movie from the Warner Animation Group. Directed by vet Pixar animator Doug Sweetland and Nicholas Stoller – previously a live-action helmer whose debut, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” was produced by Judd Apatow – “Storks” opens Sept. 23.
“The Lego Batman Movie,” asking whether Batman can be happy, according to a Wag promo reel at Annecy, bows in the U.S. on Feb. 10, 2017; “Lego Ninjago,” a mishmash of kung-fu movies based on the Lego toys theme, is released on Sept. 22, 2017. Following on after “Smallfoot’” is “The Lego Movie Sequel” and “S.C.O.O.B.,” which sees Wag unlocking the Hanna Barbara universe.
“The idea with Wag is to borrow on Warner Bros. legacy and its history of animation and also on their tone and feel. That was the biggest accomplishment of ‘The Lego Movie.’ It felt like a Warner Bros. movie, distilling and channeling ‘Looney Tunes’ and the sensibility the studio was famous for,” said deFaria.
He added: “There is a tone, feel and voice you can recognize as the Warner Bros. animated film. It gives us a place to distinguish ourselves in what is otherwise a very crowded marketplace of incredible quality films.”
That distinctive voice, a “Looney Tunes” zaniness, came through very strongly in Lewis’ “Storks” presentation. The seven clips took in a scene setter at a stork factory which once delivered babies, but now handles packages Amazon-style, where the film’s stork hero, Junior, voiced by Andy Samberg, has just won promotion. Two more sequences feature the Gardener family, parents workaholics, their only son pining for a baby sibling.
Another has Junior and Tulip, a girl orphan at the factory, crashing their plane in a snowfield with a baby on board which they’re attempting to deliver to the Gardeners, Junior and Tulip working up a “Romancing the Stone” rapport. A pack of wolves capture Junior and Tulip and the baby, but its alpha males go so gooey-eyed over the baby, especially when she smiles, allowing the trio to escape.
In maybe the most inspired of the sequences shown at Annecy, which had the audience near to hysterics, Junior and Tulip encounter a evil band of penguins with black eyes who have kidnapped the baby. Since neither side wants to wake the baby up, however, their fight is conducting in total, if pained, silence. “Storks” attempted to introduce more improvisation into its animation process, Lewis said.
“As an art form, we are not spontaneous. Animation is all about iteration,” he observed. “Typically animation progresses via script pages, story telling, then editorial.” But not on “Storks,” Lewis explained, where Stoller-led recording sessions – sometimes there hours long with actors working on the development of the character or a scene – would further develop narrative.
For Lewis, Sweetland’s “crazy animation style is a Warner Bros. style, there’s the history of “Looney Tunes,” we like it crazy, we like fun.”
He added: “In CG animation, there’s an over-reliance on simulation, there’s less of a reliance on how a shot serves a story.” Some shots in “Storks” are not perfectly composed but make a dramatic or comedic point. Lighting in “Storks” plays up effects, as in a camp fire scene in the snow, which emphasised shadows and the moonlit sky. “We wanted a certain cinema verité,” Lewis observed.
On “Storks,” Warner Bros. partnering for the production with Sony’s animation studio in Vancouver. Warner Bros. is also in development on two more original animated features, one with Paul King (“Paddington”), and another with Stoller, deFaria said.
- John Hopewell
If you're a film score nut like me, one area where Marvel Studios has badly dropped the ball is in the music department. I grew up in an era where films about iconic characters were loaded with powerful themes and motifs that helped tie the whole experience together. Whenever a particular character entered a scene, or a certain kind of situation was taking place, the score would immediately help to identify exactly who/what we should be focusing on, or how we should be feeling.
Composer Alan Silvestri comes from that era, and his scores for films like the Back To The Future trilogy, Forrest Gump, Romancing The Stone, and Father Of The Bride have withstood the test of time. His work on the Marvel films has been a little more anonymous, though. He scored Captain America: The First Avenger and The Avengers. Both were fine, and he created themes for both, »
- Mario-Francisco Robles
Dancin' Dan here with a little bit of Actor Month fun. Witness has already hit us with its best shots, but I'm not quite ready to let Harrison Ford go just yet. Watching Witness for the first time can make you yearn for younger Ford, because.... Man was he so perfectly, ruggedly handsome in the 80s (and throughout most of the 90s). None of his roles captured that ruggedly handsome side of him quite so much as Indiana Jones, who is one of the best movie characters of all time.
But I'm unfairly stuffing the ballot box before the question. Who wore the "80s Adventurer Look" best? Tell us in the comments!
Harrison Ford's brilliant almost fearless (why did it have to be snakes?) archelogist/adventurer Indiana Jones is a prime hunk of man, but not exactly alone in the world of ruggedly handsome 80s franchise adventurers... There is »
Looking back now – three decades later – it’s hard to believe that the idea of an archaeologist as The go-to film hero was, oftentimes, a guarantee to bring in the punters and create a big-money blockbuster movie! Indiana Jones, Romancing the Stone, King Solomon’s Mines, etc. all graced the big screen to varying degrees of success during the mid-80s; and yes, it was Spielberg’s film that reignited the genre but it took Cannon Films – the purveyors of low-budget, high-concept big screen bonanzas – to really put the fun into this now-buried treasure of a genre.
- Phil Wheat
Directed by J. Lee Thompson.
A pair of hapless adventurers take on a job to find priceless Aztec gold but are pursued by a vengeful spirit who will stop at nothing to protect it.
Back in the mid-1980s there was a brief moment when ripping off Indiana Jones movies was a thing and, as was the norm, it was the legendary Cannon Films who were the masterminds behind many of those low-budget gems. Whilst the mainstream responded to Harrison Ford’s archaeological adventures with the likes of the slick Michael Douglas-led romp Romancing the Stone, Cannon gave us the lacklustre King Solomon’s Mines and its sequel Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold (both of which featured a young Sharon Stone alongside Richard Chamberlain in the lead role »
- Amie Cranswick
Following in the footsteps of such previous career achievement honorees as Robert De Niro, Robert Redford, Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon and Sharon Stone, Michael Douglas is being recognized “for the longevity of his career, the quality of his achievements, and his overall striving for excellence,” says Aarp’s Robert Love. “He’s also a great activist and well-known as an all-around good guy.”
Ironically, in a career spanning more than 50 years, the actor-producer and Oscar winner has enjoyed his biggest successes embodying bad guys, anti-heroes and jerks. And even a short list of his greatest hits — “Wall Street,” for which he won the lead actor Oscar, “Fatal Attraction,” “Basic Instinct,” “The War of the Roses” and “Disclosure” — reveals just how good he’s been at it.
The actor, who’s always had a gift for playing ethically challenged and morally ambiguous characters, fully inhabited the reptilian Gordon Gekko — his most iconic role, »
- Iain Blair
It's the John Ford film you never heard of, not because it's bad, but because it's a little confused. Richard Greene, David Niven and an emotional George Sanders (!) dedicate their lives to clearing their father's name of a smear by international arms smugglers! Their spirited companion Loretta Young behaves almost as if this were a screwball comedy. So does the director! Ford aficionados will be fascinated. Four Men and a Prayer 20th Century Fox Cinema Archives 1938 / B&W / 1:37 flat Academy / 85 min. / Street Date December 15, 2015 / 19.98 Starring Loretta Young, Richard Greene, George Sanders, David Niven, C. Aubrey Smith. J. Edward Bromberg, William Henry, John Carradine, Alan Hale, Reginald Denny, Berton Churchill, Barry Fitzgerald, Chris-Pin Martin. Cinematography Franz Planer Film Editor Louis R. Loeffler Written by Richard Sherman, Sonya Levien, Walter Ferris from a novel by David Garth Produced by Kenneth Macgowan Directed by John Ford
Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
We all »
- Glenn Erickson
7 items from 2016
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