Over The Toons!
The sky is falling!” may be as much
the cry of the computerless animator as it is Chicken Little.
In the decade since the first fully computer-generated
animated feature (Disney/Pixar’s “Toy Story”),
CG animation has inexorably, feature by feature, all but
killed off the hand-drawn variety. That has never been
more obvious than now, as hand-drawn holdout Disney’s
first non-Pixar computer-animated releases, the fowl-centric “Valiant” and “Chicken
Little” are flocking to multiplexes. A sampling of
the upcoming CG universe:
“Ice Age 2: The Meltdown” is the sequel to
the 2002 hit, this time depicting how the prehistoric beasts
deal with the inevitable flooding that ensues as the Ice
Age ends. Carlos Saldanha (“Ice Age,” “Robots”)
directs from a screenplay by Jon Vitti (TV’s “The
Simpsons”). Returning voice actors include Ray Romano,
John Leguizamo and Denis Leary. New to the series are Drea
de Matteo and Queen Latifah. Fox thaws it out March 31.
“Horton Hears a Who!” is a CG-animated adaptation
of the Dr. Seuss classic about an elephant who protects
a microscopic race of beings that only he can hear. Ken
Daurio & Cinco Paul (“The Santa Clause 2”)
wrote the screenplay. We have yet to hear of a director,
voice talent or a release date.
“Yankee Irving” is a comic period adventure
about a young, dedicated Yankees fan who travels across
country to return Babe Ruth’s missing bat before
the decisive game of the 1932 World Series. Veteran layout
supervisor Dan St. Pierre (“The Hunchback of Notre
Dame”) and veteran animator Colin Brady (the “Toy
Story” series) make their featuring directorial debuts,
taking over for the late Christopher Reeve. The screenplay
is by TV writer Rob Kurtz (“Grace Under Fire”).
Jake Syzmanski, Yankees manager Joe Torre, Rob Reiner,
Whoopi Goldberg, Brian Dennehy, William H. Macy, Mandy
Patinkin, Dana Reeve, Robert Wagner, Richard Kind and Raven
Symone provide the voices. The first CG feature from IDT
Entertainment is earmarked for a summer 2006 release.
“Open Season” is a comic adventure about a
deer who befriends a domesticated grizzly (the pet of a
forest ranger) when the two find themselves lost in the
woods during hunting season. Veteran animator Jill Culton
(the “Toy Story” series) and veteran visual
effects animator Anthony Stacchi (“Ghost,” “Hook”)
direct. Ashton Kutcher voices the deer, Debra Messing the
ranger and Martin Lawrence the bear. Sony goes hunting
for audiences July 21.
“Monster House” utilizes
the performance-capture technology employed by “Polar
Express” to create
a thriller about three kids convinced there is a monster
living in the vacant house next door. Gil Kenan makes his
feature directorial debut from a screenplay by Dan Harmon
and Rob Schrab. Steve Buscemi, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jon Heder,
Kevin James, Jason Lee, Sam Lerner, and Kathleen Turner
co-star. It lurches into cinemas Sept. 29, 2006.
“Surf’s Up” looks
at the ultra-competitive world of penguin surfing, as
an over-the-hill bird (Jeff
Bridges) mentors a hotshot newcomer (Shia LaBeouf) as he
prepares for his first pro tournament.
“Toy Story 2” co-director Ash Brannon and “Tarzan” director
Chris Buck direct from a screenplay by Lisa Addario & Joe
Syracuse. Zoe Deschanel, James Woods, Jane Krakowski, Jon
Heder, Mario Cantone, Brian Benben and Michael McKean also
lend their voices. It waddles into theatres June 22, 2007.
“Beowulf” sees “Polar Express” director
Robert Zemeckis revisit performance-capture CG for an adaptation
of the Old English epic about a hero who defends a kingdom
against a gruesome monster. The screenplay is by Roger
Avary (“Rules of Attraction”) and Neil Gaiman
(“Princess Mononoke”). Ray Winstone gives voice
and shape to Beowulf, Crispin Glover to the monster, Grendel.
Brendan Gleeson, Anthony Hopkins, Angelina Jolie, Alison
Lohman, John Malkovich, and Robin Wright Penn also lend
their voices and facial expressions. Sony anticipates a
“The Wild” is about New York zoo animals who
must team to rescue one of their number, an adolescent
lion accidentally shipped to the wilds of Africa. Longtime
visual effects supervisor Steve “Spaz” Williams
(“The Mask,” “Eraser,” “Spawn”)
makes his feature directorial debut from a screenplay by
Ed Decter & John Strauss (“The Santa Clause 2,” “The
Lizzie McGuire Movie,” “Rebound”) and
Mark Gibson & Phil Halprin (“The In Crowd,” “Snow
Dogs”). Eddie Izzard, Jonathan Kimmel, Joseph Siravo
and Kiefer Sutherland lend their voices. It ventures into
the savage marketplace Apr. 14.
“Cars,” Pixar’s last contractually-obligated
feature for Disney, hits the road June 9. It features a
collection of classic cars bound for adventure on Route
66. John Lasseter (the “Toy Story” series)
directs. Bonnie Hunt, race-car driver/actor Paul Newman,
retired stock car champion Richard Petty, Pixar good-luck
charm John Ratzenberger, Larry The Cable Guy and Owen Wilson
give the automobiles voice.
“Enchanted” is a CGI/live-action hybrid about
a princess who’s banished from the animated world
of Andalasia to a terrifying land where, it is said, little
more than evil lurks: New York City. Kevin Lima (“Tarzan,” the
mixed live actiom/CGI “102 Dalmations”) was
reportedly set to direct from a screenplay by Bill Kelly.
It was set to begin production in September.
When Princess Fiona’s father dies in “Shrek
3,” the title character refuses the crown and the
kingdom must make do with the less-than-regal King Arthur.
Those expected to return from parts one and two include
Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz and Eddie Murphy. Those expected
to return from part two include Antonio Banderas and John
Cleese. Newcomers to the series are expected to include
Regis Philbin as Mabel and Justin Timberlake as Arthur.
The screenplay is by Jeffrey Price & Peter S. Seaman
(“Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” “How the
Grinch Stole Christmas”) and Jon Zack (“Out
Cold”). DreamWorks plans a May 18, 2007 release. “Shrek
4” is already in development with the reported hiring
of Tim Sullivan (“Jack and Sarah”) to write
“Over the Hedge” is a comedy adventure, set
in the suburbs, about a racoon and a turtle who go to war
with the yuppie humans crowding them out of their longtime
habitat. It’s based on the popular comic strip by
Michael Fry and T. Lewis. Tim Johnson (“Antz,” “Sinbad:
Legend of the Seven Seas”) and longtime screenwriter
Karey Kirkpatrick (“Chicken Run,” “The
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”) direct from
a screenplay by Len Blum (“Meatballs,” “Stripes,” “The
Pink Panther”). Lending voices to the suburban menagerie
are Bruce Willis as RJ the raccoon, Garry Shandling as
Verne the turtle, Steve Carell as Sammy the Squirrel, Allison
Janney as Gladys, William Shatner as Ozzie the Possum,
Avril Lavigne as Heather, Ozzie’s Daughter, Eugene
Levy as Lew the Porcupine, Catherine O’Hara as Penny
the Porcupine, Wanda Sykes as Stella the Skunk and Nick
Nolte as Vincent. It moves in May 19.
“Flushed Away,” is a comedy about a rat who gets
flushed from his cushy penthouse existence into the sewers
of London. Animation supervisor Henry Anderson (“Stuart
Little”), animator David Bowers (“Shark Tale”)
and short-subject creator Sam Fell (“Chump”)
make their feature directorial debuts from a screenplay
by Dick Clement & Ian La Frenais (“The Commitments”).
Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Kate Winslet, Andy Serkis,
Bill Nighy, Simon Callow, Shane Richie and Geoffrey Palmer
lend their voices. It exits the stalls Nov. 3, 2006.
“Bee Movie” is a comedy about a college-grad
bee who, disheartened that making honey is the only career
option open to him, decides to sue humans when he discovers
that they are mass consumers of that honey. Steve Hickner
(“Prince of Egypt”) and veteran animator Simon
J. Smith (“Shrek”) are slated to direct from
a screenplay by Barry Marder and former “Seinfeld” writers
Spike Feresten, Andy Robin and Jerry Seinfeld. Those contributing
their voices to the project include Seinfeld, Patrick Warburton,
Alan Arkin, Rip Torn, Robert Duvall, Tim Blake Nelson,
Renee Zellweger, Uma Thurman, William H. Macy, Kathy Bates
and Oprah Winfrey. DreamWorks is already building the buzz
prior to a Nov. 2, 2007 release.
“Foodfight!” examines the secret lives of
groceries, which habitually interact each night after their
store closes. Producer Lawrence Kasanoff (“True Lies,” “Strange
Days”) may make his feature film debut from a screenplay
by Brent V. Friedman (“Mortal Kombat: Annihilation”)
and Rebecca Swanson. Hilary and Haylie Duff and Charlie
Sheen give voice to the foodstuffs. It becomes available
to consumers Nov. 17, 2006.
“Sylvester” is based on the book “Sylvester
and the Magic Pebble” by William Steig (“Shrek”).
The tale of a donkey and, yes, his magic pebble, it has
yet to find a release date.
“Ant Bully” is an adventure about a boy who,
after flooding an ant colony with his water pistol, finds
himself shrunk to ant-size and sentenced to hard labor
for his crime. John A. Davis (“Jimmy Neutron: Boy
Genius”) directs from his own screenplay, based on
the book by John Nickle. Paul Giamatti, Alan Cumming, Shirley
MacLaine, Ricardo Montalban, Cheri Oteri, Julia Roberts,
Clive Robertson and Zach Tyler lend their voices. Warner
Bros. muscles it into multiplexes Aug. 4.
“Happy Feet” is a musical about a penguin
in Antarctica who cannot sing his breed’s mating
song – but does turn out to be an exceptional dancer.
George Miller (“Lorenzo’s Oil,” “Babe:
Pig in the City”) directs from a screenplay by Miller,
Warren Coleman, Judy Morris (“Babe: Pig in the City”)
and John Collee (“Master and Commander: Far Side
of the World”). Carlos Alazraqui, Robin Williams,
Elijah Wood, Denise Blasor, Elizabeth Daily, Khamani Griffin,
Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Brittany Murphy, Zoe Raye,
Alyssa Shafer, Alyssa Smith and Magda Szubanski add their
vocal talents. Warner Bros. has it on ice until Nov. 17,
“The Barnyard” is a comedy, written and directed
by Steve Oedekerk (“Kung Pow: Enter the Fist”),
about livestock who attempt to run things when their farmer
is away. Kevin James, Danny Glover, Courteney Cox Arquette,
Sam Elliott, Andie MacDowell, David Koechner, Oedekerk
and Wanda Sykes are reportedly attached to voice. Paramount
is plowing ahead with a Jan. 13 release.
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” make a return
to the big screen, this time in animated form. The production
company behind the live-action incarnations of the pizza-loving,
Tae Kwon Do-dealing, teen terrapins brings aboard TV and
video game animator Kevin Munroe to direct. There’s
no word on whether original distributor New Line will return
for a projected spring 2007 release.
“Cat Tale” is an adventure about a cat named
Rover who grew up in Dogtown, and his journey to discover
his roots in Catoplis. Flix Ip makes his feature directorial
debut from a screenplay by Aaron Mendelsohn (“Air
Bud: Golden Receiver”) and “Ninja Turtles” helmer
Kevin Munroe. It features the voices of Sean Astin, David
Cross, Alan Cumming, Elisha Cuthbert, R. Lee Ermey, Billy
Idol, Wayne Knight, Jerry O’Connell, Catherine O’Hara,
Chazz Palminteri, Michael Richards, Rip Torn, Stanley Tucci
and Fred Willard. Imagi has yet to score a distributor
for a planned 2006 release.
Formerly Vinton Studios, responsible
for the California Raisins and numerous other stop-motion
Laika is rolling out two CG projects. “Coraline,” based
on the novel by Neil Gaiman (“Neverwhere”),
is about a bored young girl who discovers the bricked-up
door in her apartment leads to another world. Henry Selick
(“James and the Giant Peach,” “Monkeybone”)
directs the mixed CG/stop-motion hybrid from his own screenplay.
It has yet to secure a domestic distributor for a planned
late 2007 release.
“Jack and Ben’s Animated
sparsely described as an adventure about a pair of brothers
in the animal kingdom, was written and will be directed
by veteran animation writer and artist Jorgen Klubien (“The
Lion King,” “The Little Mermaid,’ “A
Bug’s Life”). No release date has been set.