Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Bits Journal #34

Bits from the Mouse House and its Emeryville comrade, plus an independent animated film that has some potential...

Moana now has one voice actor attached to the production... And it isn't someone who will be voicing the titular heroine.

Dwayne Johnson, that's right, The Rock will voice the demigod Maui in the film. A fitting choice, given Johnson's Samoan heritage. However, it is a bit unusual that we're hearing about this first... You'd think Disney would've casted Moana herself first... Perhaps a good chunk of the cast is locked, but if that is so, why did they not say who is voicing the main character? Maybe it's a not-so-big name and they want to get casual moviegoers hyped with someone like The Rock? Who knows...

The Rock's voice acting resume only includes one film, an episode of Transformers Animated. The film in question was the rather poorly-received Planet 51. I hear he was okay in that film, regardless of whether the script was poor or okay or good.

That all being said, this is great to know. Last year we had learned that Jason Bateman will voice main protagonist Nick Wilde in Disney Animation's other 2016 release, Zootopia. Hopefully we find out who is voicing Moana herself...

In other Disney Animation news, the Frozen short Frozen Fever will be playing in front of Cinderella this coming March... Yeah, a lot of us already saw that coming. I have little interest in Disney's live-action Cinderella, but I am curious to see the Frozen short. It'll probably pop up on TV next Christmas before eventually seeing a physical release.

Tangled Ever After debuted in January 2012, as it was attached to the theatrical re-release of Beauty and the Beast. We had to wait until October 2012 to own it, Disney put it on the Cinderella Blu-ray. I guess the same will happen to Frozen Fever... I guess on the fall 2015 Aladdin Blu-ray or something.

From the Emeryville front came a fine half hour of goodness. The second Toy Story TV special, Toy Story That Time Forgot, is another winner from Pixar!

The Christmas setting is really just a frame, the main attraction is a neat story that's like a fresh new take on the first Toy Story film's ideas... Woody, Buzz, et al encounter Bonnie's friend's new toys: The Battlesaurs. They're based on a TV show that parodies toy-driven 80s cartoons that a lot of people grew up on (I was born in 1992, so I'm exempt), but the problem is, the dinos are all deluded. Also, their play sets? I want them! Pixar's wizards really created a super-cool world out of these action figures, and it makes me wonder if we'll see more of them in the future. Kind of like how Disney launched a Buzz Lightyear of Star Command show after Toy Story 2 came out. You know what? Yes, I'd love to see a Battlesaurs TV show!

Story-wise, it's pretty good. There's a very fun plot that has its twists and turns, some nice send-ups of action movies and 80s toys, great new characters, and a pretty heartwarming ending. What I loved about Toy Story of Terror! was that it went an extra mile. It could've been any typical run-of-the-mill TV special, it could've been a lazy vehicle built to make Pixar and Disney some extra cash before Toy Story 4, but it wasn't. Toy Story of Terror! had a well-crafted plot that was actually pretty suspenseful, new faces that you want to see more of (Combat Carl!!!), and had some character development! They put Jessie front and center, and added to her character a bit!

Toy Story That Time Forgot for me wasn't as good as the previous special and it doesn't do everything it did, though it does add a bit to Trixie. However, the special takes a heartfelt turn in the final minutes and hits us with a good, subtle message about Christmas and what it means to be a toy. To me it was like a reprise of the sequence in Toy Story where Woody cheers up a depressed, no-longer-deluded Buzz Lightyear on the night before their escape from Sid's house. I like how both of these specials revisited themes from the films, from Jessie's fears to the importance of making children happy. Another fine half hour of the toy gang, I say!

Comic book writer and TV animation veteran Scott Sava has been trying to get an animated feature film off the ground, a film based on his comic Animal Crackers. The story is about a family who inherits a rundown circus, plus a box of animal crackers... Not an ordinary one, either! The humans become the animals they eat. Sounds like a good idea for an animated film, and Sava has been working hard to get it made...

Writing the entire script four years ago and then storyboarding the whole thing last year, Sava produced a short film based on the concept last summer thanks to a Spanish studio he has worked with for years. The Weinsteins liked the short and the idea, but Sava's lawyer advised him not to give the project to them. Now that he's dodged the bullet, the film - which will be produced in Spain - is now a hot target. Disney, DreamWorks, Warner Bros. and Sony have offered to distribute it. Sava and his team have the money to make the film, but they haven't yet decided on who they want as their distributors. The film is basically nearly complete, it just needs to be animated. Sava brought Arrested Development writer Dean Lorey onboard to co-wrote the latest draft of the script, and Disney legend Tony Bancroft (who most notably directed Mulan with Barry Cook) will be Sava's directing partner.

Their goal is to get it done by summer 2016, for a possible late 2016/early 2017 release. The cast consists of Sylvester Stallone, Danny DeVito, Ian McKellen, Patrick Warburton, Gilbert Gottfried, and Raven-Symone.

I tip my hat off to Mr. Sava, who against all odds (his ideas were rejected quite a bit) is getting his little pet project made. (Much like Jorge Guiterrez and The Book of Life.) Hopefully his film is a hit somewhere, if not here.

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