Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Is Change Coming?: Looking at Sony Animation's Slate

Is a big slate change on the way at Sony Pictures Animation?

Over at the Rotoscopers, I covered today's Sony Animation announcement. The all-animated Smurf reboot has been pushed back. It was originally set to open on August 5, 2016, Sony has pushed it back to March 31, 2017. Director Kelly Asbury said on his Smurfs production blog that this move was made because the film was not quite ready, and that they also wanted to take advantage of the Easter weekend.

Sony Pictures Animation has seen management changes as of late, mostly due to the Sony hack. Many execs have been swapped over the past few weeks. When management changes, some projects might be affected...

Popeye is apparently no longer going to be directed by Genndy Tartakovsky, for the Sony execs weren't keen on his retro take on the character. Popeye will still be sailing at Sony based on what I've heard, but it most likely won't be anything like Genndy's concept.

Sony Animation, up until the management shift, had the following projects in active development (leaving out Hotel Transylvania 2, Smurfs, and Popeye): MedusaKazorn & the UnicornSuperbago, and Can You Imagine?

I've looked at Sony's slate many times. They have two untitled pics set for 9/23/2016 and 9/22/2017 respectively. They actually locked those dates all the way back in summer 2013, probably as a response to Disney and Fox locking tons of 2016-2018 dates for animated releases.

A few issues here...

The 9/23/2016 slot is also occupied by Warner Animation's Ninjago, which is a guaranteed hit because... Ya know... Lego!

None of the projects on the development slate seem like they've been in the works for a long while.

We knew Kazorn & the Unicorn wouldn't be the 9/23/2016 release, because Asbury is supposed to direct that and he's got little blue guys to deal with first. Now that film has been pushed back to early 2017, so... Kazorn won't be coming until 2019 at the earliest! Unless someone else takes over the project...

Popeye seemed like it would be the one to hit in fall 2016, as it was reported that Genndy was all for directing both Hotel 2 and that film back-to-back. Like a really busy guy... But Popeye hit the brakes, and then management decided his take was a no-go.

So with Popeye ruled out, what's left?

Lauren Faust's Medusa was announced last year. It could've entered development in 2013, or 2012. Maybe even earlier. Who knows! If so, then it could be the 2016 release. But if it entered development last year, I would say "no" to it being a possible 2016 release.

Superbago was announced recently, too. Can You Imagine? was set to be Genndy's next after Popeye, now he's hard at work on that original story. I highly doubt it hits in 2016, though. Maybe it's the 9/22/2017 release.

Now, here's another thing...

Smurfs has a concrete release date, and that date happens to be ahead of 9/23/2016... I have a feeling Sony Animation might just sit 2016 out.

Sony Animation doesn't normally do the one-every-year thing. They didn't release films in 2008, 2010, and last year. I like that they do that. So... Ninjago taking the 9/23/2016 slot, 2016 being generally crowded, projects probably not being ready for 2016, and Smurfs being pushed back. I think this will lead to Sony sitting the year out.

Yes, I think Sony Animation will end up sitting 2016 out. Besides, Sony Pictures (the distributor, of course) still intends to release Rovio's Angry Birds and Nitrogen's Sausage Party in 2016. Sony Pictures will still have something animated out that year, and I think Sausage Party is still a go despite the whole Interview situation. (I feel like the film is being swiftly forgotten. I enjoyed it, to be honest.)

So yes, no Sony Animation film in 2016, but two in 2017 to make up for it. I'll be happy to eat crow, but this is what I'm speculating at the moment...

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