Friday, July 31, 2015

Missing and Unscheduled Movies...

The Little Prince went into general release in France a few days ago, a month after its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.

The film, directed by Kung Fu Panda director Mark Osborne and produced by three different studios, is based on the classic novella of the same name. It tells the original story in stop-motion, while the framing device is done in CG. The budget for this picture is also a lean $62 million USD, and there is an English dub for the film that features the likes of Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams, Paul Rudd, James Franco, Benicio del Toro, Albert Brooks, and several other well-known stars...

It still doesn't have a US or UK release date.

Paramount, at last year's Licensing Expo, teased the film as the logo was spotted at their booth. It was (still is?) going to be released under their indie label Paramount Vantage, but we haven't heard a word since. Warner Bros. will handle distribution in other territories.

Paramount perhaps can still stake out a late August/early September date, so the film isn't too close to The Shaun the Sheep Movie or Hotel Transylvania, and they should avoid the holiday season given The Peanuts MovieThe Good Dinosaur and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Maybe mid-October? Maybe mid-February of next year? Both seem like good spots for it...

If Paramount ends up dropping it, I can imagine Lionsgate picking it up since they're currently handling The Shaun the Sheep Movie. The Aardman movie based on their own hit TV series, which opens next Wednesday here in the states, is a similar case. The film came out in February in the UK, and it still didn't have a US release date or distributor. Only months later did Lionsgate announce that they were distributing it and were releasing it next month...

Ratchet & Clank is also similar. The video game adaptation has been completed a while ago, as it was shown at this year's Cannes Film Festival. Focus Features, after many months of silence on Sony's end, finally announced that they would be distributing it in America on April 29, 2016. Why so late? The next installment/reboot of the Ratchet & Clank game series is set to debut during that quarter. It was once set for a 2015 release, hence the confusion early on...

So now we just have to get an idea of when The Little Prince gets its US debut. Will it get something of a wide release through Focus Features? Lionsgate? Hopefully the Weinstein Company doesn't get it. At this point, I wouldn't be surprised if they delay Underdogs (aka their butchered version of Argentina's 2013 hit Foosball) again. So yes, one 2015 feature remains, and it seems like we might have to wait till 2016 to get it...

2016 has four animated features that don't have penciled-in release dates.

One of them is Animal Crackers, from directors Scott Sava and Tony Bancroft, which already has a UK and Canadian distributor, but no concrete release date. It's a pet project for Sava, it's got a cast, and it's being done by a studio called Blue Dream. They're thinking it hits in 2016, but who knows right now...

Bron Studios, from British Columbia, is currently working on a unique-looking CG feature called Henchmen. It has a cast, and a director in former Pixar animator Adam Wood. It also seems like a cool, fresh new take on the "bad guy tries to be a good guy" story. The project ran into trouble most recently, when its producers - Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, and Chris Hench's Gary Sanchez Productions - backed out. Still, a 2016 release date is in mind.

Next up is Spark, from ToonBox/Red Rover, the team behind The Nut Job. Spark is a space-set journey about a monkey and some other animals teaming up to stop an evil general. It might give some people bad flashbacks to Space Chimps, but I like that the characters are actually from another planet, rather than chimps from Earth going to another planet. The Nut Job, which cost a small $42 million to make and opened quietly in January 2014, was profitable. A sequel is in the works and is set to open next January, the studios also have a good-sized slate of projects. Spark has been on the docket before The Nut Job opened, and footage from it surfaced not too long ago, only to get pulled. They were thinking it would be a 2016 release as well...

Lastly, there's Sly Cooper, Blockade and Rainmaker's adaptation of the video game series of the same name. They also did the Ratchet & Clank movie, and two years ago they announced that this would be a Q1 2016 release. Well, with Ratchet & Clank now a spring 2016 release, I imagine this will be pushed back to late 2016 at the earliest. 2017 seems more likely at this rate. I wonder if it'll still happen, is it depending on how Ratchet & Clank does at the box office?

So who will distribute these films? When will they be released?

Animal Crackers and Henchmen are currently without distributors, so I think the release dates are up in the air. Spark is sure to get backed by Open Road Films, who distributed The Nut Job and will distribute its sequel. Open Road is also distributing another animated film called Blazing Samurai in April 2017, so it's odd that Spark doesn't have an inked release date. With The Nut Job 2 opening in January 2016, I wonder if Spark might end up being pushed back. Is it also in full production?

2016 is also packed to the brim. Almost every month has at least one animated film and a blockbuster-tentpole picture. February 2016 has been free ever since Illumination and Universal vacated it, and it was strange to not see Paramount Animation take advantage of that date with their Monster Trucks, which they'll release inbetween strong competition like Zootopia and Batman v Superman. Should Paramount not get it at last minute, I suppose The Little Prince - if it can't make it to this coming October - should nab the date.

It's also possible that Paramount will just Tintin it. The Adventures of Tintin opened in October 2011 in Europe and most of the world, Paramount released it in the states during Christmas time with weak marketing behind it. Paramount put all the muscle into Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, plus tentpoles and family films were present. Tintin opened horribly, but had stellar legs due to the lack of strong competition until roughly March 2012, when The Lorax opened. I won't rule Paramount doing the same with The Little Prince. Heck, Fox thinks Alvin and the Hipmunks' fourth installment can hold its own against Star Wars!

So The Little Prince, I think, will open anywhere between this coming October and February 2016. I hope it gets a mid-October release, but distributors usually have other plans...

Spark? I'm thinking early September 2016, so it doesn't go toe-to-toe with Kubo & the Two Strings (8/19/2016) and Storks (9/23/2016). October 2016 is also possible, should DreamWorks keep Trolls in the not-so-good 11/4/2016 slot.

Henchmen or Animal Crackers could also get that spot, depending on who gets what first. It's possible that at last two of these four features end up in 2017. I bet Sly Cooper does, plus no new Sly Cooper game has been announced as far as I know. Maybe if one is coming in 2017, the movie will indeed be pushed back in order to coincide with its release.

Anyways, my current idea...

The Little Prince - Mid-October 2015
Spark - February 2016
Animal Crackers - Early September 2016
Henchmen - Late January 2017
Sly Cooper - Late April 2017

What say you? When do you think these films will come out? Who do you think will distribute them?


  1. Spark looks exactly like the Monkey King...

  2. Not sure if this is the best place to mention it, but according to the Deluxe Digital Cinema page for "Shaun The Sheep", there are a couple more animated movies to add to the schedule. One of them is "Norm Of The North", a CGI movie about a polar bear. As far as I can tell, it's set to be released on the exact same day as "The Nut Job 2", so I think one of those will move. I wonder if the latter movie is even ready yet. I haven't heard about the sequel since it was first announced, but then again, I didn't care much for the first movie so I haven't exactly spent much time looking it up. But still, unless we get some more concrete information soon, I really wouldn't be too surprised if it ends up like "Hoodwinked 2".

    The other movie is "Un Gallo Con Muchos Huevos", set to be released this September. It's a Spanish CGI comedy that's actually going to be released in its native language, as opposed to an English dub. It's being distributed by Pantelion Films, the company that helped make "Instructions Not Included" a sleeper hit in the U.S. a couple of years ago. It's only being released to around 400 theaters, a pretty average count for this studio's films. I'd be VERY surprised if this makes much over $5 million, and even that's a pretty generous number. Still, it could be interesting to see how it does.

  3. Much as I hate to admit it, "Henchmen" is most likely going to be released Stateside as straight-to-DVD cash-in on the Despicable Me phenomenon. The title even means the same thing as "Minions", after all.
    The idea of taking legitimate foreign films and releasing them in the US as knockoffs of domestic films isn't new. For example, there was a Danish movie called Help! I'm a Fish that got sold here as a Finding Nemo ripoff. It wasn't that bad a movie, but you'd never know from looking at the American cover art, which really tried to look like Finding Nemo.