Remember that small up-and-coming studio that surfaced a while back? The one that John H. Williams, the man who made a name for himself as producer of Shrek, started? Well it looks like their first film is in production...
The studio is called 3QU. This is Williams' second attempt at starting an animation studio, the first one didn't really go over too well. Formed in 2002, a year after the runaway success of Shrek, the studio was called Vanguard Animation. Their first production would be a British co-production called Valiant. Disney locked into the movie and intended to give it a domestic release. This was in 2003/2004, when The Walt Disney Company was sure to lose Pixar after their contract was up. The Disney higher-ups who were alienating Pixar had also forced Disney's own feature animation powerhouse to abandon traditional animation, and since they were so enamored with CG at the time, well... This is what they thought...
Since the feature animation building would probably release one feature every calendar year, they needed others to fill the Pixar-less shoes. Around the time Valiant entered production, a Canadian effects house called C.O.R.E. was beginning work on The Wild. Valiant opened in 2005 to poor reception and ultimately didn't do a thing at the box office. Valiant is the only production of theirs I saw, and while not bad, it was inoffensive and had a lot of lame comedy in it. The premise was interesting, as it was about the British homing pigeons that carried messages during WWII encountering Nazi falcons on their journey, but the execution was dull, it had one too many potty jokes, and just played like a run-of-the-mill kids' movie, plus it hid any overt WWII elements. The film didn't do a thing, and right after it was released, Michael Eisner stepped down as CEO. Pixar was back in the fold, so their non-Pixar back up plan was out the door. The Wild opened months later and disappeared.
Vanguard kept going though, for Valiant was a relatively cheap film back in the day and pretty cheap now. Their next feature would be released by Lionsgate in 2007, another critical and commercial dud called Happily N'Ever After, which seemed like a Shrek wannabe. Their last theatrical feature would be Space Chimps in 2008, released by Fox. Again, it received poor reviews and disappeared at the box office. Both features were very low-budget, but Vanguard was pretty much done after Space Chimps' direct-to-video sequel hit in 2010. (Not surprising, a lot of animated films that disappear at the box office tend to get DTV sequels. Alpha and Omega anyone?)
This new studio's plan is to keep the budgets even lower. Their films will cost around $20 million, and four are in the pipeline. The first of which is called Charming, as details on it were revealed last year. Charming is the only one we have known about, too. It's another "fractured fairy tales"-type story. Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty are all engaged to the same Prince Charming. Today, it was announced that the three princesses have voice actors, and that the film is in production...
Avril Lavigne is voicing Snow White, Cinderella will be voiced by Ashley Tisdale, and G.E.M. will voice Sleeping Beauty. Who is G.E.M.? Gloria Tang Tsz-kei, a pop star from Hong Kong. Interesting choice. Demi Lovato will voice a character named Lenore, who is the lead. I'm not really impressed with this cast overall, though I'm okay with Tisdale (since she voiced Candace in Phineas & Ferb), this troubling quote from Williams doesn't make me any more confident...
"Demi, Avril, Ashley and G.E.M. are among the most popular young stars in the global entertainment arena."
But... How are they as voice actors? Why cast them based on their popularity alone? Casting celebrities and big names is nothing new in animation-land, but in the past most studios casted the right people. We are certainly not past the days where studios cast big names just because. No matter who is in the picture, what matters is this... Does it look good? Big names didn't save the likes of Escape from Planet Earth or Turbo or The Nut Job. Some films' promotional materials don't even show the cast, and they do just fine.
Anyways, here's hoping the script is alright and that they turn in decent performances. I'm just happy that a new studio is starting up, and hopefully after this, they take advantage of their low budget plan and start taking some real risks. Then again, I'm probably asking for way too much. As always. Williams also did say that the studio's goal is to make family-friendly films.
Charming could be good and all, but it kind of sounds like it's late to the party, being a fractured fairy tale, though I will admit that I like the idea of Prince Charming being the same man that the three princesses are in love with. I just hope it isn't Shrek-esque, especially since Williams produced Shrek and Shrek 2. I like the first Shrek a great deal, but that so-called "satire" in it feels more like Katzenberg "rebelliously" flipping the bird at Disney, still upset at Eisner, rather than witty poking at fairy tale logic. A lot of Frozen's "subversive" stuff was pretty annoying and off-base too, even more so since it was coming from Disney themselves.
But hey, Charming could be a fresh new take on the fractured fairy tale, so here's hoping it's a good one. The film is a co-production with British effects house Cinesite, and is being directed by Ross Venokur, who is one of the creators of the animated TV series Game Over, which came and went in 2004. (I never heard of it until today! Then again I wasn't really watching or paying attention to UPN when I was 12.) He also, oddly enough, wrote an episode of Kenan & Kel. He directed another animated feature called Get Squirrely, which had the working title Animal Crackerz at one point. Apparently that film has been completed, but IMDb doesn't list any concrete release dates. The Hollywood Reporter makes a passing reference to it in their article, but they used the working title for some reason. From the looks of it, it sounds a lot like The Nut Job. In fact, one of the working titles was The Nut House! I won't be surprised if some out-of-the-way DVD distributor releases it when The Nut Job 2 comes out in January!
(I just gave them an idea, didn't I?)
Who distributes it? I'm guessing Lionsgate or Focus for now, a smaller distributor. Release? Well it's in production, it could probably come out sometime in 2016 or 2017. Does it hit theaters, even? It's very possible it goes straight-to-video. What say you?
What do you think of the cast? Do you think this film could be good? What do you think 3QU's future will be like? Sound off below!