Friday, September 4, 2015

Bits Journal #48

Birds, big monsters, big changes, and... Demons? More bits!

Some new images for The Angry Birds Movie (opening 5/20/2016) are in, one of which gives us our first look at the movie's take on the game series' villainous pigs. The film is being produced by both Sony ImageWorks and Rovio, the creators of the game series that the film is based on.

In the games, the birds are just basic shapes with beaks and some little additions. The pigs are also like this. The team behind this film decided to ditch that and give them legs and wings, which I thought was an interesting direction when I had seen the first look images from last autumn. The new images reveal that the pigs won't be little green spheres with snouts and little ears, either.

... and they look pretty cool I must admit! They still resemble the ones in the games, and if the games did not exist, these would be pretty unique-looking pigs. In fact, let's just pretend the game never happened, how would we be embracing this movie? "Oh... A cartoony animated films about birds... vs. green pigs???" "That's a... Different premise."

And of course the overall look is very nice. For an $80 million-costing film, the sets look pretty and the character designs are pretty good. I kind of wish they didn't go for the hyper-real look and instead went for a more cartoony, almost Book of Life/Peanuts-like look, but still the work is impressive. It's also interesting to note that it's being co-produced by Rovio, who are and have been based in Finland, so... A mainstream, partially Finnish animated feature!

The big question is... Will it be good?

On paper, this sounds uncreative and unnecessary. I've been rather bitter and harsh lately towards a lot of family-friendly animation for not really trying these days, or just relying on things like Emojis and stuff like that for a quick buck. Things that are recognizable, things that Hollywood committees look at and say "We should make a movie about that!" Angry Birds was obviously going to get an animated feature from the get-go, as the game skyrocketed years ago and is probably still doing well today with younger audiences. They created a ton of spin-offs that sold like hotcakes, and now the "real" Angry Birds 2 is out. (So it was like a Grand Theft Auto situation during the PS2 days.)

I must admit I quite liked the games myself for what they were. I, like almost everybody else, was unsure of how they'd pull a movie off because the games don't have a story. It's simple: Pigs steal birds' eggs, birds fight to get them back. Maybe the fact that there isn't much to do with it opens more room for creativity. Hey, Phil Lord and Chris Miller did just that with The Lego Movie, so maybe something cool or interesting can be done with Angry Birds. More so than something like emojis, in my opinion...

Still, it seems like the story will be minimal. Producer John Coen (Despicable Me) describes the plot as an "origin story about for how that conflict came to exist between birds and the little green piggies." Interestingly enough, only the three birds (the red bird, the bomb bird, and the fast yellow bird) will be the often-angry birds in this movie, and the ones who take on the pig baddies.

I'm still on the fence, though it does seem like it could be somewhat decent what with animation veterans Clay Katis and Fergal Reilly set to direct. Simpsons alumnus Jon Vitti is handling the script. Some may say "But he also did the Alvin and the (C)hipmunks movies!", he didn't write those alone plus those scripts probably got a ton of executive notes. I mean, Vitti wrote the second one with Glenn Aibel and Jonathan Berger, the Kung Fu Panda writers. I doubt the films not being good is their fault, but I won't rule out the possibility of this film's script getting hacked up by hacks who got hacked.

Anyways, I think in order to make this work, the script should bask in the goofiness of the premise and aim for a cartoony tone. Be something that's a little out-there and weird, take advantage of the fact that there isn't a bolted-down story to adapt.

Lastly, here's what Reilly had to say...

"A lot of iconic movies come from branded entertainment. But you have to quickly forget about that when you’re working on the movie because you still have to, you know, make a movie."

Not sure what to make of that statement, but again, I hope it's more than passable family-friendly fare. It could be a highly entertaining animated comedy, something surprising, or just another come-and-go feature that'll simply make bucks and then end up in the discount bins years later.

Over at Paramount Animation, it seems like a long-gestating project is still on the docket. Trey Parker and Matt Stone's Giant Monsters Attack Japan, which was set to be a send-up of the rubber-suit monster movies like the classic Godzilla films, entered development as early as 2006 but it didn't go anywhere under Nickelodeon Movies. Now it's back up and running at Paramount Animation, who are of course under the same tree Nickelodeon is under, and their first and currently only feature is based on a certain Nick franchise.

Back in January, when Warner Animation announced an all-animated Jetsons movie, an article on Animation World Network mentioned that writer Matt Lieberman was also doing Giant Monsters Attack Japan for Paramount Animation, so it's good to hear that it's still moving forward. Parker and Stone's other, non-South Park theatrical feature, Team America: World Police, was a riot so I expect this to be no different. I'm guessing it was always meant to be a family feature, given that Nickelodeon Movies was going to do it first.

However, if Paramount goes through with a PG-13 or R-rated Parker/Stone animated film, I'll be a bit more excited even though the idea of an animated kaiju movie already has me interested. (Not to mention Original Force's Oldzilla.) If it is a PG-level film, I'd be interested to see how they'd operate within those restrictions.

Speaking of adults-only animation, this following film fell under my radar. ShadowMachine, the studio behind long-running stop-motion Adult Swim show Robot Chicken, has finished a feature-length, R-rated stop-motion film called Hell & Back.

What's it about? One of three friends jokingly takes a blood oath and breaks it, and is taken to Hell to be sacrificed. His two friends go to Hell themselves to save him whilst encounter demons and... Greek legends? Its cast mostly consists of well-known, comedy types.

Here is the recent red-band trailer for the film...

Visually it looks very good, and I like its weird and rather different take on Hell itself, but I'll be honest, this trailer did not do much for me. I found most of it to be unfunny (and this is coming from someone who is a fan of Robot Chicken), with a few good jokes here and there. But a trailer is a trailer, and hopefully the film itself will be good, if not great. The writers are Robot Chicken alumnus, along with director Ross Shuman (he's directing alongside Tom Gianas of Human Giant fame). The premise is pretty cool, and again, the visuals are creative.

It's great to see a new feature-length, American adult animated feature film, even if it is something raunchy. Better yet, it's from the Robot Chicken crew sans Seth Green and Matt Senreich, so yeah... I think it has potential despite that trailer.

On the DreamWorks front, another cast member has left Kung Fu Panda 3. A while ago, it was announced that Madds Mikkelsen, who was set to voice the villainous Kai, had left. J.K. Simmons ended up being his replacement, but now Rebel Wilson is off the project despite the fact that the release date is almost right around the corner. Rebel Wilson was set to voice a ribbon-dancer panda named Mei Mei.

Kate Hudson will now voice the character. This is a late-in-the-game change, as confirmed by The Hollywood Reporter, no different than the time Al Pacino left Despicable Me 2, leading to Illumination to get Benjamin Bratt to take over. Unlike Pacino's reasons for leaving, this dilemma has more to do with scheduling conflicts than anything. Illumination didn't go back and reanimate the villain's scenes, so Bratt had to have recordings that could sync up with the mouth movements. DreamWorks won't be doing that, fortunately, for Mei Mei's scenes will be reanimated in order to sync up to Hudson's dialogue. DreamWorks did just that over 14 years ago, back when they had to redo all of Shrek's mouth movements after it was decided that Mike Myers' original take on the ogre was unsuitable.

Hudson has never voice acted before, Wilson only voice acted once. Will Hudson do well with the role? Or will her performance be phoned in? Who knows, she could surprise. I'm always a little cautious when people like Hudson get animated voice roles, because sometimes you get a celebrity or well-known face who doesn't give it their all because they're only onboard for the paycheck. Let's hope that won't be the case with Hudson.

Since it's opening four months from now, the crew is going to get a little overtime. I'm sure they'll get it wrapped up before the film opens, and perhaps this change could explain why we haven't seen a new trailer even though one was classified a while back. Nowadays, I see how quickly things can be done in CG, so I'm not going to fret for the time being. Something like Frozen is a good example. Frozen saw a major rewrite in mid-2013, halfway through production and mere months away from its release date, turned out fine.

What's your take on The Angry Birds Movie? Could it work? Do you think Giant Monsters Attack Japan will get off the ground? Do you think Hell & Back looks any good? What do you think of the eleventh hour Kung Fu Panda 3 change? Sound off below!

1 comment:

  1. Wow. Between Sausage Party, Giant Monsters Attack Japan, and Hell and Back, things seem to be looking good for adult animated movies in the near future!