Friday, September 18, 2015

Bits Journal #49


Lots of big bits, and some smaller ones as well...

A big thing has just happened for theatrical feature animation America... Paramount got its hands on an... R-rated, stop-motion animated feature film!



The name of the film is Anomalisa, and it was directed by acclaimed writer Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich) and Duke Johnson, who has directed several episodes of the Adult Swim stop-motion series Mary Shelley's Frankenhole, and directed an episode of another [as] stop-motion series called Moral Orel.

Costing $8 million to make, Deadline says it's about "a man crippled by the mundanity of his life. On a business trip to Cincinnati, where he’s scheduled to speak at a convention of customer service professionals, he checks into the Fregoli Hotel. There, he is amazed to discover a possible escape from his desperation in the form of an unassuming Akron baked goods sales rep, Lisa, who may or may not be the love of his life."

It made a splash at the Toronto International Film Festival, and the picture will get a limited release on December 30th, and a wider release will follow...

The R rating seems like it has been earned here, as the film contains nudity, sexual content, and language. It'll also be about depression, among other things. It sounds like a truly mature film for adults, rather than a raunch-fest for teenagers who just want to see "cartoon characters do naughty things". It comes as no surprise, considering that Moral Orel apparently got extremely bleak in its final season. (I barely watched the show, I must confess.)

This has been a pretty good year for adult-oriented animation, as ShadowMachine's Hell & Back gets a considerably good-sized release next month, Mexican feature Un Gallo con muchos huevos did very well for a very limited release... And now this.

Over in the mainstream world, the new Pixar film is only two months away, thus we're starting to see more stuff...


A new poster for The Good Dinosaur has surfaced, and like some Pixar posters, it eschews the typical modern animated movie poster rules. It's a very pretty image of the main characters surrounded by fireflies at night, hinting at what will possibly be one of the film's best moments...


This of course hints at a new full trailer. As I've said before, it seems like the marketing campaign for this film is following the Big Hero 6 route. That Walt Disney Animation Studios film was an autumn release last year much like this film. That film had one teaser in May/June, a full trailer in July, and a final full trailer in September. The Good Dinosaur has followed this exact pattern, and now with the poster out, I expect it to keep following that pattern. I'd expect the trailer to arrive next week...

Another prehistoric animated franchise is getting a lift. The TV series based on DreamWorks' 2013 hit The Croods has a title, and the animation style for it has been revealed. The title is Dawn of the Croods, and the show will be in a very minimalistic 2D style. This was all revealed on the film's Facebook page...

Apparently they forgot about The Flintstones...

I think going this route is very, very smart. Most recent DreamWorks shows are done in CG and highly resemble their cinematic counterparts. I think that could be a detriment. Why's that? I think it's very possible that the How To Train Your Dragon TV series Dragons was part of the reason why How To Train Your Dragon 2 didn't soar on its opening weekend at the domestic box office. That was released at a time when DreamWorks really needed a major domestic hit. Now I know the film ultimately did well in the states (with a fine $177 million gross), but hear me out...

The original Dragon opened with $43 million, was beloved, and made a behemoth 5x its opening weekend gross. We all expected How To Train Your Dragon 2 to at least make $60 million on its opening, but it didn't... It made a very good but ultimately disappointing $49 million. The marketing, I felt, wasn't good, but the TV show... You know that "Why pay to watch this when we can watch it on TV for free" mentality? I wonder if that played a big part in the sequel's opening results...

Dawn of the Croods will debut sometime in December on Netflix, as expected. The Croods 2 is set to open on December 22, 2017, it shouldn't have a problem on opening weekend. DreamWorks is slowly recovering from the last few years of money-losing films and cutbacks, and a Croods sequel is all but guaranteed to do well. It'll soar overseas, definitely, so the domestic performance may not matter too much in the end, but a big stateside gross will only make things better. So maybe with the show being a lower budget 2D affair, no moviegoers will pull that "why pay to watch?" baloney, and the sequel will make some big bucks two winters from now.

Also on the DreamWorks front is some minor Trolls news, which will be the next feature after Kung Fu Panda 3. Justin Timberlake has been added to the cast, which is not too surprising considering that he voiced Artie (young King Arthur) in Shrek the Third. I don't know what to say about this, because I thought Timberlake was good in The Social Network, I barely remember how he was in Shrek the Third because that was such a forgettable flick. I remember his character being whiny or something, but that's about it...

The film also stars Pitch Perfect's Anna Kendrick, and has a new logo that reveals what the redesigns will look like...


All I'm going to say about Trolls is this... If it's done right, it could be something worth watching. The Troll dolls don't seem to have any pre-existing storyline, DreamWorks is creating their own - one that tells a story about how the Trolls got their colorful hair.

It could be done like The Lego Movie where it takes complete advantage of not having to follow a toyline story, but it could also play it completely safe. I think without any rules, they have a ridiculous amount of creative freedom here. This actually reminds me of Raggedy Ann and Andy: A Musical Adventure. Animation mastermind Richard Williams directed the 1977 feature, which may have starred the famous dolls, but had all kinds of twisted and super-cool psychedelic imagery that you probably would not expect in any Raggedy Ann and Andy-related media.

If DreamWorks does something similar with Trolls, I'll keep watch. It's going to be a musical, so that's one thing that kind of has my interest. Who knows what will happen. In terms of the release date, they need to change it. November 4, 2016? Against Doctor Strange? This is a $120 million-costing family film that needs to make over $300-350 million worldwide. They're going to need family audiences and more to get there, because if the picture only appeals to the kiddies, they're in trouble. Plus, DreamWorks especially needs a string of hits after everything that went down in 2013 and 2014. Mid-October of next year would be a much better place for it, if you ask me...

In other toy-based movie news... Paramount wants to move forward with an animated Transformers feature.


However, it seems like the "origin story" of the planet Cybertron - penned by Ant-Man writers Andrew Barrer and Gabriel Ferrari - will be connected to the Michael Bay series rather than being its own little thing. It's interesting because Transformers began life as an animated TV series and toyline, as everyone probably knows. In 1986, it was given the movie treatment. The all-animated feature, that got a then-rare PG rating, was no theatrical smash, but it was something of a cult hit after it hit video, and many an 80s kid will tell you that the movie was absolutely traumatizing. I bet you know why that is, too...

There could be some potential here, since it's all about Cybertron and it's an origin story. It's perfect for animation, really, because of the setting. It probably won't be a traditionally animated film (a very retro 80s-style one would be particularly nice!), but I can expect it to be a visual wowser anyway. I guess Paramount Animation will be the ones to do it, too. Again, with it being an origin of Cybertron story, that means... No annoying human characters! Michael Bay is probably going to be involved in some way, but I can imagine him being executive producer at best, because he's probably going to devote all his attention to Transformers 5: This Movie Will Make $1 Billion Overseas.

That way the movie might not have what we don't like about Bay's Transformers movies. Ehren Kruger isn't writing, neither is Bay. I think it's in good hands with the two Ant-Man scribes.

In other stop-motion news... It looks like a plasticine sheep is going to return to the big screen!


Yes, Aardman is currently developing a sequel to Shaun the Sheep Movie. Despite its awful launch here in America (mostly due to a lack of real marketing muscle from distributor Lionsgate), it did much better in its home territory and all throughout Europe. According to Variety, the film has crossed $100 million worldwide (Box Office Mojo still says it's made $82 million) and financier Studiocanal is more than happy with the silent film's performance.

Definitely some great news here for Aardman, stop-motion, and the Shaun the Sheep series! Right now Early Man is probably Aardman's next, as that is aiming for a summer 2018 release, so Shaun the Sheep Movie 2 could arrive as early as 2019. Will both be made back-to-back? Or will Aardman spend another good three years on Shaun after Early Man is completed? Who knows, but again, good to see that Aardman is still moving ahead. No low domestic box office totals hold them back!


Lastly, the obscure but incredibly unique animated feature Twice Upon a Time finally has a DVD release date. Warner Archive and other sources have talked about the upcoming home media release of the rare 1983 "Lumage" feature (a then-groundbreaking technique in the world of cut-out animation), but on their twitter Warner Archive stated that the DVD will hit on September 29th!

It will also have a commentary by director John Korty and others who worked on the film, such as... Henry Selick! Yes, a few big names in animation worked on this very film! Another was Pixar's Harley Jessup! Take a look at his Monsters, Inc. concept art and then this film. It has also been reconfirmed that the DVD will contain both cuts of the film, Korty's family-friendly original and the more edgy, pre-PG-13 PG version that screenwriter Bill Couture was behind.

It's just too bad it won't be on Blu-ray, but this is better than nothing considering that the last and only time this film got a home media release was in... 1991!

1 comment:

  1. I've said this before, but things seem to be looking better and better for adult animated movies. I think the Animation Age Ghetto might finally be on its way out. In the past couple of years alone, we've had the announcements/releases of Sausage Party, Anomalisa, Hell and Back, and Un Gallo con Muchos Huevos.

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