Friday, November 6, 2015

Out of Gnowhere: Long-Gestating 'Gnomeo & Juliet' Sequel Finds New Home

Remember 2011's Gnomeo & Juliet? Well, did you know that a sequel to that movie has been a thing?

Gnomeo & Juliet is one of the more interesting animated features made in the last five years...

Interesting in a "troubled production" sort-of way. Gnomeo & Juliet began life as a Walt Disney Feature Animation project during the last few years of Michael Eisner's tenure. You know, those fun days when the animation powerhouse was being pummeled into the ground? It was a dark time when numerous executives without a love for animation were in charge, turning potentially cool projects into compromised messes that audiences mostly avoided.

Fortunately, that all came to a halt. When Eisner was ousted in 2005, Bob Iger took his place as CEO and the rest is history. After Iger acquired Pixar in early 2006, Pixar chief John Lasseter came into Disney Feature Animation and booted all of those executives out of the building in no time. Disney Animation since then was filmmaker-driven like it should be, and as a result their recent films have been critically successful. It took a little while to get the commercially successful badge, though. (Yes, I'll always be bitter that Meet The Robinsons, Bolt, and The Princess and the Frog weren't box office smashes.)

Of course, after Lasseter stepped foot into WDAS, there were a few casualties.

In early 2006, Lasseter saw the studio's pipeline. In front of him was a halfway-done feature - Meet The Robinsons - that was most likely going to be the next Chicken Little, and a slew of features that were in various stages of development, some of which already had the stains of Eisner-Stainton all over them. Lasseter had Meet The Robinsons retooled midstream so that it wouldn't be a disaster, and he had American Dog reimagined as Bolt. In-development projects like Joe Jump and Rapunzel Unbraided would be radically changed later on down the road and would of course become Wreck-It Ralph and Tangled respectively, but the gnome picture? That was cancelled shortly after he came in. He didn't want that one...

Gnomeo & Juliet was also a co-production with Elton John's Rocket Pictures, and it kind of makes sense why Disney Animation picked it up in the early 2000s: What could go wrong with another Shakespeare-inspired Elton John musical? After it got dropped, Miramax grabbed it, and later Starz Animation (now called Arc Productions, known for things like 9 and the current CGI seasons of Thomas & Friends) picked it up.

The completed film was released under the Touchstone label in early 2011, and despite getting mixed reception, the tiny-budgeted flick (it only cost $36 million to make) had an okay opening. It had little family-friendly competition for a while, and had great legs, making nearly 4x its opening. Yeah, it turned a real profit, but I guess Disney saw no need to go forward with a sequel. I don't think the company even expected the film to be as successful as it was...

A sequel, titled Sherlock Gnomes, was talked about over the years. It has had a director - Kung Fu Panda director John Stevenson - attached for a while, too, but now things just got really interesting...

The Wrap reports that Paramount Animation has acquired the project, and it will be a co-production with MGM. James McAvoy and Emily Blunt will reprise their roles as Gnomeo and Juliet, and Johnny Depp has signed on to voice Sherlock Gnomes. Welp, at least they got a big name and he could probably pull it off well. Snark about Depp all you want for his recent live-action busts, I thought he was at his best as Rango. Maybe he'll be good in this? Hopefully the script is at least decent...

The film also now has a release date: January 12, 2018. Right in line with the first film's out-of-the-way release date...

It isn't odd that Paramount Animation, of all houses, has picked this film up. Paramount Animation has also latched onto features that are being made by the Spanish animation studio that made The Adventures of Tadeo Jones (a.k.a. Tad, the Lost Explorer), and I'm sure they'll put their name on the eventual Tintin sequel. Paramount Animation currently doesn't have anything slated for a 2017 release, though I suspect they will soon, now that this picture is on their slate.

Paramount Animation's next film is Monster Trucks, a hybrid feature that's still set to open this coming March. From what I know it's completed, and footage was screened not too long ago (I've heard... mixed things), but no scrap of marketing has surfaced. I understand that Paramount Animation promised from the start that they'd be hyper-secretive about their features, but I figured by now we'd know more about this project by now.

Anyways, this could go either way. I'm glad that Paramount Animation has something to fatten up their slate, but I can't say much since I've never seen Gnomeo & Juliet. I hear it's one of those "not that bad" kind of animated films, so a sequel coming doesn't really phase me. I just find it interesting that it's still a thing after all these years, and that a bigger player has it.

What say you?

1 comment:

  1. But I thought it didn't do well in the box office.