Monday, June 20, 2016
Torch Lighting: Update on Sony Animation's Slate
Sony Animation has given some updates on their seemingly-uneven slate...
For starters, next year's The Emoji Movie is now titled Emoji Movie: Express Yourself. The synopsis is still the same, it still sounds as aggressively un-creative as ever, and the less I say about this one... The better. It's still slated for August 11, 2017.
Remember The Lamb? Remember how that faith-based story went into untitled mode for a brief while? Now it's called The Star. It's not about a lamb anymore, it's about a donkey. The Hollywood Reporter says that it's still about the Nativity and all, but I wonder why the switch from a lamb to a donkey? I guess it's because it has worked before... Nestor the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey, The Small One... Perhaps what's really interesting about this project is that Brian and Lisa Henson will be executive producing? Jim Henson Company, of all places? It's still set for December 8, 2017.
In 2017, Sony will also launch an animated series based on the Hotel Transylvania films, and it - a show mostly made by long-time Canadian TV animation house Nelvana - will debut in 2017 on The Disney Channel... Of all places.
Interestingly enough, Genndy Tartakovsky himself is back to direct Hotel Transylvania 3, despite saying that he wasn't going to do so back in fall 2015 when the previous film opened. He says that he had a great idea for it and he just couldn't resist directing.
Hotel Transylvania's first installment, interestingly enough, wasn't Tartakovsky's from the start. It went through around 5-6 directors ever since it entered development in 2006. The Samurai Jack creator himself salvaged the film, and while it wasn't a critical hit, it did pocket Sony Animation a lot of dough. The sequel did just as well commercially, and the third is still pegged for a September 21, 2018 release. Let's be honest, with Warner Animation nabbing that spot with their S.C.O.O.B. (the launch to their Hanna-Barbera cinematic universe), I can see this picture moving.
The biggest news of the piece concerns the animated Spider-Man movie. Recent rumors of it being about Miles Morales instead of Peter Parker haven't been confirmed. I would love for the film to be about Miles. Not only does it finally give us a cinematic version of Miles, but it also more than differentiates it from the Marvel Cinematic Universe's Spider-Man, as this will not be connected in anyway. It also now has a director, first-timer Bob Persichetti. A longtime story artist and inbetweener, Persichetti recently helped write The Little Prince, and was head of story on Puss in Boots. Thankfully, the dynamic duo of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are still set to pen the script.
It was also mentioned that Sony Animation intends to release five films in 2018. So far we've got this Spider-Man film, Hotel Transylvania 3, and Peter Rabbit... The article doesn't even mention that film, and sometimes I wonder, is it even a Sony Animation film? As far as I can recall, only ComingSoon - out of the blue - broke the news on that one, and said it's pegged for 3/23/2018. I've heard little to nothing on it since, but it could be one of the five.
I really don't know about Sony Animation these days, as much as I don't like to say that. Ever since the collapse of Sony Pictures during the hack, I think things have been muddy. Making Tom Rothman, an infamously filmmaker-unfriendly executive, a top suit at Sony Pictures spells a lot of trouble for me. I have no idea how much control he has over the animation wing, but ever since the higher-up personnel shake up, I've been very cautious. Kristine Belson, formerly of DreamWorks, is the studio's president and is apparently behind the current slate...
Unfortunately, a lot has happened since early 2015. Lauren Faust left Medusa over creative differences, Genndy's probably not going to be allowed to touch the Popeye project anymore while his original project Can You Imagine? has seemingly withered away, and Emoji Movie got approved of in a heartbeat. Projects like Superbago, things that actually sounded interesting? No updates on those. Outside of The Star and this untitled animated Spider-Man movie, this is kind of a boring slate. The Hotel Transylvania films are really just mediocre Adam Sandler family comedies that Genndy's direction sadly can't elevate, and three will probably be no different. I like that Smurfs: The Lost Village is aiming to be the Smurfs movie that the live-action hybrid films should've been, but who knows how that one will turn out.
It pains me to say all of this because I know for sure that Sony Pictures Animation can be a great studio. Look no further than the delightfully weird mockumentary Surf's Up and the very fun Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. I was very excited to see things like Genndy Tartakovsky's Popeye and a wild and weird original of his follow that, alongside things like Medusa and Superbago. Problem is, you need the right people to oversee animation, not people who say "Yes!" to things like Emoji Movie. Not people who greenlight that stuff but send highly talented folks like Lauren Faust packing. Perhaps I'll eat crow, maybe Emoji Movie will be this dark horse of an animated movie that takes everyone by surprise. I don't know, but to me it sounds like pure cooked-up-in-a-meeting-room garbage.
So, cautiously optimistic about Smurfs, interested in The Star and Spider-Man. No interest in Emoji Movie whatsoever, we know little-to-nothing about Peter Rabbit so I can't really say much about that one. What are the other two pictures coming in 2018? I think five in one calendar year is a bit much. Maybe I'm assuming, maybe Genndy Tartakovsky will still direct Can You Imagine? for them. I don't know with this studio right now. What say you?