Friday, November 11, 2016

No Longer Evolving: DreamWorks Cancels 'The Croods 2'

Right now, there are rumors going around that DreamWorks is going to see some good-sized cutbacks...

These rumors arrived right on the heels of the announcements that DreamWorks was going to cease doing work with their India-based Dedicated Unit studio. One of those rumors said that lots of layoffs will occur at the mainline Glendale studio, and that there is a new plan in place: A plan to ready just one picture every calendar year starting in 2018. That's the year Universal will distribute their first film. Some of this turned out to be true...

Now, a big bomb has been dropped. The Croods 2 has been cancelled...

The Croods 2 seemed like a definite, being a sequel to a film that actually pocketed a good amount of money. The Croods was one of the only DreamWorks hits released between the box office collapse of Rise of the Guardians in late 2012, and the flopping of Penguins of Madagascar in late 2014. The sequel, for the longest time, carried a Christmas 2017 release date. When Comcast acquired DreamWorks earlier this year, The Croods 2 left 2017 (presumably to avoid competing with Episode VIII) and was in limbo. The "to be determined" pool, as I like to call it. 2018 was the movie's new target, but there was no exact date.

While Larrikins and How To Train Your Dragon 3, two 2018 releases from DreamWorks, were confirmed to stay in that year, we heard nothing on The Croods 2. Then we heard that it wasn't ready to go into production, and that it needed fixing... So it got new writers, and the script was going to see rewrites... But now? It's a goner. Around 30 people who were working on it are now off the project, and it's up in the air whether they'll remain at the studio or not. Now according to Variety, DreamWorks was already uneasy about this sequel to their 2013 smash hit. Apparently Universal, whose execs oversee DreamWorks right now, hammered the final nail.

Despite being halted, a Universal insider did say "The Croods is still very much in the DreamWorks catalog. It’s not unheard of that it might be something someone takes a look at in the future."

On the plus side, director Chris Sanders will probably begin working on a new project, something that perhaps really suits him. Sanders has been with DreamWorks since 2007, and his first feature for them was How To Train Your Dragon, which he directed with his long-time partner Dean DeBlois. Sanders and DeBlois swept that project up after the original director left it. Sanders was already working on The Croods before that all went down, and after completing Dragon, he went back to the stone age while DeBlois continued to soar with the dragons. Sanders was set to direct the sequel with the other chap who directed the first one, Kirk DeMicco.

It seems strange, because The Croods was not just profitable, it was a big hit. $187 million here, $587 million all around the world. It seemed like a definite franchise-starter, and while it got a TV series, it's not getting a cinematic follow-up anytime soon. Unusual that the studio put the quality concerns above all, and canceled what was probably going to do quite well... Or maybe they were worried that a 5-year wait would kill it? Who knows, but apparently DreamWorks was losing faith in it before Universal had them pull the plug. Shocking indeed...

How does this fit into those rumors? VFX Soldier brought up some claims, which sounded kind of vague. One said that How To Train Your Dragon 3 was going to be pushed, another said Larrikins will be pulled back into story, back to the drawing board.

Some of us assumed that by "pushed", they meant: "Pushed back", as in losing that 5/18/2018 release date. This contradicted a recent announcement saying that the film - after becoming a Universal-distributed project - was going to keep that date. Something didn't seem right. So now 2018 has dragons and the Aussie musical.

Now, it's possible that Dragon 3 will move again, but maybe by "push" they mean "support". Maybe it's being amped up, like they're pushing it to be the 2018 release. I think that this theory adds up, for it is a sequel, it's aiming for a pre-Memorial Day bow, and the previous installments in the series made $494 million and $618 million respectively. On top of that, both films got widespread critical acclaim. There's a TV series, too! Larrikins on the other hand is an all-original story that isn't based on any pre-existing IP, it looks to be quirkier than the usual DreamWorks fare, and is arguably a pretty good-sized risk. Trolls it is not.

So going by the "one-a-year" rumors, one of those films will have to move. Going off of the "Larrikins pulled back into story" claim, Larrikins will be pushed to 2019. Then Shadows and Shrek 5 duke it out for a 2020 slot. Or vice-versa, Shrek 5 hits in 2019 while Larrikins ends up arriving in 2020. Hopefully Larrikins is not a casualty of the transition, because out of all of DreamWorks' upcoming features, that one intrigues me the most... And DreamWorks has recently axed a lot of things I was really looking forward to, like Bollywood Superstar Monkey.

Anyways, as for The Croods 2... I wasn't all that big on the first one, though I do understand that it has its fans. I thought it had excellent visuals and a very cool-looking setting, but was anchored by a generic cast of characters, been there-done that writing, and a hyperactive tone. Sheds of Chris Sanders' quirkiness shine through in some parts, but on the whole it feels rather watered down. If you look at Sanders' concept art for the film, the finished film looks a bit conservative in comparison.

My logic with sequels to movies that needed a little work... Room for improvement! There's no room for The Croods 2 anymore. We shall see what happens next with the moon boy studio.

What say you?

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