A year into its making, Sony Pictures Animation (SPA) has unveiled a busy slate of five new projects with major animation directors and writers to create diverse, unbranded entertainment for a broad audience, as envisioned by co-chiefs, Sandra Rabins and Penny Finkelman Cox. The new stable hails from such blockbusters as THE LION KING, MONSTERS, INC., SHREK, THE PRINCE OF EGYPT and TOY STORY.
THE LIZZIE MCGUIRE MOVIE, the theatrical version of the popular TV series LIZZIE MCGUIRE that debuted in second place at the U.S. box office, has been given the Disney greenlight for a sequel. The Walt Disney Co. struck a deal with writer Melissa Gould to write it, even though she did not pen the first film, according to THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. TV series exec producer Susan Estelle Janson, Ed Decter and John Strauss wrote the first movie while Gould has served as a writer on the series.
Twentieth Century Fox's X2: X-MEN UNITED generated the second-highest international gross ever for a day-and-date rollout, taking in $85.8 in the U.S. and another $69.4M internationally from 93 markets. Reviewers like this version of the Marvel Comics mutants better than the first movie. Contributing VFX to the blockbuster reigning in first place in the U.S. were Cinesite, EYETECH Optics, Frantic Films, Kleiser-Walczak Construction Co. and Rhythm & Hues. Disney's THE LIZZIE MCGUIRE MOVIE launched in second place with a $17M take.
Portland, Ore.-based Vinton Studios will produce its first full-length feature, Tim Burton's stop-motion animated film THE CORPSE BRIDE for Warner Bros. Pictures, it was reported by THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER and confirmed by a WB spokesperson.
BRIDE is an offbeat fable about a young man who inadvertently becomes betrothed to a corpse. Based on a 19th century Eastern European folk tale, which is being adapted for the screen by Caroline Thompson (EDWARD SCISSORHANDS), Burton is producing the film with Mike Johnson making his directorial debut.
Episode III will further connect the STAR WARS saga, bridging the prequel trilogy to the original trilogy bringing back familiar faces and places in the new STAR WARS film, which is currently in pre-production. Reprising their classic roles from the original trilogy are actors Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca the Wookiee, Anthony Daniels as C-3PO, and Kenny Baker as R2-D2.
Actor Louis Gossett Jr. (ENEMY MINE, TOY SOLDIERS, AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN), has signed on to the voice cast for the independent 3D animated fantasy/adventure film DELGO from Fathom Films. He joins a star-studded cast including Val Kilmer, Michael Clarke Duncan and Eric Idle. Gossett is voicing the character King Zahn, a benevolent but cautious leader whose plans for his peoples future are hindered only by his attachment to the past. Marc F. Adler, producer/co-director, said Gossett's voice is, "unique and the creativity he lends to his performance is inspiring.
Traditional animators' worst fears were realized as David Stainton, Disney's recently appointed head of feature animation, told the 525 animation employees gathered April 28, 2003 that he wants them to produce lush, classic fairy tales entirely on computers, according to a profile on the Disney exec in THE LOS ANGELES TIMES. Animation Website forums and chat rooms have been abuzz for some time about Disney possibly eliminating traditional animation altogether at its Burbank, California studio.
Sony topped itself at the weekend box office in the U.S. with its IDENTITY debuting in first place, taking in $17M. K.N.B. EFX Group Inc. did VFX work for the suspense flick. Sony/Revolutions' ANGER MANAGEMENT dropped to second place in its third week, taking in another $16M to rack up a total of $104.5M. Sony Pictures Imageworks and The Orphanage did VFX for ANGER. Buena Vista's comedy family/adventure HOLES dipped to third place with $12.9M and a $36.8M cume. Digital FilmWorks and Avtoma of L.A. contributed visual effects for VFX supervisor William Mesa, founder of Flash Film Works, whose studio did the majority of the work for the film from Walt Disney Pictures. MALIBU'S MOST WANTED came in fourth with $7.7M and $24.2M for its second week of release. C.O.R.E. Digital Pictures did some of the VFX work for the Warner Bros. release. CONFIDENCE from Lions Gate debuted in fifth place with $4.7M. Pixel Magic and Pacific Title contributed VFX in the con-men drama. BULLETPROOF MONK dropped to sixth place with $4.6M and a $19.2M cume. Eyetronics did 3D scanning, while Burt Ward and his Boy Wonder VFX did visual effects along with Ian Locke at Millwright. The main title sequence was done by New Wave Entertainment for the MGM release. Warner Bros.' WHAT A GIRL WANTS, VFX work done by Cinesite, slipped to seventh place at $3.3M and a $33M take so far. Twentieth Century Fox's PHONE BOOTH, with VFX by Asylum, dropped to eighth place taking in $3.1M and a $40.3M cume. MGM'S IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY, starring Kirk and Michael Douglas, made the top 10 box office, debuting in ninth place with $3M. New Line's docu-movie THE REAL CANCUN was the last of four debuting films, coming in at tenth place with $2.3M. Box office information obtained from boxofficemojo.com.
Twentieth Century Fox has delayed its plans to release a live-action/CG animated GARFIELD movie from December 19, 2003 to June 2004. Rhythm & Hues is the primary studio doing visual effects on the movie director Peter Hewitt is adapting from the syndicated cartoon strip created by Jim Davis. The story starts as Garfield's owner, Jon, takes in sweet but dimwitted pooch Odie, turning Garfield's perfect world upside down. The lasagna-loving orange tabby tries to get Odie out of his life until the hapless pup is kidnapped by a nasty dog trainer, so Garfield pulls himself away from his beloved barcolounger to get him back. Waiting until June not only gives the effects artists more time to complete the picture, it makes good marketing sense to take advantage of the extra push GARFIELD will be getting as the sarcastic feline celebrates his 25th birthday in 2004. GARFIELD has already been made into a number of 2D animated specials and TV series produced Lee Mendelson Films, Paws Inc. and Film Roman. The comic is read in 2,600 newspapers by 260 million readers around the globe.
Sony/Revolutions' ANGER MANAGEMENT held its first place position at the weekend box office in the U.S., taking in another $25.6M to rack up at total of $80.6M in its first two weeks of release. Sony Pictures Imageworks and The Orphanage did VFX for ANGER.
Warner Bros. is developing an English language, live-action version of anime classic AKIRA, according to THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. A Warner Bros. spokesman confirmed Warner Bros., has hired comic book writer James Robinson (THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMAN for Twentieth Century Fox Films) to adapt the script from director Katshuhiro Otomo's 1988 movie masterpiece.
Atlanta-based Fathom Studios is orbiting closer to Hollywood by signing Val Kilmer, Eric Idle and Michael Clarke Duncan to join the voice cast of its independently produced computer-animated film, DELGO. The first full-length CG flick from a U.S. indie has been receiving lots of online attention as Fathom posts digital dailies on its Website, www.delgo.com. The fantasy adventure is about troubled youth and some unlikely friends who must save the world from itself.
Canadian independent digital animation service studio Mercury Filmworks has been selected by Warner Bros. Feature Animation to provide digital paint services for its live-action/animation feature film, LOONEY TUNES: BACK IN ACTION. Directed by Joe Dante, the production, starring Brendan Fraser and Jenna Elfman, Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny with a co-staring the cast of whimsical Looney Tunes characters, is scheduled for release in November 2003.
New Marvel Comics-derived project THE HANDS OF SHANG CHI has been set at DreamWorks according to VARIETY. DreamWorks' spokesperson confirms that BAND OF BROTHERS writer Bruce McKenna is doing the script to be directed by Woo-ping Yuen, renowned for his choreography on THE MATRIX and CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON films. Set in China, the movie is about a young kung fu mast master who learns his father is the worst criminal in the world and does not want to follow in his footsteps, which makers are calling THE GODFATHER in reverse.
Sony/Revolutions Anger Management hit moviegoers' funnybones just right, delivering an April record $42.2M opening in first place. Sony Pictures Imageworks and The Orphanage did VFX for ANGER. Twentieth Century Fox's PHONE BOOTH, with VFX by Asylum, connected again for with second place with $7.6M and a $26.7M cume. Warner Bros.' WHAT A GIRL WANTS, VFX work done by Cinesite, slipped a little to third place at $6.3M and a $20M take so far. BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE moved up again to fourth, earning $4.5M for a $117.6M cume.
George Miller (BABE) will direct a CG animated feature, HAPPY FEET for Warner Bros. Pictures and Village Roadshow Pictures with Elijah Wood (LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy) supplying the voice of its star of the lead character, Mumble, the penguin, according to the trades. The project will be made in Australia through Miller's Kennedy/Miller Prods., with Doug Mitchell and Miller producing. Warner Bros. has not confirmed if the animation will be outsourced to another studio or if Kennedy/Miller is gearing up to do the CGI. WBPs senior vp, Courtenay Valenti, and creative executive, David Beaubaire, are overseeing the project along with Village Roadshow executive Dana Goldberg. Miller is writing the script along with John Collee, Warren Coleman and Judy Morris. The musical/comedy is set in Antarctica about a young penguin with an unusual gift who pursues his dreams. The project is expected to be delivered in late 2005.
Seth Green will join the original SCOOBY-DOO cast of Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, Matthew Lillard and Linda Cardellini, for a live-action/CGI feature sequel to last summers live-action blockbuster comedy hit in a new mystery adventure set for release on March 26, 2004, according to Dan Fellman, president of domestic distribution, Warner Bros. Pictures. Production begins April 14 with director Raja Gosnell, screenwriter James Gunn and producers Charles Roven and Richard Suckle of Mosaic Media Group.
Twentieth Century Fox's thriller PHONE BOOTH, with VFX by Asylum, connected with U.S. moviegoers over the weekend to debut in first place with $15M. PHONE BOOTH had been pulled from its Nov. 15 slot during the Washington D.C. sniper crisis because of the scene in the film in which Colin Farrell's character is pinned down in a Manhattan phone booty by a sniper. Audiences needed WHAT A GIRL WANTS from Warner Bros., VFX work done by Cinesite, enough to give the newcomer second place at $12M.
Bolstered by the success of it's first Oscar-winning CGI short, THE CHUBBCHUBBS!, Sony Pictures Imageworks is releasing another computer animated short, EARLY BLOOMER, on May 9, 2003. Kevin Johnson created and directed the coming-of-age tale about a tadpole as he tries to fit in with his mischievous pond pals. The short began as an in-house training exercise at SPI under the guidance of exec director of training and artist development, Sande Scoredos, for its animators and effects artists to work on the latest methods and new tools to explore visual storytelling.
VARIETY reports that BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE director Adam Shankman has been brought on board to direct another Disney picture, ENCHANTED, a live-action/animated romantic fable about a fairytale princess banished from the cartoon kingdom who finds herself loving her live-action life as a real flesh-and-blood person in New York City. The cartoon prince who loves her and the evil queen who banished her follow the princess to the Big Apple to mix things up. Barry Josephson and Barry Sonnenfeld will serve as producers while Sunil Perkash will exec produce the script by Bill Kelly and rewritten by Rita Hsiao (TOY STORY 2) and Todd Alcott (ANTZ). Shankman is also attached to direct the live-action version of THE JETSONS for Warner Bros., produce Denise Di Novi and Hanna-Barbera Prods. Start date has not been set yet for the film about the futuristic family, which has been attached to many top producers and directors in Hollywood for more than 20 years.
Peter Jackson will start work on KING KONG for Universal Pictures immediately following the release of LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING, the third and final installment in the director's blockbuster trilogy based upon the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien. Jackson will direct and write the screenplay with his partner Fran Walsh and Rings co-writer Philippa Boyens. Their screenplay will be based on the original story by Merian C. Cooper and Edgar Wallace. Jackson plans to employ extensive use of visual effects by his Weta, Ltd. in New Zealand, where the film will be shot. "No film has captivated my imagination more than KING KONG. I'm making movies today because I saw this film when I was nine years old. It has been my sustained dream to reinterpret this classic story for a new age," Jackson stated. "The story of Kong offers everything that any storyteller could hope for: an archetypal narrative, thrilling action, resonating emotion and memorable characters. It has endured for precisely these reasons and I am honored to be a part of its continuing legacy." Jackson and Walsh will produce KING KONG under their WingNut films banner, and Universal Pictures will release the film worldwide in 2005. Jackson, Walsh and Boyens are all repped by ICM.
Dreamworks' HEAD OF STATE debuted in first place, taking in $14M. The Chris Rock comedy features VFX work by Toy Box, Pacific Title and Art, Moving Pictures and Big Film Design, which did the Mt. Rushmore effect. BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE was brought down to second place, earning $12.5M for a $100M cume. Paramount's sci-fi thriller THE CORE debuted in third place with $12.4M, with effects from Cinesite, ComputerCafé, CREO, Rising Sun Pictures, Frantic films, Hammerhead Prods., New Deal Studios, Image Savant and 3D Site. Sony/Intermedia's military-themed thriller, BASIC, opened in fourth with $12.1M, with VFX done by Pixel Magic. CHICAGO, with visual effects by Toy Box and Film Effects Inc., moved into its 14th week of release and up to fifth place, taking in $7.4M to bring its total to $144.8M. Warner Bros.' DREAMCATCHER dropped to sixth place with $6.3M and a $25.3 cume. ILM did primary effects with additional work done by XFX Inc. and Pacific Title. AGENT CODY BANKS, with VFX by Pixel Magic and Eyetronics, came in at seventh with $6.1M for a total of $34.8M. Disney's PIGLET'S BIG MOVIE edged down to eighth place in its second week of release for $4.6M and a $12.4M cume. VIEW FROM THE TOP, with VFX from MetroLight Studios, came in at ninth with $3.8M for a total of $12.5M, closely followed by THE HUNTED (VFX supervisor was Eric Brevig, ILM did primary effects), in tenth place with $3.7M and a total of $29.2M. Disney re-released the Oscar-winning SPRITED AWAY to 707 theaters to bring in $1.6M for a total of $7.2M in limited release in the U.S. Box office information obtained from boxofficemojo.com.
Hitting theaters in the U.S. March 28, 2003, Paramount Picture's action film THE CORE relied on many visual effects houses to help depict the unnatural events taking place around the world due to changes in the earth's rotational inner core, resulting in catastrophic events for some of the world's most recognizable city scenes and monuments.
Those who missed seeing SPIRITED AWAY in its brief, limited theatrical release in the U.S. have a new chance to see the Oscar-winning animated masterpiece by Hayao Miyazaki starting Friday, March 28, 2003. Buena Vista Pictures is releasing it to roughly 700 theaters (a Disney spokesperson said a final count will be available Thursday), leading up to its release on VHS and DVD on April 15. Dick Cook, chairman of The Walt Disney Studios, said in a statement, " The film is far and away the most successful film to ever play in Japan and it has always been our desire to share this film with the widest possible audience here in the U.S. With this important Oscar recognition, the film will have the additional awareness and appeal needed to find a welcome reception. All of us at Disney are extremely proud to have had three of this year's nominees in the Best Animated Feature category and to have played a part in bringing the award-winning SPIRITED AWAY to moviegoers." SPIRITED AWAY, one of the most critically acclaimed films of 2002 and was selected by many leading journalists as one of their top 10 films of last year. Japan's biggest box office hit to date and the only Japanese film to win an Academy Award in full-length film category, the film has received the Annie Award from ASIFA-Hollywood and the Golden Bear Award from the Berlin Film Festival. It was also named best animated film by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the Broadcast Film Critics Association and the National Board of Review. The fantasy/adventure tale animated by Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli follows the quest of 10-year-old Chihiro, who must fend for herself as she encounters strange spirits, assorted creatures and a grumpy sorceress who seeks to prevent her from returning to the human world. Miyazaki is one of the most highly regarded directors/animators/comic artists in Japan and by U.S. filmmakers. Some of his other films include LAPUTA: CASTLE IN THE SKY (1986), MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO (1988), KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE (1989), PORCO ROSSO (1992) and PRINCESS MONONOKE (1997).
The U.S. weekend box office was lower than usual as more people stayed home to watch the Iraq conflict, the NCAA men's basketball tournament and the Academy Awards. Four new contenders couldn't take BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE away from its top position as the Buena Vista release stayed in first place for a third straight weekend taking in roughly $16.2M for $83.4M. DREAMCATCHER from Warner Bros. debuted at $15.3M.