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New CG Animated Project Resurrects Abbott and Costello Monster Classic

A tracking shot through New York City, 1948. Through the hustle and bustle of postwar New York, we come up on the docks where two inept baggage handlers are loading crates onto a cargo ship. They are Chick (Bud Abbott) and Wilbur (Lou Costello), partners in a shipping firm. While fumbling with the grip, they are reprimanded by McDougal, an overzealous museum exhibitor who demands that Chick and Wilbur personally tend to his crates, however incompetently they behave. McDougal ups the stakes and requires that Chick and Wilbur escort the crates to his establishment in Transylvania, where he is opening a new exhibit McDougal's House of Horrors an extravagant display of the classic monster characters. McDougal agrees to double their wages as insurance that the crates are properly delivered.

So opens ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET THE MONSTERS, a new computer-animated reworking of ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN, a project that has entered the test stage at Cantina Pictures, a CGI company presided over by pioneering founder Doug Beswick.

Combining the zany humor of the 1940s Abbott and Costello classics with the "monster rallies" of the same period, the project attempts to bring humor and comedy together in refreshing ways. Scripted and produced by Scott Essman of Visionary Cinema (JACK PIERCE: THE MAN BEHIND THE MONSTERS DVD), MEET THE MONSTERS is beginning life as a two-minute test film, utilizing a key scene in the middle of the story in which Chick and Wilbur riff on the names of the monster characters before encountering Frankenstein's Monster face-to-face.

Beswick began life as a stop-motion animator in the 1960s, eventually working on projects from EMPIRE STRIKES BACK to TERMINATOR to ALIENS. His Flat Earth production company provided computer-generated effects for the HERCULES and XENA TV series in the 1990s, later becoming Cantina Pictures (named after the STAR WARS cantina creature scene for which Beswick sculpted the band members). Now full time on CGI, Simi Valley, California-based Cantina will create the CG animation for MEET THE MONSTERS and have begun staffing up this month. Of particular interest are LightWave modelers and texture mappers.

To initiate the test scene, 2D artist Tracy Buck created thumbnail storyboards and sculptor Brent Armstrong created three maquettes to represent the Abbott and Costello characters and the Frankenstein Monster. Gil Palmer and Lou Sciarra, an East Coast Abbott and Costello imitation team, provided the dialogue, and production designer John Ivanoff created 2D sets. Editor Dieter Rozek compiled everything for an animatic, and, over the next several months, CGI artists will work to digitize the maquettes and bring the characters to life.

Upon completion of the test film, the producers will be seeking financing and distribution for the 90-minute film. Nine classic monsters and several other famous characters round out the full story. When asked the inevitable question about obtaining necessary rights from Universal, Essman said, "We have been working with members of the estates on the project and will be taking it to through the proper studio division channels after the test film is completed."

All inquiries should be sent to Scott Essman at visionarycinema@yahoo.com.

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