The on-again, off-again CURIOUS GEORGE feature is currently in production for Universal Pictures and Imagine Ent., having settled on a 2D look after abandoning CG plans with Industrial Light & Magic
because of the great expense and "creepy" look, VARIETY reports.
Shooting for a November 2005 release, CURIOUS GEORGE (with Will Ferrell signed to voice the Man in the Yellow Hat) represents the only animated feature on the horizon at a major studio utilizing a traditional aesthetic, which means it is being closely watched by an industry currently obsessed with CG for any signs of a 2D commercial breakthrough. With a moderate budget of around $40 million, and with 60% of its animation outsourced around the world, Universal currently has a staff of 75 (include exiles from Disney and DreamWorks) working 14-hour days on character animation.
The fun-loving but mischievous monkey (symbolizing the boundless curiosity of children) has become a literary icon for kids since the first book by H.A. and Margret Rey was published in 1941. A series of seven books and more adventures have sold more than 25 million copies. Brian Grazer and Ron Howard of Imagine have been laboring to produce an animated version for years, obtaining rights from John Shapiro and David Kirschner, who are still attached as producers.
Grazer and Howard naturally reject the notion that 2D is dead, and are tapping into a topical "retro vibe." Plus the traditional approach is thought of as the best way to approach the mostly watercolor look of the books. Universal, which has numerous animated features in development, hasn't produced one since BALTO in 1995. However, the studio has enjoyed phenomenal success with the LAND BEFORE TIME franchise on DVD and video. In fact, Universal is spinning off an animated CURIOUS GEORGE children's show for PBS affiliate WGBH spearheaded by Louis Feola, president of Universal Worldwide Home Ent.
Jun Falkenstein (THE TIGGER MOVIE) directs from a script by Karey Kirkpatrick (CHICKEN RUN
), Joe Stillman (both SHREKS), Michael McCullers (the AUSTIN POWERS sequels) and Daniel Gerson and Rob Baird (MONSTERS, INC.