Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Sony Pictures Animation Ramping Up Projects

Genndy Tartakovsky
Genndy Tartakovsky.
Sony Pictures Animation ("SPA") has been on a roll with its "Smurfs" and "Smurfs 2" franchise, along with "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" and "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2." The two "Smurfs" movies together have grossed $910 million at the box office, while the "Meatballs" films have grossed a combined $244 million in the US alone. Money talks. This terrific opening wedge in the increasingly crowded animation field is inducing SPA to bet big on animation, which is good for the whole field.

Dexter's Laboratory Genndy Tartakovsky
"Dexter's Laboratory."
Genndy Tartakovsky is a kind of in-house animation genius at SPA. He has his roots in television animation with successful cult shows such as "Dexter's Laboratory" and "Star Wars: Clone Wars." SPA has him working on not one, not two, but three animated feature films at once.

"Hotel Transylvania 2" concept art.
One is a sequel to Tartakovsky's "Hotel Transylvania" (2012). Adam Sandler and Robert Smigel are writing up "Hotel Transylvania 2," with a scheduled release date of September 25, 2015 (just in time for Halloween).

Popeye SFA
"Popeye" from SFA.
Another Tartakovsky project is "Popeye," due out in 2016. Popeye, of course, is the old Max Fleischer character from the 1930s. David Ronn and Jay Scherick are writing that one up. Early pictures suggest that it will in line with the old characterizations in the much-beloved "Popeye The Sailor Man" cartoons of old, which is a bit of a relief to fans worried about "reimaginings." As Tartakovsky himself has said:
“I want to do it as a physical animated project that really emphasizes the physicality of animation. I always wanted to make a movie that relies on physical humor rather than dialogue humor.”
Robin Williams, who played Popeye in the 1980 live-action film that was a bit of a disappointment for Paramount, is still around if needed. He does fabulous voice work, as in "Aladdin," voicing the wise-cracking Genie. No word yet, though, on who will voice the sailor man or any of the other characters, such as Olive Oyl.

"Genndy Tartakovsky Can You Imagine? concept art
"Genndy Tartakovsky’s Can You Imagine?" concept art.
The third is "Genndy Tartakovsky’s Can You Imagine?," which is being produced by Michelle Murdocca, who also produced "Hotel Transylvania." There isn't a lot known about this project, but rumor has it that it involves a boy and his imagination.

The Smurfs
Aside from Tartakovky's projects, the SPA also is moving along with a third "Smurfs" film. This one will be strictly animation, unlike the first two, and rumor has it that it will be a prequel showing how the little blue creatures came into existence. It also apparently will address some of the criticisms directed at the first two films and bring the characters more into line with the original comics by Peyo. Kelly Asbury, known for the smash hit "Shrek 2" over at DreamWorks Animation, is directing, while Jordan Kerner and Mary Ellen Bauder are producing. The release of the as-yet-unnamed project is set for August 14, 2015.


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