WB revs up animation development
'Creative consortium' formed to shepherd pics starting with 'Lego'
Dave McNary wrote:Warner Bros. is amping up animated movies, forming a think tank-style creative consortium that's aimed at delivering one "high-end" film per year.
Jeff Robinov, president of Warner Bros. Pictures Group, made the announcement Monday. The consortium includes John Requa and Glenn Ficarra, ("Crazy, Stupid, Love.," "Cats & Dogs"); Nicholas Stoller ("The Muppets"); Phil Lord and Chris Miller ("Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs"); and Jared Stern ("Mr. Popper's Penguins").
Studio said the filmmakers will work both individually and collectively without being exclusive, so they will also continue to write and direct live-action movies.
"Warner Bros. has an extraordinary legacy in the world of animation, including some of the most enduring characters in cinema history," Robinov said. "Looking to the future, we have now gathered some of the best and brightest talents in the industry to help us grow and broaden that legacy. Drawing upon their imaginations and inspiration, the Studio will produce a slate of new and original animated films that are sure to delight audiences of all ages."
Despite its history as home to the Looney Tunes characters, Warner Bros. has been relatively light compared with rivals in producing animated fare over the past decade. Its "Looney Tunes: Back in Action" hybrid flopped in 2003 while its best performer was 2006's "Happy Feet" with $384 million in worldwide grosses. The two most recent animated films -- 2010's "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole" and the "Happy Feet" sequel -- turned in middling results with $140 million and $150 million respectively in worldwide grosses.
The consortium has been operating informally for several months and "The Lego Movie," directed by Lord and Miller from their own screenplay is the first feature to emerge from it. "Lego" is produced by Dan Lin and Roy Lee and stars the voices of Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Neeson, Will Arnett, Nick Offerman, Alison Brie, and Morgan Freeman.
Warner is releasing "Lego" on Feb. 7, 2014. Most of the animation is being produced by Australia-based Animal Logic.
The 2015 film will be "Storks," conceived and being written by Nicholas Stoller and to be directed by Doug Sweetland, who directed the Pixar "Presto." The 2016 title is set to be "Smallfoot," to be written by Requa and Ficarra, from an original idea by Sergio Pablos ("Despicable Me"), who is also set to direct.
Warner execs Courtenay Valenti, Chris deFaria and Greg Silverman are overseeing the consortium.
Studio has been putting other animated projects into development such as "The Tower Ravens," with Steve Carell's Carousel Prods; and Kevin and Dan Hageman's pitch for a live-action/CGI hybrid about the fictional Acme Corp., the purveyor of outlandish products shown in vintage Looney Tunes cartoons.