Vanessa Morrison

Comedy Impact Report '08: Toon Talent

From the beginning, Vanessa Morrison gravitated toward family comedies, says the 14-year Fox veteran, who took the reins of the studio’s animation division last year, just in time to transition from live-action/CG hybrid “Alvin and the Chipmunks” (which she helped put together) to toon blockbuster “Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!”

Her hit streak started with “Dr. Dolittle”: “After the first one, I inherited the sequel,’ then ‘Cheaper by the Dozen,’ the sequel, ‘Garfield’ and then ‘Fat Albert.’ ”

Those films have been an education in crafting multigenerational humor for Morrison. Kids like physical comedy, she learned, while adults prefer something a bit more verbal. The key is to find a balance where neither age group is alienated by material that appeals to the other.

“There’s something kind of primal about young and old wanting to sit in a theater and enjoy something together, and I think comedy speaks to that in a way no other genre does,” she says.

Next year brings the first Fox toon Morrison has overseen from beginning to end, “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs,” which hews to her formula: Start with a sincere emotional core while making sure the material is flexible enough to support the laughs.

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