×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Warner Bros. searches for boxoffice grail

Those who remember Warner Bros.’ last brush with the Arthurian legend, the 1967 glitz-and-glitter rendition of Broadway’s “Camelot,” will find a very different version of the legend in the studio’s fully animated “Quest for Camelot,” set for release in the summer of 1998. There will be no sporting jousts, no maypole dances, no fairy-tale stylization, and no Lancelot and Guinevere.

This is Camelot by way of Stonehenge.

“We intentionally went back to the early times of Camelot, prior to the pretty, shiny armor that you think of,” says the film’s producer, Dalisa Cooper Cohen. Set in 10th-century Britain, the picture’s look has been strongly influenced by early Celtic design and symbols. “Quest for Camelot” also holds the distinction of being the first Arthurian film that does not center around the character of King Arthur.

“It’s not really a story about Arthur,” Cohen notes, “but it shows the darkness that (Camelot) came from, when all the clans were warring, and how Arthur brought peace, and how the bad guy can pull it back to the dark time.”

The bad guy in question, Baron Ruber, is a character not found in Malory or Tennyson. Neither are the film’s ’90s-influenced heroes: Kayley, the daughter of a knight who is struggling for recognition in a man’s world, and Garrett, a stalwart young man who happens to be blind.

“The movie is really about the most unlikely heroes, who believe in themselves and each other and learn to work together to win the day,” Cooper says. Also in the band of questing “misfits” is a two-headed comic-relief dragon, voiced jointly by Eric Idle and Don Rickles, who are part of an only-in-animation cast that includes Cary Elwes, Jane Seymour, Gabriel Byrne, Jessica Gilsig, Jaleel White and John Gielgud.

“Quest for Camelot,” which was supposed to be the debut production from Warner Bros. Feature Animation, but lost that status to 1996’s “Space Jam,” has gone on a transforming journey of its own since being greenlit in May 1995. The first treatment, based on Vera Chapman’s book “The King’s Damosel,” was titled “The Quest for the Grail” and centered around the search for the legendary cup used at the Last Supper. The film went into production in the fall of ’95, under the direction of “Ferngully’s” Bill Kroyer, but quickly came to a halt again when most of the studio’s artists were reassigned to “Space Jam.”

In the interim the story and script were reworked and many changes resulted, including Kroyer’s replacement by Frederik Du Chau (Kroyer is still with Warners, developing another project), and the replacement of Christopher Reeve, who initially voiced King Arthur, with Pierce Brosnan, when Reeve was no longer available to record new lines due to renewed activity as an actor and director.

The emphasis on all things Celtic resulted in composer Patrick Doyle’s being hired to do the music score, a job that included Celticizing the songs contributed by pop tunesmiths David Foster and Carol Bayer Sager.

Ultimately, the Holy Grail itself was replaced by Arthur’s sword Excalibur as the film’s central icon, in part because of the inescapable religious connotations associated with it. In the revised story, the villainous Baron Ruber (voiced and sung by Gary Oldman) seeks to capture Excalibur and benefit from its power. “The symbol of Camelot is the power of Excalibur, and that became a more interesting theme: Whoever held the sword, held the power,” states Max Howard, president of Warner Bros. Feature Animation. Even though the film’s release was bumped from November 1997 to May ’98 as a result of the delays, the studio still had to play catch-up. “We’ve really only been in full production for a year and a half,” notes Cohen. “In a lot of ways we’ve made this movie pretty quickly, quicker than I’d recommend.” Warners’ London animation facility contributed an estimated 30% of the picture.

As far as Howard is concerned, any problems the picture has had are simply byproducts of trying to build a studio from scratch while simultaneously making a film. “In three years we’ve gone from zero employees to building a team, getting a part-live-action, part-animated film out, getting a second one essentially now finished,” he states. “In terms of the competitive environment we’re in, this is an extraordinary achievement.”

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Gaston Pavlovich

    ’The Irishman’s’ Gaston Pavlovich, Endemol Shine Boomdog Ink Production Pact (EXCLUSIVE)

    “The Irishman” producer Gaston Pavlovich and his Mexico City-based production company Fabrica de Cine have inked an overall development and production deal with Endemol Shine Boomdog, the Mexican outpost of Endemol Shine North America. News comes as “The Irishman” opens the Los Cabos Int’l Film Festival on Wednesday, Nov. 13. The Martin Scorsese Netflix-backed drama [...]

  • Charlize Theron'The Addams Family' film premiere,

    Charlize Theron to Be Honored by Costume Designers Guild (EXCLUSIVE)

    The Costume Designers Guild announced Wednesday that Academy Award-winner Charlize Theron will be honored with the spotlight award. The Spotlight Award honors an actor whose talent and career personify an enduring commitment to excellence, including a special awareness of the role and importance of costume design. “Charlize Theron is a costume designer’s dream, bringing integrity [...]

  • Ford v Ferrari

    'Ford V. Ferrari' Soundtrack Revealed (EXCLUSIVE)

    The full tracklist for the forthcoming 20th Century Fox film “Ford V. Ferrari,” starring Academy Award-winners Matt Damon and Christian Bale, has been revealed below. The film is based on the true story of American car designer Carroll Shelby (Damon) and the British-born driver Ken Miles (Bale), who together battled corporate interference, the laws of [...]

  • Modern-Loves

    Cinepolis Takes Latin America on ‘Modern Loves,’ Drops First Trailer (EXCLUSIVE)

    MEXICO CITY —  Mexico’s Cinepolis, one of the biggest movie theater chains in the world, has acquired rights for Latin America to Matías Meyer’s “Amores Modernos” (Modern Loves), which world premieres at this week’s Los Cabos Film Festival, playing in main competition. In the U..S., “Modern Loves” has been taken by premium Latinx-content streaming platform, [...]

  • THE IRISHMAN (2019)Ray Ramano (Bill Bufalino

    Los Cabos Film Festival: 10 Takes on the 2019 Edition

    MEXICO CITY —  A crossroads for the film industries of Mexico, the U.S. and Canada, Los Cabos Intl. Film Festival opens its doors on Wednesday, Nov. 13 with a lineup which takes on board hot-button issues – gender, violence in Mexico, the impact of global platforms – as the Festival consolidates its status as a [...]

  • PORNOMELANCHOLIA

    Berlin Winner Manuel Abramovich’s “Pornomelancholia” Taps French Funding (EXCLUSIVE)

    MEXICO CITY — Argentina’s Manuel Abramovich, a 2019 Berlinale Silver Bear winner for “Blue Boy,” has tapped French funding for its follow-up, “Pornomelancholia,” one of the highest-profile projects at Mexico’s Los Cabos Film Festival, which kicks off today with a gala screening of “The Irishman,” Financing from the Region Nouvelle-Aquitaine, a building film-TV hub in [...]

  • CDMX-Film-Pitchbox

    Filmarket Hub Announces Projects for First CDMX Film Pitchbox (EXCLUSIVE)

    When Variety unveiled the CDMX Film Pitchbox, a new movie project pitching forum that will take place in Mexico City on Nov. 29, organizer Filmarket Hub announced that executives from Alazraki Entertainment, Cinema 226, Cinépolis, Lemon Studios, Perro Azul and VCS Capital had already confirmed they would attend. Since then, Dynamo, Endemol Shine Boomdog, Exile Content Studio, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content