×
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.”

More Film

  • Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his Night

    Box Office: 'How to Train Your Dragon 3' Speeding to Series-Best Debut With $58 Million

    Universal’s “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” is far and away the box office champ for Academy Awards weekend with an estimated debut of $58 million from 4,259 North American locations. Three holdovers and an expansion will make up the other top four spots, with the sophomore frame of sci-fier “Alita: Battle Angel” [...]

  • Stanley Donen

    Stanley Donen, Director of Iconic Movie Musicals, Dies at 94

    Stanley Donen, the director of such stylish and exuberant films as “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Funny Face” and “Two for the Road” and the last surviving helmer of note from Hollywood’s golden age, has died at 94. The Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips tweeted that one of his sons had confirmed the news to him. Confirmed [...]

  • '2019 Oscar Nominated Short Films: Live

    Film Review: ‘2019 Oscar Nominated Short Films: Live Action’

    The Academy skewed dark in its choice of live-action shorts this year, selecting four films to slit your wrists by — each one featuring child endangerment in a different form — and a fifth, about a diabetic on her death bed, that finds a glimmer of uplift at the other end of life. If that [...]

  • How the 'Rich Eisen Show' Mixes

    How the 'Rich Eisen Show' Mixes Sports and Showbiz in an Entertaining Mix

    Walking through the El Segundo studio where veteran sportscaster Rich Eisen tapes his daily “Rich Eisen Show,” the sheer density of sports memorabilia is overwhelming — everything from game balls to jerseys, gear, autographs and uncountable photos are crammed onto every inch of wall and desk space. But step into Eisen’s dressing room, and the [...]

  • Yorgos Lanthimos

    Film News Roundup: 'The Favourite' Director Yorgos Lanthimos Boards Crime Drama

    In today’s film news roundup, Yorgos Lanthimos has set up a crime drama, “Here Lies Daniel Tate” is being adapted, and Donna Langley becomes a member of the USC film school board. DIRECTOR HIRED “The Favourite” producer-director Yorgos Lanthimos has signed on to write and direct crime drama “Pop. 1280,” an adaptation of Jim Thompson’s [...]

  • Brody Stevens Dead

    Comedian Brody Stevens Dies at 48

    Prominent Los Angeles comedian Brody Stevens died Friday in Los Angeles, Variety has confirmed. He was 48. “Brody was an inspiring voice who was a friend to many in the comedy community,” Stevens’ reps said in a statement. “He pushed creative boundaries and his passion for his work and his love of baseball were contagious. [...]

  • Contract Placeholder Business

    Hollywood Agents Blast Writers Guild Over New Proposals

    The war between the Writers Guild of America and Hollywood agents has escalated as the two sides battle over the rules on how writers are represented. The latest volley emerged Friday from Karen Stuart, executive director of the Association of Talent Agents, who accused WGA leaders of misleading its members and asserted that the guild [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content