×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Animation films call for promo redraw

New releases provide challenges to marketers

When it comes to toon tentpoles, sequels are easy, while originality spells risk.

So where does that put this year’s animated offerings?

Fox’s “Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!,” DreamWorks’ “Kung Fu Panda” and Pixar’s “Wall-E” signify major departures for their respective studios. As such, marketing efforts have been under way since last summer to message each film’s unique qualities to audiences.

“Horton,” which opens Friday, marks the first adaptation from Blue Sky Animation, the team behind the “Ice Age” franchise. Since kids aren’t likely to make this connection, Fox is pushing the fact that this beloved Dr. Seuss story boasts two A-list comedians, Jim Carrey and Steve Carell.

“Horton definitely feels like a unique character,” says Fox Animation prexy Vanessa Morisson, dismissing comparisons to Carrey’s Grinch. “The movie has the heart of what you saw in ‘Ice Age,’ but (the cast) infused these whimsical classic characters with their own modern-day spin.”

In other words, the film combines certain trademark Seussisms, such as narration that rhymes, with a fair share of pop culture references.

That approach served DreamWorks well on the “Shrek” series, but it doesn’t float for the “timeless” quality “Kung Fu Panda” directors John Stevenson and Mark Osborne had in mind for their martial arts homage. (The film, which opens June 8, screens at ShoWest tonight in Las Vegas.)

According to Stevenson, “We asked ourselves the question, ‘What if Akira Kurosawa shot a Jerry Lewis movie?'”

With Jack Black voicing the title role, laughs would come naturally, but not at the expense of the epic feel they were trying to create: In a version of ancient China where humans never existed, five critters invent kung fu’s key styles according to their unique animal qualities.

“It really all goes to serve the comedic high concept of the movie, which is stuffed animals beating the crap out of each other,” Osborne explains.

In Pixar’s nearly dialogue-free “Wall-E” (June 27), a trash-compacting droid left behind on an uninhabitable Earth falls for a newer model beamed down from space. In the robot romance that ensues, the characters communicate primarily in a language hatched by Oscar-winning sound designer Ben Burtt (the brains behind R2-D2).

Risky? Sure, but after dealing in such safe subjects as monsters, toys and cars, Pixar proved it could make even a culinary-inclined rat appealing.

DreamWorks hedges its original-idea bets with a “Madagascar” sequel due in November. The studio also plans to present a brief 3-D demo of its 2009 release “Monsters vs. Aliens” at ShoWest today.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Ayesha Curry and Stephen Curry attends

    Ayesha Curry Honored With Variety's Vivant Tastemaker Award at Napa Valley Film Festival

    The rooftop bar at the tony Archer Hotel in the heart of downtown Napa made a stunning backdrop for Variety’s Vivant party on Nov. 13. Vivant was launched at the Napa Valley Film Festival, which opened Nov. 13 with “Just Mercy.”  Variety executive VP of content Steven Gaydos introduced Variety Vivant Tastemaker honoree Ayesha Curry [...]

  • Dwayne Johnson

    Dwayne Johnson's 'Black Adam' Movie Sets Release Date

    Dwayne Johnson’s long-in-development “Black Adam” movie is slated to hit theaters just in time for the holidays. The New Line Cinema film film will debut on Dec. 22, 2021, five days after the release of James Cameron’s long-gestating “Avatar” sequel. Johnson has been attached to play the anti-hero for most of this decade. Jaume Collet-Serra, [...]

  • Sponge on the Run Trailer

    SpongeBob SquarePants Meets Keanu Reeves in 'Sponge on the Run' Trailer

    Millennials and Gen-Zers, say goodbye to the David Hasselhoff “SpongeBob” cameos of your childhood. According to the “Sponge on the Run” trailer, Keanu Reeves, or rather his floating head, will make an appearance in the upcoming film premiering May 22, 2020. The latest film in the SpongeBob franchise follows the yellow sponged hero and his [...]

  • CineAsia Conference Canceled Due to Hong

    CineAsia Conference Scrubbed Due to Hong Kong Protests

    Film Expo Group has scrubbed next month’s CineAsia conference hosted in Hong Kong, citing escalating violence in the city. “Due to the escalating violence and on-going anti-government protesting we felt it was in the best interest of all concerned to cancel the convention,” said Robert Sunshine, chairman of the Film Expo Group in a statement [...]

  • Margot Robbie Big Ticket Podcast

    Margot Robbie Was 'Pretty Rattled' After Reading the 'Bombshell' Script for the First Time

    Margot Robbie took to Twitter to prepare for her role as a conservative news producer and aspiring broadcast journalist for Fox News in “Bombshell.” “Understanding her upbringing and her point of view on politics in the world, that really took me a minute,” Robbie says on today’s episode of “The Big Ticket,” Variety and iHeart’s [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content