ANNECY, France — If Allison Abbate wanted to win over the hearts of an Annecy audience presenting Warner Animation Group’s upcoming lineup, she did so conclusively attempting to still talk up the slate even as she fainted onstage at Annecy’s Pierre Lamy auditorium.
By the time that she passed out – which was just momentarily – she was being helped to a chair onstage by Warner Bros. France’s Olivier Snanoudj and Reel FX’s Chuck Peil and did not incur any physical injury from her swoon. Abbate was helped off stage by the two execs to maybe the most heartfelt applause of any presentation at Annecy from an audience which had already cheered her when she made her stage entrance some five minutes earlier: She is a much liked and respected member of the Hollywood animation community.
Snanoudj, flanked by Peil whose Reel FX is creating “S.C.O.O.B,” went on to present briefly the footage which Abbate would have talked up during her presentation. Peil said after the presentation that Abbate was “feeling much better.”
A veteran of onstage presentations, Abbate had said she was feeling “really quite dizzy” and “a little worried I might fall down” some seven minutes after taking to the stage where she began to deliver a speech which looked back through her career and nailed the essence of what she wanted to talk about: “What is WAG, what is its corporate directive, the way it makes movies? And how will we moving forward set ourselves apart from the other studios.”
Though talking standing up at a podium under hot stage lights, and pausing from near the beginning of her presentationto recollect herself, Abbate nobly soldiered on until suggesting she really felt dizzy – which is when Snanoudj and Peil leapt to the stage to help her to a seat. Peil said that Abbate had been feeling “lightheaded” for several days.
The Annecy audience warmed to her courage in trying to deliver her presentation; they also warmed to the footage which Abbate had prepared, including what was very possibly a world-first footage sneak-peek at “Smallfoot,” coming out in fall of 2018, with some of the funniest scenes currently still story-boards sketches. Snanoudj also presented teasers from “The Lego Ninjago Movie,” to be released in September, and the upcoming “The Lego Movie 2,” and “S.C.O.O.B.”
The shortened session ended with a rousing applause for the footage, and also for Allison Abbate.
The footage showcased four upcoming WAG movies. Flipping the myth of the Yeti on its head – it is now the hero, a Yeti, who believes humans really do exist – “Smallfoot” was presented at Annecy in very-first footage, said Snanoudj, It is still in very early stages of production: About half the scene screened at Annecy were animatic storyboards.
Warmly received, they picture a Bigfoot attempting to make his way from the highest crags to the valley by jumping through the clouds below. Working up his courage, he finally jumps, to plunge so long that he has time to scream his guys out, catch his breath, and scream his guts out again.
Plunging into deep snow, he glimpses a light in a valley beyond, reaches it to discover that it is Yak Shak tavern and gains his first glimpse of what he has always believed in: a human being silhouette by bright back light standing in the tavern doorway. Cleanly illuminated by huge sweeps of blue sky and white snow, “Smallfoot” looks to turn on the faith of an innocent, a creature who believes in humanity and will soon be sorely tested to believe in humanity’s goodness.
“The perfect word to describe Smallfoot is adorable,” Snanoudj said. Channing Tatum, Zendaya and Gina Rodriguez voice star.
“The Lego Movie” grossed $469.2 million, released this February, “The Lego Batman Movie” earned $310.9 million and glowing reviews: Variety called it a film which “uses the towering plasticity of Lego to tweak a superhero culture (namely, ours) that pretends to be about nobility but is really about the vain delusion of full-time fantasy.” The follow-up takes on the Ninja culture.
In the sequence shown at Annecy the grandmaster of the six young Ninjago heroes – white cloaked, straw-hatted, white-bearded, beats the hell out of a villain in an OTT pole smackdown of such ferocity as to belie his venerability. All one Watching the master’s triumph, all one young Ninja can do is utter the word “Gasp””
Snanoudg described “The Lego Ninjago” movie as “a very big IP, a whole new world and very funny.”
The Warner Bros.France head delighted the auditorium by showing a composite trailer of clips, interspersed with observations from the creative team, from the upcoming sequel to 2014 breakout hit “The Lego Movie.” After assuring that the most popular characters would return he warned, “Everyone has changed except for Emmett.” The musical film will spoof the damsel in distress trope after Will Arnett’s Lego Batman is hijacked to Finn’s sister’s room and Emmett (Chris Pratt), must once again save the day.
The showcase concluded with a feature film which Reel FX is making for Warner Bros., which will look to light the fuse on “a Justice League of characters from the Hannah Barbara universe,” Peil teased, drawing big applause, though without going into any detail.
The match which will be used is the newest Scooby Doo reboot, entitled “S.C.O.O.B.” It will look to do something new with the franchise and send the fearful Great Dane, along with his buddy Shaggy, on their very own adventures, although the audience was assured the whole gang will be represented in the film.
Sanoundj and Peil delighted a young Annecy crowd with a teaser which underscored two factors which surely mark WAG apart: Its heritage franchises; and a sense of ensemble frenzy, with characters which tap now pop culture and physical comedy, – without their movies reneging on sometimes surprising depth for those that seek it.