×

‘Tom and Jerry,’ ‘Scooby-Doo’ Movies Land Top Filmmaking Talent at Warner Animation (EXCLUSIVE)

Warner Bros. has big ambitions for its animation division, and the studio has zeroed in on the talent to help steer the ship on two popular properties.

Sources tell Variety that Warners and Warner Animation Group (WAG) are in negotiations with “Shaft” helmer Tim Story to direct the new “Tom and Jerry” live-action/animated hybrid. The studio has also brought on Chris Columbus as creative producer on the new “Scooby-Doo” animated movie.

Warners has been strengthening its animation slate since production on the “The Lego Movie,” which coincided with the formation of Warner Animation Group in 2013. Allison Abbate was tapped to oversee the division and executives, including Jesse Ehrman and president of production Courtenay Valenti, have made a big push to get classic titles like the Hanna-Barbera properties off the ground.

The studio understands how much of its history is rooted in these iconic characters, and wants to give them as much attention as DC and Harry Potter projects.

Warner Bros. is aiming for a balance of animated features and live-action hybrids, and in a rare move, the studio has made a concerted effort to make sure the animation and live-action teams are working hand in hand in developing these projects, something rarely seen at other studios. Executives also understand that for the animation to be strong for the hybrid projects, the VFX some studios use won’t work as well as going through the animation process, starting with storyboarding the characters, instead of pre-vis, to help develop each individual’s arc.

“Tom and Jerry” is expected to be the first live-action hybrid to shoot in 2019 and insiders say timing helped when it came to landing the “Ride Along” director, who had worked in animation. Story recently finished production on New Line’s “Shaft” reboot, and was talking to WB execs about what he was interested in doing next. When the classic cartoon property was brought up, Story immediately mentioned his admiration for the characters and how he’d love tackling that property.

For that film, the plan is to shoot in the real world with animated versions of the familiar cat and mouse duo. Sources also say that since Tom and Jerry didn’t speak and relied on physical comedy to draw laughs, this version will stick to that style and not cast actors to voice the duo. That decision should also help add to the international appeal of the film.

The other major live-action hybrid expected to go next year is the sequel to “Space Jam,” with NBA superstar LeBron James stepping into Michael Jordan’s shoes as he teams up with the Looney Tunes on the court this time around. “Black Panther” director Ryan Coogler is producing with Terence Nance directing. Production is expected to kick off next summer during James’ NBA off-season.

The studio is also making a “Wile E. Coyote vs. ACME” hybrid feature, with Chris McKay from the Lego universe helping shepherd development.

On the animation side, the untitled Scooby-Doo movie is full steam ahead with an expected release date in the first quarter of 2020. Columbus’ interest in the film started when he was developing the “Gremlins” reboot, which he is producing. Insiders say his affection for the character and WB animation was apparent, and he was soon asked to join the production as a creative producer working side by side with director Tony Cervone. Kelly Fremon Craig is writing the screenplay from a draft by Jack Donaldson and Derek Elliott. Matt Lieberman penned first draft.

WAG is also gearing up on its “Jetsons” movie with Matt Lieberman and “Sausage Party” director Conrad Vernon, and is also in deep development on “Flintstones” and “Wacky Races” features.

Outside of the classic cartoons, the Lego universe is still a major focus, with the sequel to “The Lego Movie 2” set for Feb. 8, 2019.

The studio clearly sees this division as one of its top priorities going forward in terms of building its business for years to come. As for all the DC-related properties and the possibility of giving them the animated treatment, one studio insider said, “don’t count anything out.”

More Film

  • UglyDolls

    STX Tries to Put Flops Behind It As It Searches For Star Executive, Fresh Capital

    After a series of film flops and an aborted initial public offering, STX Entertainment is battling mounting skepticism that it can survive in an increasingly unforgiving movie business. As it hustles to find $500 million in fresh capital, the company, which operates in the red according to financial disclosures, is simultaneously hoping to attract a [...]

  • Ryan Simpkins

    Ryan Simpkins Joins Fox-Disney's 'Fear Street' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Ryan Simpkins has joined Fox-Disney’s second installment of 20th Century Fox and Chernin Entertainment’s “Fear Street” trilogy, based on the novels by R.L. Stine. Leigh Janiak is helming all three films. Previously announced cast includes Gillian Jacobs, Sadie Sink, Emily Rudd, McCabe Slye, Kiana Madeira, Olivia Welch, Benjamin Flores Jr., Ashley Zukerman, Fred Hechinger, Julia [...]

  • MPAA Logo

    Motion Picture Association of America Hires Emily Lenzner as Communications Chief

    The Motion Picture Association of America has appointed veteran public relations executive Emily Lenzner as its executive VP of global communications and public affairs. She will report to Chairman and CEO Charles Rivkin and oversee the trade group’s communications team in the U.S. and internationally. Lenzner will start Aug. 1 and be based at the MPAA’s [...]

  • 'Cats' Teaser Trailer: See Taylor Swift

    Taylor Swift Unveils Feline Moves in 'Cats' Behind-the-Scenes Teaser

    Taylor Swift fans finally get to see some of the results of all those years spent studying her roommates Meredith and Olivia — and also, not incidentally, some time with a choreographer — in a new behind-the-scenes teaser for the movie “Cats.” The three-and-a-half-minute featurette has footage of Swift striking crouching feline moves as well [...]

  • CGR’s Immersive Premium Format Set for

    Immersive Theater Technology Set for US Debut in Los Angeles

    French multiplex company CGR Cinemas has selected the Regal LA Live as the first U.S. theater to use its Immersive Cinema Experience technology. The ICE format will be unveiled in the fall at the downtown location in a partnership between CGR and AEG. The companies made the announcement Wednesday but did not reveal which title [...]

  • Amazon Developing Original Series Based on

    Amazon Studios Buys 'Selah and the Spades,' Will Develop Original Series (EXCLUSIVE)

    Amazon Studios has acquired worldwide rights to “Selah and the Spades,” a gripping look at a prep school drug dealer, Variety has learned. The film marks the feature debut of writer and director Tayarisha Poe and had its world premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival where it was a favorite with critics. Amazon has [...]

  • The Ultimate Guide to 2019 Comic-Con

    The Ultimate Guide to 2019 Comic-Con Parties and Activations

    Hollywood is heading down the California coast to San Diego because It’s time for 2019 Comic-Con International. The annual cosplay celebration officially kicks off tomorrow, July 18, with a preview happening tonight. Here, Variety gives you a guide to this year’s parties and activations. Make sure to check back for updates. Wednesday, July 17Amazon Prime [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content