Warner Discovery came out at Annecy all three animation cylinders firing, Cartoon Network Studios, Warner Bros. Animation and Hanna-Barbera Studios Europe coming together to host a joint sneak peek presentation of their upcoming slates. They make a formidable combination.
The biggest news was an exclusive, multiyear cross-studio overall deal inked between Cartoon Network Studios and Warner Bros. Animation and “Primal” creator Genndy Tartakovsky.
Warner Bros. Animation also unveiled “Bye Bye Bunny: A Looney Tunes Musical,” the first-ever Looney Tunes Original animated movie musical.
In further news, Brian Cox, Miranda Otto, Gaia Wise and Luke Pasqualino feature among key voice cast in New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. Animation’s upcoming anime movie “The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim.”
A 75-minute three studio focus had plenty more highlights, however, including the unexpected announcement of a new stop-motion “Wacky Races” reboot in development at Hanna-Barbera.
Cartoon Network Studios unveiled new first look images from “Adventure Time: Fionna and Cake” while, for Hanna-Barbera, creator Ben Bocquelet’s teased updates on “Gumball” projects, a movie and then a new TV series.
Warner Bros. Animation also revealed more art for its “Velma” adult animation series.
Packed and pacy, the Focus showed each studio playing to its strengths and cultures, Genndy Tartakovsky – who sat on a first panel flanked by CNS Nicole Rivera, VP, Development, and Sammy Perlmutter, VP, longform and specials – is an icon of CNS’ drive to prioritize the production of original ideas, working with quirky, more avant garde artists.
After “Primal,” a dialogue-less and devastatingly brutal tale set in a prehistoric age, Tartakovsky unveiled on Tuesday a sneak peak of his new series “Unicorn: Warriors Eternal.”
It could hardly be more different in many ways to “Primal,” weighing in as a supernatural fantasy, set in a steampunk city, replete with smoking factory stacks and Victorian architecture but drawn in soft-toned 2D textures.
WBA in contrast is dipping into its library of iconic fiction figures to create shows and features to appeal to a complete range of audience demos from preschool to adults, sometimes with the same iconic character.
The Annecy Studio Focus was a case in point, Audrey Diehl WBA SVP, series, walked the Annecy audience through preschool series “Batwheels,” while “Merry Little Batman” also presented, weighs in as an animated family action comedy, and “Batman: Caped Crusader,” from executive producers Bruce Timm, J.J. Abrams and Matt Reeves, looks from a very early lighting design image displayed at Annecy to skew much older in its dark and stylised noirish tones. Peter Girardi, WBA Animation EVP, alternative programming, described it as “an evolution of the ‘Batman: The Animated Series’ in technique and style.”
Held Wednesday at Annecy’s Imperial Palace, home this week to its MIFA market, the Studio Focus was moderated by Sam Register, president of all three animation studios.
In what looks indicative of his managerial style of letting creativity drive shows, however, Register largely gave the stage to the 10 animation artists and creative executives who sat on the three studio panels.
“Unicorn: Warriors Eternal”
Greeted by whoops of enthusiasm from an Annecy audience mostly made up of French animation students, Tartakovsky – a hugely popular figure at Annecy where audience know animation history – introduced footage of “Unicorn.” In it, a giant mammoth rampages through a steampunk city street attacking helpless kindergarten school pupils who are rescued by a figure with a top hat, flaming supernatural eyes and a steel barrel body and a dashing sword-wielding warrior decked out in a red Medieval cape.
As they fend it off, the Mammoth sets its sights on a trembling tween goth girl in the street, who looks poised to become the series’ hero.
“Everything that I’ve done is building to this show because it has comedy, it has action and adventure, it has great drama and it’s an amazing, gigantic world,” Tartakovsky said at the CNS panel.
“Adventure Time: Fionna and Cake”
The mere mention of “Adventure Time” elicited whoops of approval from the Annecy audience. In France, it figures as a modern classic. A palpable collective grasp was heard as CNS’ Rivera unveiled a first never-seen before image of “Fionna and Cake,” the gender-swapped alternative versions of the main characters from the original series. In it, they have awakened in an alternative world where there is no magic and they can’t remember their lives of adventures. Fionna is pictured sitting in a room drawn with crafted detail which yet seems to have been drained of color, its tones reduced to a dun brown. “Adventure Time” audiences have aged up over time and so has “Fionna and Cake,” which will be the first “Adventure Time” series made for a young adult audience, Register said.
“The Amazing World of Gumball”
In the funniest part of the whole three studio presentation, creator Ben Bocquelet revealed everything he could about the upcoming movie, which turned out to be pretty well nothing at all. In a comic anti-presentation, Bocquelot flicked up on the stage screen the first page of the screenplay, nearly all of its words rejected, so blocked out. A style guide was heavily pixelated, making of scenes obscured.
“This is a surprise take on the classic movie version of the TV show where we had to develop a whole universe for it,” Bocquelot did say. “This strange, generous, movie pushed us into new animation techniques that, to my knowledge, had never been used in that way before” he added.
Few details were given, but the Hanna-Barbera panel did show a brief, speeded-up making of, recording the construction of a Muttley model which at the end of the clip emits his memorable rasping snigger.
“Merry Little Batman”
Billed as “an animated family action comedy destined to join the rogue’s gallery of classic holiday movies,” a sneak peek excerpt has six-year-old Damian Wayne alone in Wayne Manor as two thieves creep in to case the joint, but gasp in horror as they see Batman at the top of the stairs. It is, in fact, Damian perched on top of a giant vase, grinning with glee.
“Harley Quinn,” Season 3
Just about to premiere on HBO Max, and received with whoops of approval at Annecy, Season 3 was unveiled via first look art by Jennifer Coyle, the show’s co-executive producer. It begins where Season 2 pretty well left off, she said, with Harley and Ivy now together and on an unofficial honeymoon. One still had them sitting together on a sunny beach. But their honeymoon does have explosions and Quinn will re-meet Batman, another image revealed. Coyle promised the series will have new characters, “twists and turns” and “take audiences to places and show things you don’t see anywhere else,” flicking up an image of what looks like an S&M bar, with a man having his bare bottom spanked. “Here Commissioner Gordon finds himself in a very weird place,” Coyle commented.
Introduced via first-look art, “Velma,” a “Scooby-Doo” adult animation spin-off, unveiled new images beyond one already seen of a murder victim’s head cut in half, focusing more on the supernatural elements of the series – a women transforms into a long-necked monster, Velma’s face is seen covered by what looked like snake-like arms. Velma develops her detective skills investigating the disappearance of her mother. “We’ve seen these characters in preschool and 6-11 shows, but now evolving them into an adult animation space has been something we’ve been working on for a long time,” said Peter Girardi, WBA EVP, alternative programming.
“Bye Bye Bunny: A Looney Tunes Musical”
Announced Wednesday in some detail, “Bye Bye Bunny” was not so much seen as heard at the Annecy Festival. One brief image shows Bugs and Daffy tied up, presumably after Bugs attempts to rescue Daffy, who is kidnapped by a fan. The Annecy Focus climaxed, however, with a clip of composer and song-writer Tom Kitt (“Next to Normal”) performing at a piano the movie’s “I Want” style song – where characters in musicals often set out in its early going what they really want and then go on to attempt to achieve it. Here, according to the lyrics which will bet sung by Bugs, a weary Bugs wants to retire, stop being Bugs Bunny and become himself. “The show must go on, but why can’t it go on without me?” Kitt sung. As he did, scenes from classic Looney Tunes shorts flashed up on the Annecy stage screen, watched by the audience with reverence.