Rovio’s Maiden Flight Finnish game developer pecks out a space in the animated feature market with The Angry Birds Movie. By Karen Idelson.
As a wildly popular game, Angry Birds was one of the few properties that enjoyed the kind of awareness and excitement that just couldn’t really be topped. The Angry Birds games have been downloaded 3 billion times as of July 2015. The characters, levels and worlds created by the game designers quickly emerged as pop-culture touchstones, so it’s only natural Rovio and the producers of the big-screen take on the game wanted to stay true to the designs that captivated audiences on tiny, hand-held screens throughout the gaming universe.
Before bringing on the crew, producers David Maisel, Catherine Winder and John Cohen took the time to develop a story with screenwriter John Vitti that gives audiences real characters and something more, because just knowing the birds from the game wouldn’t be enough to carry a whole movie.
“The birds had to have heart and be relatable for kids and adults,” says Cohen. “We also had to show why the birds are angry, because that’s a question that demands an answer.”
In Red’s case, we get into his back-story and discover that, though our main character lives as part of a huge community of fellow birds, he lives alone and has been a loner for a long time. And that wasn’t always Red’s choice. We often see Red gazing through windows into the lives of other birds that live in the same village and longing to be part of whatever they’re doing.
es from the last few years — the slow-motion kitchen scene in X-Men: Days of Future Past, in which Quicksilver uses his super speed to set a group of other characters up for a chain reaction catastrophe — is adapted so that Chuck is able to pull off the same kind of thing with his super speed once inside a castle belonging to the piggies, who try to steal eggs from the hero birds.
“That was a lot of fun, to make that part of this movie. And the birds are heroic,” Reilly says. “They go from being naive and being able to be taken advantage of to a place where they learn they can defend themselves and they need Red’s ability to get angry about injustice.”
There are additional movie references sprinkled throughout as well. One especially unnerving moment finds our heroes face to face with a pair of young female piggies who look like the strange little girls from The Shining. faces and made to look more ridiculous than truly evil. And their island is populated with the kind of impossible, collapsible structures that you’d expect them to create, destroy and then just build again in their own clumsy way. According to Kaytis, destroying their island when the birds fight back after an egg theft was especially fun because of all the choreography involved in making it a real spectacle for the audience. The buildings are so tall and close together, they come down like dominoes with panicked pigs Danny McBride voices Bomb and is one of many comics whose voices are heard in Angry Birds. scattering everywhere.
With the strong primary colors and large eyes and inviting faces, the birds and pigs would be likely to draw in a younger audience or those who were dedicated to the games. But that wasn’t enough.
were trying to keep the fun but work up the stakes so that everything felt like it really had meaning.”
The characters are given a larger role and more depth than the original, discovering the existence of Voltron as the audience does — with a healthy dose of humor thrown in.
“The whole idea that there are five giant robot lions who form a giant robot guy doesn’t really lend itself to something that’s super serious and super intense,” says Montgomery. “If you put that in a hyper-realistic environment, it’s going to stick out like a sore thumb.”
Most of the crew on Voltron came over from Korra, bringing a similar anime-influenced 2D style to the show.
“We could have possibly made this into a CG show, but the original Voltron we love was 2D,” says Montgomery. “Our hearts have always been more on the 2D side of animation than the CG side, and even when we do CG, we find ourselves drawn to things that look a little more 2D inspired.”
Though Dos Santos is well known in the industry as a master of battle choreography, he relies on the crew to choreograph Voltron’s space battles.
“It is a very different thing,” says Dos Santos. “We’ve got a crew of directors and storyboard artists here that, honestly, there’s times I’m scratching my head at the things that they do, because they bring such amazing staging to these space battles.”
Another constant from Korra is the production partnership with Studio Mir in Seoul, South Korea. Montgomery and Dos Santos describe the relationship as seamless, with Mir artists contributing to preproduction as well as animation.
“We know the artists incredibly well,” says Dos Santos. “It’s not your typical work-for-hire outsource studio situation.”
The first season will have an overall arc, says Montgomery. “We try to have a story that carries throughout the episodes and has ramifications that ultimately play out through the episodes.”
“And the cool thing is you know how many episodes you have up front, so you’re able to set things up in a certain way that you were not able to in traditional media in the sense that you could start storylines that you knew were going to pay off in episode 12,” says Dos Santos. [
An essential guide to getting the most out of the 31st edition of the Annecy International Animation Film Festival and MIFA.
As Cannes is to live action, Annecy is to animation — a festival based in a beautiful location in France that elegantly and artistically celebrates the very best the medium has to offer.
That Annecy takes animation seriously has never been more clear. The features in competition show an artistic reach in both intention and execution that is light-years beyond a surface glance at the medium’s most obvious and high-profile examples. The shorts program, too, goes deep and is sure to offer unexpected rewards to those who dive in.
Annecy is increasingly a must-attend for professionals, whether it’s for delights like a masterclass with Guillermo del Toro, the riches of MIFA, the first-looks at high-profile studio projects or to see the best animation being produced in the world all in one spot.
Whether you’re heading to the event itself, or following along online at AnimationMagazine.net, what follows is the must-know, essential guide to this year’s edition of this definitive world animation event. New Zealand — Leanne Pooley
25 April re-tells the story of the Gallipoli Campaign from the point of view of a nurse and five soldiers that served in the campaign. It is presented as a documentary, with interviews based upon the diaries and letters of the real characters.
“From the first moment we set out to make the film it was a goal to have the film in competition in Annecy,” says producer Matthew Metcalfe. “We have received offers of Oscar qualifying support for the film, so we hope that playing at Annecy will add to that possibility. We also hope that the festival helps more people to see the film and enjoy its moving and empowering narrative.” Canada — Jean-François Pouliot, François Brisson
This animated remake of a Quebec classic was an instant hit when it was released last year in Canada. Telling the tale of rival groups
of children who stage the ultimate snowball fight, it subsequently played at Sundance and was released in English in both Canada and the United States. The story behind the making of the movie was spotlighted in Animation Magazine #258. France — Sébastien Laudenbach
The feature debut of well-known shorts-maker Sébastien Laudenbach, who animated the entire film himself as an adaptation of a Brothers Grimm tale. Producer Jean-Christophe Soulageon says the project has been in the works for Laudenbach since 2001, but it was three years ago the filmmaker decided to make it himself. “He was doing alone the work of an entire team of animators, and as we already were working on an artwork project, we decided to do it together,” says Soulageon. Made for a modest 380,000 euros, the movie is being represented by Pyramide for international sales while GKIDS has picked it up for North America, he says. France, Switzerland — Claude Barras
The acclaimed shorts director adapts the French novel Autobiography of a Courgette in stop-motion with results that wowed critics when it screened at Cannes. The movie follows a boy who ends up in an orphanage for misfits and gets into some intimate territory likely to tease tears from even the most jaded adult viewers. USA — Penny Lane
Another Sundance hit, Nuts! is an animated documentary about a Kansas doctor who, in 1917, claimed that he could cure impotence by transplanting goat testicles into men. And that was only the first step in this famed con-man’s tale. “I believe that more than any other single human quality, it is our love of great stories that makes us so endlessly susceptible to being conned,” says Lane on her website.
“We believe the stories we want or need to believe, and we believe anyone who tells them to us. Con men know this.”
(France) Director: Mélanie (Australia) Direc-
TBreakthrough embarks on a new kids’ content adventure with Margaret Atwood and By Tom McLean & Mercedes Milligan.
oronto-based production and distribution house Breakthrough Entertainment, now in its 31st year, has undergone much growth and evolution in the last three decades. From its first series, a live-action and puppetry show called The Adventures of Dudley the Dragon, to its first fully-animated hit, Atomic Betty (produced with Atomic Cartoons), and into its high-profile dips into primetime animation with Producing Parker and Mother Up, Breakthrough has consistently ventured into new corners of the market.
The studio’s animation catalog includes international hits My Big Big Friend (with 2D Lab in Brazil), Josh Selig’s hybrid series The Adventures of Napkin Man (Little Tugboat), Rocket Monkeys (Atomic Cartoons), Crash Canyon, Captain Flamingo and more. These will soon be joined by Breakthrough’s latest production, Wandering Wenda for CBC in Canada.
The project came about when a friend of executive producers Joan Lambur and Ira Levy introduced them to bestselling author Margaret Atwood, and they got excited about her kids’ book Wandering Wenda: And Widow Wallop’s Wunderground Washery. Atwood explained she wanted to engage young kids and parents with the English language through word play and fanciful stories. Breakthrough took the author in to pitch the show to CBC, who decided on a series of 26 eight-minute episodes, one for each letter of the alphabet.
“Margaret Atwood was very involved in the process at the start, but once she was comfortable with the direction she let Breakthrough take control,” Levy says via email. “She loved creatively what they were doing. They show her scripts and drawings for input, but she is on board with the team and where they are taking the series.”
Slated for delivery in April 2017, Wandering Wenda will transport young viewers into a world of action, adventure and alliteration with Wenda and her best friends Wu and Wesley Woodchuck. When Wenda inevitably finds herself in the middle of mayhem, she uses her words, changing them to adapt the world around her to escape sticky situations.
Levy shares that the writing stage is almost completed, with executive story editor Alan Gregg heading a six-person team in Toronto. A part live-action opening sequence with Atwood has been shot, the series has been cast and Wenda has begun voice recording and storyboarding episodes. Breakthrough is working with Ottawa’s PIP Animation, where director Steve Nielsen and a 50-plus person team are handling design, color, layouts, builds and animation. Jason Hopley serves as showrunner.
“This is just the latest major development with (Breakthrough’s) on-going commitment to doing great kids programs, working with brands wherever possible,” says Levy, citing both Atwood’s Wenda and the studio’s adaptation of L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. “Animation is a very important part of overall strategy for kids entertainment at Breakthrough.”
The studio plans to debut Wandering Wenda at either MIP or Kidscreen next year. The studio is lining up publishing partners and looking toward a selective, interactive-heavy L&M strategy that furthers Atwood’s original aim: to entertain and educate. And, Levy promises, Breakthrough is in development on even more new animation properties with Canadian and international partners, so stay tuned. [