FEA­TURES Mer­cury & Car­toon Sa­loon form Light­house Stu­dios

Animation Magazine - - Frame- By- Frame -

Canada’s Mer­cury Film­works and Ire­land’s Car­toon Sa­loon have joined forces to cre­ate the full-ser­vice an­i­ma­tion ven­ture Light­house Stu­dios.

Based in Kilkenny, Ire­land, the stu­dio will cre­ate 140 jobs over the next three years of buildup and de­velop kids’ and fam­ily TV con­tent for global mul­ti­plat­form dis­tri­bu­tion.

eek­ing to shed its rep­u­ta­tion as a bland 1980s TV toon, Sony rein­vented The Smurfs in 2010 as a CG/live-ac­tion hy­brid movie whose se­quel proved un­able to keep up the orig­i­nal’s good re­sults. Back at square one, the stu­dio changed gears to full CG an­i­ma­tion and tapped into the rich his­tory of the Bel­gian comic that launched the lit­tle blue dudes to fame to come up with the orig­i­nal ad­ven­ture fea­ture Smurfs: The Lost Vil­lage.

Di­rec­tor Kelly As­bury, whose cred­its in­clude Spirit: Stal­lion of the Ci­mar­ron, Shrek 2 and Gnomeo & Juliet, says the comic ma­te­rial was a new and ex­cit­ing dis­cov­ery. “To read about and see those comics was re­ally what sparked me to say we need to get this back to Peyo a lit­tle more than the other films have done,” says As­bury.

Peyo is the pen name of Pierre Cul­li­ford, who cre­ated the Smurfs in 1958 and wrote and drew 16 comic-book ad­ven­tures star­ring the lit­tle blue crea­tures, with the stu­dio he founded cre­at­ing 15 more after his death in 1992 and con­tin­u­ing to­day. The strips be­came sta­ples of chil­dren’s read­ing diet in Bel­gium, France and much of Europe, sell­ing mil­lions of al­bums and in­spir­ing over the decades for­ays into mer­chan­dis­ing and an­i­ma­tion, in­clud­ing the 1981-1989 Hanna-Bar­bera se­ries that brought the Smurfs to Amer­ica.

As­bury says he wanted the world of the movie to re­flect the one Peyo put on the page, a world that was scaled down to Smurf size and told from their point of view. “That made me think of the old View-Masters, those beau­ti­ful dio­ra­mas that they would make of The Flint­stones or Bugs Bunny or Pop­eye, where they di­men­sion­al­ize these 2D char­ac­ters,” he says. “I thought, since this movie is go­ing to be 3D, let’s let peo­ple climb into that View-Mas­ter world. It’s still car­toony, it’s still fan­ci­ful, but there is a sense of re­al­ity about it.”

Head of story Bran­don Jef­fords says they

It may be the most-re­cent, cut­ting-edge re­lease from in­dus­try pow­er­house Dream­Works An­i­ma­tion, but di­rec­tor Tom McGrath says The Boss Baby is at heart a love let­ter to the his­tory of an­i­ma­tion.

“I re­ally wanted to make this feel like a Dis­ney movie from the ’50s or ’60s, when I was grow­ing up, be­cause it felt like (back then, an­i­ma­tion) was more ar­tis­ti­cally driven,” says McGrath, who pre­vi­ously directed for the stu­dio Me­gaMind and the Mada­gas­car tril­ogy. “Ev­ery­one who came on the show, I’d show them the open­ing of Lady and the Tramp just be­cause this is the epit­ome or the peak of the golden age and how it was more im­pres­sion­is­tic and less re­al­ist. … I’d say, this is not what the movie should look like, but it’s what it should feel like.”

That such touches are clear to those who look for them is one of the joys of The Boss Baby, open­ing in the­aters March 31 and based on the best-sell­ing chil­dren’s book by Marla Frazee, about a 7-year-old boy who imag­ines his new baby brother as a busi­ness-suit wear­ing boss mo­nop­o­liz­ing all his par­ents’ fam­ily time.

Austin Pow­ers tril­ogy scripter Michael McCullers ex­panded the book into a fea­ture in which the Boss Baby (Alec Bald­win) is on a se­cret mis­sion for Baby Corp.: Spy on his new par­ents, who work for ri­val Puppy Co., and find out about a se­cret new puppy it plans to launch in the on­go­ing mar­ket­place bat­tle over who gets the most love. Only the Boss Baby’s older brother Tim Tem­ple­ton (Miles Bak­shi) can see what he’s up to.

It’s a story al­most ev­ery­one on the crew found a way to con­nect with on a emo­tional level, says pro­ducer Ram­sey Naito.

“I lit­er­ally thought it was a mir­ror of my own life be­cause when my first son was 7, just like Tim Tem­ple­ton, my sec­ond son ar­rived and he

Breaks, rock band Earth, for­mer Death Cab for Cutie mem­ber Chris Walla, Seat­tle-based a cap­pella group The Bea­conettes, and folk singer Kimya Daw­son. The eclec­tic sound­scape sits nicely against the many scenic shots — oceans, deserts, and the land­scape of Amer­ica — that sit be­hind the main ac­tion in the story.

Per­haps the most-lauded se­quence in the movie is one in which Petersen goes to a Whit­ney Hous­ton con­cert with his mother and the songs “sung” by Petersen’s Hous­ton are re­ally all kind of hummed in a hi­lar­i­ous homage to one of Petersen’s mom’s fa­vorite singers. It’s some­how af­fec­tion­ate and awk­ward all at once, a qual­ity that Petersen brings to the whole work.

Petersen, a re­cent re­cip­i­ent of the Neddy Artist Award, a $25,000 prize given to in­no­va­tive artists by the Cor­nish Col­lege of the Arts, is now at work on sev­eral other projects.

“I want to make two more movies,” says Petersen. “I def­i­nitely have more sto­ries that I want to tell.” [

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