FEATURES Mercury & Cartoon Saloon form Lighthouse Studios
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.” [