At the Annecy International Animation Film Festival, Sony Pictures Animation announced its intentions to diversify its slate of projects with some alternative animation for adults, and the beginning of a potentially valuable strategic partnership with China’s Tencent production banner.
Following the success of last year’s bold, unique Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Sony Pictures Animation wants to venture into less explored terrain on the animation front. This includes a reimagining of the Adult Swim series The Boondocks, a dimwitted superhero comedy series called Superbago, the anthology horror series Hungry Ghosts, and two feature films from Genndy Tartakovsky geared toward adult audiences called Black Knight and Fixed. Plus, the company is bringing in China to help out with Jackie Chan‘s animated family friendly project Wish Dragon.
Sony Pictures Animation isn’t abandoning its post in providing children’s entertainment. It still has plenty of upcoming projects intended for kids and families, including the upcoming Wish Dragon. The film is in production now, and the studio has just announced that it’s brought in Tencent from China to help produce the movie, and they’ll also be releasing the movie in that territory in 2020.
Wish Dragon hails from Jackie Chan and his Beijing Sarkle Roll Media and Base Media, and is being directed by Chris Appelhans. The film follows an encounter between a boy, Din, and an invisible dragon (for everybody else) who is able to make wishes come true. What Din wants, more than anything else, is to be reunited with his childhood friend Li Na, who was taken away from their humble Shanghai hood by her nouveau rich father, and now models luxury goods like Rodex watches with her image spread-eagled over billboards in Shanghai.
Producer Aaron Warner says it celebrates “hard work, honesty, family and friendship.” And this is just the first step in creating more projects that embrace the globe and the unique stories that come from outside the United States. He added (via Cartoon Brew):
“We are at a very critical point in our history as humans. The future is all of us working together, learning from each other’s stories, mistakes and triumphs. There are countless great stories out there that most of the world has never heard, and every day there’s a new director, writer or artist with a vision stepping up to the plate to lead a team and create something new. I truly believe this is the next big leap in the art form of animation and I’m honored, humbled, and incredibly lucky to be part of this project.”
Sony is now working with talents from China, Korea, India, Indonesia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Spain, France, Mexico, Colombia, and Brazil to help expand their international appeal with animated stories.
Alternative Projects: Boondocks Return, Genndy Tartakovsky’s Movies & More
On the alternative side of animation, Sony Pictures Animation is really looking to set itself apart from the rest of the major animation studios out there. That begins with projects that are geared more towards adults in both film and television. As you can see, that new logo at the top of the page (which will be used as part of their new endeavor) gets rid of the more cartoony logo and is a little more sleek. Here’s a rundown of how it plans to expand its approach:
The Bookdocks – The Adult Swim series ended in 2014 with a final season that didn’t have series creator Aaron McGruder at the helm. But thankfully, he’s returning for Sony’s “complete re-imagining of the beloved and wildly rebellious animated satire for this modern era, and chronicles the adventures of the Freeman family against the evil local government tyrant Uncle Ruckus, who rules fictional Woodcrest County, Maryland with an iron fist.” With the nightmare that is Donald Trump in office right now, we need social satire like this more than ever, especially when it comes to racial commentary.
Hungry Ghosts – Based on the Dark Horse Graphic Novel of the same name by Anthony Bourdain and Joel Rose, this anthology series will showcase “frightening, hilarious, twisted, and culinary-inspired ghost stories.” What’s cool about this series is that every single episode will have a style and tone all its own, using various forms of animation to tell the stories.
Superbago – From Stoopid Buddy Stoodios, superheroes are getting a claymation makeover in this half-hour comedy about “two dimwitted animated heroes traveling in a very real Winnebago around the actual U. S. of America, hoping to become real super heroes.” That makes it sound like the series will blend animation with live-action, which could be interesting. This was apparently once in development as a feature at Sony Pictures Animation, but they changed it into a series.
Black Knight – Genndy Tartakovsky is getting back into martial arts territory with this feature film that won’t be explicitly geared towards kids. At Annecy, Tartakovsky made an appearance to discuss his new project, saying, “If you take any action movie you’ve ever loved and you add ninjas,” you get Black Night. The film will follow a highly skilled and loyal knight who, after failing to protect his king, must transform himself into the Black Knight to save the kingdom. If you’ve seen Samurai Jack, then you know this is something that could be awesome.
Fixed – Previously announced as Sony Pictures Animation’s first R-rated project, new details have emerged about this movie. The story follows an average dog, who is in love with the show dog next door and suddenly learns he is going to get neutered the next morning. What does a dog do with his last night out with his besties? More than likely it will have him enjoying his final days attached to his balls. Tartakovsky said, “It’s really funny and heartwarming, it’s not all about balls, we’re trying to make it a character comedy.”
It certainly sounds like the people at Sony Pictures Animation have some ambitious ideas in their heads about how to make animation seem like less of a kids-only medium on the big screen and get more adults in seats without their kids to enjoy a different type of storytelling. Movie studios have yet to tap into the potential of animation for adults, while television has been running with it for years. Hopefully this is the beginning of an exciting diversification of the medium on the big screen in a variety of ways.
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