With Universal and Illumination Entertainment’s Hop opening April 1, I was able to sit down with Christopher Meledandri (CEO of Illumination) earlier today for an extended interview. As most of you know, Illumination’s first movie, Despicable Me, went on to earn over five hundred and twenty seven million dollars at the worldwide box office. Not bad for a film that had no build in audience.
Over the past year, Illumination has been developing a number of projects and towards the end of my interview, I asked Meledandri about each of them. So if you’re curious about the status of Curious George, Tim Burton’s stop-motion animation adaptation of The Addams Family, Ricky Gervais’ Flanimals, The Lorax, and the Despicable Me sequel, hit the jump:
“We’re writing right now, so it’s in [the] scripting phase. We’re writing it as a film that is a combination of CG and live-action, and we won’t decide whether or not we’re actually gonna make it until after the scripting process.”
“Larry Karaszewski and Scott Alexander (writers of Ed Wood) are writing the script, and we worked through initial story phases with them and Tim [Burton] and they’re off writing the script right now as we speak. That’s one of those where, you know Tim is probably the busiest person in terms of people wanting him to make films as anybody could be, and if everything else were to fall into place, the most important of which is that Tim has to decide, when he has a script, if it’s something that he wants to move forward with, but we can’t move faster than Frankenweenie’s schedule which is in production now. And so that has to finish and come to fruition before there’s even a place for us to make the film.”
“We’ve got a terrific draft of the script that Matt Selman (The Simpsons) has written, and we’ve got some early visual development that we’ve been doing. We’re taking the project, now that we’ve done some early artwork, we’re evolving it both visually and in script form simultaneously, so it’s a little bit further ahead than the other projects.”
“Danny DeVito [is] voicing the Lorax and ZacEfron [is] voicing the role of Ted in a cast that involves Rob Riggle, Betty White [and] Taylor Swift. It’s a terrific voice cast. The film is visually absolutely distinctive and extremely powerful visually. It is a complex film from a story perspective, because the film is a story within a story. We’re, I’d say, about 30% through animation [and] I’m very pleased with how it’s going.”
The Future of Illumination Entertainment
“We’ve announced one picture a year through 2013, which will be the Despicable Me sequel. And we’ve just also announced that we’re scaling up the company to be prepared to move from one picture a year, which is the schedule that we’ve been on, to two pictures a year. We’ll only move there if we actually find the second picture that we’re compelled to make. One picture a year is absolutely our goal, or what we feel is the sort of foundational goal. We’re staffing to look at the possibility by 2013 going to two pictures a year.”
If you’re a fan of animation, this is a very exciting time. It also sounds like Flanimals might be the next project they announce. What I really like about Meledandri is that he talks a lot about the script and how that will decide if they make the movie.
Here’s the part of the interview on future projects. You can expect the full twenty minute interview the week of release.