Earlier today, I attended a DreamWorks Animation event at the Pacific Design Center here in Los Angeles. The purpose of the event was to showcase what DreamWorks will be releasing in 2010 to an audience of journalists from around the world. While some of the footage was not complete, the studio showed us the opening thirty minutes of Shrek Forever After, a few scenes from Megamind, and all of an almost-completed How to Train Your Dragon.
The quick info is…I thought all the footage looked great. And this is coming from someone that hated Shrek the Third. More after the jump:
While Megamind doesn’t get released until the end of the year, this was the movie they started with.
The presentation began with director Tom McGrath (Madagascar) talking about the film and the premise. Imagine if Superman (without the powers but same origin) was raised by criminals. That’s Megamind (voiced by Will Ferrell). The back-story is Megamind was sent to Earth but instead of being raised by caring parents, he landed in a prison yard and was taught his values by criminals. Of course no villain is complete without a superhero to fight, and that would be Metro Man (who is being voiced by Brad Pitt). And like any good superhero story , there has to be a woman who is the center of it all, and she’s a reporter named Rozanne (voiced by Tina Fey).
What’s interesting about the film is that it’s a new take on the superhero genre. Instead of following the superhero, Megamind is the story of a villain who actually succeeds in defeating his arch nemesis. Imagine if Lex Luthor finally got rid of Superman….what would he do? That’s the film’s premise.
The footage we saw was towards the beginning of the film. We were introduced to all the characters and we got to see how the world loves Metro Man. Due to some luck, Megamind defeats him…much to the surprise and shock of everyone. Soon after, he realizes what is life without someone to fight. So he creates a new good-guy nemesis (voiced by Jonah Hill). But his grand plan takes an unexpected turn and he’s forced to decide what side is he really on.
While the animation was rough and unfinished, the story was interesting and I laughed a number of times. That’s how you know if a story works: if you are caring about the characters and story even if there is not much to look at on screen. Also, hearing Will Ferrell, Brad Pitt and Tina Fey arguing back and forth was great. Again, the movie is a “what if” take on the Superman story, and it looked like it’s going to be a lot of fun.
Shrek Forever After
The next footage we saw was the opening thirty minutes of Shrek Forever After.
While some of you might have enjoyed the first three Shrek films, I thought the first one was a lot of fun, and each sequel has gotten worse. I downright hated the most recent film, Shrek the Third.
So I’m surprised to report the first thirty minutes of Shrek Forever After looked great and I think it’s going to be a movie worth seeing. While I don’t want to spoil everything we saw, Shrek Forever After is It’s a Wonderful Life set in the world of Shrek.
The basic premise is Shrek is tired of his life and family and he makes a deal with Rumpelstiltskin to get a day to himself, away from everyone and everything. But what Shrek doesn’t know is Rumpelstiltskin is out for himself and his magic contracts are not as clear as he lets on. So while Shrek expected to go back home after a short one day vacation, he awakens in a universe where no one knows him and he’s no longer married to Fiona. Of course this is where the lights came up in the theater.
As I said before, I didn’t like the last two Shrek movies, and while this is clearly a “Be Happy with Your Life”-kind-of story, the jokes worked and the animation (which was almost complete) looked really good. Also, all DreamWorks animated movies are now in 3D, and I thought it really added to the story. Again, happily surprised by what I saw of the film today.
How to Train Your Dragon
Finally, we were shown the almost completed How to Train Your Dragon in its entirety. The film features the voices of Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, America Ferrera, Craig Ferguson, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kristen Wiig, and T.J. Miller.
If you’ve seen the preview (click here to watch it), you know it’s about a teenage viking named Hiccup who doesn’t fit in with the rest of his tribe. Instead of wanting to kill dragons, he gets along with the creatures and wants to teach his tribe that killing isn’t the answer. Of course he needs to overcome a number of obstacles before his tribe will listen to him, and you know where the story is going to end.
Saying that, I really enjoyed the movie. Jay Baruchel is great as Hiccup and the story is timeless. Since we’re not supposed to review the film, I’ll just say that DreamWorks delivered something worth checking out and, like the other movies, it looked great in 3D.
How to Train Your Dragon is set to hit theaters on March 26th, Shrek Forever After on May 21st, and Megamind on November 5th.
After the presentation ended, there was a meet and greet with some of the filmmakers and Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, and Craig Ferguson. For some reason I thought we weren’t allowed to bring recorders to the event, so while I was able to speak with everyone – including Jeffrey Katzenberg – I have no quotes. Saying that, everyone was incredibly nice and these kinds of meet and greets are a definite perk of the job.
Since these films will all be doing a lot of promotional stuff throughout the year, expect plenty of interviews with the filmmakers and cast as they are getting ready to come out. Until then…I hope you’re a bit more excited for all three animated DreamWorks films. I know I am.