Today, DreamWorks Animation presented a sneak peek at the three films set for release in 2013: The Croods, Turbo and Mr. Peabody & Sherman. While the films are in varying stages of completeness, clips from each movie were screened to give the audience a sense of tone, story and aesthetics. Not familiar with the movies in question? Here’s a look at the relevant directors and voice casts:
- The Croods – Directed by Chris Sanders and Kirk DeMicco, and featuring the voices of Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Cloris Leachman and Clark Duke, The Croods opens March 22, 2013 in 3D.
- Turbo – Directed by David Soren and featuring a voice cast including Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Michael Peña, Luis Guzman, Bill Hader, Richard Jenkins, Ken Jeong, Michelle Rodriguez, Maya Rudolph, Ben Schwartz, Kurtwood Smith, Snoop Dogg and Samuel L. Jackson, Turbo opens July 19, 2013 in 3D.
- Mr. Peabody & Sherman – Directed by Rob Minkoff and featuring the voices of Ty Burrell, Max Charles, Ariel Winter, Allison Janney, Stephen Colbert, Stephen Tobolowsky, Mel Brooks, Leslie Mann and Stanley Tucci, Mr. Peabody & Sherman opens November 1, 2013 in 3D.
Hit the jump for a recap of the sneak peeks.
Since DreamWorks Animation signed a five-year distribution deal with 20th Century Fox just this past summer, it made sense that the studio would choose the Fox lot to host their presentation. 2013 marks the beginning of an ambitious plan for DreamWorks Animation to launch three films a year. Bill Damaschke, head of creative for DreamWorks, opened the presentation with:
Based on title characters created by Jay Ward (whose daughter Tiffany is an executive producer on the film), Mr. Peabody & Sherman centers on the smartest dog in the world and his boy, respectively. After being in various states of production over the last seven years, the project is currently under the direction of Rob Minkoff (The Lion King). Since it’s still about a year away from being released, this picture had the roughest animation of the three. However, a finished and refined introductory clip for the title characters showed Mr. Peabody (voiced by Burrell) and Sherman (Charles) in fully-realized, computer-generated three-dimensional bodies, rather than the 2D cartoons of their forebears.
The opening sequence of the film was shown next, with Mr. Peabody and Sherman having arrived in late-18th century France during Queen Marie Antoinette’s reign and the French Revolution. When Sherman goes in search of cake, the duo runs afoul of the mob and Mr. Peabody is almost beheaded. Thanks to some quick thinking on his part, he manages to escape the guillotine, dodge the pursuit of Maximilien Robespierre and get the both of them safely back home. While the animation was still in rough stages, I can speak a little on tone. Mr. Peabody is basically Sherman’s father and educator, using his WABAC time machine to transport them back in time to discover the truths that history books have forgotten. This scene perfectly captured the dynamic between the characters and is a nice throwback to the original cartoon. Mr. Peabody is a stuffy know-it-all, but is quite the capable Renaissance man who has Sherman’s best interests at heart. Sherman is an innocent and ignorant young boy who is fiercely loyal to his father…though he occasionally disobeys him, as boys will do.
The next clip established the inciting incident of Mr. Peabody & Sherman. After Sherman gets into a fight with rival classmate Penny, Mr. Peabody invites the girl and her parents to his penthouse in order to smooth things over. Matters get more complicated when Sherman shows Penny the WABAC machine and manages to lose her somewhere in time. The rest of the film follows the duo traveling through history, including stops in the Italian Renaissance and during the Trojan War, in order to bring Penny home safely and repair history in the process. Mr. Peabody & Sherman looks like a fun addition to the DreamWorks line-up and could maybe even teach your kids a thing or two! Here’s the updated synopsis:
Mr. Peabody, the world’s smartest talking dog, has invented a time machine he calls the WABAC, which enables Peabody and his adopted human son Sherman to witness world-changing events first hand. But when Sherman breaks the rules of time travel, our two heroes find themselves in a race to repair history – and save the future. Kablooie! Reimagined for the big screen in CG and 3D, Mr. Peabody & Sherman is based upon the classic animated series produced by the legendary Jay Ward (“The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle”).
I was pleasantly surprised by Turbo, the tale of a snail who dreams of zooming along as fast as the F1 racecars he sees on television. The idea for Turbo came from debut director David Soren, inspired by his six-year-old son’s fascination with racecars…and the snails inhabiting his front yard. It’s part superhero origin, part underdog story and partly a tale of two brothers, Theo/Turbo (voiced by Reynolds) and Chet (Giamatti).
The animation was very far along, at least for the scenes we were shown. We’re introduced to Turbo as he’s watching the Indianapolis 500 on a television and pretending that he’s the winning racer being interviewed by press and adored by fans. He’s just fine living in his fantasy world until his brother Chet bursts his bubble. Undeterred, Turbo wakes up early the next morning to train, earning a personal best in the one-meter dash. 17 minutes.
Reynolds seems much more at home in a comedic environment, even if it’s just his voice we’re hearing. He plays the aloof and confident Turbo quite well, a character who’s similar in his personality to that of Cars’ Lightning McQueen. Turbo gets his chance to go fast when a freak accident grants him incredible powers, notably super-speed. A particular scene with his transformation and realization of his car-related abilities (eyes that shine like headlights, a car alarm in his shell, etc) was well-done and will surely delight the kids. There’s a stark divide in the look of the animation for the real world cars (almost hyper-realistic like a racing video game) and that of the people and snails themselves, which are more cartoonish.
And yes, I do say “snails” plural, because Turbo and Chet get wrangled into an underground snail-racing circuit and befriend a crew of other racers (voiced by Samuel L. Jackson and Snoop Dogg, among others). The other racers are certainly unique characters (the ensemble reminds me of the aquarium characters in Finding Nemo as far as their quirkiness goes) and have a hot-rod, suped-up car aesthetic to each of them. Their shells are basically their autos, which sport manifolds, paint schemes, neon lighting and so on. It’s basically Fast and the Furious meets an animated kids movie. The voice casting is spot on and the world already feels real and lived-in. Turbo looks to be the most promising of the three films presented.
Here’s the new synopsis for Turbo:
Turbo is a snail who dreams of being the greatest racer in the world. His obsession with speed has made him an oddity and outsider in the slow and cautious snail community. Turbo desperately wishes he could escape the slow-paced life he’s living, and he gets that chance after a freak accident leaves him with the power of incredible speed. The newly turbo-charged Turbo embarks on an extraordinary journey to achieve the impossible: racing against the best that the Indianapolis 500 has to offer. Joining Turbo is his dedicated pit crew of racing snails – a ragtag group of trash-talking adrenaline junkies tricked out with shells that look like mini-street racing cars. Turbo is the ultimate underdog who achieves the impossible by refusing to let his limitations get in the way of his dreams.
The last presentation of the day started with a pre-recorded message from Emma Stone, who lends her voice as a narrator and main character in The Croods. Written and directed by Chris Sanders (How to Train Your Dragon) and Kirk DeMicco (Space Chimps), The Croods is the first family-friendly movie from DreamWorks to actually feature a family. Presented in 3D, The Croods was the most polished bit we saw, which makes sense, considering it opens in March. The 3D throws in the occasional gimmick, but is mainly used to establish depth within the scene.
The Croods are a prehistoric family dealing with contemporary issues…more or less. Nicolas Cage voices the over-protective father who runs the family through drills such as hunting for breakfast or retreating to the safety of their cave. The world the Croods live in, during the fictional Croodaceous period, is rich if not particularly lush. They occupy a rocky and arid land with fantastic creatues that are hodgepodges of modern-day animals (like a stork with the horns of a ram, or a predatory lemur-cat, or a flying piranha-flamingo). The bare-bones landscape and animals get exponentially expanded when the Croods find themselves in unfamiliar territory.
While each of the family members is uniquely grounded as a character (ie Cage’s Grug is cautious to a fault, Stone’s Eep is headstrong and Clark Duke’s Thunk is thick-headed and slow), their comedic beats don’t land 100% of the time. There’s a nice father-daughter relationship between Grug and Eep, and the dynamic between Grug and his mother-in-law Gran got the biggest laughs in the screening. But some of the jokes just fall flat and feel like shades of what was already done in How to Train Your Dragon. Some sections appear disjointed or get too drawn out, but perhaps this is still an artifact of the unfinished state of the film.
Eventually, a wrench is thrown into the works when outsider Guy (Reynolds) joins the group and creates even more tension among the ranks. I liked that The Croods turned caveman stereotypes on its head, so to speak (for example, Eep actually drags Guy “off to the cave” and possesses superior strength to his more evolved intelligence) but they rely too much on “Cavemen are dumb” humor. This might work well with kids, but the clips shown don’t do much to elevate the overall picture. To be quite honest, none of the three pictures stood up and proclaimed to be the next How to Train Your Dragon, but I’m sure DreamWorks would be content if one of them managed to spawn a Madagascar-like franchise.
Here’s the updated synopsis for The Croods:
The Croods is a 3D comedy adventure that follows the world’s first modern family as they embark on a journey of a lifetime when the cave that has always been their home is destroyed. Traveling across a spectacular landscape, the Croods are rocked by generational clashes and seismic shifts as they discover an incredible new world filled with fantastic creatures — and their outlook is changed forever.