The first images from Sir Billi, the animated film featuring the voice of Sean Connery, have arrived online. As we reported back November, the movie sounds like someone came up with it while enjoying every drug ever made: “The movie centers on a retired, skateboarding veterinarian who lives in a remote Scottish village and who spearheads the rescue of an illegal fugitive who also happens to be a beaver.” At the time, part of me thought, “That can’t possibly be right.” Who would make that? Sean Connery would make that. He’s a producer on the film who has been instrumental in getting it made.* It’s also the first film he’s done since 2003’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
You can see the images after the jump and keep in mind that indie feature animated films don’t have the money of studios like DreamWorks or Pixar. But what you really want to see after the jump is the full press release with the detailed synopsis because it makes the story seem even crazier. It’s like Connery thought to himself, “You know, maybe I can outdo Zardoz…”
Below the images is the full press release. I’ve bolded the synopsis, but to be fair it sounds like Up. Of course, the plot Up sounds pretty crazy too if you write it out: “A grumpy widower ties balloons to his house and floats away to South America with a young wilderness explorer. When he arrives, he meets a gigantic bird and a talking dog.”
BILLI PRODUCTIONS LTD IN POST-PRODUCTION ON SCOTLAND’S FIRST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM “SIR BILLI”
-Sir Sean Connery Stars in New Animated Family Film, Scheduled for Completion Summer 2010-
Los Angeles, CA – March 31, 2010 – Embarking on Scotland’s first full-length animated feature film, Glasgow-based Billi Productions Ltd and independent studio Glasgow Animation have started post-production including final colorization, lighting and rendering on the new animated family film “Sir Billi,” it was announced today by Sascha Hartmann, co-founder of Billi Productions Ltd. The production team is also unveiling the first in a series of animation stills from the film.
Hartmann is directing “Sir Billi” from a screenplay written by his wife Tessa Hartmann, from an original story they developed together. John Fraser is producing, with Sir Sean Connery serving as executive producer.
Expanded to a feature length CGI film from a 2006 short concept, the heart-warming and hilarious adventure film “Sir Billi” features an all-star cast including Academy Award® winner Sir Sean Connery in his first ever animated voice-over role, and Tony Award® winner Alan Cumming. All animation has been created in-house by the Glasgow Animation team of 60 creative professionals who have been hard at work since the inception of the project and created proprietary technology specifically for the film. Having developed a short film teaser using Maya software in 2005, the company then developed and created a unique proprietary production pipeline in order to complete a full-length feature. What began as a budgetary constraint proved to be advantageous as the film now has a very distinctive look. Under the direction of Sascha Hartmann, the small but highly skilled team is comprised of Creative Technical Director Kevin McCormack, Supervising Head of Animation Kenneth Chan and Head of GA Pipeline Federico Fiore.
Rich with authentic and discreetly embedded humorous details from the Highland village scenes, the creative team also incorporated artwork of Connery’s wife, French artist Micheline Roquebrune, into Sir Billi’s cottage. Sascha Hartmann created a “Sir Billi” tartan for the film that was exclusively manufactured by Lochcarron of Scotland, based in Hawick. The ‘Sir Billi’ tartan fabric was woven over a period of ten weeks, then registered as a member of the Scottish Tartans Authority, proving its authenticity for the hero’s real-life and film wardrobes.
Academy Award® nominated Scottish composer Patrick Doyle, (“Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” “Sense and Sensibility”), created the film’s music score and also lends his voice as a key character in the film. British singing legend Dame Shirley Bassey also joined the project to perform the title track “Guardian of the Highlands,” marking the first time Connery and Shirley have worked together since the 1965 James Bond film “Goldfinger.”
Scotland’s first full length animated feature also showcases the voice acting talents of Miriam Margolyes (“Harry Potter,” “Romeo & Juliet”), Alex Norton (“Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Taggart”), Ford Kiernan (“Chewin’ the Fat,” “The Last Great Wilderness”), Barbara Rafferty (“The Wicker Man,” “River City”), Greg Hemphill (“Still Game,” “Chewin the Fat”), Kieron Elliot (“How to Train Your Dragon”), Ruby Wax, John Amabile, Larry Sullivan, Chris Jai Alex and NYC night queen Amy Sacco.
Synopsis – “Sir Billi”
When tragedy strikes in the Scottish Highlands, there can be only one man for the job – Sir William Sedgewick, aka Sir Billi (Sir Sean Connery)! An adventure story about an inimitable Highland hero – a grandpa and active senior skateboarding veterinarian who goes above and beyond the call of duty fighting villainous policemen and powerful lairds in a battle to save an illegal fugitive – Bessie Boo the beaver!
A roller coaster adventure, “Sir Billi” braves treacherous ravines and hazardous gullies with his sidekick Gordon the Goat (Alan Cumming) to save Bessie Boo and Wee Dave the rabbit as they hurtle down a scenic yet perilous river.
A heart-warming and hilarious action packed family movie, where thrilling car chases, heroic skydiving and daring stunts from this octogenarian, fueled with encounters with a hostile submarine, will keep you at the edge of your seat!
Behind the eccentric behavior of this tartan plaid overall-attired widower, he reveals a compassionate spirit with his unrivalled love for his late wife. Is it too late for this endearing grandpa to find a new lady friend once again? Will Lady Serena, his daughter and grandson Jake even contemplate such a development from this adored Scot? Amongst it all in this race against time, will Sir Billi get to Bessie Boo first?
Explore the powerful force of this international Highland community, with its unrivalled landscapes, breathtaking scenery and hidden secrets. Discover the power of the local people when they unite as one against evil and embark on an expedition unlike any other.
Sir Sean Connery has been heavily involved in the making of the film since its inception and was inspired to take on the lead role of “Sir Billi” after being contacted by the husband and wife producing team who forwarded a short demo reel of the endearing grandfather “Sir Billi” in action. “We sent a DVD to Sir Sean via a mutual acquaintance and heard nothing for a few weeks when suddenly the phone rang. It was Sir Sean personally explaining that his grandchildren had taken the DVD from his home and kept it. They loved it that much. ‘If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me!’ he said, and with that, we met a few weeks later when he came to Scotland. “We’ve been working closely with him ever since,” stated Tessa Hartmann.
“I’m excited to be a part of this incredible film and Scotland’s first animated feature,” said Connery. “‘Sir Billi’ is truly a first class film, with an exceptional cast, and is sure to delight audiences of all ages.”
“We knew Sir Sean was perfect for the role of ‘Sir Billi”-being a true Scottish hero and also a grandfather,” said Sascha Hartmann. “Sir Billi is the quintessential fun, caring, family-focused grandfather we all wish we could have!”
*To clarify: sometimes a producer credit just means he helped get the film financed.