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CinemaCon 2016: BIG News and Developments on Warner Animation Group’s Film Slate

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CinemaCon 2016 has hit with a bang, and with it, brought a number of big news developments regarding upcoming projects from major animation companies. In the first of these articles, we’re going to focus on the Warner Bros.’ jam-packed presentation, which naturally included some big, awesome developments regarding the film slate of  its new animation division.

Ever since the studio won the hearts and minds of critics everywhere with The LEGO Movie in 2014, Warner Animation Group now stands to be a serious new player in the feature animation world, as well as the most exciting. With an aggressive and ambitious production slate and a creative think tank that includes filmmakers like Phil Lord, Chris Miller, Nicholas Stoller, John Requa, Glenn Ficara, and Jared Stern at the helm, hopes are high that WAG will succeed where Warner’s past attempts at feature animation have failed.

In that regard, Lord, Miller, and Stoller took to the stage to introduce Warner Animation Group, explaining to the crowd about how the success of The LEGO Movie inspired the creation of an animation division that could apply the same talent and sensibilities to other films and to also introduce its upcoming feature films.

Storks

First up was Storks, WAG’s first original animated feature. On stage, Stoller was joined by his co-director Doug Sweetland and actors Andy Samberg and Katie Crown in introducing the film. He described elsewhere as a ‘weird modern fable’ where the titular birds have abandoned the traditional ways of delivering babies in favor of an Amazon-style delivery service.

Likewise, this film—set to be the feature animation debut of Nicholas Stoller and the directorial debut of Doug Sweetland—will certainly serve as a test to see if Warner Animation Group can apply the same level of talent and vision to an original project. Storks will bow in theaters this September.

The LEGO Batman Movie

Next up was The LEGO Batman Movie, the second film in WAG’s shared universe of animated LEGO films (keep the words ‘shared universe’ in mind for later). Will Arnett, who reprises his role as Batman from The LEGO Movie, took to the stage to introduce the film along with Lord and Miller (who serve as producers on that film).

“Imagine ‘The Lego Movie’ credits rolling and we pickup with Batman back at the Batcave,” joked Arnett, “What’s his day-to-day? Sure, his parents were murdered in front of him but why’s he so bummed out?”

With that, they ran the first extended clip of footage from the movie, showing the origin story of how Robin actually got to meet Batman. In the clip, Bruce Wayne accidentally adopts Dick Grayson at a gala event. Grayson, described as a ‘nerdy kid’, immediately geeks out upon seeing the Batcave and Batman’s various gadgets. It’s not until he starts trying on a number of Batman’s costumes that he decides to don his own sidekick moniker by making tweaks to what Batman calls the “Reggae Man” costume (he largely just rips the pants off the red and green outfit).

Smallfoot

Next up was the confirmation of development on the long-gestating original feature Smallfoot. Based on an idea by Despicable Me creator Sergio Pablos (who’s set to direct), the film takes the popular myth of the Yeti and flips it on its head. Simply put, the Yeti of the story believes that humans exist. No release date for this one, but it would appear that the film is still being worked on.

The LEGO Ninjago Movie

Next on the docket was another LEGO movie that’s also coming out next year: The LEGO Ninjago Movie. The film is being constructed as a heavy genre mash-up (specifically of kung-fu films and kaiju movies), with the concept art for the film being described by attendees as a LEGO version of Pacific Rim. Charlie Bean (Tron: Uprising) makes his feature animation debut with this film, from a screenplay by Kevin and Dan Hageman.

S.C.O.O.B.

Last but definitely not least, there is the 2018 Scooby-Doo movie, now titled S.C.O.O.B.. Directed by Tony Cervone from a screenplay by Matt Lieberman and executive produced by Dan Povenmire (Phineas and Ferb), S.C.O.O.B. will bring the Scooby-Doo franchise back to the big screen in the way it was meant to be: animated. But S.C.O.O.B. will do much more than that.

In an announcement video shown to the crowd, the film was described as “our first shot at unlocking the whole Hanna-Barbera Universe.”

Yep, you read that right. If all goes well, S.C.O.O.B. will be the launching pad for a shared cinematic universe of animated films based off the Hanna-Barbera properties!

Currently, Warner Animation Group is the only animation company that has taken a dive into the shared universe concept. While it’s too early to judge how successful the LCU (LEGO Cinematic Universe) films will be in the long term, a shared universe for the Hanna-Barbera properties holds no shortage of exciting possibilities, especially considering the talent involved.

For the first time in a long time, Warner Bros. is making the effort to care as much about feature animation as they do with any other sector of its film business. Therefore, it’s probably fair to expect that Warner Animation Group will become a force to be reckoned with in the future.

What do you think? Any thoughts on Warner Animation Group’s upcoming films? Additionally, what are your thoughts on S.C.O.O.B. and the decision to launch an animated, shared universe of Hanna-Barbera films?  

Edited by: Kelly Conley

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