Netflix is hitting the road into the deadly Australian desert with Back to the Outback! The streaming giant has revealed the first details of the adventure comedy via press release, with intentions to stream the film globally in Fall 2021 (Spring 2021 for the southern hemisphere).
Back to the Outback is the creation of Australian screenwriter Harry Cripps, known for his AACTA-nominated writing on the 2001 animated movie The Magic Pudding. In addition to writing Back to the Outback, Cripps will direct the film alongside veteran DreamWorks editor Clare Knight (Kung Fu Panda trilogy) in their directing debuts. Kung Fu Panda 3 production manager Daniela Mazzucato will produce the picture, and animation services will be provided by The Book of Life‘s Reel FX.
“Growing up in Australia, I spent a lot of time in the Blue Mountains which has many different types of snakes and spiders, and I always preferred them to the cute cuddly animals, so it’s such a treat to make a film where the heroes are these poisonous but beautiful little creatures. This film is a love letter to Australia’s incredibly diverse and unique wildlife.”Harry Cripps, Director/Writer, ‘Back to the Outback’
The film is also set to be a musical with original songs written by Tim Minchin, best known for his Tony-winning Matilda the Musical. Over the Hedge composer Rupert Gregson-Williams will create the musical score.
Back to the Outback revolves around Maddie the poisonous snake (voiced by Isla Fisher of Rango) and her ragtag gang of other deadly Australian creatures consisting of thorny devil lizard Zoe (Miranda Tapsell of The Wishmas Tree), lovelorn hairy spider Frank (Guy Pearce of 2002’s The Time Machine), and sensitive scorpion Nigel (Angus Imrie of The Kid Who Would Be King).
The four zoo creatures, fed up with being held captive and ridiculed by humans for their dangerous looks, plan on a daring escape to the outback as a place they believe they wouldn’t be judged for their scales and fangs. But during their journey across Australia, they are unexpectedly joined by their obnoxious koala nemesis Pretty Boy (Minchin), while at the same time are being pursued by zookeeper Chaz (Eric Bana of Mary and Max) and his mini-me (Diesel Cash La Torraca of Little Monsters).
“I have always been touched by stories of hidden beauty. Maddie is both uniquely beauty and beast, and to get to present that message in comedy is the icing on the cake.”Clare Knight, Director, ‘Back to the Outback’
Also joining the largely-Australian voice cast includes Rachel House (Soul) as Jacinta the great white shark, Grammy-winning country singer Keith Urban as Doug the cane toad, Celeste Barber (The Letdown) as Skylar the koala, Wayne Knight (Toy Story 2) as Phil the platypus, YouTuber Lachlan “LachlanPlayz” Power as Tasmanian Dave, and Jacki Weaver (Maya the Bee) as Jackie the crocodile.
What’s interesting to note is that Cripps and Minchin originally conceived an animated Australian Outback musical back in 2013 at DreamWorks Animation. At that time, the project was known as Larrikins, and it was originally intended for a February 2018 release. Minchin was set to co-direct the feature alongside Puss in Boots director Chris Miller.
Sadly, Larrikins came to a crashing halt following Comcast’s purchase of DreamWorks. Less than one year before Larrikins’ intended release, Minchin revealed he found out the project was shut down by the new studio executives. DreamWorks later repurposed some elements from Larrikins into their 2018 animated short Bilby, in which Cripps was credited for his original characters.
Much like how Sony Pictures Animation revived Vivo from being an abandoned DreamWorks project, it’s great to see Cripps and Minchin’s passion project getting another chance thanks to Netflix. As a part-Australian myself, this is one animated movie I’ll gladly anticipating for next year.