Illumination Entertainment

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Since there’s not already a brilliantly-crafted, beloved animated version of Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” and since there’s not already a modernized, trying-too-hard-to-be-hip version of the story either, Universal is setting out to bring the green menace to the big screen with Illumination Entertainment. Illumination chief Christopher Meledandri is no stranger to the wubbulous world of Seuss. He acted as EP for Horton Hears a Who! and produced The Lorax, and with the success of the live-action, Jim Carrey-led version of Grinch that I pretended doesn’t exist in the introduction, Universal secured a strong business partnership with the Seuss estate. So now, according to The Hollywood Reporter, we’re getting this. Cynicism aside, Illumination does have a knack for crafting heartfelt stories with enjoyable characters, and since this version will be animated, it negates any risk of seeing some nightmare-inducing make-up work. Plus, Peter Candeland (a descendant of the Django villain?) is directing, so there’s a strong sense of craftsmanship at the helm even if he’s never directed a major feature-length project before. All the same, it does feel more than a bit like digging back into the same well – especially when Seuss has so many stories that could be mined for movies. Where’s Oh the Places You’ll Go? or Scrambled Eggs Super? Should we just expect a new Grinch every 13 years or so at this point? How long until he joins The Avengers?

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Minions

It’s always excellent when movie studios want to engage in experimentation, especially when it’s to test the elastic limits of how cutely annoying a character can be. If something’s funny for a few minutes of comic relief, can it work for an entire movie? Dreamworks and Illumination are betting that their minions can. According to Deadline Abernathy, the tiny yellow creatures from Despicable Me and the upcoming sequel might possibly get their own feature flick. They’re just like the Madagascar penguins except they speak entirely in bleeps and bloops and slapstick. Hopefully there will be subtitles. It feels like it could be a lot of fun, but there’s a twinge of the terrifying possibility that it’s a horrific idea – like giving the Crazy Frog Ringtone its own reality show. Or the aliens from Toy Story getting a book deal. Or something. The point is that it’s going to be two hours of high-pitched screeching.

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Woody Woodpecker, the insane, animated avian menace originally voiced by Mel Blanc has his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Let that sink in for a moment. A cartoon character has the kind of recognition that your parents won’t ever give you. And he’s about to have more. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the ancient icon is about to have new life in a new movie project from Illumination Entertainment (Despicable Me, The Lorax) and Universal. John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky, the writers behind Blades of Glory, are in negotiations to create the story. Even though the character hasn’t been seen in film since a cameo in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, he’s been on television as late as 2002. Theoretically, there’s a cross-sectional audience for his wacky antics. But what kind of story can they build around him? My hope is that he has to team with Michael Jordan to play an interstellar game of basketball for the fate of humanity. This, of course, comes weeks after the Universal head admitted they made shitty movies. Just for fun, here’s my favorite of the old Woody Woodpecker cartoons, and yes, it’s solely for the fact that he opens a bottle off a dope’s giant buckteeth. What a maroon:

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It was the summer of 2009 when the filmmakers behind Horton Hears A Who! announced they would be making green eggs and ham of Dr. Seuss’s “The Lorax.” Since then we’ve gotten updates on casting – with Zac Efron playing the young man and Danny DeVito voicing the title tree-hugger – and even some imagery. Today, EW has even more pictures, and two of them reveal The Once-ler (the crotchety pair of arms that tells young Efron about the lush, beautiful world of the past that was destroyed by his greed). Check them out for yourself:

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Finally a movie studio has realized the intense power of putting up videos of adorable animals doing hilarious things. Granted, it’s got the production value on its side, but I’d take Bunny Rabbit Drumming over Sneezing Panda any day of the week except Thursday (for obvious reasons). HOP comes from the same creative team behind Despicable Me, which was clever enough and managed to make giant, talking tic-tacs into cultural icons. As for the plot, James Marsden voices a slacking rabbit who injures the Easter Bunny (Russell Brand) and brings him in as a house guest while he’s recuperating. Plot simplicity aside, this is one of the best teaser trailers around. Interesting, cute, Blur-ry. Hopefully the film will have the same qualities and warrant a sequel so that iHOP can see the light of day in 2014. [Apple]

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Around here, every single writer (except everyone who isn’t Rob Hunter) has been clamoring for more details about The Lorax. “Who do you think will play him? What do you think the story will be like? Will the character design look like he’s fondling Boo Boo the Bear?” All of these are valid questions, and some of them can be answered right this very minute. In fact, you’ve probably already answered the third one for yourself already after looking to the right. More importantly, it’s been announced that Danny DeVito will put a shirt on, and hopefully drive straight from the set of It’s Always Sunny to go do the voice work for the main tree lobbyist.

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