In the lead up to the big summer films of 2011 we are in the midst of some wonderful family movies in the coming months. DreamWorks Studios just released Gnomeo and Juliet which grossed $25.5M in its opening weekend. DreamWorks also has its highly anticipated thriller, I Am Number Four (rated PG-13), opening this Friday, February 18.
On March 4, 2011, Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) under Nickelodeon-Paramount Pictures, debuts its animated movie Rango. Rango (voiced by the incomparable Johnny Deep) is the name of a troubled chameleon that is having an identity crisis (ironic for a changeable creature) and is trying to discover his path in life. Along his journey he finds himself in a Western town swarming with bandits where he soon realizes his dream of becoming a swashbuckling hero.
What’s new and unique about Rango is the method by which director Gore Verbinski worked with his actors to create the voices for the movie. Typically voice work for animated movies is non-collaborative. For instance when I interviewed Zach Levi and Mandy Moore, the main voices for Disney’s animated movie Tangled, the actors had never met until the press tour.
For the movie Rango, director Verbinski created an environment where all of the main actors had this incredible playing field complete with costumes, props and sets to act out the script (see video below). Their voices were recorded in what Verbinski calls “emotion capture” with the audio used for the final film. Verbinski’s goal was to develop a more “raw and kinetic” quality to differentiate it from the vocal performances of other animated films.
Verbinski first came up with the premise for Rango back in 2005 during the shooting for his film Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (which holds the industry record for highest opening weekend of all time). Verbinski pitched the movie to Depp who loved the idea of playing a reptile. Depp had a 20-day window in which to shoot his Rango character. As luck would have it, all of the other actors in supporting roles were also available during that window to film their scenes with Depp. The notable cast includes Harry Dean Stanton, Abigail Breslin, Isla Fisher and Bill Nighy.
The movie promises to deliver some high brow laughs to appeal to the adults who accompany their children to animated films. And though it is a family movie under the Nickelodeon umbrella, it carries a deeper message about the meaning of life that puts it in unique category different than that of a Shrek or Pixar film. It is in its own category. Just like Depp himself.
It is with much anticipation that the industry watches how Verbinski’s and ILM’s inaugural animated movie performs. Paramount Pictures and ILM are hoping for another Verbinski blockbuster. Animation filmmakers are eager to see if the new kid in town will open up shop providing a break from the stronghold of Pixar and DreamWorks Studios.